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Shapiro & Appleton

Roadside Memorials: A Testament to the Loss Families Suffer After Car Accidents

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A recent posting about a multicar accident inside the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel on a Virginia Beach, VA, news site -- not linked here out of consideration --  elicited angry responses from readers who complained about the traffic it caused. Out of 14 posts, not one person had a word of compassion to the victims who were hurt in the accident.

But people were hurt in the car accident and their lives may never be the same as they try to recover from serious injuries. Car accidents can sometimes leave even bigger scars, the kind that aren't visible to the naked eye but which affect people's hearts when a loved one suddenly dies in an auto accident.

You may have seen faint evidence of these scars while driving and not even noticed it. I'm referring to the roadside memorials that families leave to try and keep the memory of their loved ones life alive. Sometimes, it's only a simple white cross in a median. Other times, it's more elaborate and stocked with balloons and stuffed animals -- symbols of the life a person left behind.

As a Virginia personal injury lawyer, I'm glad a roadside memorial can help ease the loss of a loved one, but I'd like it even more if the accident never occurred. I would like to hope that roadside memorials make passing motorists think about the loss of life and, consequently, drive more safely as a result.

There is also another way to remember a loved one who died in a car accident in Virginia. For a fee, the Transportation Department will install a roadside memorial sign along a state-maintained highway. Each sign reads "Drive Safely In memory of ...," with the blank being filled in with the name who died and date of that person's fatal accident. I think this is a good idea for two reasons. It clearly states a message about driving safely, and it still lets others know that someone who was loved died there.

I would encourage a family member to choose this option rather than a handmade memorial because many accidents occur on busy highways and interstates.My fear is that while trying to maintain a memorial, a family member could also become the
victim of a car accident.

After the news about the accident that killed a college student or young mother has been long forgotten by the media and members of the general public, families are still mourning the loss of their loved one. This is the side of car accidents people who have not suffered a loss may never understand. But as
VA personal injury lawyers, my colleagues and I are all-to-familiar with hardships families are left to face after losing a loved one to a drunk driving accident, an equipment failure accident or a wrong-way driver accident.

We have published a free consumer guide to help families in this time of grief understand their rights: 
Virginia (VA) Guide to Wrongful Death: What You and Your Family Need to Know
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