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Shapiro & Appleton

What to Do When the At-Fault Driver Is Someone You Know

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Being injured in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if those injuries are serious. Not only do you deal with the pain and treatment that comes with those injuries, victims often face financial difficulties because of the cost of that medical care and lost wages from time missed from work due to hospitalization and recovery time.

In most cases, when a person is injured in a car accident, there is no hesitation about filing for damages against the driver who caused that accident and is responsible for those injuries. But what happens when that driver is someone you know – a friend or family member? Should you still seek compensation? As difficult as that may seem, the answer is yes.

Most states long ago abolished intra-family immunity, meaning that it is permissible for a spouse to bring an insurance claim against, or to sue, a spouse, an injured child to bring a claim against their own parent, and we have actually handled some of these difficult circumstances. If there is no other source of insurance and there are tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills, of course it makes sense for a teenager or a child to bring the insurance claim against their own parent if that parent was careless under the circumstances. 

The same goes for a husband and wife. We handled one case where, unfortunately, the husband drove the wrong way on a Virginia highway, and the vehicle was hit head on and his own wife suffered serious injuries. The only available insurance was his own on the car. Why was he driving the wrong way?

There was a good reason, the family was from England and they had just visited a tourist location and when he got back in the car, both of them failed to realize he was driving properly in England, but very improperly in the state of Virginia!

If you are injured in an accident caused by someone you know, you should treat it the same way you would if that driver was a stranger to you. Do not discuss the accident or any details about your injuries with them. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them at all. It just means avoiding the topic of the car accident.

Under Virginia law, you have every right to file a claim against a driver responsible for injuries and property damage. This is one reason why drivers have vehicle insurance and why many states – like Virginia – require that vehicle owners have insurance. The law is in place to ensure that every car owner has a way to pay for damages if they are responsible for an accident. So, filing a legitimate claim for injuries is not taking money away from your friend that caused the accident. Any awarded damages will be paid to you by their insurance company.

Although it is important to contact an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney any time you are injured in an auto accident, it is especially important to do so when the responsible party is someone you know and let your attorney deal with the insurance company.

The insurance policy may be in place to cover accident damages, but the insurance company is also in business to make money and will do everything they can to avoid paying what the injured party should receive. If you are already feeling uncomfortable about seeking damages against your friend, an insurance adjuster will very likely manipulate those emotions and convince you into agreeing to a settlement that is much less than what you should receive. Our VA car accident law firm has successfully represented many injured victims against aggressive and intimidating insurance companies and know how to get the compensation our clients deserve.

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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