Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Do I Need a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney?

    When a person is injured in an accident caused by another party, Virginia law allows that victim to pursue legal action against that party in order to recover financial compensation for the losses the injuries they have sustained have caused them. In most accidents, such as a vehicle accident or premises liability incident, the first step of recovering damages begins with filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.

    Even if the liability of the accident appears fairly clear, a victim should still consult with a Virginia personal injury attorney. While an insurance company may act as if they have your best interest at heart, the truth is that they are in business to make money and when the company has to pay damages, that cuts into their profits. An attorney will ensure that the victim’s interests are protected.

    Once a claim is filed, there is usually some kind of negotiation that takes place between the parties. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, the victim’s attorney may recommend proceeding with filing a personal injury lawsuit in order to let a jury decide what the victim deserves for the losses they have suffered.

    How do I know if I need an attorney for my personal injury case?

    If any of the following factors exist in your case, you should contact an attorney:

    • Your injuries and/or property damage are severe 
    • The insurance company refuses to pay any damages
    • There are issues with liability or the at-fault party and/or their insurance company is blaming you for the accident
    • The other party is not acting in good faith

    When hiring an attorney, what are some of the questions I should ask?

    The first thing you want to make sure of is that the attorney you are meeting with specializes in personal injury cases. In fact, avoid law firms that handle different areas of law and focus on those that only handle injury cases. Just as you wouldn’t go to an orthopedist for a heart condition, you shouldn’t go to a divorce attorney if you are a victim of a car accident.

    You also want to make sure that your personal injury attorney has extensive experience representing clients. For example, the legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been advocating for injured victims and their families for more than 30 years, so we’ve handled many different types of accident cases. You want to make sure that your attorney has litigated cases that are similar to yours and that they have a good success rate doing it.

    You also want to know their percentage of settling cases. While the majority of personal injury cases come to a resolution through settlement, you want to make sure that the attorney you hire will not just quickly settle your case. A seasoned attorney knows that negotiation is key to obtaining the best possible outcome for their client. You want a personal injury attorney who is a skilled negotiator but will also not hesitate to proceed with litigation if the insurance company is not negotiating in good faith.

    You should also ask your attorney right up front what their fees for representing you will be. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee arrangement. This means you only pay legal fees if they are successful in obtaining you financial compensation. The fee is a percentage of the award/settlement amount. Since there are often many up-front fees that the law firm will cover – such as fees court filing fees and fees for expert witnesses – you also want to confirm with the attorney who will be responsible for those fees should they lose the case.

    Since each case is different, ask your attorney how long they think it will take to bring the case to a resolution. The more complex the case, the longer it will likely take.

    Your attorney should also be more than happy to provide references from past clients, as well as their track record for winning and settling cases.


  • What Are Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

    When a person has been injured in an accident, they often have medical bills for the treatment they need for those injuries. But, depending on the extent of the injuries and how long recovery will take, the victim may also be unable to work during this time. This loss of income can put a severe financial strain on a victim and their family. This pressure can result in even more emotional stress on a victim who may already be dealing with the stress of their injuries, pain, and recovery.

    While obtaining financial compensation for medical bills is important, seeking financial compensation for lost wages is also just as important to ensure a victim is “made whole” after the accident. If you have been injured in an accident caused by another party and are unable to work while you recover or if you have been left permanently disabled because of the injuries, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with of our Virginia accident attorneys to find out what your legal options may be.

    When a victim needs to take time off to recover from an accident or other serious health condition, their job is protected under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law allows a person to take up to 12 weeks of time off to recover. However, there is nothing under the law that requires an employer to pay the employee while they are out. For most people, this means that once they use up their vacation time and/or paid sick time, their FMLA time is unpaid.

    Types of Lost Wages

    There are three types of lost wages that a victim can sustain when an injury leaves them unable to work. Both of these types are recoverable under a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

    Past lost wage: These are wages that the victim was unable to earn because they were recovering from their injuries. For example, if a victim of a car accident could not work for two months and earned no income during that time, they may be able to recover the amount they lost in a car accident claim or lawsuit. If the victim used any paid sick time and/or vacation time during this recovery, they may also be reimbursed this amount since they are classified as a wage loss, as well.

    Future lost wages: If the victim has suffered injuries that leave them permanently disabled and unable to work (either temporarily or permanently), the law allows they to pursue damages for the amount of income they would have earned during the rest of their working lifetime. For example, a construction worker suffers a spine injury and is left paralyzed in a car accident and unable to work. That victim can pursue damages to recover the income they would have earned the rest of their working life. If the victim was killed in the crash, their survivors can seek compensation for the future lost wages their loved one would have earned in a wrongful death lawsuit.

    Diminished earning capacity: If the victim is able to return to work but not in the profession they had prior to the accident, then they may be able to pursue financial compensation for diminished earning capacity. This amount is the difference between what the projected amount they would have earned during their working lifetime and the amount they will actually now earn.

    In order to prove lost wages, a Virginia personal injury attorney will need to show that the victim’s injuries are the direct cause of the financial losses they have suffered. Some of the documents an attorney can use include:

    • A letter from the victim’s employer confirming the hours and wages that they have lost.
    • A letter or wage from the employer’s human resources department.
    • Bank statements and tax returns which show the wages the victim has earned prior to the accident. These documents can provide an estimate of what the victim has earned in the past and what they would have earned in the future had they not been injured in the accident.

    If the victim is self-employed, they are still entitled to pursue lost income claims, however, these types of claims are more complex to prove. Your attorney will be able to explain to you the type of documents they will need in order to pursue this part of the claim.

    Call a Virginia Accident Attorney for Help

    The loss of income accident victims suffer can cause overwhelming stress on their finances. If you are an accident victim, contact our firm to speak with a Virginia personal injury attorney. Our legal team will evaluate your case and determine what types of damages you may be entitled to.


  • What Is Reckless Driving Under Virginia Law?

    Many people take driving for granted and it is not uncommon for drivers to lose sight of just how significant a responsibility operating a vehicle really is. As a driver, you are in charge of operating a powerful vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds and has the capability of traveling at high speeds. While the majority of drivers adhere to traffic laws and speed limits, there are still too many drivers who operate their cars and trucks in such a dangerous manner that it puts other commuters at risk of being seriously injured or even killed. When a driver engages in reckless driving behaviors, they can be charged with a criminal offense. When that driver causes injury to another because of that reckless driving, they can also face civil actions in a personal injury lawsuit.

    If you have been injured in an accident caused by a reckless driver, contact the law team of Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to find out what type of legal options you may have. In the meantime, the following is a brief overview of reckless driving accidents.

    Virginia’s Reckless Driving Laws

    In Virginia, a person who commits an act of reckless driving is charged with a criminal offense, not issued a traffic citation. Under the statute, a driver can be charged with reckless driving if they exceed the posted speed limit by 20 miles per hour or more. They can also be charged if the exceed 80 miles per hour regardless of what the posted speed limit is. Driving at high rates of speed, following too closely, weaving in and out of traffic, or erratically changing lanes are all examples of reckless driving behaviors. The offense is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.

    A driver who is found guilty of reckless driving faces serious penalties, including a jail sentence of up to 12 months, a fine of $2,500, license suspension of up to six months, and six DMV points.  

    Negligence Per Se

    The law may recognize a driver who has been convicted of reckless driving as negligence per se. This means that if the driver’s reckless driving resulted in an accident that injured a victim, the victim does not need to prove that the reckless driver was negligent in order to hold that driver liable for any financial compensation the victim may be entitled to. Since the driver has already been shown to have violated the law, the presumption of negligence has already been established.

    Victims need to keep in mind, however, that the attorney or insurance company of a negligent driver may still try to rebut the negligence per se presumption and this is why it is critical to have a Virginia car accident attorney advocating for you in any accident claims or lawsuits filed.

    Because there is often a high rate of speed involved, injuries suffered by victims of reckless driving crashes are often severe ones and require extensive medical treatment and months of recovery. This can result in difficult financial losses for the victim. A reckless driver may be ordered to pay the damages for the victim’s medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional trauma. If the victim is left permanently disabled, they can also be awarded damages for that disability, loss of future income, and more.

    Contact a Virginia Injury Attorney

    If you have been injured in a crash caused by a driver who was engaging in reckless driving behaviors, contact a Virginia car accident attorney to see what type of financial damages you may be entitled to. Some of the losses you may be able to receive compensation for include medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, permanent disability, and more.

    The legal team from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have been advocating for injured clients since 1985 and will do all we can to ensure you receive the best possible outcome under the circumstances of your case.

    If you would like to meet with one of our skilled Va. car accident attorneys to find out how we can help, call us today at 800-752-0042 for a free case evaluation.


  • Does Automotive Technology Help Prevent Car Crashes?

    It has been nothing short of amazing how much ever-advancing technology has changed our lives, making it easier and safer. Automobile manufacturers have also used many of these advancements to provide safer vehicles for drivers and passengers, designing vehicles that utilize components that provide hands-free vehicles.

    Some of the new technology in today’s vehicles include backup cameras and motion detection software. There are even vehicles that park themselves. These technologies do help reduce crashes, as well as help reduce the severity in certain situations. However, even with these technologies, not every driver practices safe driving behaviors and we are all still at risk when we are on the road.

    If you have been injured in a crash, the legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can help you pursue a claim for damages against the driver responsible for the crash. One of our North Carolina car accident attorneys can determine what the best legal options are to obtain the financial compensation you are entitled to for the losses your injuries have caused, including medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, scarring, and more.

    Vehicle Technology

    There are several different safety technology features that are becoming more standard in newer model vehicles. For example, many cars today have forward collision detection systems that prevent and reduce the impact of a vehicle accident. The system uses a camera, laser, and radar to detect an imminent crash. GPS sensors are able to detect any fixed objects, such as a parked vehicle or utility pole.

    Other safety technologies in today’s vehicles include:

    • Auto steering
    • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)
    • Autonomous cruise control (ACC)
    • Back-up camera
    • Blindspot warning system
    • Forward collision warning (FCW) system

    One issue that can be a dangerous one with all this safety technology is the risk of there being a defective part or some kind of error or malfunction. If this occurs, the result can be a crash. This is also why it is critical for vehicle owners to maintain and have their vehicles inspected on a regular basis in order to make sure that there all systems are in good working order.

    Causes of Car Crashes

    The majority of car accidents occur because of driver error. One of the most frequent driving behavior resulting in accidents is distracted driving. In fact, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 25 percent of all crashes happen because a driver was using their cell phone (either talking or texting) while they were operating their vehicle, instead of keeping their entire focus on the road.

    Unfortunately, even if a vehicle is equipped with the latest safety technology, there is just so much protection these systems offer if the driver is engaged in distracted driving behaviors. These technologies also may not protect other commuters if the driver is driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving while fatigued, or speeding. In many of these situations, the result of these bad driving behaviors results in the injury or death of innocent victims.

    Contact a Carolinas Accident Attorney

    If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of another party’s negligent or reckless actions, contact a North Carolina car attorney from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn. It is critical to remember that North Carolina has placed a statute of limitation on how long victims have to file a claim for damages against those responsible for their injuries, so do not delay. Failure to file before that legal deadline could mean you lose any chance of ever filing your claim or getting justice against the person responsible for you or your loved one’s injuries.

    Contact our office today at 800-752-0042 to set up a free and confidential case evaluation with one of our dedicated North Carolina accident attorneys. As mentioned above, you may be entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, permanent disability, scarring, and disfigurement. Call our office to find out how we can help.


  • What Is Loss of Consortium in a Personal Injury Case?

    If your loved one is seriously injured or killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, your life and your family’s life will be changed forever. The love and support – both emotional and financial – that your loved one provided will be missed by you and your family. In legal terms, this is referred to as loss of consortium.

    If your family is facing this issue, the legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can help you pursue for financial justice for the loss of consortium. Although the law understands that nothing will ever replace that love and support your loved one provided, it provides a vehicle where the at-fault party is liable for that loss and must compensate victims’ families.

    History of Loss of Consortium

    For centuries, women were not considered individuals, but instead considered the property of their husbands. If something happened to the wife and she was unable to perform her domestic duties, perform her “wifely duties” in the bedroom, or was otherwise left permanently disabled, her husband could collect financial compensation for the loss of consortium he was suffering. As society began to recognize that women and men were equal, the laws were expanded to now allow wives to collect loss of consortium if their husbands were injured and killed. However, there are still some states (Virginia, for example) that do not recognize loss of consortium at all, no matter which spouse tries to collect.

    An example of a possible loss of consortium claim is as follows: A husband is left paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. The accident was caused by another driver running a red light and hitting the victim’s bike. Even more tragic, the husband was a construction worker and is now unable to work at his profession any longer. The husband can file a motorcycle accident claim against the driver to collect compensation for all the losses he is suffering because of the accident.

    However, his wife can also pursue damages for loss of consortium because of the impact the husband’s injury has on their marriage. The husband is unable to do many of the household and childcare chores he could before the accident because of the limitations his paralysis has put on his life. The couple’s intimate life has also been severely impacted because of the husband’s injuries.

    Some of the damages a spouse can be awarded for loss of consortium include:

    • Loss of the injured spouse’s income
    • Loss of the injured spouse’s affection and sexual relationship
    • Loss of the services the injured spouse provided, such as childcare, meal preparation, cleaning, home maintenance
    • Emotional distress

    Proving Loss of Consortium

    When a person files a personal injury case, proving what the economic losses are can be easier than proving what non-economic losses are. Economic damages – such as medical expenses and lost wages – have a specific dollar amount attached to them. Non-economic damages do not have specific dollar amounts. Instead, the attorney representing the victim and their family must use several factors to calculate what dollar amount the noneconomic damages are worth.

    Loss of consortium falls under the non-economic damage category. In order to prove loss of consortium, a spouse must be ready to share personal aspects of their marriage in order to prove how the victim spouse’s injuries have affected their relationship. This is why it is critical to work with an attorney who you trust and feel comfortable with sharing this information with.

    Some of the factors a judge or jury will consider when deciding whether the spouse has suffered loss of consortium include:

    • Whether the marriage was a loving and stable one
    • What the living arrangements of the couple were
    • How much companionship and care the injured spouse provided to the spouse claiming loss of consortium
    • The life expectancy of the spouse filing the claim of loss of consortium

    Contact a Carolina Injury Attorney Today

    If you have been injured in an incident caused by the negligence of another party, a North Carolina personal injury attorney can evaluate your case to see what damages you may be entitled to and what the best course of action is to obtain those damages.

    At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have been fighting for injured victims and their families for more than three decades and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. Call our office today for a free consultation.


  • Frequently Asked Questions About Motorcycle Accidents

    Although there are more car accidents than motorcycle accidents each year, the percentage of motorcycle accidents compared to how many motorcycles are on the road is significantly higher. Motorcycle deaths occur 28 times more often than they do for passenger vehicle crashes based on per mile traveled. According to federal statistics, there are approximately 5,000 people killed every year in motorcycle crashes. This represents about 15 percent of all motor vehicle-related deaths each year.

    If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with one of our motorcycle accident attorneys to find out what legal options you may have. In the meantime, the following are some frequently asked questions regarding motorcycle accidents.

    Who is more at risk of being in a motorcycle accident?

    According to a Brown University study, older riders appear to be more at risk for injuries in motorcycle accidents. Researches cite the decline in reaction time and vision as one reason for the higher risks. They also found that older riders tend to ride larger-sized motorcycles, which also tend to roll over more frequently than smaller bikes.

    Are certain styles of motorcycles that have higher collision losses than other styles?

    According to a report issued by the Highway Loss Data Institute, supersport motorcycles have higher collision losses compared to nine other types of motorcycle classes. The report covered a four-year time period and showed that the overall losses for supersport models indexed at 352, while the average for the nine other styles indexed at 100.

    What are the overall economic losses caused by motorcycle accidents?

    According to a study conducted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), motorcycle accidents cost approximately $16 billion every year in emergency services, medical expenses, property damage, loss in household productivity, loss of market productivity, and insurance costs. Market productivity produces the largest cost (at 44 percent), followed by medical costs (at 18 percent).

    What safety steps can motorcyclists take to help prevent injuries?

    One of the most important safety steps motorcycle riders can take is always wear a helmet, even if you are riding in a state that doesn’t have a helmet law. (Virginia law requires all motorcycle riders wear helmets).

    According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in one year, motorcycle helmets prevented the deaths of 1,172 riders. In that same year, the NHTSA estimates that another 740 riders who died in motorcycle crashes would have survived the crash if they had been wearing helmets.

    What steps should a motorcycle accident victim take immediately following a crash?

    Even if a victim believes their injuries are minor ones, they should still seek medical attention right away. It is not uncommon for serious injuries to have delayed symptoms. These injuries include brain injuries, injury to organs or other internal injuries can have no symptoms until the situation becomes dangerous. Once you have seen a medical professional, you should then consult with a seasoned Virginia motorcycle accident attorney.

    Although it is not required for a victim to retain the services of a motorcycle accident attorney, the reality is that victims are more likely to obtain fair and just financial compensation if they have a seasoned legal professional advocating for them.

    Contact a Skilled Virginia Injury Attorney Today

    Some of the most frequent injuries that clients of a Virginia motorcycle accident attorney suffer include brain injuries, broken bones, paralysis, and spinal trauma. Our accident attorneys understand that the injuries motorcycle accident victims sustain often leave them with permanent disabilities that not only create physical limitations but also result in significant financial losses.

    If you or a loved one were injured in a motorcycle accident this year, it is critical not to delay contacting the legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn because Virginia injury laws have strict rules regarding how long you have to file your personal injury claim. If the statute of limitations expires, you will be unable to collect financial damages for any medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, or any other losses you or your family may be entitled to. 




  • Can a Passenger in a Car Accident Recover Compensation?

    When many people think of injured car accident victims, they often picture the driver of a vehicle as the injured victim who then files a car accident lawsuit against the driver in the other vehicle. However, many injured car crash victims are passengers in vehicles. A passenger can suffer catastrophic injuries and in certain types of accidents can suffer more severe injuries than the driver.

    A passenger in a vehicle who is injured in a crash may be able to recover financial compensation from the driver who caused the accident, no matter who the at-fault driver was. The following is a brief overview of what steps an injured passenger can take. For more detailed information, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with one of our seasoned car accident attorneys.

    Determining Fault in a Crash when the Passenger Is the Victim

    There are a few possibilities of who the at-fault driver is when a passenger is injured in a crash. It may be the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident or it could be the driver of the vehicle that the passenger was riding in. Sometimes, there is more than one party who is at fault and both drivers may hold some percentage of liability.

    Many times, an injured passenger hesitates to file a car accident claim against the at-fault driver of the vehicle they were in because the driver is a loved one or friend. For any victim in this situation, it is critical to remember that a car accident claim is not an aggressive act against the at-fault driver. The claim the victim files is actually against the driver’s insurance company and not against the driver. No matter what the relationship with the at-fault driver, a victim deserves financial compensation for the losses their injuries cause them to suffer and Virginia law allows them to obtain that compensation.

    Pursuing for Damages for Car Accident Injuries

    In order to be successful in obtaining damages for car accident injuries, a victim and their car accident attorney will need to prove two main elements of their case, liability and damages. There are many acts and behaviors of a driver that can cause a crash which they can be held liable for. Some of the more common of these include:

    • Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
    • Using a cell phone while driving (talking, texting, social media, etc.)
    • Driving recklessly
    • Fatigued driving
    • Speeding
    • Ignoring traffic signals/signs

    One a the at-fault’s driver’s liability has been proven, the next step is to determine what the victim’s damages are. There are three types of damages a victim can suffer, economic, non-economic, and punitive.

    Compensation for economic damages covers past and future medical bills for the treatment of injuries sustained in the accident, wages lost while the victim was recovering from the crash, loss of future earnings due to a disability that leaves the victim unable to return to their old job, and property damage.

    Compensation for non-economic damages covers physical and emotional pain and suffering. The amount of these damages is based on the severity of the discomfort and anguish the victim experiences.

    Economic and noneconomic damages are referred to as compensatory damages because they are meant to “compensate” the victim for the losses their injuries have caused them. Economic damages have a tangible dollar amount that determines their total. Noneconomic damages do not have a tangible dollar amount and are either agreed upon by during settlement negotiations or are determined by the jury if the case goes to litigation.

    Punitive damages are not compensatory but are instead what their name implies – they are meant to “punish” the at-fault party because their behavior or actions that caused the accident was so egregious. One of the most common types of car accident cases where punitive damages are awarded to the victim is in drunk driving crashes.

    Speak to a Virginia Car Accident Attorney

    All car accidents have the potential to permanently change the trajectory of a person’s life. If you suffered injuries in a car accident, and need compensation to find some amount of recovery, talk to a Virginia car accident attorney from Shapiro & Appleton to find out all your legal options.

    Car accident injuries should not be ignored, and you deserve compensation for your suffering. Our firm has more than three decades of experience successfully advocating for injured victims and their families and will work diligently to get you the financial compensation you deserve.


  • If a victim settles a medical malpractice case, can the case be reopened at a later date?

    A malpractice lawsuit is a civil action. With any civil case, once the victim (plaintiff) settles, they are required to sign a release in which they agree to give up any future legal action. Since it is not possible to reopen a malpractice case once it is settled, a victim should never agree to any settlement offer without first consulting with a medical malpractice attorney.

  • What is informed consent in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

    Before a patient undergoes a medical procedure or treatment, their doctor is required to advise the patient of all potential outcomes, including any potential negative outcomes, such as complications or side effects the patient may suffer. This is known as informed consent. If the doctor fails to provide informed consent and the patient suffers an injury or illness as a result of the treatment they would not have agreed to had they known of potential dangers, the patient could have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

  • What does preponderance of the evidence in a medical malpractice lawsuit mean?

    Preponderance of evidence is the burden of proof or legal standard required in order to win the lawsuit. In order to meet the preponderance of the evidence standard, a malpractice attorney must prove that the malpractice is more likely to have occurred than not to have occurred.