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We Keep An Eye On The Virginia Legislature So You Don’t Have To

As the Virginia Legislature has convened for the 2022 legislative session, several bills are pending that I would like to call to your attention. But before discussing those, a quick reminder that effective January 1, 2022, the mandatory minimum limits of automobile insurance in Virginia have increased from $25,000/person, $50,000/accident to $30,000/person, $60,000/accident. The limits of uninsured coverage have also increased by the same amounts. This is the first time the limits have increased in more than 30 years and will benefit those injured by drivers who carry the minimum levels of insurance. If you have any questions about the changes to the insurance limits, feel free to contact us.

Here are some of the bills that we will be watching closely this session:

Code 22.1-205 specifies what must be included in driver’s education programs throughout the Commonwealth. As some of you may recall, Connor’s Law was the result of the hard work of Tammy Guido in memory of her son Connor killed in a car wreck while a passenger in a fellow high school student’s car who was an unlicensed driver. In addition to requiring that any student provided a high school parking pass provide proof of holding a valid driver’s license, Code 22.1-205 was amended in 2021 to include instruction on the dangers of distracted driving in high school driver’s education programs.  As the law currently stands, a 90-minute parent/student driver education component is required for those living in Planning District 8 (basically Northern Virginia). For those outside of Planning Division 8, the 90-minute parent/student component is at the discretion of the local school board. Again, through Tammy’s efforts, Senator Thomas Norment and Senator Scott Surovell are working toward amending Code 22.1-205 to make the parent/student component mandatory statewide.

Senate Bill 230 seeks to make a retail seller of alcohol, such as a bar or restaurant, civilly liable in circumstances where the bar or restaurant knowingly serves an intoxicated patron and the patron then drives and causes an injury or death. Known generally as “Dram Shop” liability laws, many states have such laws.  Since the number of deaths or injuries caused by intoxicated drivers is a serious and persistent problem, such a law will help efforts to reduce the number of related crashes. We expect there will be much opposition to this bill from the restaurant and bar industry and lobby.

House Bill 467 is intended to address a challenge to those injured by a dangerous or vicious dog by making it clear that the owner’s knowledge of a dog’s vicious tendencies is not required to successfully pursue a claim for personal injuries caused by a biting dog.

HB 1132 addresses a common practical problem when resolving a personal injury claim for a minor. Virginia Code § 8.01-606 currently allows the Court to pay settlement funds not exceeding $25,000 to a responsible adult (most often a parent) to administer the funds on behalf of the child without a fiduciary and without a bond. HB 1132 would increase the amount payable without the intervention of a fiduciary and bond to $50,000.00. This increase is a much-needed change.

There are other bills of interest that we are monitoring, and as progress is made, we will report back to you.

Lastly, the Virginia Trial Lawyer Association’s annual Justice Day was held remotely this year. Justice Day, which we typically participate in, is when we join our fellow VTLA members in Richmond and lobby our legislators on bills of interest to us, those that benefit our clients, and others that aim to improve the justice system here in the Commonwealth. We will report back on this year’s Justice Day results in a future eNewsletter. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please reach out.

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