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.