If you're involved in a Virginia car accident case, take a look at this hypothetical claim example to get an idea of how a settlement might look in your state.
Rebecca is driving down a four-lane street in Virginia Beach when she is sideswiped by the driver in the next lane. Rebecca had noticed the other driver a minute earlier when he was still behind her, and she saw that his head was down. She assumed he was texting.
The collision knocked Rebecca into oncoming traffic, and she was hit head-on by an oncoming car. She was wearing a seat belt, but the collision causes her head to snap forward. She is feeling pretty woozy and headachy.
The police come to the scene and call an ambulance for Rebecca. X-rays at the hospital are negative, but the doctor diagnoses a concussion. He tells Rebecca to rest and see her own doctor in a couple of days.
Rebecca sees her doctor a week later, and the doctor prescribes continued rest and prescription-strength medication. Three weeks pass, and Rebecca's headaches aren’t getting any better. She is sleeping poorly, can’t concentrate, can’t stand to be in light, and is nauseous much of the time. She returns to the doctor, and is referred to a neurologist, who diagnoses post-concussion syndrome. The neurologist tells Rebecca that she will get better, but it will take time. He gives her an additional prescription to treat her symptoms.
(Learn more: What should I do if I am nauseous after a car accident?)
A month passes, and Rebecca's nausea diminishes. After another month, her sleeplessness starts to fade. After a year, her headaches finally stop. Rebecca is a lawyer, and couldn’t work for three months. She returned part-time for another two months, and then transitioned slowly back to full time.
Since the police came to the scene, Rebecca probably doesn't need to take any additional action when it comes to reporting the car accident to authorities, but she needs to be sure to let her car insurance company know about what happened. More: Do I need to report a car accident in Virginia?
Rebecca needs to be aware of Virginia’s statute of limitations, which is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.
If you can’t settle your car accident case well before the statute of limitations deadline expires, it may be time to contact a Virginia car accident lawyer.
Be prepared for the other driver (and their insurance company) to say you bear some amount of blame for the accident (if not all of the blame). This is true even in a case like Rebecca’s, where liability seems pretty straightforward because the other driver may have been texting and swerved into Rebecca’s lane.
This "shared fault" issue is especially crucial in Virginia, which follows a very strict rule regarding what you can recover in court if you are found to be partially at fault for causing a car accident.
Under Virginia’s “contributory negligence” rule, you cannot receive money damages if you are found to have been even the slightest bit at fault in the accident. Even if you prove that the other driver was negligent, and you are only found to be 1% at fault, you can’t recover anything. So you always want to make absolutely sure that the adjuster knows that you were not at fault. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
Vehicle owners in Virginia are not required to purchase car insurance, as long as they pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
But if a driver does have car insurance in Virginia, certain minimum coverage requirements must be met. (Get the details: Virginia Car Insurance Rules.)
If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage (or no coverage at all), then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.
In Rebecca’s case, her out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $59,000. The breakdown looks like this:
Rebecca also received two months of short-term disability insurance totaling $16,000. Under the terms of her policy, she will have to repay that amount from any settlement or verdict in her case.
Rebecca and her attorney decide that another $125,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Rebecca’s pain and suffering, so they make an initial demand of $175,000 to settle the claim against the other driver. After negotiating with the insurance adjuster, Rebecca accepts $125,000 as a final settlement.
Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.