After a car accident in Virginia, if you're considering making a claim for your injuries, you might be wondering how the car accident settlement process might play out.
This article takes a look at a hypothetical car accident injury claim in Virginia, including how state laws might affect the timeline and the value of a settlement.
Rebecca was driving down a four-lane street in Virginia Beach when she was 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 caused her head to snap forward. She felt pretty woozy and headachy.
The police came to the scene and called an ambulance for Rebecca. X-rays at the hospital were negative, but the doctor diagnosed a concussion. He told Rebecca to rest and see her own doctor in a couple of days. Learn about the importance of getting proper medical care after a car accident.
Rebecca saw her doctor a week later, and the doctor prescribed continued rest and prescription-strength medication for her car accident injuries. Three weeks passed, and Rebecca's headaches weren't getting any better. She was sleeping poorly, had trouble concentrating, couldn't stand to be in bright light, and felt nauseous much of the time. She returned to the doctor, and was referred to a neurologist, who diagnosed post-concussion syndrome.
The neurologist told Rebecca that she would get better, but that it would take time. He gave her an additional prescription to treat her symptoms.
(Learn more: What should I do if I am nauseous after a car accident?)
A month passed, and Rebecca's nausea diminished. After another month, her sleeplessness started to fade. After six months, her headaches finally stopped. 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 (and a police report was likely generated), 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.
In other situations, Virginia drivers have a legal duty to report any accident they're involved in if:
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 negotiate a car accident settlement 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 aren't 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 on Virginia's car insurance rules.)
If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation (or when the other driver is uninsured), 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.
Whether you've tried negotiating your car accident settlement yourself and run into complications, or you're in the early stages of figuring out your options, it might make sense to discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional.
Learn more about finding and hiring the right car accident lawyer. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a car accident attorney near you.