Virginia Car Accident Lawyer

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Virginia Car Accident Attorney

More than 160 people were injured in traffic accidents every day in the state of Virginia in 2022. The victims of these accidents often face significant injuries, vehicle damage, and life-long impacts.

In most cases, these are preventable accidents, which means that whoever failed to take the reasonable measures that could have prevented the accident is legally liable for those costs. However, receiving that compensation requires the help of a Virginia car accident lawyer.

In most cases, getting the funds you’re owed means getting the insurance company of those at fault to pay proper compensation. However, insurance companies aren’t known for their generosity.

Whether out of trying to prevent fraud or not wanting to impact their bottom line, insurance companies have a tendency to offer much less compensation than you need following such an accident. Consulting our Virginia personal injury lawyers can help you navigate these challenges and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

A civil personal injury claim is a legal tool to help you get what you’re owed. In some cases, even the threat of a legal battle is enough to get an appropriate compensation offer. At Whitlock Law, LLC, we help and represent our clients through the process, whether that means negotiating a settlement or going all the way to trial.

Car Accidents in Virginia

Car accidents come in a broad range of potential types. In some cases, the collision could be a minor fender bender. In others, it could involve several cars and severe damage. Sometimes, there are no injuries or very minor cuts and bruises.

Other times, the accident could be so severe that it takes someone’s life. These accidents can involve trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, or even pedestrians. They always carry the threat of real danger and significant harm.

A typical year in Virginia results in more than 120,000 car accidents. The results of these accidents can be devastating. Roughly 1 in 17 of these accidents results in a serious injury. In 2022, Virginia had over 1,000 deaths as a result of car accidents, up nearly 33% from 2015.

Sadly, most of these accidents are preventable, with one Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study finding that 80% of all accidents are the result of some kind of distracted driving . Many of the remaining accidents are a result of drunk driving, so the vast majority of accidents could be prevented by not driving distracted or drunk.

What Parties Could Be Liable in a Virginia Car Accident?

Because most accidents are preventable, someone is likely responsible for the damages your accident caused. The party that caused the accident is liable for the costs that were incurred as a result.

In most cases, the liable party will be the other driver involved in an accident. However, there are still a number of occasions where that isn’t the case, and another party is liable or partially liable. The potentially liable parties in a car accident include:

  • Driver Directly Involved in the Collision – A driver involved in the collision is most frequently the primarily liable party, usually because of distracted driving, drunk driving, reckless driving, or some other form of not following the rules of the road.
  • Driver Not Involved in the Collision – There are some situations when a driver is erratic, causing other drivers on the road to take evasive action. Sometimes, that evasive action could lead them into an accident with someone else. For instance, a driver swerving into another lane could lead to another driver swerving as well. If that happens, the initial erratic driver may be at least partially liable for the accident.
  • A Driver’s Employer – It’s possible that an accident may involve someone working as a delivery driver or for some other commercial purpose. In these situations, it’s possible that whoever the driver is working for could be held liable, particularly if there was a policy that made it more likely for a driver to behave recklessly to meet expectations.
  • The Government – It’s the responsibility of governments to ensure that the roads are safe, are properly signed, and have functioning traffic signals. If an issue with one of these things leads to an accident, then the government may be held liable.
  • A Manufacturer – There are some circumstances where the failure of a part or defect leads to an accident. When this happens, it may be the manufacturer of the vehicle or the part that can be held liable.
  • A Maintenance Provider – If an issue with the installation of a replacement part or other maintenance caused an accident, the provider of the maintenance may be liable.

Proving Fault in a Virginia Car Accident Claim

A car accident claim is a form of personal injury claim. The essential element that’s needed in a successful personal injury claim is to prove that the defendant was negligent in their actions or inaction. The same is true of a car accident claim.

Proving this fault shares some similarities with criminal trials. The plaintiff’s lawyers will need to make their case using evidence, eye-witness testimony, and possibly expert witness testimony. The defendant in the case will have the opportunity to defend themselves from these accusations.

However, one of the major differences between a criminal court and a civil court is the standard. In a criminal court, the minds of the jury must believe that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil trial, though, there is a lower standard: the plaintiff must prove that a “preponderance of the evidence” shows that the defendant was at fault.

Duty of Care

Proving that the defendant is at fault for the accident means showing that they were negligent. That process begins with first showing that the defendant had a duty of care. A duty of care means that, in a given situation, a person has a responsibility to others who may be affected by their actions. This duty is to take reasonable precautions that would avoid putting others in unnecessary danger or risk of harm.

In car accidents, the duty of care is generally clear and simple to demonstrate. It’s well understood that anyone operating a vehicle has a duty to follow the traffic laws, not drive recklessly, drunk, or distracted, and be careful in how they handle the vehicle.

The importance of careful behavior when driving cars extends to other areas of involvement as well. This is why governments have a duty to maintain functional roads, manufacturers have a duty to provide working parts, and employers have a duty to set reasonable policies. Failing to adhere to these duties can lead to accidents and, thus, injuries.

A Breach of Duty

Once a duty is established, the next thing that must be shown is that the defendant failed to meet the duty that was expected of them in a given situation. In legal terms, this is a breach of duty. This usually means demonstrating that the defendant’s actions were negligent.

If a reasonable person would have taken different actions to protect others, the defendant likely breached their duty.

Your lawyer will need to show that there was a traffic law that was violated, a road that wasn’t properly maintained, or a part that was defective. Whatever the breach was, your lawyers must have proof of that breach to offer the court. If anyone else witnessed the accident, they could act as witnesses in court to help prove the breach.

If your lawyer has sufficiently established what the defendant’s actions were, they will then need to show how those actions fell short of a duty of care. In some cases, this may be simple. It’s generally recognized that traffic violations and other driving errors do not live up to the duty of a driver.

For instance, a driver might breach their duty of care by following the vehicle in front of them too closely, leading to a rear-end collision. Another driver might breach their duty by texting on their phone, causing them to run through a red light and cause a T-bone crash.

In other cases, though, particularly those involving the responsibilities of an employer or manufacturer, it may be more difficult to describe how their actions were a breach. This proof could require the use of testimony from someone else in the same field to describe what should have been expected of the defendant and how the defendant didn’t meet that expectation.

Proving a Causal Link Between the Breach and Your Injuries

Once a duty and breach of duty have been demonstrated by the plaintiff’s lawyer, it must be made clear that the breach of duty was the direct cause of injuries suffered by the plaintiff. Without that connection, the defendant will not be held liable for the costs associated with those injuries. For a car accident, proving the final element of negligence will require proving two different points.

First, there needs to be a proven connection between the breach and the accident. While a connection may seem obvious, consider your own driving. There may have been times when you’ve gone slightly over the speed limit or failed to stop at an intersection. These are breaches, but they may not have caused an accident.

The reality is that many people are committing breaches on the road at any moment. However, that doesn’t mean that they always cause an accident. The key is determining which breach caused an accident.

For instance, someone who happens to be sitting at a red light could have a number of breaches. They could be on their phone, missing a headlight, and over the legal blood alcohol concentration, all of which are breaches.

However, if someone crashes into them from behind at the red light, it’s unlikely that any of those breaches will be seen as causing the accident. Therefore, that connection must be shown by the plaintiff’s lawyers.

At certain times, proving this connection could rely on the testimony of an expert witness who understands how and why car crashes occur. They may be able to help make the connection clear for the court.

Why Does Causation Need to Be Proven?

If there is a connection between breach and accident, that causation must be shown to be linked to the injuries the plaintiff suffered. Such a link may seem clear, but it’s important to consider the fraud that’s been committed in the past.

Some people, for instance, have exaggerated the extent of the injuries that they suffered. Others have attempted to pass off pre-existing conditions and even injuries suffered in a different incident as the result of the accident.

One of the things the plaintiff’s lawyer will need to prove is the precise way in which the accident caused their injuries. Things like doctors’ notes, in particular, can be helpful in making this case. Once the connection from breach to injury has been demonstrated, the defendant is liable for the costs of the plaintiff’s injuries.

What Compensation Can Be Sought in a Virginia Car Accident Claim?

The key to proper compensation in a Virginia car accident claim is that it must cover the costs directly related to the injuries you incurred as a result of the accident. Proving this puts the liability on the defendant, as it establishes a causal link between the defendant’s actions and your financial and psychological losses.

The costs, though, will also need to be proven by the lawyer, and things like medical bills, bills for property damage, and past pay stubs can all be helpful in proving the amount of compensation you need. This compensation will usually be paid out in two forms of damages, but there is occasionally a third form involved.

Economic Damages

Economic damages cover things with a very clear financial element. Therefore, they are fairly easy to calculate, and so long as sufficient documentation can be provided, they are difficult to challenge.

Future costs of this variety are also addressed through economic damages. Some of the more commonly addressed costs through these damages include:

  • Medical Bills – Depending on the extent of your injuries, there are bills for things like doctor’s visits, medication, surgeries, treatment, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and more.
  • Future Medical Bills – If your injury is serious enough, there may be a need for future or even ongoing medical care. Severe injuries like spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries may warrant this kind of care, especially if they result in permanent disability.
  • Property Damage – In a car accident, there is often damage to a vehicle that needs to be repaired, and in some cases, the vehicle may need to be replaced. Additionally, you can be compensated for anything in your car that was destroyed by the accident. For example, your laptop may have been broken, warranting compensation to repair it or buy a new one.
  • Lost Wages – If you’ve had to miss work because of your injuries, it’s likely that you’ve missed some pay as well. Workers’ compensation only applies to injuries that happen while working, so this type of compensation is crucial for financial stability in the aftermath of a non-work-related car accident.
  • Lost Earning Capacity – In some cases, an injury is so significant that someone can’t return to work in the same capacity or at all, and they will not be able to earn the income they otherwise would have. For instance, someone with a severe spinal injury may suffer paralysis and not be able to return to work as a welder.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the damages that attempt to address the less tangible and more emotional and psychological effects of a car accident. In these cases, the money isn’t necessarily seen as a solution for the issues involved but rather as a means of making other aspects of life less of a burden.

Some of the things that non-economic damages may address include:

  • Pain and Suffering – Any physical injury carries a level of pain and suffering—both psychological and physical.
  • Mental Anguish – It’s not uncommon for a car accident to leave victims with a variety of mental issues related to the experience and their injuries.
  • Loss of Enjoyment in Life – If an injury leaves you in persistent pain or takes away something you used to be able to do, then it can leave you with less enjoyment in life.
  • Loss of Use of a Body Part – Not being able to use a body part or losing it altogether can be very difficult to handle, as you likely will be unable to live your life as you did previously.
  • Other psychological effects – There are a wide variety of psychological effects that may result from the accident and your injuries. Your lawyer will be able to help you identify what applies to your situation.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a third category of damages that are not awarded in every personal injury claim. In most car accident cases, in particular, these damages are not likely to be awarded, but it is possible. These damages are not based on an assessment of the costs of the accident but rather on an assessment of the behavior of the defendant.

If the defendant’s behavior is deemed to be particularly egregious, then punitive damages may be awarded as a deterrent and punishment for that behavior. If there was something malicious or obscenely reckless about the actions of the defendant, that may result in punitive damages being awarded.

The Impact of Contributory Negligence

One of the most important things to understand about a personal injury claim in Virginia is the impact of the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, the defendant’s lawyers in a claim are given the opportunity to argue that the plaintiff was also negligent in a way that led to the accident and injuries.

Under these rules, the defendant’s lawyers will have the burden of proof and be required to demonstrate the elements of negligence regarding the plaintiff. In most states that operate under the doctrine of comparative negligence, a plaintiff will have their damages reduced proportionately to their share of fault.

However, in Virginia, if the defendant’s lawyers are successfully able to argue negligence and fault on the part of the plaintiff, then the plaintiff will not be allowed to collect any damages.

This is a significant penalty, and one of the important things your lawyer will do is gather evidence that helps defend against accusations of contributory negligence. This doctrine is also why it is critical that you be careful when discussing the accident and generally say very little, particularly when talking with any insurance agents.

Anything insurance agents learn of that could even remotely be considered an acceptance of guilt could later be used against you.

Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim in a Virginia Car Accident?

Tragically, the state of Virginia had more than 1,000 deaths as a result of car accidents in 2023. It’s a sad reality that a car accident will sometimes lead to a loss of life. If that happens, the family can make a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.

Money may not be the most important thing at this time, but it can provide much-needed financial stability. In such difficult times, consulting our Virginia wrongful death lawyer can help families navigate the legal process with ease.

Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims, but they also include compensation for costs specifically related to the death, including funeral and burial costs.

Should I Settle My Car Accident Claim or Take It to Court in Virginia ?

Every plaintiff filing a car accident claim must decide whether they want to settle the case or take it to court. There’s no universal right answer to that question, as there are upsides and downsides to both options.

More than anything, it will depend on your circumstances, your preferences, and the advice of your Virginia car accident lawyer. However, there are a few general advantages of both settling a case and taking it to court.

A settlement is a compromise between the two parties. In every compromise, both parties are gaining something but also giving something up. In the case of a car accident settlement, both parties are giving up the same thing.

Both parties are deciding to forgo the possibility that the case will rule in their favor. The defendant agrees to pay a settlement when the court could have potentially ordered them to pay nothing or much less. The plaintiff, on the other hand, accepts less funds than they may have received if the court case went entirely in their favor.

What Are the Benefits of Settling a Car Accident Case in Virginia?

For the plaintiff to give up the potential of more money, they must be receiving some benefit, and there are significant benefits to consider regarding the possibility of settling. One of those benefits is the certainty that comes with a settlement. When you settle a case, you are guaranteed to receive the funds that were agreed to.

This guarantee is comforting to those who don’t want the stress of wondering what the outcome could be, especially with the long timeline of a civil trial. In Virginia, where there is the risk of contributory negligence negating a plaintiff’s ability to collect any damages, the ability to gain this certainty is even more valuable.

Another potential benefit of choosing to settle the case instead of going to court is the benefit of time. A court case could potentially go on for months and possibly even years. For those who need the funds the claim will provide, that kind of wait can be devastating.

However, when you have the chance to settle a case, you will receive the funds according to the agreement, which in most cases is about 30-60 days after the agreement is finalized.

Settling can also benefit some people with the aspect of closure. Many people want to be able to put the accident behind them and move forward with their lives.

However, until the case is finally brought to an end, they feel like the situation isn’t resolved. A settlement can often bring the case to a conclusion in people’s minds. That sense of mental peace can be an underrated benefit of settling a claim.

Seek the Compensation You Deserve With the Help of a Virginia Car Accident Lawyer

Most years, more than 120,000 car crashes will occur in Virginia, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. These accidents are extremely expensive, as they come with varying degrees of injuries, bills, and psychological costs, and some may result in death.

These costs are the responsibility of those whose negligence led to the accident. However, in most situations, this will mean that the compensation they owe will be paid by their insurance company.

Getting the compensation you deserve from an insurance company is rarely easy. Profits aren’t made by paying claims, and insurance companies are likely to make a lower offer if they can get away with it. It may be necessary to make use of civil personal injury law to hold them to what they owe.

Sometimes, the credible threat that comes with a Virginia car accident lawyer negotiating on your behalf is enough to agree to a fair, acceptable settlement. In other cases, it becomes necessary to go through the full trial process.

Either way, at Whitlock Law, LLC, we are prepared to represent you and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your car accident and legal options.


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