Nowadays, the concept of “fault” does not necessarily determine who is liable for paying damages after a Virginia car crash. You may be at fault, but your insurance company could pay all damages caused. Having said this, the starting point of a car accident claim remains the determination of fault.

In Virginia, with its contributory negligence system of apportioning liability, it is not just essential to determine that the other party caused the accident, but also that you did not contribute to this accident in any way. Both common law and statutes help us determine what is “fault.”

Common Law

Under common law, there are usually four levels of fault:

  • Negligence
  • Recklessness
  • Intentional Misconduct
  • Strict Liability

Most motor vehicle accidents result from negligence, like distracted driving or faulty maneuvering. Recklessness puts the driver’s liability at a higher level, as it refers to a disregard for the safety of others and indifference as to whether harm may result. Examples of recklessness are speeding, aggressive driving, or driving under the influence. Intentional misconduct goes a step further, when it appears that the suspect actually had every intention to do harm and could not otherwise justify or explain his or her behavior. Strict liability is the liability for damage or injury even if there was no negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. Today it is most commonly associated with defectively manufactured products.

In most cases of negligence, it may be difficult to prove fault, and the defendant may have a strong incentive to pretend that the crash resulted from sheer bad luck.


Virginia and every other state has a traffic code, which is a set of behavior rules, to which a number of laws were added dealing with special cases, punishment, etc. These statutes help establish fault, because a violation automatically presumes there has been negligence. In other words, running a red light is sufficient to establish the violator as causing the crash, unless he or she can prove otherwise.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Virginia car, truck, or motorcycle accident, please contact our Warrenton or Culpeper attorneys today for a free discussion of your accident case. You will have a clear view how our lawyers can help protect your rights.

Richard A. Dulaney
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Richard has over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.

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