After a car accident, the costs that injured parties suffer are the responsibility of whoever caused the accident. However, most people find it challenging to get the compensation that they deserve without the help of an experienced Norfolk car accident lawyer.
This is because the insurance companies that are usually required to pay these claims have a tendency to lowball their offers and look for any reason to avoid giving you the compensation that you deserve.
An experienced lawyer, like the one at Whitlock Law, LLC, can help you pursue the compensation that you’re owed. We’ve negotiated with insurance companies on behalf of our clients and gotten our clients fair compensation for their losses.
If, though, a settlement couldn’t be found, we’ve also pursued that compensation through litigation to get our clients what they need. Car accidents are costly, but we can help hold the responsible parties accountable.
There are a couple of different ways that another driver could be responsible for an accident in Norfolk. In some cases, they may be directly involved, having caused the accident through some kind of failure to drive safely or follow traffic laws.
In other cases, a driver who was not directly involved in a collision could be at fault. There are times when the driver of a car or motorcycle may be driving recklessly. They may then cause an accident when drivers attempt to avoid their reckless behavior.
It is often assumed that the party at fault for a car accident is always one of the drivers of another vehicle involved. However, while this may be true of the majority of accidents, this isn’t always the case.
There are some situations where another driver is not at fault for an accident or is only partly involved. Some of the other potentially liable parties include:
As attorneys, one of our first tasks is to investigate which parties may be liable for an accident. There can be a lot of time and effort lost in pursuing compensation from someone who wasn’t responsible, so we seek to make sure that we are targeting the appropriate parties when negotiating a settlement or filing a claim.
The process of proving fault in a car accident will follow the same general pattern as with any personal injury case. The plaintiff’s lawyer must argue that the defendant was at fault, using evidence gathered regarding the accident, including:
We use these to show the three general elements that can prove negligence on the part of the defendant.
The first element that needs to be proven is generally well-understood in any incident involving motor vehicles. A duty of care means that the defendant had a responsibility to foresee some of the potential risks and dangers that their actions could create. Therefore, they had a duty to take reasonable steps to protect others from those possibilities.
Given that the operation of a motor vehicle is recognized as carrying a variety of potential dangers and implications, most courts readily recognize the duty of care required of those involved with any vehicle on the roads.
Next, your lawyer must be able to show that a breach of duty occurred. This means demonstrating that the defendant failed to take reasonable precautions and behave carefully in the way that the duty of care in the situation would have required of them. This breach of duty will be different in each case, as it depends on the defendant and the particular nature of their duty.
For instance, if the at-fault party is another driver, the breach will often be some violation of traffic law or unsafe behavior on the road. However, for a parts manufacturer, the breach could be failing to produce a product that was functional in the way that vehicle operators could have reasonably expected it to be.
To prove a breach of duty requires demonstrating exactly what the defendant did in the circumstances in question and then showing why that behavior constituted a breach of duty. If the situation involves an unfamiliar scenario, it may be necessary to bring in a witness who was not involved in the accident but who is, in some way, a peer of the defendant. They can explain how the actions were a breach.
For example, if you are trying to hold a maintenance provider liable, another maintenance provider may be able to explain what should have been done instead of the defendant’s actions.
In a car accident, proving the cause of the injury may be thought of as proving two facts. The key is that the breach must be tied to the injury for you to collect restitution for the costs associated with the injury. However, the injuries came by way of the accident, so it first needs to be shown that the breach caused the accident.
It may seem obvious that the breach caused the accident. However, proving this connection is necessary because there are times when an accident occurs, but a technical breach did not cause it.
For instance, imagine that a car’s left taillight is out. This technically constitutes a breach of duty, but it wouldn’t be a factor in an accident that involved someone running a red light at an intersection and causing a collision, as working tail lights wouldn’t have been visible anyway. It needs to be shown that, if the breach hadn’t happened, then the accident wouldn’t have either.
Once the connection between breach and accident is shown, the connection between the accident and the injuries must be proved. The reason why this is necessary is that someone could attempt to claim that pre-existing conditions or even injuries that were sustained after the accident were really the fault of the accident.
It’s also possible that someone may attempt to exaggerate the severity of their injuries, so both the connection with the accident and the extent of the injuries must be proven.
Collecting compensation for your car accident injuries requires furthering the chain of connection. You may only collect for those costs that are a direct result of the injuries that you suffered.
We must show how the injuries created the cost through evidence like medical bills, doctors’ notes, receipts for car repairs, and other documentation. The compensation that you collect is paid out through a few different forms of “damages.”
The clearest costs of a car accident are those with a clear financial component, and these are addressed through economic damages. Any property damage, such as the cost of repairs or replacement of a vehicle, is paid through these damages.
If there are physical injuries involved, the medical bills for treating them will be addressed, including any:
If the injuries also led to any missed work, those lost wages are compensated.
In some cases, injuries are serious enough that there will be costs that extend into the future, beyond when the recovery package is finalized. This means that such losses, like future medical costs for the care of lasting injuries, are covered.
Also, if you will not be able to return to work in the same capacity that you had prior to the injuries, that lost earning capacity is also addressed through these damages.
While the financial costs are often clear in a car accident, there are often a number of psychological and emotional costs that the injured parties suffer. For instance, injured parties may face pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, mental anguish, loss of use of a body part, and other psychological impacts. These concerns will be given a value and compensated through non-economic damages.
This money is not intended as a solution for these issues, as money cannot solve these impacts. However, it may be able to reduce stress and mental fatigue regarding other aspects of life. This could free up attention and energy that may make the issues more manageable if not “solved.”
Punitive damages are not awarded in most cases because they are a reflection of the behavior of the defendant, not restitution for the costs that you’ve incurred. They are only awarded when the court believes that there was something ill-intended, malicious, or otherwise egregious regarding the defendant’s behavior.
When we look at the specifics of your case, we may be able to give you an idea of whether they may be a possibility in your situation.
One of the key elements of a car accident claim in the state of Virginia is the concept of contributory negligence, which governs these claims. These rules are similar to comparative negligence rules, which regulate personal injury claims in most states.
Both procedures allow the defendant the opportunity to argue that the plaintiff was also negligent and that their negligence played a part in their injuries.
Under compensatory negligence rules, if the plaintiff is at fault, their damages are reduced proportionately to the share of blame that they hold. However, Virginia is one of just a few states that use contributory negligence rules.
Therefore, a plaintiff who is found to be even 1% at fault for the accident and their injuries could be barred from collecting any damages at all.
The impact of contributory negligence makes working with an experienced car accident lawyer so important when filing a car accident claim. We can prepare for the possibility that the defense might make these claims and understand how to argue against them.
If you are considering filing a car accident claim, you may want to consider the possibility of settling the claim rather than taking the case to court. Settling a claim may have some distinct advantages, although whether doing so makes sense in your situation will depend on the particular dynamic of your claim.
However, there are generally two distinct advantages to considering a settlement instead of going to court:
For many people, there is a sense of urgency around getting the compensation that they need. If that’s the case, a settlement is likely to be a better option for you. In a settlement, you will receive the funds according to the terms of the agreement, and you will typically get them within 30 days of the agreement being finalized.
However, a court case has the potential to last for months and even years before there is finally a resolution. For those looking to wrap the process up quickly, whether from a need for funds or because they want to emotionally move on from the situation, a settlement may be an appealing option.
Whenever a case is taken to court, an element of risk is involved. You may not get the outcome that you were hoping for. In Virginia, because of the rules regarding contributory negligence, that risk may even be more significant. The benefit of a settlement, though, is the elimination of risk. You will receive the funds according to the agreement.
Settling a claim may mean receiving less compensation than if everything went absolutely perfectly in court, but there are many situations where the trade-off, in terms of time and risk, makes the situation worth it. Your lawyer may be able to help with weighing these concerns against pursuing the biggest settlement offer that you could receive.
When you decide to have a Norfolk car accident lawyer represent you throughout the claim process, it becomes our responsibility to seek fair compensation on your behalf, whether that be through a settlement or in the litigation process. As a result, we can represent and advocate for you through those processes.
Before we do so, we first need to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your accident.
When we look at the car accident, our job is to first understand where there is potential liability. We need to identify the parties that we may need to consider legal action against, along with gathering any evidence that may be helpful in proving that liability in court if necessary.
We can also look at your role in the accident to understand how a defendant’s lawyers may attempt to argue fault on your part. Our team also needs to gather evidence that could be helpful in defending against any attempt to accuse you of contributory negligence, which would allow them to negate your right to collect damages.
Before we take a claim to court, it may be beneficial to both sides to reach a settlement instead. The process of negotiating with the opposing insurance companies can be challenging. However, having an experienced lawyer on your side can help ensure that you get fair treatment.
When insurance companies realize that they are dealing with an experienced lawyer, it may encourage them to take the negotiations more seriously. They know that we can recognize any attempt to lowball you or otherwise avoid offering a fair compensation package.
Our presence also implies that there is a real chance of the claim going to court if a reasonable settlement can’t be reached. This could inspire them to take the situation more seriously and attempt to get a settlement done before a court trial becomes necessary.
Still, there will be times when a negotiated settlement isn’t an option, and a fair agreement can’t be reached. In these situations, we are always prepared to take the claim to court. We have experience arguing these cases in court and understand what it takes to win them.
If you want someone who can make a strong, thorough case on your behalf, then Whitlock Law, LLC, can do that for you.
If you’ve been in a car accident, there are some tasks that you may want to consider doing, as they can help your claim and preserve your ability to collect damages. It’s important to realize, of course, that the extent of your injuries may limit what can be done at the scene of the accident. You may not be able to do everything that is recommended, as getting help for your injuries is the most important thing.
Getting checked out by paramedics, if they’ve been called to the scene, is helpful because they will look for signs of traumatic injuries that you may not even be aware of due to the shock caused by the incident.
However, even if you’ve been cleared by the paramedics, letting your doctor give you a full medical examination later may help you find anything that they may have missed.
If possible, getting photos and videos of the scene of the accident can be helpful in later piecing together what happened. It’s also important to get contact information from others involved in the accident and any eyewitnesses who may have seen what happened. Be sure to continue this documentation as you move forward, as records of the injuries that you’ve suffered and the related costs can be helpful when filing a claim.
Lastly, be careful when discussing the accident. Anything that sounds like you are taking the blame could be used against you in an argument for contributory negligence. This is why it’s generally better to quickly get in contact with a car accident lawyer and allow them to handle these communications.
Car accidents leave those involved facing a variety of different costs. In many cases, there are significant injuries that involve medical bills and possibly missed work. Even in less serious accidents, there is usually still some vehicle damage involved.
Whatever the extent of the damages, though, the responsibility for the costs associated with the accident belongs to those who caused it.
There is a legal path to finding restitution for these costs. However, it may not even come to that, as the insurance companies that typically pay on these claims may be willing to negotiate a settlement to avoid court.
Getting everything that you are truly owed can often depend on the help of a Norfolk car accident lawyer, like the one at Whitlock Law, LLC.
Our firm can work hard to give our clients their strongest chance of achieving a fair restitution, whether that comes through a settlement or litigation. If you’re ready to discuss options after your car accident, contact us.
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