Summer is in full swing here in Virginia Beach. Visitors are arriving to enjoy our virtually unlimited recreational and leisure activities. If you are one of the many vacationers taking a road trip to Virginia Beach — whether for a day trip or an overnight visit — you should know what to do if you’re in a car accident during your trip. Our state’s laws will apply if you have an accident here. Those laws can be very different from the laws in your home state, depending on where you live.
At the Scene of the Accident
If you’re in an accident, you are required to stop at the scene. That is the law. If someone is injured or there is damage to an occupied vehicle or other attended property, you can be charged with a criminal offense if you do not stop.
Obviously, the first priority at the scene is to get immediate medical care for anyone who is injured. In fact, Virginia law requires you to provide reasonable assistance to any injured person. That may even include responsibility for taking an injured person to a hospital or doctor when it is apparent treatment is necessary or the injured person makes the request.
If traffic is blocked or anyone is injured, you should call 911 immediately. It is especially important to alert the emergency operator to the need for police if you notice that a driver seems to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a driver appears to have no insurance information, or a vehicle left the scene.
If there are no injuries, Virginia’s “Move It” law requires you to move your vehicle from the roadway if you can do so safely. The law is in place to prevent impeding traffic to the extent possible, which is extremely important, especially during our peak summer traffic times.
Provide your information to the other people involved and to law enforcement when requested. You can give factual information to law enforcement. However, you should avoid making statements to anyone about what you think caused the accident or who you think is at fault. You should refrain from expressing your opinions at the scene of the accident.
If you are able to do so, you should take photographs to document the scene and evidence. Do not interfere with the police investigation in any way while you are documenting the accident by taking photos or making notes.
Even if you hit an unattended vehicle or other property, the law requires you to stop and attempt to find the owner of the property. If you are unable to locate the owner, you must leave a note that discloses the accident and includes your contact information.
After the Accident
When you’ve been in an accident, it is always advisable for you and your passengers to see a doctor, even if you do not think you have been injured. Some injuries are not apparent immediately after an accident. Even delaying having a medical evaluation until you get home from your vacation can cause severe complications.
Your insurance policy probably requires you to report the accident to your insurance company. You should report it as soon as possible in any case. However, when you report it, you should refrain from expressing opinions about the cause of the accident or who was at fault.
Virginia Accident Law
Accident law in Virginia may be very different from the accident law in your home state, depending on where you reside. Virginia is not a “no-fault” state. Responsibility for an accident is determined on the basis of negligence.
A person who is negligent (at-fault) is legally liable for compensating victims for their injuries. Negligence is a legal standard, determined on the basis of the facts and circumstances of the accident.
Virginia accident law also has a standard that only a few other states apply. The standard is referred to as pure contributory negligence. Under the legal rule, if an injured person contributed in any way to his or her own injuries, the injured person cannot recover compensation from another person. That is true even if the other person was more at-fault or more negligent.
Determining fault and cause for an accident, especially when injuries are involved, requires a complex analysis of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. That is one of the reasons why speculating about cause or fault at the scene or to your insurance company is not a good idea. A thorough investigation must be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.
If You’ve Been Injured
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may or may not need to talk with a lawyer. If your injuries are relatively minor, you do not have long-term effects, and your insurance covers all your expenses, there likely is no additional compensation that you can recover.
If, however, your injuries are significant and severe, and there are long-term consequences, talking with a personal injury attorney is essential. Most car accident attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation, so you really have nothing to lose by talking with a lawyer.
If your accident occurred in Virginia, you should talk with a local attorney who knows the state accident laws, as well as local practices and processes. An attorney who practices near the location of your accident will be in a better position to gather investigative information about the accident as well.
When car accident injuries are severe, calculating compensation is very complicated. Only by discussing your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney will you be able to fully evaluate the potential financial recovery.
It is especially important to talk with an attorney before you talk with the insurance company for the person who was at fault in the accident. The insurance company’s only interest will be trying to settle with you for the lowest possible amount. The adjuster also may try to get you to make statements that will harm your case. You should have your attorney handle all discussions with the insurance company.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered severe injuries in a Virginia accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach car accident lawyer Jeff Brooke has the experience and skill to help you. We are fully committed to helping clients and their families recover the compensation they deserve and dedicated to providing exceptional client service as well. Contact us by phone at (757) 785-0837 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.