Sleep Better at Night With Answers to Your Top Questions on Virginia Injury Claims
Experiencing something as traumatic as an accident in Chesterfield County can leave your head spinning with questions and uncertainty. Get the answers you need fast in this FAQ series from Richmond injury attorney Kevin Mottley.
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Am I entitled to compensation if I am partially at fault for my car accident?
Many states have some form of comparative negligence or shared fault rules that allow drivers to still seek compensation even if they were partially at fault for their own accident. Unfortunately, Virginia has extremely strict laws covering what’s known as contributory negligence. If you are partially at fault for your injury in a Virginia vehicle accident, you simply can’t be compensated.
How to Protect Your Right to Compensation After an Accident
The doctrine of contributory negligence applies even if the other party is mostly to blame and your fault is minimal. That can mean people who were severely injured in an accident won’t have any recourse for compensation and are on the hook for their own medical bills and potential loss of wages.
To protect yourself, you should never admit fault for an accident, either at the scene or when speaking with your insurance carrier after the crash. Since the insurance company doesn’t have to pay your claim if you are partially at fault, your adjuster may incorrectly claim you share some of the accident’s responsibility.
That’s why you should consult an attorney before making any statements or signing any documents related to the accident. Even if you think you may have been partly at fault for the collision, let an experienced legal team review all of the facts first.
An attorney with experience in Virginia personal injury cases can thoroughly investigate the accident and potentially prove you don’t share any of the blame through:
- Testimony from accident witnesses
- Data culled from police reports
- Photos or video from the scene
- Seeking the advice of accident reconstruction experts
Let Our Personal Injury Attorney Review Your Virginia Car Crash Claim
Before giving up your right to compensation for an accident, get in touch for a quick consultation to go over the facts of your case. Our goal is to do everything in our power to help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering after a Virginia car crash.
Do I need to see a doctor after a car accident even if I feel ok?
No one is ever prepared for a car accident. These are shocking and unexpected events, and it is hard to know what you should do afterward. You may feel perfectly fine and, even though you know the crash was not your fault, you may not be worried about holding the other driver responsible. However, one of the best pieces of advice we can offer is to always get yourself checked out by a doctor.
Car Accident Injuries Are Not Always Immediately Obvious
If you can get out of your car and walk around after a crash, you might assume you’re ok. You might have a minor ache or pain, but you don’t want to make a big deal about it at the scene. Despite this, it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can after the accident to see if you have injuries that are not obvious right away. Common delayed-symptom car accident injuries include the following:
- Whiplash. The symptoms of whiplash can take several days to become noticeable. That does not make the injury any less serious. Whiplash can cause debilitating headaches, back pain, and neck pain. In some cases, it can also cause traumatic brain injury. It is important to be evaluated for whiplash by a doctor within a few days of the crash.
- Concussion. In a car crash, your head could hit the steering wheel or dashboard, causing a concussion. Even if you don’t hit your head, the force of the crash could be enough to cause brain damage by shaking up your brain inside your skull. You may not experience headaches, sleeplessness, dizziness, memory loss, and other symptoms for several days after the crash.
- Psychological trauma. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after a car crash will not develop right away. You may begin experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, a fear of driving, anxiety, and depression several days, or even several weeks, after an accident. An early exam by a therapist can diagnose the problem and help you cope.
Other injuries, such as soft tissue damage and back problems, may also manifest days or weeks after a crash.
Seeing a Doctor Is Key to Building a Strong Claim for Compensation
In the days and weeks after your crash, the reality of what has happened will sink in. You will talk to your insurance company, and bills will start to come in. If the crash wasn’t your fault, you will begin to realize that you need to take legal action. Seeing a doctor early in the process will provide documentation of your injuries and make a causal connection between the crash and your medical costs. Talking to a personal injury attorney will also put you on the right path to getting the compensation you deserve. Call the Mottley Law Firm to find out more about what you can do to protect your legal claim. We are here for you.
Who can bring a lawsuit for a wrongful death?
In Virginia, as elsewhere, a lawsuit may be filed against a person (including a company) whose negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct caused someone else to die. These are called "wrongful death" suits. Under Virginia law, all wrongful death cases must "be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of such deceased person." A personal representative is a person, such as an executor, executrix, or administrator of a person's estate who is qualified by the clerk of the circuit court to represent the deceased person and his or her estate. One of the powers of a personal representative is the power to sue. Virginia has enacted statutes that explain who may qualify as a personal representative. Personal representatives may be designated in a person's will. If no will exists or if the executor named in the will fails or refuses to qualify, then the statute gives priority to others who may want to be the personal representative. Qualifying as a personal representative is fairly easy and the people working in the clerk's offices in Virginia are very helpful in answering questions on these topics.
What does "contributory negligence" mean and why is that important in a Virginia brain injury case?
In another Frequently Asked Question, I explained the meaning of "negligence" and why it is important in Virginia brain injury cases and all other personal injury cases in Virginia. "Contributory negligence" means the same thing as "negligence." The only difference is that, when lawyers speak of contributory negligence, we are referring to any negligence committed by the injured person (the plaintiff) that "contributed" to the injury. Hence, the word "contributory" is inserted in front of "negligence."
Why is this distinction important? It is important because of the common law in Virginia. Virginia is one of only two states (I believe) that still adheres to the old rule that, if an injured person's own negligence contributed to his or her own injury, then the person is completely barred from recovering compensation from the defendant. So, for example, if a defendant store was negligent in maintaining its store by leaving a tripping hazard in a walk way, a person injured by that negligence would be completely barred from recovering money from the defendant if the injured person was also negligent in failing to watch where they were walking. This is a pretty harsh rule, particularly in cases in which the injured person was only slightly negligent. That, unfortunately, does not matter. Most other states adhere to some sort of "comparative" negligence rule. In such states, the jury can take into consideration the degree of negligence attributable to each party and take that into consideration when awarding compensation to the injured person.
What does the word "negligence" mean in a Virginia brain injury or other serious injury case?
The word "negligence" is very important in any personal injury case. That is because, for the plaintiff to win a personal injury case, it is usually necessary for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent and that the defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff's injury. In Virginia, as elsewhere, "negligence" means a failure to exercise what is called "ordinary care." Ordinary care is that degree of care that a "reasonable person" would exercise under the same conditions and circumstances existing at the time and place of the incident in question. I know this sounds like a lot of legal gibberish. But what I've just written is pretty much what a jury is told about the law before the jury is sent back to the jury room to decide the case. In fact, the actual jury instruction read to juries every day in Virginia is as follows: "Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care. Ordinary care is the care a reasonable person would have used under the circumstances of this case." So there you have it. What does it mean, exactly? When thinking about the "reasonable person" in layman's terms, I tell people to imagine a slightly nerdy fellow with a pocket protector who is very careful about things as he goes about his daily activities. Is the speed limit 55 miles per hour? The so-called "reasonable person" goes 55 mph or below, but not so far below to be "unreasonable." (We've all seen people driving 35 in a 55 zone, which I would submit is unreasonable and negligent.) Is there something slippery on a floor in a grocery store? The reasonable person who works at the store looks for that sort of condition and, when he finds it, he cleans it up or puts down an effective warning sign. You get the picture.