At The Warren Firm, we understand how confusing and nerve-wracking it can be to face a personal injury matter, especially if it is your first time dealing with this kind of situation. To better serve the needs of the men and women we represent, our Charlottesville personal injury lawyer has been collecting some of the most commonly asked questions brought forth by our clients and provided the answers below for your benefit.
If you were injured in a Virginia automobile accident, you should make sure all of your medical bills are sent to your health insurance company. While the automobile insurance company for the person who caused the wreck may tell you to send the bills to them, you should not expect that they will be paid timely or paid at all.
The main reason you want you own health insurance to pay is that you want the bills paid on time. You do not want to wait and have the medical providers hounding you and threating to sue you for the bills.
A secondary reason is that your health insurance will pay a reduced amount for the bills. When it is time to settle the case you can claim the full amount of the bill not just what your heath insurance company paid. The difference goes to you because you are the person that paid the premium for the health insurance.
At the end of the case, you may or may not have to reimburse your insurance company for what they paid for your treatment. Whether or not you have to repay them depends on the type of health insurance that you have.
If you are injured in a Virginia car accident while working, your bills should be sent to your Workers Compensation Carrier. At the end of the car accident case, you will need to reimburse the Workers Compensation Insurance company for the money they paid in medical expenses less a percentage for attorneys fees and cost.
Ultimately, your case is worth whatever a Virginia jury will award you for your injuries. No one can tell you exactly what the jury’s verdict will be, but an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and discuss with you a possible verdict range. Some of the determining factors will be: the type of injury, the length of recovery, how the auto accident occurred, the amount of medical bills and the amount of your lost wages.
It is important to note that it is not possible for an attorney to tell you what your case is worth after only a few minutes on the phone. If an attorney attempts to do so, he or she is only venturing a guess and not giving you an educated evaluation.
It may surprise you to find out that the answer to this question is no, and this is especially important considering that Virginia has strict rules of contributory negligence meaning that you cannot make a recovery if you are in the slightest bit responsible for the accident. The law can be explained as follows:
“A driver facing a green light shall move in the direction of the signal, except he has a duty to yield to other vehicles and pedestrians lawfully within the intersection. In proceeding through the intersection, he has a duty to exercise ordinary care. If a driver fails to perform [violates] either of these duties, then he is negligent.”
-Virginia Model Jury Instructions
The Virginia Supreme Court has determined that a green light is not an automatic, unqualified command that a driver proceed through the intersection under any circumstances, but is a command to do so while exercising due care.
Attempt to get as much complete and correct information as possible at the scene of your automobile accident. First, exchange driver’s licenses with the other driver. Make sure to take note of the driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number and expiration date. Also, ask for the other driver’s insurance card and write down insurance company information. Take note of the make, model, license plate number and VIN of the other car. Ask the driver if he or she is the owner of the vehicle. If not, gather the name and personal information of the car’s legal, registered owner. Write down the names of any passengers and witnesses at the scene. If you have a camera in your car or on your phone, take pictures of the scene and the cars in their original position following the accident. Make note of the time of day and weather conditions, and if at all possible, draw a diagram of teh accident so that you can clearly remember the incident later. Most importantly, do not admit to any fault at the scene of the accident.
Yes, your own Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage will typically cover the damages associated with a hit and run car accident. In Virginia, when you purchase liability insurance, you are also purchasing uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It is extremely important that you are aware of your UM/UIM policy limits and choose the highest policy limit that you can afford. There is likely no way for you to recover any money from the individual responsible for the crash if the defendant does not have insurance and you do not have any coverage available.
According to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) car crash statistics collected between 2001 and 2008, there were, on average, 1,127 persons injured in Albemarle County car collisions each year. Additionally, there were, on average, 15 fatalities yearly in Albemarle County across the same time period.
According to other DMV crash statistics, the four leading causes of accidents leading to injuries and death include: driver distraction (the leading cause), failure to yield, following too close, and speeding, in that order. Most of these crashes occurred between the hours of Noon and 6:00 p.m., and the drivers involved were typically over 21 years of age.
Note that these crash statistics are for Albemarle County only and do not include data from the City of Charlottesville.
According to crash statistics collected by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from 2001 to 2008, the City of Charlottesville saw, on average 425 persons injured each year in motor vehicle accidents within the city’s jurisdiction. (Albemarle County crash data not included). An average of two car accident deaths occurred yearly within the City of Charlottesville during the same time period.
The DMV also reported on other crash statistics including the main causes of accidents leading to injuries including driver distraction, following too close, speeding, and failure to yield. The majority of these accidents occur between Noon and 6:00 p.m. and involve drivers over the age of 21.
According to Virginia Code, any movement into the intersection on red is unlawful unless you are making a right turn on red and have already come to a complete stop. If you were to roll forward into the intersection controlled by a red light and cause an accident, you could be considered negligent.
The law can be explained as follows:
“The driver of a motor vehicle facing a steady red traffic light has the duty to stop and remain stopped so long as the light is red and thereafter not to proceed until it is safe to do so in the exercise of ordinary care.
If a driver fails to perform this duty, then he is negligent.”
-Virginia Model Jury Instructions
Virginia law allows you to claim the following for your injuries:
Not all of these damages apply in every case. The evidence at trial will determine which items of damages that you can claim in your Virginia personal injury case.
Yes, you are entitled to get a copy of your recorded statement that you gave to the insurance company. Virginia law requires the insurance company to provide you with a copy of a written statement you gave or a transcript of a recorded statement within thirty (30) days of the statement being given or within thirty (30) days of it being transcibed. In all cases where it is requested by the injured person or his attorney the transcript should be provided in thirty (30) days.
People often think when they are injured in a Virginia car accident that the insurance company for the person that caused the accident will simply pay the medical bills. Most of the time it is not that simple.
If you have health insurance, you should make sure that your bills are submitted to your health insurance company. You may have to reimburse the health insurance company if you are compensated for your injuries but you want to make sure that your bills are paid. If you wait and do not submit them to your health insurance the medical providers may send you to collections or even get a judgment against you for the bills.
If you do not have health insurance you should try to set a payment plan with the medical providers. Some providers will hold off trying to collect for the bills until your injury case is resolved.
You may or may not need an attorney to help you if you are injured in a Virginia car accident.
You may be able to resolve the case with the insurance company on your own if:
In these situations, an attorney is not likely to help very much. The Warren Firm does not handle these cases, but I will be glad to explain to someone what they need to do.
In most other situation an attorney may be able to help you. Insurance companies are making more and more low ball offers and issues with medicare and private health insurance become more frequent and complex.
In many Virginia car accident cases, the injured party is going to fair better working with an experienced attorney. Remember that the insurance companies have good attorneys and adjusters that are working to compensate you a little as possible. You should consider working with someone that can look out for your interest.
Yes, you can claim the full amount of your medical bills in the Virginia personal injury case against the person that caused the collision. Your health insurance is considered a collateral source and you are the person who gets the benefit of the health insurance and not the person that caused the collision. You are after all the one that pays for the premiums for the health insurance coverage.
Example: You go to the hospital and receive a bill for $1,000. Your co-pay is $100, your health insurance company pays $400 and the other $500 is written-off. The write-off is a contracted amount between your health insurance carrier and your medical provider. At trial on your Virginia car accident case, you can claim the full $1,000 medical bill.
NOTE: This scenario does not apply for medical expense coverage, only for liability coverage.
No. An offer to compromise that was made before the jury trial is not admissible at the actual jury trial of your Virginia car accident. The reason for this is that if it were allowed as an admission, no company would ever engage in settlement discussions. The only way around this is if during negotiations there was an expressed admission of liability, then that admission is admissible.
No. The accident report does not come in as evidence (see Virginia code 46.2-379). The accident report is really just the officer’s opinion of what happened. Most often the officer did not see the collision and is relying on the statements of the drivers involved and other witnesses. The officer can testify to statements made to him by the parties at the scene, where he found the cars, and that a diagram of the scene is accurate, but his report cannot be admitted as evidence because the other side needs to be able to question the officer.
Yes, although Virginia law requires that you wear a seat belt when operating a motor vehicle, it still lets you claim damages from the insurance company. The fact that you weren’t wearing a seat belt is actually barred from evidence in any court procedures, doesn’t mean that you were negligent or that you were contributorily negligent, and cannot be used to lessen the amount of money you can sue for. Overall, it cannot be a factor in any liability or damages claim that you make.
Even if you think the other driver was to blame for the accident, you should still pay your medical bills if you have private health insurance. Your first priority should be to pay those bills, even if you expect to receive money from a lawsuit. Not paying them will result in medical providers calling you for the full amount. Even though you have to pay co-pays and deductibles, you should still make sure those medical bills are paid for. Then, should you bring a lawsuit, you can sue for that amount in court.
Medical Expense Coverage is a coverage that is carried on your car. You should still have your bills sent to your health insurance carrier before you using your medical expense coverage after a car accident. Your health insurance should receive the medical bills first, despite what any medical provider may tell you. The only reason the provider wants you to bill your medical expense coverage is because they want to receive the full amount of the bill, not what your health insurance will pay them for. Do not allow them to do this. You pay premiums on your health insurance and should therefore be able to use it.
In court, your potentially recovery is substantial with medical expense coverage. After your bills are paid by your health insurance, you can then claim that money in your lawsuit. If you have medical expense coverage, the bills are covered a third time. What happens, basically, is that you have paid for two coverages and have also been reimbursed by a third one. Keep in mind that you are still paying premiums for those two coverages though.
A sudden emergency is an event or even a combination of circumstances that requires immediate action without time for the deliberated use of judgment. A jury can decide that a person was facing a sudden emergency and that is what caused the collision, rather than determining it was the person’s negligence.
If the jury determines the defendant faced a sudden emergency, they can find he was not negligent and, therefore, not at fault for the collision. If there is no negligence, then the injured party cannot make a recovery.
While this may sound scary at first and could mean that you cannot make a recovery for your injuries, be aware that a sudden emergency rarely applies in a personal injury case. If a defendant has faced that emergency before or if the situation is not unexpected, then the defense may not be used. For example, if a defendant was traveling on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain and claimed there was a sudden emergency due to fog, the doctrine could not be used to protect a driver from negligence, because it should be reasonably expected that fog can and does accumulate on the mountain.
The Virginia Supreme Court has stated that a sudden emergency is an “unexpected happening, an unforeseen occurrence or condition,” and that a jury should rarely be given jury instructions that allow them to consider the defense of sudden emergency.
Virginia law requires the same from you whether you are involved in an automobile accident or a bicycle accident.
If someone is injured or is killed or if the accident involves property damages, you must stop as close to the scene as possible and report you name and address and provide your drivers licenses to the police. If you cannot comply due to your injuries you must do so as soon as is reasonably possible.
If your accident involves damage to unattended property you must make a reasonable effort to find the owner of the property. If you cannot find the owner you must leave a note or information in a conspicuous place and report the accident within 24 hours to the police.
Virginia Law does not require that helmets be worn when riding on roads in the Commonwealth. While the state does not mandate that helmets be worn, a Virginia county, city or town can pass an ordinance requiring children 14 years and younger to wear a helmet.
Despite the fact that Virginia does not require helmets you and your family should always use a helmet. It will not help you avoid being in an accident but it can greatly reduce your risk of serious injuries should you be in an accident.
No, Virginia law does NOT require you to wear a helmet.
BUT, a county or city can pass an ordinance to require children 14 years and younger to wear a helmet.
Please remember that a helmet can help reduce your change of a severe injury if you are in a wreck.
For more information on what is required to ride a bicycle on Virginia roads click here.
In Virginia, any child under the age of 18 is classified as an infant. Virginia does not allow children under the age of 18 to file a suit on their own behalf. Instead, an adult over the age of 18 must file on behalf of the child. The adult who files suit is known as the child’s “next friend.” The child’s “next friend” is usually one or both of the child’s parents; however, another adult or the child’s legal guardian can also file a Virginia child’s personal injury claim.
It is important to note that while the suit is filed by the “next friend” of the child, any monetary recovery belongs to the child and will be held by the Virginia courts until the child reaches the age of 18.
In Virginia, an adult (defined as a person over the age of 18) must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the injury. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. There are different statutes of limitations for different types of cases (e.g. contract, property damage, defamation.) If a child has a personal injury case in Virginia, the statue of limitations does not end until his twentieth birthday. Because Virginia law considers a minor to be “under a disability,” the statute of limitations is tolled, or on hold during the child’s “disability.” Therefore, the statute of limitations does not start running until the child is eighteen and when he is no longer considered to be “under a disability.” Virginia Code 8.01-8,8.01-229
There is one important exception to this rule. If a child has been legally emancipated, a process which requires a Court hearing, then he is no longer under a disability. If the child is emancipated when the injury occurs, he has two years from the date of injury, or the normal statute of limitations for a Virginia personal injury case. If the child became emancipated after the injury, he has two years from the date of emancipation to file his personal injury lawsuit. These rules apply regardless of whether the child’s automobile accident case is pending in Charlottesville or any part of Virginia.
Compensation for a personal injury case often comes in the form of a lump sum received shortly after a settlement or verdict is reached. In children’s cases, however, the money cannot be given to the children until they are 18 years old. The court that approves the settlement (see 9 Ways in Which Your Child’s Virginia Injury Law Case is Different from an Adult Virginia Injury Law Case) has money paid into the court where it is placed in a bank account until the child’s 18th birthday. The money will earn interest but only at the lower savings account rate.
A great alternative is a structured settlement. This method takes the money the insurance company would pay to the injured party and has the insurance carrier purchase an annuity in the injured person’s name, in this case a child. The annuity pays more interest than the savings account. It also allows more flexibility then just turning the money over to the child at their eighteenth birthday. For example, the payments could be set in four equal installments to help pay for college for the child at age 18, 19, 20 and 21. If the child needs lifetime care, it could pay her monthly for a set number of years.
Studies have shown that structured settlements do protect a child’s money from outside abuse. Structured settlements must be approved by the courts and are typically seen as one of the best options for protecting award money in a Virginia Child’s personal injury case.
This blog has more great information about structured settlements!
Medical bills account for a significant portion of most children’s personal injury cases in Virginia. Children are not responsible for paying their own medical bills, and therefore, any out of pocket money the parents apply towards medical expenses is eligible for reimbursement in a claim filed separately from the child’s personal injury case. In this instance, the case is separate from the child’s and the money goes to the parents.
If an adult sues on behalf of a Virginia minor, however, any monetary recovery belongs to the child. (A child under the age of 18 cannot sue on his or her own behalf.) The child will not receive any money until he or she is 18 years old. The courts generally hold the money in an account and will only release the funds to the child or the child’s parents under extreme circumstances.
If the amount of the award is significant, structured settlements are recommended. Structured settlements earn interest and allow children to receive money years later after they turn 18.
When settling a case for a child the process is different than settling a case for an adult. In the state of Virginia, a settlement for a person “under disability” must be approved by the Court. A minor, a person under the age of 18, is considered to be under disability by Virginia law. The settlement hearing can be brought in any court in which the case could have been filed. If the court approves the settlement it is binding upon the minor, unless it is set aside for fraud.
If the Court approves a settlement for a person under disability there are four ways that it can be distributed to that person.
In very rare cases, the Court will release the money to the parents; however, Courts are extremely cautious of releasing money to the parents due to previous cases of fraud.
The law in Virginia was written to contain an extra layer of security to protect the child’s settlement from fraud. If you are pursuing a case involving a minor, please contact our office for further information.
When it comes to personal injury law, it is much more important to do things correctly than to get the case settled quickly. Remember, you only have one chance to settle your case. You will not get another trial if the verdict is not what you were expecting. With that said, many cases will be ripe for settlement within six months to one year after the accident. Other cases involving significant injuries will take longer to progress through the Virginia court system. In many areas, it can take well over a year to even get a court date in the local courts.
Attempt to get as much complete and correct information as possible at the scene of your auto accident. First, exchange driver’s licenses with the other driver. Make sure to take note of the driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number, and expiration date. Also, ask for the other driver’s insurance card and write down their insurance company information. Take note of the make, model, license plate number, and VIN of the other car. Ask the driver if he or she is the owner of the vehicle. If not, gather the name and personal information of the car’s legal, registered owner. Write down the names of any passengers and witnesses at the scene. If you have a camera in your car or on your phone, take pictures of the scene and the cars in their original position following the accident. Make note of the time of day and weather conditions, and if at all possible, draw a diagram of the accident so that you can clearly remember the incident later. Most importantly, do not admit to any fault at the scene of the accident.
If you have been injured in an accident, your best bet is to speak with an attorney BEFORE speaking with an insurance adjustor. Remember, attorneys represent YOU – they’re on your side – while insurance companies are looking to pay you as little as possible. In fact, insurance adjustors are often rewarded for doing just that. If you speak with an adjustor first, no matter how friendly they seem, you run the risk of saying something that could damage your chances of receiving any money to cover your expenses.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to put a value on your Virginia personal injury case, whether it be an auto accident or trucking accident. Ultimately, the value of a case is what a jury will compensate you when the case is tried. Because each jury varies – it is simply 7 people from the community – it is hard to predict how a specific jury will rule.
A statue of limitations is the time limit that is set by Virginia Code (the statute) in which a lawsuit must be filed. This is probably the most important deadline in a personal injury case, or any other type of case, because after this time limit has passed, nothing can be done and the claim is null and void. Generally, a personal injury case must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.
Virginia law is specific as to what family members may collect damages from a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit. Although, depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may be entitled to collect or share the benefits from a lawsuit, provided a legal will does not exist. If there are multiple beneficiaries eligible to claim the settlement from a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, there may be some conflict over the division of the settlement. Your wrongful death attorney can help you work to obtain your fair share of the settlement by showing your need for compensation after your loss.
Yes! In a Albemarle County wrongful death case, your attorney can request in writing to find out the limits of the Defendant’s policy. You, the Plaintiff, provide the date of the car crash, name and last known address of the Defendant, a copy of the accident report, and, if available, the claim number to the Defendant’s insurance company. You must also submit the death certificate of the decedent, the names and relationships of any benefactors, any medical bills and any relevant expected wage-loss documentation. The Defendant should respond within 30 days in writing, regardless of whether the insurer contests the applicability of the policy to the personal representative’s claim.