If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be unsure how to claim personal injury from the accident. If the accident happened in Virginia, your rights to compensation will be determined by Virginia personal injury law, regardless of whether you live in the state.
There are a number of specific issues that you need to take into account in deciding how to get paid for your injuries. In this article, respected Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeff Brooke explains the basics about recovering for injuries received in a Virginia car accident.
Who Pays for My Injuries and Expenses?
When you are injured in an auto accident, there are several different potential sources for compensation for your injuries. Which sources are available will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident. The possibilities are:
- Your own health insurance;
- Your own car insurance;
- An at-fault driver’s car insurance;
- Worker’s compensation insurance (if you were working when the accident occurred).
All potential sources of compensation involve insurance companies. Even when another person caused the accident and that person is legally responsible, it will be his or her insurance company that ultimately pays the claim.
When Does the Other Driver Have to Pay?
Virginia laws regarding accident liability are different from laws in many other states. In Virginia, to hold another driver legally responsible for paying compensation for injuries, you need to demonstrate two facts:
- That the other driver’s negligence caused the accident; and
- That your own conduct did not contribute to causing the accident in any way.
The first requirement related to the legal standard of negligence, which generally means the failure to use the ordinary care that a reasonable person would use in the circumstances. There are many different actions that can constitute negligence, including violating traffic laws (such as speeding and failing to stop), failing to pay attention while driving, or distracted driving.
The second requirement is a legal principle referred to as contributory negligence. In Virginia, if you are in any way responsible for causing the accident, you cannot recover from another driver, even if that person was more at fault than you were. Other states have “comparative negligence” standards that may permit recovery when both drivers are at fault, but that is not the case in Virginia.
How Much Compensation Can I Get?
When you’re injured in an accident, a very important question is how much financial compensation you will be able to receive. In Virginia, compensation for personal injury caused by another person is calculated according to very specific criteria that will apply in determining the damages you can recover.
Generally, if your injuries are minor, and you have no long-term medical expenses, impairment, disability, or lost wages or income because of the injuries, the compensation for your injuries may be limited to your medical and treatment costs and expenses. If your injuries are more severe and have a long-term negative impact on your life, many other factors come into play in calculating damages.
To determine compensation for injuries that require long-term treatment, involve pain and suffering or lost wages and earning capacity, and other items that count as special damages, you should rely on an experienced personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney often will be able to give you a good idea of what recovery you can expect after he or she investigates and evaluates your case. You can read more about types of damages and how they are calculated in our article: How Is Personal Injury Compensation Calculated?
The internet has resources that you can use to estimate financial recovery for personal injuries. Those articles should be used only as a guide to give you a general idea of what you might be able to recover, especially if you suffered substantial, lasting injuries.
When Should I Talk to a Lawyer?
If your injuries are minor and short-term — and you are fully compensated by insurance — it may not be necessary to talk with a lawyer. However, if your injuries are serious and you suffer any long-term effects or disability or require extended medical procedures and treatment, you should consult with an experienced auto accident attorney.
When you are in an accident, your insurance policy probably requires that you immediately report the accident to them. You should comply with that requirement. If someone else appears to be at fault in the accident, you think about filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. However, if you talk with an insurance adjuster and make statements that are recorded or written out and signed, you could jeopardize your case.
Many personal injury attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation about accident injuries, so there really is no reason to proceed without talking with an attorney. If you suffered significant injuries, it is in your best interest to discuss your case with a lawyer before you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company or talk with an insurance adjuster.
There are articles on the internet describing how you can negotiate your claims with an insurance company on your own. In some circumstances, that may be a viable option. It is also a risky strategy, because you could harm your case by making statements to an at-fault driver’s insurance company. Having an experienced attorney file the claim and negotiate on your behalf is a much better way to proceed, especially if you suffered substantial injuries.
How Long Can I Wait to Call a Lawyer?
When you’re injured in an auto accident in Virginia, you have only two years to file a lawsuit for your injuries. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. The time starts to run on the date of accident. Filing a claim with an insurance company does not extend or delay the time.
The longer you wait to contact an attorney, the greater the chance is that the time limit will expire. If it does, you lose your right to sue the at-fault party, which means you can no longer recover compensation from that person for your injuries. If you’ve been seriously injured and someone else is at fault, you should contact a personal injury attorney at the earliest possible time. That’s especially true because of the time limit, and there are other reasons not to delay as well.
To be able to determine whether you have a case, your lawyer needs to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the accident and the details about your injuries. Investigating the accident and collecting information is much easier soon after the accident occurs. A time delay can result in problems like lost evidence, witnesses who cannot be found, and many other problems.
It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare a lawsuit to be filed. When you retain an attorney, he or she will negotiate with the insurance company in an effort to settle your claim, even while the lawsuit is being prepared and after it is filed.
Talk with a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered significant injuries in a car accident in Virginia, The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help. Attorney Brooke has substantial experience helping injured victims and their families recover the compensation they deserve after an accident. 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 as a result 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.