Virginia Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws

Here we unpack traffic and personal injury laws for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Get the information your need to protect your right to compensation.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage or personal injury claim.

When you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, you’re entitled to seek compensation whether you were driving, riding, or walking when the accident occured.

In this article, we’ll review the Virginia laws most commonly associated with car accidents.

For your convenience, we’ve summarized each law, and provided a direct link to the relevant Code for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger. No pedestrian is permitted enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.

VA Code § 46.2-924

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

When crossing highways, pedestrians must not interfere with the passing of vehicles. They must cross, wherever possible, only at intersections or marked crosswalks. Where intersections have no marked crosswalks, pedestrians must cross using the most direct route.

Pedestrians may be permitted to cross an intersection diagonally when all traffic entering the intersection has been halted by lights, other traffic control devices, or by a law-enforcement officer.

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk”are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Don’t Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk signal must complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk signal is showing.

VA Code § 46.2-925

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

No pedestrian is allowed to step into the path of moving traffic at any point between intersections if they are somehow hidden from drivers of approaching vehicles.

VA Code § 46.2-926

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder.

VA Code § 46.2-928

Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.

VA Code § 46.2-826

Virginia Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.

VA Code § 46.2-830

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways unless it is impracticable to travel on the right side of the highway and except when overtaking and passing another vehicle.

VA Code § 46.2-802

Passing On the Left

The driver of any vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is moving in the same direction must pass at least two feet to the left of the overtaken vehicle and must not again drive to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

The driver of an overtaken vehicle must give way to the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and must not increase the speed of their vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing to be made safely.

VA Code § 46.2-843

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

VA Code § 46.2-841

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.

VA Code § 46.2-816

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while texting or using a handheld mobile electronic device, except for the sole purpose of calling for emergency services.

VA Code § 46.2-341.20:5

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.

VA Code § 46.2-820

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.

VA Code § 46.2-825

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers on the roadway to be crossed.

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.

VA Code § 46.2-800

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcycle Rules

Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.

VA Code § 46.2-830

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.

VA Code §  46.2-857

“Lane Splitting”

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.

VA Code § 46.2-830

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways. If the motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield, then motorcyclists must also wear protective eyewear while riding on roadways.

VA Code § 46.2-910

Motorcycles and Headlights

Motorcycles may be operated without headlights if ALL of the following conditions are met:

  1. The motorcycle is designed for use in trail riding and endurance runs
  2. The motorcycle is being driven by duly licensed persons
  3. The motorcycle is being driven between sunrise and sunset
  4. The motorcycle is being operated during endurance runs sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association

VA Code § 46.2-912

Driving Offenses and Accident Rules

Reckless Driving

Regardless of the legal maximum speeds, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person is guilty of reckless driving.

VA Code § 46.2-852

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after illegally consuming alcohol. Any minor with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 or more, but less than 0.08, is violating the laws of Virginia.

VA Code § 18.2-266.1

Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person must report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency, to the person struck and injured, to the driver or another occupant of the vehicle collided with, or to the owner of the damaged property.

The driver must also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in such accident, including taking the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital if it is apparent that medical treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.

If the driver fails to stop and make the report required by Section 46.2-894, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident, who has knowledge of the accident, must report the accident to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours of the accident.

The report must include their name and address, and any information they know about the driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person must report their name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency, to the person struck and injured, to the driver or another occupant of the vehicle collided with, or to the owner of the damaged property.

The driver must also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in such accident, including taking the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital if it is apparent that medical treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.

If the driver fails to stop and make the report required by Section 46.2-894, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident, who has knowledge of the accident, must report the accident to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours of the accident.

The report must include their name and address, and any information they know about the driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting in damage to property must report their name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency, to the driver or another occupant of the vehicle collided with, or to the owner of the damaged property.

If the driver fails to stop and make the report required by Section 46.2-894, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident, who has knowledge of the accident, must report the accident to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours of the accident.

The report must include their name and address, and any information they know about the driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which no person is killed or injured, but in which an unattended vehicle or other unattended property is damaged, must make a reasonable effort to find the owner of the property. Also the driver must report to the owner their name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.

If the owner of the damaged vehicle or property cannot be found, the driver must leave a note including their name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident. The driver must also report the accident in writing within 24 hours to the State Police or the local law-enforcement agency.

If the driver fails to stop and make the report required by Section 46.2-894, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident, who has knowledge of the accident, must report the accident to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours of the accident.

The report must include their name and address, and any information they know about the driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.

Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or any property damage must report the accident to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours of the accident.

VA Code § 46.2-898

Open Alcohol Container Law

In Virginia, there is no law the specifies whether open containers of alcohol are permitted in a vehicle. The law does state that it is illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicant, and it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol while operating a school bus.

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.

In Virginia, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher.

VA Code § 18.266

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be order to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device.

The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device.

If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.

At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.

VA Code § 18.2-271.1

Virginia Liability Laws

Virginia Dram Shop Law

The State of Virginia makes no reference to any form of Dram Shop Law in its legislation. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Virginia, each motorist can choose to pay a Uninsured Motorist Vehicle (UVM) fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles or to purchase an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $25,000 per person
  • At least $50,000 for two (2) or more people
  • $20,000 per occurrence for property damage

VA Code § 46.2-472

For more information, see the Consumer Auto Insurance Guide provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Virginia, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation if the victim did not contribute to the accident in any way. If the victim contributed at all to the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.

VA Code § 8.01-34

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie was unable to sued Jackson for compensation because she also contributed to the negligence that caused the accident.

Virginia’s No Fault Car Insurance

In Virginia, the law gives car owners the option of purchasing no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance allows a person, who is injured in a car accident or whose property is damaged, to file a claim with their own car insurance company.

No-fault insurance allows a person to avoid pursuing a negligent driver for compensation for damages. No-fault insurance does not compensate for pain and suffering, and the amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance purchased by the injured party determines their coverage.

Statute of Limitations

Virginia has a two (2) year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and five (5) years for property damage. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a personal injury claim within the two (2) year period following the accident and a property damage claim within the five (5) year period following the accident.

VA Code § 8.01-243

Small Claims Courts

In Virginia, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,000.

To learn more, read the Commonwealth of Virginia Small Claims Court Procedures Guide.

Virginia Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity

In Virginia, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.

If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.

Virginia places caps on the maximum recoverable amount. The amount recoverable by any claimant cannot exceed the following amounts:

  • $25,000 for claims prior to July 1, 1988
  • $75,000 for claims on or after July 1, 1988
  • $100,000 for claims on or after July 1, 1993
  • The maximum limits of any liability policy maintained to insure against such claims

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within one (1) year after the accident.

Example: Government Employee Causes Accident 

If Melissa, an engineer with the Richmond Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Richmond would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Richmond can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Additional Virginia Resources

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