Car Accident Attorneys in Bedford, Virginia
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a motor vehicle accident in Virginia, your life could be changed forever. By their nature, accidents aren’t planned events. You may have been on the way to work, school, the store, or someplace fun on the weekend when another driver failed to use caution and caused a crash.
You can be the most cautious driver on the road and still become seriously injured in an auto accident. It doesn’t seem fair when you follow the laws and someone else’s careless or reckless behavior causes a crash that could bring you financial hardship as well as life-altering injuries.
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 have experience helping victims of auto accidents collect payment for their damages so that they can reclaim their lives.
Virginia Auto Accident Facts
The Commonwealth of Virginia operates the third-largest state highway system in the country, with nearly 58,000 miles of state-maintained interstates, highways, and roads. In 2016, there were 128,525 car crashes in Virginia that resulted in 67,294 injuries and 761 deaths. The number of licensed drivers in Virginia has continued to climb each year, with that figure now at nearly 6.5 million, up over a half a million drivers from the prior year.
The Most Common Causes of Virginia Auto Accidents
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.
What If You Are Hit By an Uninsured Driver?
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. That fee is paid at the time of vehicle registration or renewal, but it is not considered a form of insurance.
Anyone who pays this fee agrees that they are assuming the risk of being an uninsured driver. 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).
Virginia law requires that insured motorists carry minimum amounts of insurance 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.
Facts About Distracted Driving Nationwide and in Virginia
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) all agree; distracted driving is incredibly unsafe. To be sure, the NHTSA reports that in a single year (2017), distracted driving resulted in the deaths of over 3,160 people, and the CDC reminds that each day, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in distracted driving-caused crashes.
In Virginia, the statistics are no less harrowing. In 2017, there were a whopping 26,123 distracted driver-involved crashes reported in our state, and 843 distracted driving-caused fatalities.
Is Distracted Driving Illegal?
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 in Virginia. A first-time texting-while-driving conviction will result in a fine of up to $125.
Who’s Liable for a Distracted Driving Crash?
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.
Signs and Causes of Drowsy Driving
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.
Dangers of Fatigued Driving
Any car accident has the potential to cause fatalities or serious injuries, but crashes caused by drowsy drivers are exceptionally dangerous. While an alert driver who is about to crash may take evasive action and limit the damage they cause, a fatigued or sleeping driver may crash at full speed. These crashes often cause substantial property damage and severe injuries.
What is Reckless Driving in Virginia?
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.
What to Do After a Reckless Driving Accident
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:
- Check for injuries. Check yourself for injuries and ask your passengers about any injuries they may have sustained. You will want to report that information when you call emergency services.
- Call the police. The accident must be reported, and you may need an ambulance to get checked out at the hospital.
- Gather evidence. Any evidence you can collect will be extremely valuable in your insurance claim and personal injury case. Take pictures of the crash scene and make sure to get detailed shots of any damage to your vehicle. Take video footage of the entire scene to show where the accident occurred and capture skid marks or property damage that may indicate how the accident occurred. If you observed the other driver engaging in reckless behavior prior to the crash, jot that down whenever you can.
- Exchange information. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other party. Additionally, get contact information from any witnesses.
- Call your insurance company. Report the accident to your insurance company at your earliest convenience.
- Get medical attention. You should get checked out by a doctor after a crash, even if you only have mild soreness or you feel fine. Many injuries take days or weeks to become obvious, and it is crucial to catch those early.
- Reach out to an attorney. Contact a Bedford personal injury attorney to start exploring your legal options.
Steps to Take If You’ve Been in an Accident
First – 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 9-1-1. 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!
Second – Police Should Respond
If your accident is representing a hazard on the road or if anyone is injured, police should respond quickly. You must answer any questions but please do NOT answer questions posed by the other driver or his/her insurance representative.
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.
Third – 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 smart phone! 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!
Fourth – 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.
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.
Stay Quiet About the Accident
This means not talking to the other party’s insurance company, but it also means keeping your crash off of social media. Insurance adjusters often do some social media digging to figure out if they can find anything to use against you. They might screenshot posts showing you out and about days after the crash, look at comments where you appear to take some of the blame for the crash, or otherwise take your posts out of context. Wait until after the claim is settled to talk freely about the accident.
What to Do If You Were Seriously Injured in a Vehicle Accident
Any motor vehicle accident, even a minor fender bender, can shake you up. Your first priority should be your health and wellbeing. If you’ve been injured, or aren’t quite sure, seek immediate medical attention.
While still at the accident scene, make sure you or someone else gets photos of the damage and the scene. Call the authorities immediately so that the police can collect information and write an accident report.
You’ll need to report the accident to your insurance company, but this is where you should use caution. Claims adjusters work for the insurer and are acting in the best interests of the company, not you. Avoid giving a recorded statement or signing any release forms, either of which could compromise your rights. These companies will also hire lawyers to protect their interests, and you should do the same.
What Percentage of Car Accidents Are Caused by Human Error?
What the Statistics Say
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.
How an Experienced Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
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) 586-7225 or contact us online now.
Speak with an Experienced Virginia Accident Attorney
Virginia is filled with all types of motor vehicles attempting to negotiate our highways and city streets. Whether you have been involved in an auto, truck, bus, pedestrian, or some other accident with a vehicle, you deserve to have your story heard if the other party was to blame.
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.
Contact our Bedford office today at 540-586-7225 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation.