Commonly Asked Virginia Car Accident Questions
You can be the most cautious driver on the road and still become seriously injured in an auto accident. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one resulting from a car crash on one of Virginia’s roads, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses.
The personal injury attorneys at the Pack Law Group understand that car accidents have untold amounts of complexity. For that reason we’ve compiled some of the most important information you may have.
- The Most Common Causes Of Virginia Auto Accidents
- What If You Are Hit By An Uninsured Driver?
- Is Distracted Driving Illegal?
- Who’s Liable For A Distracted Driving Crash?
- Signs And Causes Of Drowsy Driving
- What Is Reckless Driving In Virginia?
- Steps To Take If You’ve Been In An Accident
- What Percentage Of Car Accidents Are Caused By Human Error?
- How An Experienced Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you have any other questions on your car accident send us an email or call 540-583-7213.
With more drivers on the road, the rate of accidents and fatalities are expected to increase each year. Some of the most common types of accidents that can result in devastating injuries or wrongful death include:
- Drunk driving accidents
- Distracted driving accidents
- Speed-related accidents
- Drowsy driving accidents
- Head-on and rear-end collisions
- Hit-and-run accidents
Just about any accident can lead to life-altering injuries or loss of life. Common serious injuries include traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, internal injuries, broken bones and burns. If you’ve been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you have the right to make a claim for damages related to medical care, lost wages, permanent disability, and pain and suffering.
One fact that catches many responsible adults by surprise is that Virginia drivers are not required by law to carry auto insurance. However, this waiving of insurance is based on the condition of paying a $500 fee to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Unfortunately, if you are hit by one of these people, you may find it difficult to recover your losses. The good news is that everyone who does have insurance in Virginia, which hopefully includes you, must carry certain limits and has access to valuable underinsured motorists coverage (UIM) equal to:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury or death
- $50,000 aggregate for bodily injury or death
- $20,000 property damage coverage
UIM coverage is optional and would be equal to liability coverage (so minimum of $25,000/$50,000). If you are hit by a driver that either doesn’t have insurance, doesn’t have sufficient insurance limits, or doesn’t have the ability to pay for your losses, you may be able to collect from your policy’s UIM coverage. This is something that your personal injury attorney can investigate and claim on your behalf.
Distracted driving refers to a wide range of behaviors that a driver may engage in while behind the wheel, including texting while driving, talking on the phone, using a handheld device for other purposes, attending to passengers or pets, eating or drinking, self-grooming, etc. In fact, anything that distracts one cognitively (taking one’s mind off of the road), visually (taking one’s eyes off of the road), or manually (taking one’s hands off of the wheel) is considered a distraction. Distracted driving in itself is not against the law; however, it is negligent (this is important if you are pursuing a claim against a distracted driver). One specific form of distracted driving – texting while driving – is illegal and is a primary offense. A first-time texting-while-driving conviction will result in a fine of up to $125.
Just because distracted driving (other than texting while driving) is not illegal in our state does not mean that a driver who commits an act of distracted driving that causes a crash cannot be held liable for damages that result. Because Virginia maintains a tort liability, or “fault,” system of recovery, drivers who cause accidents are responsible for paying for them. As such, if you can prove that the distracted driver breached the duty of care owed to you by committing a negligent or unsafe act (i.e. driving while distracted in this case), and that the breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of your car accident and your injuries, you can hold the driver liable for the full extent of your damages.
If you are sharing the road with a drowsy driver, you are at risk of being hurt in an accident. Being aware of the signs of fatigued driving can help you put space between yourself and an unsafe driver. Watch for cars that swerve between lanes without turn signals, drift across the road, swerve multiple times, and speed up or slow down randomly. Certain people are more likely to drive while tired than other groups. Drivers at risk include:
- Those with sleep disorders or who use sleep medications
- Those who work evening or overnight shifts
- Commercial drivers
- People who frequently drive between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
- Those under the influence of drugs or alcohol
While many people think that fatigued driving accidents occur only at night, there are several other times when drowsy driving crashes spike. Accident rates increase in the early hours of the and in the mid-afternoon, when many people hit their afternoon slump.
Reckless driving is a broad term that addresses a variety of unsafe driving habits that indicate a pattern of recklessness and carelessness on the road. In Virginia, an individual might be guilty of reckless driving if they drive more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, fail to properly use safety equipment, or otherwise put others on the road at risk. Other reckless behaviors include failing to yield, passing a vehicle then the view is obstructed, street racing, not using a turn signal or illegally passing a school bus.
Taking the proper steps after a car accident can help you detect and treat injuries, protect your right to an insurance claim, and get the evidence necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is what we recommend doing after an accident:
- Get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Pull over if you can and if you can’t get your body away from the car, call 911. You will have to tell them where you are so look for signage or road markers. Be as specific as you can and tell them which direction you are facing. Note if you are feeling injured, dizzy, are bleeding, or have any pain in your head. Tell the operator if you are injured or think you might be. You will likely be in shock after the accident, so err on the side of caution and, if the paramedics respond, take up their offer to go to the nearest medical facility. If your injuries turn out to be serious, a failure to seek immediate medical care could count against you in a court of law. So, if there is any doubt, have it checked out!
- Police should respond. If your accident is representing a hazard on the road or if anyone is injured, police should respond quickly. Police may investigate the accident and determine who is at fault depending on the evidence at hand – the road conditions, skid marks and interviews. One of you may receive a traffic citation for causing the crash. If police do not respond because this appears to be a minor accident, you will still need to exchange information with the other driver. Gather their insurance card and their full name and license, their driver’s license number, the tag of their car, and the car registration, the make and model of the car and the VIN number. If the driver doesn’t own the car, find out who does. Were there any witnesses? Gather their names and phone number as well as an email address.
- Collect evidence. Evidence is crucial in a personal injury case. After a car accident, there’s plenty of evidence – you just have to find it and preserve it. Take pictures with your smartphone! That is the best evidence you have of what happened. Not only the car but the road and the debris as it’s scattered. Please do NOT talk about who is to blame! Any admission, even an apology to the other driver, could be used against you and any discussion can escalate into the blame game. Best to keep it cool and gather information. That’s it!
- Call your insurance company. This is why we have insurance and you are required under your policy to let your insurance carrier know about the accident. On the off chance that the other driver later reports major injuries as a result of the accident, you will want to have your insurance company onboard. If the other side plans on suing you, you need to have reported the accident. On the other hand, if the injuries and damage are minor, you may be able to work it out with the other side, but understand, if there are any medical bills, ambulance bills, property damage, that is when you will need to call a personal injury attorney to negotiate your claim. Negotiating yourself is possible, but you may be more inclined to take the first offer rather than rely on the experience of an attorney who has seen this all before and understands the tactics the other side may use to diminish the value of your claim or even deny it altogether.
- Seek representation. Being involved in a traffic accident is going to cost you one way or another. You have the opportunity of representing yourself in small claims court to recover up to $5,000. If you need to file a lawsuit, Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations within which time you must act. It’s easy to damage your case if you talk directly to the other party’s insurance company. Instead, hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. They can analyze the evidence you’ve gathered, uncover other pieces of evidence, investigate the crash and communicate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Once all the above steps have been taken, we recommend not talking about the accident all that much. This means not speaking with the other party’s insurance company, but it also means keeping your crash off social media. Insurance adjusters often do some social media digging to figure out if they can find anything to use against you. Once the claim is settled, you may choose to speak openly about your experience.
When you look at car accident statistics, you’ll find that many sources say that between 90% and 93% of car accidents are traced back to human error. Almost all of these citations go back to a 1979 study that claimed human errors and deficiencies cause up to 93% of crashes. However, subsequent research has backed up this number, indicating that it is a reliable statistic. While numbers may have dropped some over the years with the addition of safety features like blind spot detectors, lane change assistance and rearview cameras, human nature is still human nature.
One of the most notable sources for this number is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which conducted an extensive study into crash investigation, coding and avoidance. If you parse out the numbers from the study, they also find that driver error is the deciding factor in 93% of crashes. In general, traffic accident numbers have been on the rise in recent years. While numbers for some types of accidents have declined, including drowsy driving fatalities and fatalities caused by distracted driving, other dangerous driver behaviors have increased.
In the aftermath of a serious car accident, you may be angry and confused about what steps to take next. Determining legal rights and fault after severe car crash injuries can be a complex undertaking. The longer you wait to investigate and gather evidence, the more difficult it becomes to build a compelling case for negligence. We recommend that you speak with one of our knowledgeable and experienced Virginia auto accident attorneys as soon as possible. We will thoroughly review your case and advise you of your options. Some of the questions that we will help answer as quickly as possible include:
- Do I have a valid claim for damages?
- What evidence is needed to prove that another party was negligent?
- Are there certain time limits that apply to my claim?
- What rights do I have to collect under different insurance policies?
- What damages can I ask to recover?
- What steps do I need to take to maximize my recovery for damages?
These are just a few of the questions that we can discuss with you during your free case evaluation. You may have additional needs related to your accident, and our attorneys will work to make sure you get the medical care and financial resources you need to reclaim your life. At the Pack Law Group, our legal team is committed to helping car accident victims pursue just compensation from every available source. If you’ve been hurt, speak to us now about how you can seek justice. We serve clients throughout the Bedford and Lynchburg areas. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 540-583-7213 or contact us online now.
Speak With An Experienced Virginia Accident Attorney
At the Pack Law Group, our legal team will conduct a thorough independent investigation of your circumstances and advise you of the strength of your case. Let us help ease your financial burden by securing the most favorable settlement or award possible.