Each year, car accidents across the Commonwealth of Virginia result in approximately 65,000 injuries, according to the Virginia Highway Safety Office.
Tragically, between 700 and 900 victims also lose their lives on Virginia’s roads and highways annually. Drivers need to know that payments from their insurance policies may not begin to cover all the expenses that arise after a car accident in Virginia. Laws exist that may affect a victim’s ability to seek additional damages after a car crash within the Commonwealth, regardless of the driver’s state of residency.
How can a Lawyer Help Me After a Car Accident?
Our lawyers cannot change what happened in the past. However, we do have the power to provide skilled legal counsel to help accident victims build a better future. Our team is fully prepared to help injured clients look ahead to achieving the best possible outcome. Anchor Legal Group, PLLC starts by doing the following for their clients after a car accident:
- Explain the rights of accident victims in Virginia
- Protect each victim’s right to seek maximum compensation
- Hold negligent drivers financially accountable for their actions
- Handle paperwork and legal hassles
- Seek maximum compensation for suffering
Because the laws in Virginia follow the pure contributory negligence rule, it can be difficult to file a successful personal injury claim. That is why it is important for victims to retain the services of a qualified lawyer who knows the legal process of protecting eligibility for compensation to the fullest extent of the law.
Will My Insurance Policy Cover Medical Bills and Car Repairs?
Virginia requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of insurance or pay the Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee of $500. Paying the fee does not provide any insurance coverage at all; it merely allows a person to drive an uninsured vehicle in Virginia. Most drivers choose to purchase insurance. The minimum coverage is as follows:
- Bodily injury/death of one person: $25,000
- Bodily injury/death of two or more persons: $50,000
- Property damage: $20,000
It is not difficult to see that if someone is injured in a car crash and ends up in the hospital, their initial medical bills could easily exceed $25,000, let alone lost wages and the cost of follow up treatment. Drivers in Virginia have the option of paying extra for personal injury protection (PIP). However, treatment for serious injuries, including burns, fractures, amputations, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injury, can cost thousands of dollars more than policy limits. Fortunately, Virginia allows drivers to file lawsuits against negligent parties for compensation to cover medical costs, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
What Laws in Virginia Affect Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Virginia has several restrictions regarding personal injury lawsuits, including the following:
- Two-year statue of limitations. Victims must file a lawsuit within two years after an accident when seeking damages for injuries.
- Pure contributory negligence. If a victim is found to be just one percent at fault for an accident, they may lose their right to sue.
Other limits on the amount of damages awarded may apply depending upon the circumstances of the accident. Our qualified lawyers are quite familiar with these laws and can answer any questions that our clients may have concerning their impact on a personal injury case.
When Should I Sue the Other Driver?
There may be no grounds for a person to sue the other driver after a minor fender bender, as long as no one was hurt. Drivers who have kept current on their insurance payments should be able to obtain some coverage for car repairs, depending upon their deductible and other limits outlined in their policies.
Accident victims should always consider speaking with a lawyer about suing the other driver in the event of the following:
- When the accident caused serious injury or death
- When the accident renders them unable to work
- If the accident may have been caused by the other driver’s negligence
Determining the severity of an injury is not always easy. Some injuries appear minor at first but later cause persistent pain. Other injuries cause disfigurement, resulting in long-term suffering. Victims who cannot work for an extended time may suffer financial loss or possibly lose their job. When in doubt, it is best for accident victims to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident and ask whether it is appropriate to sue. Waiting too long can jeopardize their right to compensation, for several reasons:
- Evidence for proving negligence may be lost
- Insurance companies may use the delay as a reason to deny the claim
- The statue of limitations may expire
Moreover, it takes legal skill and hard work to build a successful personal injury claim. The sooner a lawyer can get started on a case, the better.
Why Types of Car Accident Injuries Qualify for Compensation?
Just about any type of injury may qualify for compensation, as long as it can be shown to have been caused by the accident. While a car crash can cause almost any type of bodily trauma, the most common car accident injuries include bruises, contusions, and soft tissue damage. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord damage are less common but much more serious. Other injuries inflicted by car accidents include the following:
- Broken bones and other types of fractures
- Cuts and lacerations
- Head and neck injuries
- Musculoskeletal damage
When seeking to recover costs for injuries, it is imperative for victims to do the following:
- Seek medical attention promptly after a car accident
- Keep all follow up appointments
- Heed all medical advice from health care providers
- Keep records of all bills and plans of care
These steps are necessary to preserve eligibility for compensation, irrespective of the type of injury. A victim’s injuries may be covered, in part, by a settlement offered by an insurance company. However, victims should never accept such a settlement before speaking with a lawyer because the settlement is likely to be far less than is needed to cover the full cost of recovery.
What About Whiplash?
Each year, more than two million Americans suffer from whiplash. According to the Mayo Clinic, whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end collisions when a person’s neck is subjected to sudden back-and-forth motions. Some passengers or drivers can get whiplash at speeds of 10 miles per hour or less in any type of collision.
Oftentimes, accident victims do not exhibit the symptoms of whiplash until weeks after a crash. This fact underscores the importance of seeking a full medical evaluation right away after an accident so that medical professionals can perform tests and describe the possible signs of whiplash that may surface in the coming days. Some of the symptoms that can show up later include the following:
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
In some instances, more serious cases of whiplash can result in one or more of the following conditions as well:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory lapse
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbances
Following the doctor’s guidance regarding a plan of care for treating whiplash is the best way to recover, however, it can be expensive. Filing a personal injury claim enables victims to seek the funds they need to cover the cost of treatment. Failure to obtain necessary treatment may produce long-term complications which include the following:
- Chronic neck pain
- Persistent limited range of motion
- Pain extending to the arms
When properly treated, the effects of whiplash may disappear over time.
Does the Type of Car Accident Affect Compensation Awards?
The type of car accident ordinarily does not affect a victim’s eligibility for compensation. Rather, the cause of the crash and injury severity are the main drivers for calculating the amount of compensation awarded to an accident victim. Our lawyers are well qualified to represent victims who are filing claims as a result of any type of car accident, including the following:
- Head-on collisions
- Hit and run accidents
- Rear-end collisions
- T-bone crashes at intersections
- Rideshare accidents
Our legal team also represents pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists who have been hit by a car. A victim’s ability to obtain compensation depends on who is at fault for the accident and the extent of the resulting injuries rather than the type of accident.
Causes of Car Accidents
Nearly 90 percent of car accidents can be attributed, at least in part, to human error. This is true despite the fact that most accidents are entirely preventable, according to Stanford University. This is truly a tragedy considering the amount of suffering and loss of life that could have easily been avoided had the negligent party exercised due care. In addition to seeking compensation for losses suffered by innocent victims, our Virginia Beach personal injury lawyers believe that using legal means to seek just compensation also sends a message to negligent parties that our laws will hold them accountable for their actions. Common causes of preventable car accidents include the following:
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Drunk driving
- Running red lights
- Failure to obey other traffic regulations
Approximately one-half of all fatalities on Virginia’s roadways are caused, at least in part, by speeding, according to Virginia Highway Safety Office. Distracted driving continues to be a problem, even though texting while driving is considered a primary offense in Virginia. Automobile defects can also cause accidents. Defects in tires and airbag systems are among the most common types of defective parts that contribute to car crashes. In November 2020, GM recalled nearly seven million vehicles due to airbag problems. Defective traffic lights and roads that are not properly maintained by municipalities may also contribute to the cause of an accident.
How Much Compensation can I Expect to Receive?
Some accident victims are awarded millions of dollars in compensation. Each case is different, and the exact outcome of a trial or settlement negotiations can never be predicted in advance. If a victim is not fully at fault for their accident, the amount of compensation they receive by filing a personal injury lawsuit will depend upon the following factors:
- Medical bills
- Cost to repair or replace the car
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
In a few cases, plaintiffs may seek punitive damages from negligent parties. A qualified lawyer can explain the instances in which it may be appropriate to seek punitive damages. Damages for pain and suffering may include compensation for stress and anxiety caused by persistent pain, humiliation suffered to scarring or disfigurement, or loss of companionship in the case of a wrongful death claim. If a case goes to trial, the amount of compensation will depend on what a jury thinks a victim deserves. The skillfulness and persuasiveness of the lawyer representing the victim may have as much or more impact on the amount of an award as the facts in the case. Qualified lawyers understand this and therefore apply their knowledge and experience to obtain the best possible result for their clients.
Be Prepared for a Car Accident
No one wants to get in an accident. At the same time, it is always a good idea to be prepared by making sure the vehicle is equipped with the following before going out for a drive:
- Fully charged phone
- First-aid kit
- Driver’s license, registration, and insurance card
- Lawyer’s phone number
Drivers may also want to include a contact list of relative’s names and phone numbers as well. It is also a good idea to take photos of the vehicle periodically to maintain a record of its condition prior to an accident. Also, when driving on the interstate, it can be helpful to keep in mind the last exit passed or mile markers. This information makes it easier to report the exact location of an accident when calling 911.