Until recently, Virginia general district courts had a jurisdictional limit of $25,000 for personal injury and wrongful death claims. Recently passed legislation increased that limit to $50,000.
This change may make it easier for Virginia residents to pursue personal injury cases.
Advantages for personal injury cases
Under the old law, litigants pursuing more than $25,000 in damages had to either file their cases in the circuit court or reduce their claim to $25,000 or less. Filing a lawsuit in a circuit court is usually more expensive and the process can take several years to complete. By contrast, cases in general district courts are usually completed in three to nine months. The higher cap on general district court cases makes it possible for claimants with personal injury cases valued up to $50,000 to resolve their cases more quickly and inexpensively than under the old law.
Pitfalls for personal injury cases
Because the general district court places limits on discovery, some personal injury claims may be more difficult to prove in general district court than in the circuit court. Additionally, if one of the parties appeals the decision of the general district court to the circuit court, the claimant may have to go through the trial process twice.
In general, the higher cap on general district court personal injury cases is beneficial to claimants, because they can pursue recovery of damages more quickly and cost-effectively than through the circuit court system. However, there is some risk involved in pursuing a personal injury claim at the general district court level.