Frequently Asked Questions
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What Types of Monetary Compensation Can an Injured Person Receive in Virginia?
Virginia laws allow plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases to claim compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are further classified as economic damages and noneconomic damages. These are generally available to all victims of car crashes, truck wrecks, slips, falls, dog bites and animal attacks, electric shocks, dangerous and defective products, and medical malpractice.
Punitive damages, which are also called exemplary damages because they warn others against similar behavior, can only be claimed and awarded when certain circumstances exist. Additionally, the award of monetary damages in wrongful death cases differs slightly from the award of monetary damages in personal injury cases. Keep reading to learn more details.
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When Compensatory Damages Are Awarded
To secure a settlement or win a civil trial, a Virginia plaintiff must
- File their claims within the applicable statute of limitations, which is generally (but not always) 2 years from the date of the injury or death;
- Prove negligence or recklessness on behalf of the person or company named as the defendant;
- Prove that they, as the victim, did not contribute to causing the accident; and
- Present evidence of financial losses due to medical care, disability and/or death.
Economic Damages Are Compensation for Losses That Can Be Precisely Calculated or Reasonably Estimated
Economic damages are always available to injury or wrongful death plaintiffs who can prove they deserve compensation. Awards of economic damages in Virginia can include, but are not limited to, payments for
- Past and future medical expenses,
- Wages lost while out of work following the accident,
- Loss of future earnings due to a partial or total disability, and
- Reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the accident (e.g., traveling or moving to receive specialized medical care).
Noneconomic Damages Are Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Emotional distress, physical pain, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, depression and other long-term, debilitating problems created by another party’s negligence or recklessness are quite real and deserving of compensation. No one can put an exact dollar value on mental health, bodily comfort and emotional well-being, however.
Despite this, accident victims and the survivors of wrongful death victims are allowed to claim and receive noneconomic damages. These are typically described as awards for pain and suffering, and the amount is generally estimated as a percentage of the economic damages.
Virginia laws imposes caps on noneconomic damages in many instances, especially for cases involving medical malpractice. Partnering with an experienced Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney will make it easier to understand the rules and to produce an estimate of what constitutes fair compensation for pain and suffering.
Punitive Damages Are Most Frequently Paid by Drunk Drivers
In Virginia, punitive damages are typically only available in two types of cases. First, people who are hurt or killed by dangerous or defective products can claim punitive damages against corporations. Additionally, victims of drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and very intoxicated can claim punitive damages.
The award of punitive damages requires going through both a jury trial and a second hearing devoted specifically to determining the amount the defendant must pay as a noncriminal fine. As with noneconomic damages, Virginia law caps punitive damages in most instances.
A Note on Wrongful Death Claims
The Virginia Code lists the types of claims the plaintiff in a wrongful death case can make. According the section 8.01-52, compensation can be requested for all of the following:
- Sorrow, mental anguish and the loss of the deceased person’s “society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice”;
- Reasonably expected losses of income for the person who died
- Loss of “services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent”;
- Medical and care expenses for an injury that resulted in death;
- Funeral expenses; and
- Punitive damages if such would be available in a personal injury case.
FAQs About North Carolina Car Insurance
Is vehicle insurance required under North Carolina law?
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), every driver must have auto insurance to operate a vehicle. The state requires a minimum bodily injury liability coverage of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. A minimum legal requirement of $25,000 for property damage liability is also required.
Does North Carolina require vehicle owners to purchase uninsured motorist coverage?
Yes, uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is required in North Carolina. UM coverage protects the driver if they are involved in a crash with another driver who does not have auto insurance. It also covers a policyholder if they are injured and/or have property damage in a hit and run accident. The minimum legal requirement for uninsured motorist bodily injury is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. For property damage, the minimum legal requirement is $25,000.
The state also requires underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Many drivers in North Carolina choose to go with the lowest requirements of coverage the state requires - $30,000 per person bodily injury, $60,000 per accident, but medical expenses alone can quickly exceed those amounts, never mind all the other losses a car accident victim should be financially compensated for. UIM coverage can cover these other expenses once the at-fault driver’s liability limits have been reached.
How does North Carolina handle “fault” in car accident claims?
Some states require vehicle owners to carry no-fault auto insurance, but North Carolina is not one of them. The state allows insurance companies to use fault as a reason to deny a driver’s accident claim. Under what is known as “contributory negligence,” an injured victim can be prohibited from collecting any damages if it can be shown that they had any percentage of fault at all for the accident. An insurance company may try to assign partial blame to the victim in order to get out of paying the compensation the victim is entitled to. This is why many accident victims turn to a North Carolina car accident attorney in order to protect their right to damages.
How long does it take for an insurance company to process a car accident claim?
North Carolina has a Prompt Pay Law that requires insurance companies to respond to in a timely manner to any insurance claim that is filed. Once a claim is filed, the insurance company has 30 days from the day the claims processor receives the claim to respond. The company must advise you in writing that your claim is being processed, pay the claim as submitted, offer a settlement amount, or deny the claim within that 30-day window. Once a claim is settled, the funds should be delivered to the victim within 10 business days.
If the claim is denied, North Carolina law requires the insurance company to provide the victim with a written explanation as to why, including the citing of any applicable laws and/or language in their client’s policy.
For more information regarding North Carolina car insurance laws, or if you have been injured in a crash, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with one of our skilled North Carolina car accident attorneys.
What does Statute 51 of the FELA actually mean?
45 U.S. Code § 51 states:
Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories...shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce...for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment. "Any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign commerce; or shall, in any way directly or closely and substantially, affect such commerce as above set forth shall, for the purposes of this chapter, be considered as being employed by such carrier in such commerce and shall be considered as entitled to the benefits of this chapter.
Translated into everyday English, the law sets out the scope of the protections provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA. This law applies to railroad corporations that are engaged in interstate commerce, and it makes them responsible for employees who are injured due to the negligence of other railroad's employees, "defects" in its equipment or workplace.
- A Virginia FELA Attorney Discusses What Not to Do After Being Injured While Working on the Railroad
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- Steps Railroad Workers Need to Take When a Work-Related Injury Happens or an Occupational Illness Develops
Will the insurance company make a payout on uninsured motorist and medpay claims?
Yes but they will dig for evidence that the accident was the pedestrian's fault, such as you stepped in front of the biker. Working with a skilled personal injury attorney can make the claims process easier.
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What Is Negligence in a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another party, North Carolina law allows you to take legal action against that party or parties in order to obtain financial compensation for losses that your injuries have caused you. Some of these losses can include medical expenses for treatment of your injuries, as well as any ongoing medical care you may need, lost wages if you were unable to work while you recovered, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and more. In order to be successful in a personal injury lawsuit, a victim must prove negligence by the party they allege is responsible for the accident and their injuries.
This is one reason why victims should consult with a North Carolina personal injury attorney to represent them. The legal definition of negligence that is required to be successful in a personal injury claim may be different than what a layperson thinks the definition is.
In order to prove negligence in an accident lawsuit, there are four elements that must be proven. These elements are:
- The alleged at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care. This means they had a legal obligation to act in a certain way towards the victim. For example, a landlord has a duty of care to keep their property free of any hazards that are preventable. A driver has a duty of care to other drivers to operate in a safe manner and obey all traffic laws. A doctor has a duty of care to provide their patients with professional medical care.
- The alleged at-fault party breached that duty of care. This means that whatever obligation the at-fault party had to the victim, they failed to uphold.
- The breach of that duty of care caused the victim’s injuries. There are two types of causation that can be cited in this element. The first, cause-in-fact, means that if it weren’t for the at-fault party’s actions or behavior, the victim would not have been injured. The second type, proximate cause, means that the injury is related to the event in such a way that the court rules the injury would not have occurred if not for the event.
- The victim suffered damages (losses) as a result of the alleged at-fault party’s actions. In order to receive financial compensation for losses, there must be an actual loss.
Let Our Personal Injury Law Firm Help
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by another party, contact a North Carolina personal injury attorney to find out what type of legal recourse you may have. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.
The Carolinas personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have successfully advocated for many clients who suffered brain injuries in obtaining the financial compensation they deserved for their injuries, including a record-setting mild brain injury verdict for $60 million, which was settled while on appeal. Call us today for a free case evaluation.
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Should I Believe What the Railroad Tells Me About Filing a FELA Claim?
When the railroad sends you a pamphlet saying it will fairly compensate you for your work injury and arguing that hiring your own lawyer will accomplish nothing but costing you a fortune, do not trust that the company is telling you the whole story.
For instance, no lawyer who advises and represents injured railroad workers is looking to cheat thier client. By law and the ethics of the profession, your lawyer must present you a written agreement that details all legal fees, which are typically taken as a percentage of the recovery. You will almost definitely not to pay anything upfront. And f you do not secure a settlement or win a lawsuit, you should not need to pay anything at all.
What the railroads never tell you, is they are having their lawyers figure out ways to defeat your claim while you deal with the claim agent, and vital evidence that you own lawyer would acquire is not being acquired on your behalf. But, if you have permanent injuries not hiring a lawyer is even worse.
The railroad claims agent will never get reports from your doctors about the permanent injuries you have suffered in order to decide to pay you more for permanent consequences of your injury. The claim agent will totally ignore the future consequences. And, the claim agent will never tell you whether the railroad is aware that it violated a safety regulation or was negligent, which is a condition that you must prove in order to recover under the Federal Employers Liability Act.
In summary, you should seek a free confidential consultation from an experienced railroad attorney no matter what scary stories your employer tells you.
Does the fact I was hurt while working for a railroad automatically qualify me for benefits under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?
FELA is not a workers' compensation law that automatically covers employees who suffer injuries on the job. Rather, FELA is a negligence-based law, which means the employee must prove some type of negligence on the part of the railroad contributed in any way, "even in the slightest", to the injury suffered by the employee.
Although FELA does not provide automatic coverage to employees injured while working for the railroad, the U.S. Supreme Court has directed courts handling FELA cases to keep in mind the congressional intent of the stature, protection of railroad employees and to apply the protection of the laws liberally. With this direction in mind, courts have interpreted FELA to require a railroad to provide employees with a reasonably safe place to work, reasonably safe and suitable tools, and adequate assistance. These general protections for railroad workers are in addition to safety regulations such as the Locomotive Inspection Act and Safety Appliance Act.
- A Virginia FELA Attorney Discusses What Not to Do After Being Injured While Working on the Railroad
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What Are Safety Tips When Driving Near Tractor-Trailers?
Driving in the vicinity of a tractor-trailer can be intimidating – downright scary – especially when they are loaded up with cargo. These are massive vehicles and their total weight, especially with a full load, can result in catastrophic injuries and death in trucking accidents. Every driver should be aware of the following important safety tips and understand the limitations that commercial trucks and the drivers who operate them have. If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, contact our office to speak with a North Carolina truck accident attorney.
Factors to Remember
When you are driving near a large tractor-trailer or other commercial truck, the following factors are crucial to remember in order to stay safe:
- Watch out and avoid the truck’s blind spots: The length and height of a large truck often create blind spots for the truck driver in different areas of the vehicle. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), vehicle drivers should remember that if they can’t see the truck driver in the truck’s side mirror, then assume that the truck driver cannot see your vehicle. Always try to remain visible to the truck driver and never stay in a blind spot when you are attempting to pass the truck.
- Be ready for wide turns: Commercial trucks are massive vehicles, and this makes them much more difficult to operate than passenger vehicles. This is also quite evident when a truck driver is attempting to make a turn with the vehicle. Because of their size, trucks often make wide turns and another vehicle should never attempt to get between the truck and the curb to try to pass. A vehicle driver should also never attempt to cross intersection lines when a truck is turning because the truck driver often uses those lines to help navigate the turn.
- Give the truck extra room: While it is important to make sure you are visible to a truck driver, it is also important to give that vehicle the extra room it needs. Trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles, so make sure to allow enough space between your vehicle and the truck. Never tailgate a truck. If the driver should come to a sudden stop, a vehicle tailgating could end up under the truck and the results fatal. It also takes trucks longer to complete a lane change so make sure you give the truck driver the space they need.
Contact a Carolinas Injury Attorney for Assistance
Because of their size and weight, the injuries sustained from a tractor-trailer accident are often much more severe than accidents that happen with smaller vehicles. Not only truck accidents more catastrophic than car accidents, the process for pursuing damages is also more complex. Unlike car accidents, where there is usually only one other at-fault party – the driver – truck accidents often involve multiple parties that can be liable. When a truck driver causes a crash, the trucking company the driver works for is legally responsible for that driver’s actions.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you are no doubt facing exorbitant medical bills, loss of income, and multiple other losses. A North Carolina truck accident attorney can evaluate your case and determine how much financial compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries.
The legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been successfully advocating for accident victims for more than three decades and will use all available resources to get you the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect?
Elder abuse is defined as the intentional or negligent actions by a caregiver or other trusted individual that causes pain and suffering in an elderly person. There are several categories of elder abuse, including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. While it is not always easy to detect, there are red flags that can signal that this crime is occurring. If you suspect an elderly loved one is a victim of elderly abuse, contact a Virginia nursing home abuse attorney from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to find out what legal recourse you may have.
Identifying Elder Neglect
Many seniors reach the point in their lives that they are no longer physically or mentally be able to live on their own and take care of themselves. When this happens, many families turn to nursing homes or assisted living facilities and entrust them the care of their loved ones. Tragically, many of these facilities fail to provide adequate attention and care seniors need and this neglect affects the physical and emotional health of the resident. The facility may fail to provide a proper diet or needed medical treatment to the resident or fail to provide safe living conditions. Signs that every family should watch for and take immediate action to protect the resident include:
- The resident is having trouble sleeping
- The resident is left in their bed for extended periods of time with no supervision
- The resident is losing weight
- The resident is missing needed medical aids (i.e. glasses, hearing aids, walkers)
- The resident is not dressed properly for the current weather conditions
- The resident suffers recurring bedsores
- There is a lack of basic hygiene for the resident
Identifying Physical or Sexual Abuse
Families should also look for signs of physical or sexual abuse, as well. When a resident is being abused, there are often changes in their mood, appearance, and body language. Unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, sexually transmitted diseases, or torn clothing, are also signs that your loved one may be a victim of abuse.
Identifying Financial Exploitation
While this type of abuse is more prevalent with seniors who live on their own, it is becoming more and more common for elders who live in nursing homes or assisted care facilities. These are the most common signs:
- Missing bank statements
- Suspected forged signatures on checks
- Financial payments from the resident to a caregiver
- The resident is missing cash
- The resident is missing jewelry or other valuable items
Let a Skilled Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Help
If your elderly loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a Virginia nursing home abuse attorney to find out what legal recourse your family may have. At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have been aggressively advocating for victims for more than three decades and have helped many nursing home abuse victims receive compensation for their injuries, as well as hold the perpetrators who committed the abuse responsible.
Contact our office today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys today.
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What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and why should I think about having it?
These two types of coverage protect you from injuries in cases where the other driver was either underinsured or uninsured. In North Carolina, and many other states, uninsured and underinsured car insurance coverage is mandatory but the amounts that you maintain on your policy are optional over the minimal coverage.
Underinsured motorist coverage pays for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are hurt in an accident caused by a driver with auto insurance coverage too small to pay the bills. Your insurer will make up the difference between the negligent driver’s coverage and the maximum of your own policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage operates the same way, except that instead of making up the difference between the negligent driver’s coverage and your own policy limits, your insurance company will be responsible for all of your bills.
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