As many of you know, new laws took effect on July 1, 2016. The General Assembly enacted several noteworthy laws that affect personal injury cases and the prosecution of those cases. Perhaps, while you are enjoying some vacation time, you can peruse the following changes poolside or on the beach.
Our firm is dedicated to staying abreast of new laws and trends in the arena of personal injury. Look for more updates in the months to follow.
§ 8.01-413.01. Authenticity and reasonableness of medical bills; presumption. When putting on evidence of medical bills, the plaintiff’s guardian, agent under an advance directive, or agent under a power of attorney may identify the bill or an authenticated copy and provide testimony in lieu of the plaintiff. This procedure will be advantageous when the plaintiff is a minor, was incapacitated as a result of any accident, or the witness would otherwise have difficulty presenting the requisite testimony.
§ 8.01-229. Nonsuits; tolling of limitations; contractual limitation periods. The amendment clarifies that when a voluntary nonsuit tolls the statute of limitations, the tolling occurs regardless of whether the statute of limitations is statutory or contractual.
§ 8.01-407. How summons for witness issued, and to whom directed; attorney-issued summons; proof of payment. An attorney issued summons may be served upon a witness in connection with a civil proceeding. The transmittal sheet, or cover letter, accompanying the summons to the sheriff’s office shall include proof of service fee payment to the clerk’s office. This amendment allows proof of payment to be either (a) photocopy of the payment instrument and the letter sent to the clerk’s office that accompanied such payment instrument or (b) the clerk’s receipt.
§ 8.01-243. Medical malpractice actions; limitations. In a claim for the negligent failure to diagnose a an intracranial, intraspinal, or spinal schwannoma, the limitation period is extended for one year from the date the diagnosis of the intracranial, intraspinal, or spinal schwannoma is communicated to the patient by a health care provider.
§ 8.01-577. Jurisdiction of general district court; arbitration. The amendment authorizes general district courts to have concurrent jurisdiction with circuit courts to submit matters to arbitration, provided the amount in controversy falls within the jurisdictional limits of the general district court. Any order entered by the general district court granting an application to compel arbitration may be appealed to the circuit court.
§ 8.01-220.2. Spousal liability for medical care. The new law provides that any lien arising out of a judgment for a spouse’s emergency medical care shall not be enforced against the judgment debtor's principal residence held as tenants by the entireties unless the residence is refinanced or is transferred to a new owner. A good practice tip is to contact the medical care provider when collection notices are sent to your client. Many medical care providers will forgo pursuing a judgment if they are made aware of a pending personal injury claim.
§ 8.01-417. Personal injury and wrongful death actions; disclosure of address. An insurer is required to provide the alleged tortfeasor's physical address within 30 days of the receipt of the request. This statutory tool is useful when trying to serve the tortfeasor with process.
§ 8.01-44.5. Punitive damages for persons injured by intoxicated drivers. Provides that, for the purposes of a punitive damages award in a civil action for personal injury or death arising from the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in order to have a rebuttable presumption that a defendant's blood alcohol concentration at the time of the incident causing injury or death was at least as high as results of a blood or breath test, such test must have been administered in accordance with the provisions of §§ 18.2-268.1 through 18.2-268.12, which lay out the procedures for obtaining blood and breath tests. Under current law, to have the rebuttable presumption, such blood or breath test must have been administered within three hours of the incident causing injury or death. § 8.01-42.4. Civil action for trafficking in persons. Creates a civil cause of action against individuals who engage in (i) abduction of any person for the purpose of prostitution, any child under 16 years of age for concubinage, or any minor for the purpose of manufacturing child pornography; (ii) solicitation of prostitution from a minor; or (iii) commercial sex trafficking, or who aid in the conduct thereof.
§ 8.01-195.6. Notice of tort claim against the Commonwealth, transportation district, or locality; statute of limitations. Provides that the bar to a tort claim against the Commonwealth, a transportation district, or a locality for failure to file a written statement within one year, or within six months if the claim is against a locality, after the cause of action accrues does not apply where there was actual knowledge of the claim within one year by (i) for claims against the Commonwealth, the Division of Risk Management or any insurer or entity providing coverage or indemnification of the claim or the Attorney General; (ii) for claims against a transportation district, the chairman of the commission of such transportation district; or (iii) for claims against a locality, the attorney, chief executive, or mayor of such locality. The bill clarifies that actual knowledge of the claim includes the nature of the claim, the time and place at which the injury is alleged to have occurred, and, for claims against the Commonwealth or a transportation district, the agency or agencies alleged to be liable. The bill further provides that a claim against the Commonwealth or a transportation district is barred unless an action on the claim is commenced within 18 months of the filing of notice of such a claim or within two years after the cause of action accrues.
§ 46.2-818.1. Opening and closing motor vehicle doors. Requires drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. The statute may be relevant for cyclists or motorists colliding with car doors carelessly and prematurely opened.