Urgent: Fairness for Crash Victims in Virginia

People injured walking and biking in Virginia face an uphill battle to get fairly compensated for damages from a crash resulting from a negligent driver. An antiquated legal doctrine called contributory negligence stacks the deck in favor of insurance companies and against people who are hurt. Crashes can cause damage to a person’s bike and other property, run up expensive medical bills and impact one’s ability to work. Injured people deserve a fighting chance to be fairly compensated for damages.

The Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that will level the playing field when bicyclists and pedestrians are hurt in crashes by negligent drivers. Yesterday, the Civil Law Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in support of Senate Bill 659 and tomorrow the full committee will vote on the bill. The legislation is modeled on a similar bill passed in the District of Columbia in 2016 which has shown to be effective, targeted and fair.

People walking and biking in Virginia involved in a crash with the driver of a motor vehicle can be completed barred from receiving any compensation for injuries if they are even slightly at fault. Depending on the severity of a crash, a victim can rack up huge medical bills, lost wages because of missed work, face lasting injuries and other damages to personal property such as a bicycle.

Under the antiquated legal doctrine contributory negligence, powerful insurance companies can deny all claims from a crash victim in unfair and unjust ways. 46 states in the United States have adopted the more fair comparative standard that weighs each parties negligence and adjusts compensation accordingly

Senate Bill 659 is modeled on a similar bill passed in the District of Columbia in 2016 which gives crash victims access to full compensation if they are the less negligent party. The DC law has shown to be effective, targeted and fair. Scare tactics from the insurance industry have not borne out. Virginia’s crash victims deserve better.

Yesterday, the Civil Law Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee favorable voted in support of Senate Bill 659 and tomorrow the full committee will vote on the bill. The next step in the process would be a vote by the full State Senate if the bill is reported out of the Judiciary Committee.

Editor’s note: please pardon our typos. The Virginia legislative session is extremely short.

Tell the DC Council to pass (and fund) its Vision Zero Bills.

Last October, we spent an emotional day in the Wilson Building with many of you, sharing personal testimony and urging the DC Council to pass a suite of bills aimed at making our streets safer.

Our work is not done—several months later, none of this legislation has moved through mark-up or been funded in the Council’s budget. 

We need to demand that these bills are both passed and funded this year, or we’ll end up waiting until 2022 to see any of these important changes implemented.

Please take a moment to send a message to the Environment and Transportation Committee – and tell them they need to pass and fully fund these bills this budget year!