The questions on this page were answered by our team of Virginia Beach & Norfolk personal injury attorneys. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.
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What types of damages can I be compensated for in a personal injury case?
In a personal injury case, the damages you suffer will depend on the nature of the accident and the extent of your injuries. When determining the value of your case, your personal injury lawyer will look at all of the damages that apply to your case.
There are several types of damages. Special compensatory damages are damages that can be calculated. These damages have actual dollar amounts attached to them and include loss of earnings, medical bills, property damage and expenses caused by the accident.
General compensatory damages are non-monetary damages. These tend to be emotional in nature and include mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering.
If the accident has caused a loved one to die, the surviving family members can receive wrongful death damages. These include medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial and emotional support and mental anguish.
Punitive damages may be pursued, but are quite rare since there needs to be evidence of reckless and wanton conduct by the defendant. Nevertheless, these damages are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant's behavior was so egregious (e.g., driving while heavily intoxicated) that the court wants to affirmatively punish the at-fault party.
Will my personal injury case go to trial?
It depends on the facts of your particular personal injury case. Believe it or not, around five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. This means that the majority – a whopping 95 percent – are settled outside of court.
Most cases are settled outside of court because it’s easier and quicker. Victims in personal injury cases already have enough to worry about. Their main focus is on recovering from their injuries, and they prefer to get their legal issues over with quickly instead of having them drag out.
However, victims who were seriously injured and now face lifelong injuries cannot settle their cases quickly. It’s important for the discovery process to take place so that the extent of the injuries can be determined. This is helpful for the defendant, who may want to offer a settlement to the victim, but not without understanding the full value of the injuries sustained. In many cases, victims find out that their injuries are more severe than they originally thought, which means they can sue for more money and possibly receive higher award amounts.
If your case is unusual in nature or involves large amounts of money, then you’ll likely have to attend a trial and battle it out against the other party in court. However, most run of the mill injury cases tend to stay out of the courtroom.
Is it possible to sue entities other than individuals and companies?
Yes, you can sue any entity that has caused your injuries. This includes cities, counties and government agencies, as well as their employees.
It’s important to know, however, that these types of claims are a bit more complex since the claims process is different. The statute of limitations is often shorter, so you must act quickly. You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an injury claim involving a government agency. Once you miss the deadline, you’ll lose out on compensation forever.
How long does it take to settle a personal injury case?
There really is no one-size-fits all answer. Each case is different. Small cases that are less serious in nature will likely be settled in just a few months, while more serious cases involving millions of dollars may take years to settle. That’s because cases of this nature are often too huge to settle outside and therefore tend to go to trial.
It can be frustrating to see your case drag on for many months or even years. Many companies are willing to settle outside of court so they can avoid a costly court case. However, these offers are often lowball amounts, so it’s a trade-off. Are you willing to accept a quick settlement that may consist of less than 30 percent of what you’d receive at trial?
Typically, the longer you wait, the more money you can expect to receive. However, there is also the chance that you could lose your court case and walk away with nothing. Discuss this with your personal injury lawyer to determine how you should proceed.
Can I file a lawsuit if my baby was born with cerebral palsy?
While it’s estimated that doctors are not responsible for 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases, doctor errors do cause 10 percent of them – or 1 in every 10 children. It’s possible that the doctor caused a brain injury during labor or delivery, and that this injury led to cerebral palsy.
A long labor or lack of oxygen during labor can paralyze the brain, causing cerebral palsy. The longer amount of time the injury occurred, the more serious the injury. A lack of oxygen for one minute is much more severe than 10 seconds without sufficient oxygen.
Doctors should be able to plan for these types of events. That’s why pregnant women seek prenatal care. Doctors have the ability to determine the size of a baby while it’s in the womb and determine if the mother will be able to give birth naturally without issues.
In addition, if the baby does unexpectedly experience distress during labor and delivery, medical staff should be monitoring the baby at all times and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Every second that the baby is in distress means a higher risk of experiencing cerebral palsy or other issues.
If you believe your doctor caused your baby’s cerebral palsy, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to determine your rights to compensation.
How is standard of care defined in a medical malpractice case?In medical malpractice cases, negligence is determined by whether or not your doctor met the medical standard of care. The definition of this term is not clear cut, but it refers to the care that a competent doctor in the same field would perform in the same situation. How is this determined? In medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses are often used. These witnesses are doctors who are in the same field as the doctor who allegedly caused the medical malpractice. The expert witness analyzes what the doctor did and determines what – if anything – led to the victim’s injuries. The goal of the expert witness is to show how the doctor deviated from the standard of care and how this deviation caused the doctor to breach his or her duty and lead to injuries and damages for the victim. If it can be proven that the doctor did not follow the standard of care, then he or she can be found negligent. The doctor may be forced to pay for various damages caused to the patient.
What if the driver who hit me doesn't have any insurance, or some insurance but not much?
If the driver who hit you does not have auto insurance, do not fret. You should be able to access underinsured/uninsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your auto insurance policy. Most Virginia auto insurance policies require drivers to carry a comparable amount of UM/UIM coverage and liability coverage. This means that if you have $100,000 in liability coverage, you should have $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage. If the at-fault driver has auto insurance, but it is a minimal policy (Virginia law only requires a driver to carry $25,000 of coverage), you should be abe to access your UIM coverage to off-set any difference between your damages and the other driver's minimal coverage. For example, if you have $50,000 in medical bills, but the at-fault driver only has $25,000 in coverage, you can access your UIM coverage to cover the outstanding $25,000 in damages.
What is uninsured/underinsured auto insurance coverage?
Underinsured/uninsured auto coverage is, essentially, a saety net for drivers. It is coverage on your policy which directly benefits you if you are involved in a car accident that is not your fault and the negligent driver who hit you does not have auto insurance or does not have enough insurance. In this situation, you can file a claim on your own auto insurance policy for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
How much is my auto accident case worth?
Unfortunately, the answer is … it depends. The value of a case is determined by the damages in the case. Damages include the medical bills, the injuries suffered, the time lost away from work, any permanent harm from the injuries, and a number of other factors. The amount of insurance coverage also matters, because the most "valuable" case in the world in terms of damages is typically limited by the availability of auto insurance coverage. For example, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses, but only $75,000 in total available auto insurance coverage, the maximum "value" to your claim is likely $75,000.
I was in a Lowes hardware store walking down an aisle when a clerk was trying to get something down and it fell and smashed my foot causing me to have a fractured bone. What is necessary to be proven in a falling merchandise case?
This falls under a classification of what we call a business premises case and in that type case we must show that the business either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition or if it is obvious that an employee of the business created the dangerous condition, that will be sufficient to show negligence in normal circumstances. In this type of case we can also demand information on prior injury claims not only at the store where your accident happened but from other similar stores to show that there is an awareness on the business of this danger but they still stack boxes high above areas where patrons walk.