Is the Employer of an At-Fault Driver Legally Liable for Your Auto Accident Injuries?

Truck Crashing into CarVirginia is a fault state for auto accidents.  If you receive injuries in a Virginia accident, you can recover compensation from the driver whose negligence caused the accident.  In some situations, you also may hold the employer of an at-fault driver legally liable for your auto accident injuries.

Legal Doctrine of Respondeat Superior

Virginia courts recognize a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, a Latin phrase that means “let the master answer.”  Under the principle, an employer may be legally liable for acts of an employee. 

The doctrine of respondeat superior applies in many different circumstances, including car accidents.  However, Virginia court decisions set specific requirements that must be met for an employer to be held legally responsible for injuries caused by an employee.

When Can You Sue an Employer for Injuries Caused By an Employee?

To hold the employer of the at-fault driver legally liable for your auto accident injuries, you must establish three facts:

  • An employer-employee relationship existed;
  • The employee was conducting the employer’s business when the accident occurred; and
  • The employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

The evidence must demonstrate all three conditions for the employer to be liable. 

Under rules established in opinions of the Virginia Supreme Court, if an injured victim shows that the employer-employee relationship existed, the burden of proof shifts to the employer.   To avoid liability, an employer usually attempts to demonstrate either that the employee was not conducting the employer’s business or the employee was not acting within the scope of employment.

Scope of Employer Liability

The rules about employer liability for actions of an employee apply to all employers.  The employer can be a business or company, an individual, or even a government agency.  However, liability of government agencies is subject to the specific laws discussed in a previous blog post, When Can You Sue the Government For a Personal Injury?

If the at-fault driver is on the job when an accident occurs, the employer likely will be responsible for injuries and property damage caused by the employee’s negligence.  However, in the aftermath of an accident, sometimes the facts relating to employer liability are not clear. 

Common Situations Involving Questions of Employer Liability

Circumstances in which an employer usually will not be liable for injuries caused by an employee include the following:

  • The employee was on his or her way to or from work when the accident occurred.
  • The employee was running personal errands on a break or taking a lunch hour when the accident occurred.

In these examples, if the facts demonstrate that the employee was not conducting the employer’s business, the employer is not legally liable for the employee’s negligence.  If other facts show that the employee was conducting the employer’s business on the way to work or during a break or lunch hour, the employer may be legally responsible.

In any case where an injured victim establishes through evidence that the employee was performing tasks within his or her work responsibilities and fulfilling interests of the employer, the legal requirements for employer liability are met.

Demonstrating Employer Liability

The employer liability rules apply to all types of car accidents.  The injured victim may be the driver of the other car, a passenger in the employee’s personal or company vehicle, or a pedestrian. 

When an employee uses a vehicle to complete work duties, the employer usually will be liable.  It does not matter if the employee is using a personal vehicle or a vehicle that belongs to the employer.  However, when the employer owns the vehicle, it is more difficult for the employer to produce evidence that proves the employee was not acting within the scope of employment.

In any case involving employer liability, recovering compensation for the injured victim is more difficult and complex than in a case without employer liability issues.  First, the victim needs to prove that the employee was negligent and caused the accident.  Then, the injured individual also must demonstrate the three requirements for employer liability. 

If you suffered serious injuries in an accident, and the employer of the at-fault driver may be legally liable, it is essential to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.  Before you consider filing claims with the employee’s and employer’s insurance companies, get guidance from a knowledgeable accident lawyer.  Doing so will greatly improve your chances of successfully recovering full compensation.

Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Car Accident Attorney Lawyer

If you received serious injuries in an accident, and another person may be at fault, Virginia Beach auto accident attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. The Jeff Brooke Team always keeps your and your family’s best interests at heart and aggressively pursues your case to get the full compensation you deserve.

At The Jeff Brooke Team, we dedicate our personal injury practice to helping injured victims and their families. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

View our locations.

Reasons Should Not Negotiate Your Personal Injury Settlement Personal Injury Lawyer Virginia Beach | The Jeff Brooke Team

6 Reasons You Should Not Negotiate Your Own Personal Injury Settlement

Woman Signing Legal DocumentIf you received injuries in an accident and someone else is at fault, you may wonder if you should try to resolve the claim yourself, rather than having a lawyer represent you.  If you have only minor injuries, settling your own claim may result in an acceptable outcome.  However, if your injuries are severe, attempting to settle your own claim could be a huge mistake.  There are six important reasons you should not negotiate your own personal injury settlement if you suffer significant injuries in an accident.

1.    Insurance adjusters are expert negotiators.

Negotiating anything requires skill and knowledge.  Insurance companies train their adjusters in negotiation strategy. Those adjusters use time-tested techniques when they discuss claims with injured victims.

The insurance company has one goal relating to your claim:  To avoid paying you at all, or to settle your claim for the smallest possible amount.  That goal underlies everything the adjuster says and does during settlement negotiations.

Adjusters know what works and what does not work in claim negotiations.  They routinely argue with lawyers, who are equally skilled at negotiating.  They welcome the opportunity to negotiate a claim with an injured victim who does not understand the finer points of negotiating a settlement of an insurance claim.

Adjusters try to prevail in negotiations by drawing on several different strategies:  delaying payment, denying payment entirely, and minimizing the amount of compensation they owe you.  Faced with a potentially large monetary claim, insurance adjusters excel at:

  • Manipulating you into making and signing statements that hurt your case
  • Convincing you to accept a settlement that is substantially less than you deserve
  • Drawing out negotiations as long as possible to wear you down, even to the point where your right to file a legal claim expires under the two-year Virginia statute of limitations

Claimants often make significant mistakes when they negotiate their own claims.  Common negotiating mistakes include:

  • Accepting the adjuster’s legal and factual conclusions about the accident
  • Making and signing statements about the accident or pre-existing conditions that harm the claimant’s legal position
  • Turning over documents too early in the negotiation process
  • Settling too soon and for an amount that does not fully compensate losses

If you suffer serious long-term injuries in an accident, you should not even talk to the at-fault person’s insurance company.  Tell them (or better yet, have a friend or family member tell them) that your lawyer will call them.  Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for your first consultation, so you have nothing to lose by talking with one.

2.    Insurance adjusters know Virginia personal injury law and negligence rules.

Virginia personal injury law is extremely complex.  It includes legal rules like strict contributory negligence, which means that you recover nothing if you were the slightest bit at fault in the accident.

Insurance adjusters know how Virginia negligence law works.  They can use legal principles like fault and liability to convince you that your claim is not valid or not worth much.  You have a real disadvantage in not knowing the law.

Personal injury lawyers are highly skilled at negotiating with insurance companies and navigating through the complex issues of Virginia personal injury law.  With a knowledgeable lawyer in your corner, your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve increase considerably.

3.    You can undermine your case and lose your right to compensation if you try to negotiate your own claim.

There are several ways you can hurt your case if you talk with an insurance adjuster.  Any statement you make that the adjuster interprets (or misinterprets) as acknowledging your own conduct in the accident can lead to total denial of your claim.  Once those statements are part of the record, there is no way to remove or retract them.

In addition, you have only two years to file a legal claim for a personal injury.  Filing the insurance claim does not count.  Only a lawsuit filed in court stops the clock.  If your discussions with the insurance adjuster extend beyond two years after your accident, you can no longer assert a legal claim in court.  The insurance company will deny your claim, and you will not recover compensation for your injuries.

There are more subtle ways that you can undermine your case as well by discussing the claim with the insurance company.  It is best to avoid any chance of jeopardizing your case by having a lawyer represent you in settlement talks with the insurance company.

4.    If negotiations fail or stall, you cannot file a court action on your own — and the insurance adjuster knows that.

When a personal injury attorney negotiates with an insurance company, the adjuster knows that if settlement talks do not proceed in a direction of potential agreement, the lawyer will file a lawsuit in court.  That gives the attorney considerable leverage in settlement discussions.  You do not have that advantage when you negotiate with the adjuster on your own.

While most personal injury cases do settle, sometimes it takes a lawsuit to convince the insurance company that settling is better than allowing a jury to award damages.   You can read more about settlement in personal injury cases in our recent blog post, 3 Reasons Why Most Accident Cases End in Settlement.

If you try to negotiate your claim on your own and fail, and then retain an attorney to file a court action and represent you, your case may be in a much worse situation than it would be if a lawyer represented you from the beginning.  While you always can turn to an attorney after your efforts fail, your chances of receiving full compensation improve considerably if a lawyer represents you from the very beginning of the claim.

5. The insurance company knows how much money they might have to pay you — and you probably do not know the full value of your claim.

Calculation of damages in personal injury cases is extremely complex.  While you may be able calculate some of your economic damages, like medical expenses and lost wages, the non-economic damages you deserve are much harder to quantify.

When a severe injury affects your future and quality of life, you may receive compensation for different types of loss and damage, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost future earning capacity
  • The value of a permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Past and future inconvenience

The insurance company knows how to calculate these types of damages.  So do personal injury lawyers.  You probably do not.  Because of that, you probably will significantly underestimate the amount of compensation you can receive for your injuries and settle for an amount that does not even begin to cover your losses and is much less than you deserve.

6. You may lose a substantial amount of your settlement if you have to reimburse your health insurer for your medical expenses.

In some cases, your health insurer may assert the right to recover medical expenses they paid from the settlement you get.  If you negotiate a settlement without knowing whether your health insurer has the right to reimbursement, you may end up pocketing a significantly lower portion of your settlement than you expected, or even nothing at all. 

Subrogation and lien laws in Virginia are extremely complicated.  When a personal injury attorney handles your accident claim, your attorney determines subrogation and lien rights of your health insurer and considers them in negotiating the settlement amount.  Your attorney also can dispute invalid lien claims from your health insurer or negotiate to lower the repayment amount. 

Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer

If you suffered significant injuries in an accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. At The Jeff Brooke Team, we dedicate our practice to helping injured victims and their families. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

View our locations.

Do Subrogation and Liens Reduce Virginia Personal Injury Compensation? Personal Injury Lawyer Virginia Beach | The Jeff Brooke Team

When Do Subrogation and Liens Reduce Your Virginia Personal Injury Compensation?

Personal Injury Compensation PaperworkWhen you receive injuries in an accident, your health insurance usually pays your medical expenses.  If you then make a personal injury claim and get money for those expenses from the insurance company of a person who caused the accident, you may discover that subrogation and liens reduce your Virginia personal injury compensation.  That’s because you may have to reimburse your health insurer for the medical expenses they paid.  

How Do Subrogation and Liens Work?

Subrogation and liens are two different but related legal concepts.  Subrogation gives a party (in this case, your health insurer) the right to seek reimbursement from a third party (the at-fault person’s insurance company) who is legally liable.  If your health insurance company has the right of subrogation, they can recover the medical expenses they paid from the insurance company that is legally liable for compensating you for your injuries. 

The subrogation right gives rise to the right for reimbursement, which your insurer may pursue by filing a lien against you.  A lien is a legally enforceable encumbrance on your property. 

When your health insurer has the right to reimbursement of medical expenses, the final amount you get as your personal injury settlement may be less than you anticipate.  If you negotiate your own settlement unaware of this complication, you may end up very disappointed with the amount of the settlement you ultimately keep.

When Can a Health Insurer Recover Medical Expenses From Your Personal Injury Compensation By Subrogation or a Lien?

In Virginia, health insurers sometimes can get reimbursement for medical expenses they paid when the injured victim receives personal injury compensation from a liability insurance company.  Other times, they cannot get reimbursement.

Virginia law on subrogation and personal injury liens is complicated.  The Commonwealth has an anti-subrogation statute that prohibits health insurance companies from including subrogation clauses in contracts issued in Virginia.  However, federal laws preempt Virginia’s anti-subrogation law in some cases. 

In addition, the Virginia anti-subrogation law does not apply to contracts issued in other states.  If you have an out-of-state health insurance, that state may not have anti-subrogation rules, since many states do not.  That means subrogation provisions in your policy may be enforceable.

If you recover personal injury compensation for your medical expenses, your health insurer may seek reimbursement for expenses they paid in a number of other specific situations, such as:

  • Federal agency employees and insurance policies negotiated under the Federal Employee Health Benefit Act (FEHBA) are not subject to the Virginia anti-subrogation statute.  Virginia residents with FEHBA insurance must reimburse their health insurance company for medical expenses out of personal injury compensation.
  • Another federal law known as ERISA (Employees Retirement Income Security Act) gives ERISA-compliant employers with self-funded health benefit plans the right to reimbursement of paid medical expenses when the injured person recovers personal injury compensation.
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and workers’ compensation plans have the right to reimbursement of medical expenses when a claimant receives personal injury compensation.
  • The Federal Medical Care Recovery Act (FMCRA) authorizes the government to recover costs of medical care provided to injured individuals at government expense.  The Veterans Administration (VA) and Tricare (which covers military personnel) have the right to seek reimbursement out of personal injury compensation under this law.

Despite the fact that some health insurance plans can assert reimbursement rights for medical expenses in personal injury cases, there are situations when an injured individual’s health insurer cannot pursue subrogation rights or liens in Virginia. 

How Can You Find Out Whether Subrogation and Liens Reduce Your Virginia Personal Injury Compensation?

The only way to know if you will have to repay medical expenses out of your personal injury compensation is to have an experienced personal injury attorney review your case, including your insurance coverage.  Taking into account issues relating to subrogation and liens is one of the important reasons that you should retain an attorney if you suffer severe injuries in an accident that was another person’s fault.

When you talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your accident case, your insurance coverage is one of the important matters your attorney addresses.  It is extremely critical to know before settlement negotiations begin whether your health insurer is entitled to reimbursement for medical expenses they paid.

In addition, during a personal injury case, health insurance carriers sometimes file overreaching or inappropriate liens against the injured victim.  If that happens, your attorney will navigate the complex process involved in resolving the lien issues.

Talk With a Trusted Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer

If you received severe injuries in an accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help.   At The Jeff Brooke Team, we dedicate our practice to helping injured victims and their families, including addressing subrogation and lien matters that arise in the case. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

View our locations.

Liability For Injuries From Rental Electric Scooter Accidents in VA Personal Injury Lawyer Virginia Beach | The Jeff Brooke Team

Liability for Injuries From Rental Electric Scooter Accidents in Virginia

Bird Scooters on SidewalkWhen clusters of Bird rental electric scooters appeared overnight on sidewalks in Virginia Beach and Norfolk a few months ago, officials in both cities moved quickly to impound the scooters and fine the scooter company.  Now, the scooters are back in limited use. Already, they are causing accidents and injuries, raising an important question: What is the law regarding liability for injuries from rental electric scooter accidents in Virginia?

Electric Scooters Pose Substantial Risks to Pedestrians and Motorists As Well As Riders

As rental electric scooter appear in cities all over the United States, scooter accident and injury reports proliferate across the country.  In September 2018, a scooter rider in Washington, DC died as the result of a collision with an SUV — the second nationally reported fatality (the first was in Dallas). 

Electric scooters pose risks to pedestrians, motorists, and others, in addition to putting scooter operators themselves at risk.  Motorists encounter scooters operating in streets and roadways, as well as in crosswalks.  Because scooter riders often ignore traffic regulations and crosswalk rules — and surprise unsuspecting motorists in the blink of an eye — collisions involving vehicles and rental electric scooters occur everywhere the scooters operate.

Pedestrian injuries often result from sidewalk or crosswalk collisions with a scooter.  Pedestrians also suffer injuries from slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents that occur when a scooter rider leaves an abandoned scooter randomly on a sidewalk or property. 

Electric scooter riders face a substantial risk of life-threatening or life-altering injuries. While scooter companies recommend wearing a helmet, few riders do.  Nationwide, reports of accidents involving head injuries — including traumatic brain injuries — are common.  Other frequently reported rider injuries include broken bones, complex fractures, dislocated joints, and back injuries, as well as deep cuts and abrasions.   

Electric scooter accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles can have a number of different causes, including scooter operator error and failure to abide by traffic signals and regulations.  Sometimes scooter injuries also result from collisions with bicycles, dog bites or attacks from a dog startled by a scooter, and loss of control by the scooter operator because of conditions like potholes, uneven sidewalks, and gravel or debris on the sidewalk or roadway.

Virginia Laws and Regulations For Electric Scooters and Mopeds

The Virginia Motor Vehicle Code § 46.2-904 gives local governments authority to regulate use of electric scooters on sidewalks and in crosswalks — and local officials in the Hampton Roads region moved quickly as soon as rental electric scooters appeared on sidewalks without prior permission. 

In Norfolk, the unannounced appearance of Bird scooters caught city officials off guard, especially since city officials reportedly already were in talks with a different vendor about bringing scooters to the city.  As of early 2019, Norfolk is considering a one-year pilot program to allow rental electric scooters in the city. 

After impounding the initial clusters of scooters, Virginia Beach moved swiftly to regulate use, issuing a memorandum governing where and how rental companies and riders may operate.  According to a memo from the city:

"[M]otorized scooters may not be lawfully operated on the Boardwalk, the adjacent bike path, the adjacent grassy areas or the connector parks in the Resort Area. Similarly, it is unlawful for any person to ride a motorized scooter on any sidewalk or plaza in Town Center."

The city continues to impound scooters left unattended in prohibited areas or that interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

The same section of state law that empowers local governments to act also requires the operator of an electric scooter on a sidewalk or shared-use path or across a roadway on a crosswalk to “yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.”  In addition, the statute provides that an electric scooter rider has “all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances.”  That means scooter riders on sidewalk and in crosswalks must comply with traffic signals regulating crosswalks, just as pedestrians do.

When an electric scooter is operating in the street or on a roadway, different rules apply.  An electric scooter qualifies as a moped under Virginia law.  The vehicle code provides:

"Moped" means every vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground that (i) has a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the middle of the seat perpendicular to the ground; (ii) has a gasoline, electric, or hybrid motor that (a) displaces 50 cubic centimeters or less or (b) has an input of 1500 watts or less; (iii) is power-driven, with or without pedals that allow propulsion by human power; and (iv) is not operated at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. For purposes of this title, a moped shall be a motorcycle when operated at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. For purposes of Chapter 8 (§ 46.2-800 et seq.) [Virginia motor vehicle laws], a moped shall be a vehicle while operated on a highway.

Under this provision, an electric scooter operated on a street is subject to all rules and statutes that apply to other vehicles, as well as moped laws.  Of special interest to scooter riders, that includes a specific law (at Virginia Code § 46.2-1078) that prohibits drivers of motor vehicles and mopeds from using earphones or earbuds in both ears while driving or riding.

Issues Relating to Liability For Injuries From Rental Electric Scooter Accidents in Virginia

When a rental electric scooter collides with a pedestrian, bicycle, or motor vehicle, Virginia personal injury rules of negligence determine responsibility and liability for compensating victims for their injuries.  The state’s contributory negligence rule also applies.

The process of recovering for injuries in a scooter accident is usually similar to recovering compensation for injuries in an auto accident.  It requires investigating the accident and analyzing the facts and to determine who is at fault, as well as filing a claim with the responsible person’s insurance company.  In cases of severe injuries, the victim should retain an experienced personal injury lawyer to pursue full compensation for injuries received in a rental electric scooter accident.

For rental electric scooter riders who suffer injuries, there are complicating factors.  A defective or improperly maintained scooter can cause an accident.  If that possibility arises, product liability law comes into play. 

There is a legal twist in trying to hold a rental scooter company liable for accident injuries.  When a rider rents a scooter, the required user agreement typically contains a liability waiver. 

By including liability waivers in user agreements, scooter rental companies attempt to insulate themselves against liability for injuries.  In accepting the terms, riders agree to waive the right to file a lawsuit for injuries and to submit claims to binding arbitration. At least one company’s user agreement also includes a waiver of the right to participate in class action lawsuits.

Virginia courts have not yet considered whether these liability waivers in scooter rental agreements are enforceable in the state.  Virginia courts already hold pre-injury liability waivers invalid and unenforceable in some circumstances.  How those rules will apply in electric scooter cases is unknown at this time.  Undoubtedly, a scooter injury case eventually will present the issue to the courts. 

While the future for rental electric scooters in Hampton Roads is somewhat unclear, one thing is very clear:  If you receive injuries as a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorist, or scooter rider in an accident involving an electric scooter, you may be entitled to compensation under Virginia personal injury law.

Parties potentially liable for compensating you include the driver of a motor vehicle, the scooter rider/operator, scooter company, or another party whose conduct caused the accident.  When your injuries are significant, you should consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney about pursuing compensation.

Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Personal Injury Attorney Lawyer

If you received serious injuries in an accident involving an electric scooter and another person may be at fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. The Jeff Brooke Team always keeps your and your family’s best interests at heart and aggressively pursues your case to get the full compensation you deserve.

At The Jeff Brooke Team, we dedicate our personal injury practice to helping injured victims and their families. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

5 Mistakes to Avoid After a Virginia Car Accident | Jeff Brooke Team Personal Injury Lawyer Virginia Beach | The Jeff Brooke Team

5 Mistakes to Avoid After a Virginia Car Accident

Driver Who Was Just in a Car Accident

In Virginia, if you are seriously injured by another driver’s carelessness, you need to protect your legal claim.  While knowing what to do after an accident is important, it’s just as essential not to do things that undermine your case.  There are specific mistakes to avoid after a Virginia car accident.

Mistake #1:  Failing to Get Medical Treatment

After any accident, getting medical treatment, including a full medical evaluation of your injuries, is the top priority.  You can feel fine after an accident when you actually have extremely serious — and even life threatening — injuries.

Many types of injuries do not manifest outward signs immediately.  That is because the sudden deceleration and impact of an accident causes serious trauma inside your body.  The risk of injury is even greater if any part of your body collides with something inside your car.

The most serious type of injury that frequently goes unnoticed immediately after an accident is injury to the brain.  Even a concussion — a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — puts you at significant risk.

If you are in a serious accident, get medical treatment for obvious injuries and get a full, immediate medical evaluation, even if you don’t seem to have obvious injuries.  Make sure that everyone riding in your vehicle does the same thing.

Mistake #2:  Talking Too Much at the Accident Scene

When an unforeseen event occurs, it is natural to start talking about what just happened.  You should try hard to avoid making any comments or statements of opinion at the accident scene.  Talking can harm your legal claim.

Here are examples of what not to say at the accident scene:

  • “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see your car.”
  • “I was looking at my phone when I got hit.”
  • “I think it was my fault.”
  • “I’m fine.  I don’t need to see a doctor.”

Remember that your perspective about what happened is just one opinion about what caused the accident.  You might be wrong in your immediate assessment.  You can hurt your legal claim by speculating about what you think caused the accident.

You have to talk to law enforcement at the scene.  When you do, stick to the facts that you know with certainty.  Don’t offer your opinions about what might have caused the accident or who might be at fault.

Mistake #3:  Talking With the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company

When you’re in a car accident, you have to report the crash to your own insurance company.  If the accident involved another driver, that person’s insurance company probably will contact you.  Especially if you received serious injuries, do not talk to the other driver’s insurance adjuster.

The goal of the insurance company for the at-fault driver is to avoid paying you at all or to pay you the smallest possible amount of compensation.  Adjusters know how to manipulate injured victims into making statements that harm their claim.  They also know how to convince you to settle your claim for less than you deserve.

If you suffer significant injuries, you should talk with an experienced personal injury attorney about your accident and injuries.  When the at-fault person’s insurance company calls, simply tell them that your lawyer will call them. 

Learn more about when you should talk with an attorney in our article, When Should You Talk With an Automobile Accident Lawyer?

Mistake #4:  Trying to Settle Your Own Claim

If you think you can get more money by settling your own claim, you probably are making a serious mistake.  When you negotiate with an insurance adjuster, you are dealing with a person trained and experienced at minimizing the insurance company’s payout.

If you suffered significant injuries, having an experienced car accident attorney handle your claim gives you the best chance of recovering full compensation.  Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for your initial consultation, so you lose nothing by taking the time to talk with one.

Mistake #5:  Posting on Social Media 

If you are an avid user of social media, this mistake is #2 on your list (after getting medical treatment).  Posting on social media about your accident, your injuries, or your recovery is the quickest way to undermine your legal claim.  You may even risk being blamed for the accident or losing your right too compensation completely.

You may not realize that opposing attorneys, insurance companies, and law enforcement all check social media posts for information relating to accidents and victims.  They do. 

The rule is easy to remember.  If you have any type of legal claim pending, avoid posting on social media completely.  You also should ask your friends and family not to post about your accident.

Anything you post (or that someone else posts) — whether, it is a comment, photo, or video — can be used against you to demonstrate that:

  • The accident was your fault.
  • Your own negligence contributed to the accident or your injuries. (In Virginia, contributory negligence prevents any recovery in a personal injury case.)
  • Your injuries are not as serious as you claim.

Insurance adjusters and opposing lawyers won’t just look at your new posts.  They will examine your prior posts to find any evidence that can harm your case. 

The safest step to take is deleting your social media accounts.  If you can’t bring yourself to do that, change your privacy settings — and do not talk about your accident or injuries if you continue to post.  Be sure to deny friend requests from anyone who is not a relative or personal friend. 

Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer

If you received serious injuries in an auto accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. The Jeff Brooke Team always keeps your and your family’s best interests at heart and aggressively pursues your case to get the full compensation you deserve.

At The Jeff Brooke Team, we dedicate our personal injury practice to helping injured victims and their families. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

View our locations.

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