How a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney Helps You File Against the Government Under the Virginia Tort Claims Act

The Virginia Tort Claims Act (VTCA) empowers private individuals to sue the government and seek compensation for personal injuries due to negligent acts. In the past, English common law protected royalty through sovereign immunity—meaning the king could essentially act with impunity. Now, the VTCA provides a path for recovering damages but is specific in its limitations and requirements. 

The keen insight of the talented Virginia car accident lawyers at The Mottley Law Firm is invaluable when filing a claim against employees and agencies of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

The Virginia Tort Claims Act Explained Simply

If you’re harmed due to the negligence of government workers, you deserve to pursue compensation for damages, also known as a tort claim. However, bringing a lawsuit against a state agency or employee isn’t the same as suing a private company or individual. For that, plaintiffs must refer to the Code of Virginia Article 18.1, known more simply as the Virginia Tort Claims Act. 

Generally speaking, the Act applies if the negligent or wrongful actions of a government employee, volunteer, or agency cause damages or injuries to an individual. This is only when the worker is acting within the scope of their employment. If you could file a personal injury lawsuit against a private entity because of the wrongful act, you may be able to make a claim against the Commonwealth under the VTCA. 

The Tort Claims Act doesn’t provide legal immunity to the government in cases of gross negligence, defined as when the defendant didn’t exercise any care or concern for the safety of others at all. Gross negligence isn’t necessarily the same as willful recklessness or intentional torts. 

To file a claim for damages, you must follow strict rules and requirements. The legal team at The Mottley Law Firm has specific knowledge of Virginia tort law and can help explain your options for seeking compensation. The maximum claim amount under VTCA is $100,000. Cases may be heard in general district courts or circuit courts with a possible jury trial.  

When the Tort Claims Act May Apply in Virginia Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

The VTCA is relevant in cases of ordinary negligence. It doesn’t apply when damages result from intentional wrongdoing or acts of gross negligence. Let’s take a closer look. 

Medical Malpractice

In some circumstances, these cases may fall under the VTCA. Say the victim is a patient at a state-run hospital. They may have been harmed as the result of negligent care. One specific example is Whitley vs. Commonwealth (2000). Joseph H. Jenkins was under the medical team's care at St. Brides Correctional Center. He required constant medication to prevent seizures. The doctor didn’t prescribe enough and Jenkins died from a seizure in April 1991.

Car Accident

If a government employee is driving a state-owned vehicle and strikes a pedestrian at a crosswalk, they may be held liable for damages under VTCA. The victim—as well as vehicle passengers—may seek compensation for property damage and medical expenses. The state agency doesn’t even need to be involved directly in the collision. In some cases, it could be named as another liable party.

Slip and Fall Accident

A Virginia resident might walk into a government building in Richmond and slip while in the lobby. The custodial staff may have been negligent in the care and maintenance of the floors in the building. Slip and fall accidents can result in serious brain injuries and other serious injuries, so victims may be able to seek damages under the VTCA. 

Vital VTCA Deadlines, Limits, and Requirements to Remember

When filing a lawsuit to recover damages under the VTCA, you must meet certain requirements.

Statute of Limitations

The standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Virginia is typically two years from the date of the incident. By contrast, you must file most VTCA claims within one year. 

The deadline is even shorter if the legal action is against a county, city, or local government. You have only 180 days (six months) to file the lawsuit. One exception is if the victim is a child. Then, deadlines begin when they turn 18.

Notice of Administrative Claim

Related to but separate from the statute of limitations, plaintiffs filing a claim under VTCA must also file an administrative claim within a certain time limit and must do so with the appropriate state agency, such as the Division of Risk Management, the Attorney General, or the Commissioner of Highways. Our legal team explains which agency may apply in your case. 

The administrative claim describes what happened, the nature of injuries and damages, and the amount you seek as compensation. You must submit this written claim within one year of the incident. You must prove receipt of your claim by hand-delivering or sending it by certified mail. Some agencies may also require notice up to 60 days before the administrative claim.

Virginia’s Liability Limit

As of July 1, 1993, the maximum compensation a person can seek from the Commonwealth under the VTCA is $100,000. Examples of damages may include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Even with claims where the actual damages exceed that amount, like in many brain injury cases, the largest possible settlement is $100,000. Also important to note: the state isn’t liable for punitive damages or any interest before judgment. 

Partner With The Mottley Law Firm to Protect Your Legal Rights 

If you were hurt in an accident involving a government employee or official, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer right away. Our attorneys have specific experience filing claims against the Commonwealth and work thoroughly to ensure you follow the requirements of the VTCA. 

As with other personal injury cases, it’s equally important to develop a strong case so your legal team has time to investigate the incident and collect evidence to support proving negligence in an accident. We’ll also outline your legal rights and how the VTCA applies to your situation. Let us handle the detailed paperwork so you can focus on your recovery.
Kevin W. Mottley
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Richmond, VA trial lawyer dedicated to handling brain injuries, car accidents and other serious injury claims