Victims of automobile accidents in Virginia often face a difficult dilemma: should they settle with the insurance company, or hire an attorney instead? Insurance companies will attempt to settle personal injury claims before the victims consult with attorneys, believing they can settle claims for less with victims who are not represented by personal injury lawyers. It is critical that any automobile accident victim speak with an attorney right away, before waiving any rights. Following are answers to some frequently asked questions about Virginia personal injury and automobile accident cases:
Do I Have a Case? Virginia is a contributory negligence jurisdiction. This means that if you are at fault at all, even where the other party (the defendant) is much more at fault, your claim will be barred totally. It is extremely helpful to have the police arrive at the scene and charge the defendant. You may be required to assist the prosecution in the defendant’s traffic court case. Since the defendant being found guilty would help you establish the defendant’s fault in your personal injury case, it’s in your best interests to assist the prosecution.
How Much Is My Case Worth? It is often difficult to put a dollar figure on the worth of your personal injury claim. A variety of factors will determine the value of your claim, such as lost wages, severity of vehicle damage, type of injuries, medical expenses, and duration of treatment. While not able to predict a specific dollar amount of recovery in your personal injury case, good personal injury attorneys can give you a general idea of what your claim may be worth.
How Long Do I Have To Bring a Case in Virginia? It is important to contact an attorney immediately after your automobile accident if possible. The personal injury statute of limitations in Virginia is two years from the date of the accident, unless you are a minor (if you are a minor, you will have two years after your 18th birthday to settle your personal injury claim). However, you should certainly not wait until the end of your 2-year statute of limitations period to hire a Virginia personal injury lawyer. The sooner you retain an attorney, the better, because it is much easier and more effective for your personal injury attorney to interview witnesses and gather evidence (photographs, medical records, etc.) soon after your automobile accident, rather than later.
What Should I Know About the Insurance Company? Soon after your personal injury, an adjuster will likely call you, on behalf of the defendant’s insurance company. The adjuster may pressure you to settle quickly, perhaps advising you that you don’t need an attorney. Keep in mind: the adjuster works for the insurance company, and is directed to settle your claim for as little as possible. Therefore, you should always consult an attorney prior to settling.
Can I Collect Under Both My Medical Payment Coverage and From the Defendant’s Insurance? Yes. Virginia law allows you to use your medical payment coverage to pay your medical bills and still pursue your personal injury claim against the defendant’s insurance company.
What About Medical Payment Coverage Under My Own Automobile Insurance Policy? Medical payment coverage is additional coverage you maintain on your auto policy for your protection, designed to assist you in paying medical bills due to an accident, even if the accident was not your fault. Payment of medical bills under this coverage is available to not only you, but also to any passengers in your vehicle at the time of the accident. Your premiums should not be increased due to a medical payment claim if you are not at fault in the accident.
What If the Defendant Was Uninsured, or Underinsured? In these cases, you may still have an “underinsured or uninsured motorist claim,” whereby you make a personal injury claim against your own policy. Once you reach resolution to your underinsured or uninsured motorist claim, your insurance company may decide to sue the defendant for repayment of the money it paid you on your personal injury claim. Your premiums should not increase as a result of this claim, if the automobile accident was not your fault.
What Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Do For Me? A good personal injury lawyer will (1) document your personal injury, by gathering evidence such as police reports, medical records, medical invoices, photographs, and witness statements, (2) negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company, and (3) if the insurance company refuses to enter into a fair settlement, present your case to a jury at trial.
What’s the One Thing I Should Remember Regarding My Automobile Accident Case? Remember that every automobile accident victim should contact a personal injury lawyer. The insurance company will not take you seriously until you retain a attorney. Without a lawyer, you are not really prepared to take legal action against the insurance company, and are therefore not a threat to them. However, with experienced personal injury attorneys on your side, you can receive the compensation for your personal injury that you deserve.