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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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.
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.
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.
The person that caused my accident ran from the scene and I didn’t get their information. What can I do?
If you have car insurance yourself, and it is a Virginia policy, then you have something called Uninsured Motorist coverage or (UM) for short. UM coverage is designed to help with this very thing. You should report your accident to your insurance company, and ultimately you will have coverage up to the amount of your UM limits as a source of recovery for your damages.
Who pays for my medical bills that I’ve incurred as a result of the accident?
Your medical bills will always be your responsibility, so if you have health insurance, you should use that insurance when you get medical treatment. If you do not have insurance and cannot pay your bills, you should make arrangements with the medical providers to set up a payment schedule you can afford. We seek reimbursement of any medical bills that you’ve paid, but often times the legal process moves slower than the billing process from the medical providers, so you should not “hold” all medical bills until your case resolves.
I was hurt in an auto accident, but what about my property damage? How is that handled?
Most, if not all major car insurance companies have separate departments for property damage (PD) and bodily injury (BI). You want to make sure you’re talking to the PD adjuster if you have questions about the property damage to your vehicle. Damage estimates are performed by someone from the PD department of an insurance company, usually within the first week after an accident. If you disagree with the determination made by the adjuster as to damage, you have the right to file a lawsuit for whatever you believe the damage estimate should have been, but usually those lawsuits are time consuming and most attorneys do not handle that kind of work on a contingency basis.
What if the defendant was negligent, but I was also contributorily negligent?
You won't like the answer - in Virginia, if a jury finds that both you and the defendant were negligent, you are barred from recovering against the defendant. So, for example, if you were crossing the street when you didn't have the right of way and were hit by a drunk driver, you might be barred from recovering against the drunk driver if a jury determines you contributed to the accident. It's not fair, it's not right, but it's Virginai law.
What should I do if the other driver’s insurance company contacts me?You should not speak to the other driver’s insurance company for any reason. Claims adjusters have extensive training and a set of questions that are designed to illicit responses from an injured victim that often hurts the victim’s claim against the insurance company. In fact, your claim could ultimately be denied because of the way you inadvertently answered the adjustor’s questions.You should never grant an insurance company access to any of your medical records, and never agree to a recorded statement. This is why it is critical to retain a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will handle any and all communication with the other driver’s insurance company.Remember, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interest – they are looking out for theirs. The company is seeking to pay as little out in damages as possible and to settle as quickly as possible, despite what your injuries may be. According to insurance company statistics, when an injured victim hires an attorney, the value of the victim’s claim increases.
How long after a car accident should I contact an attorney?If you’re injured in a car accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney sooner rather than later. Why? Because time is of the essence in terms of preserving vital evidence. If too much time goes by, evidence that proves the other driver’s negligence could potentially be lost, and in many personal injury cases, the statute of limitations for filing your claim is only two years from the date of the accident.It’s important to contact an attorney right away in order for the attorney to:
- Collect evidence, such as obtaining photographs of car damage and/or hazards in the road at the scene of the accident which may or may not have contributed to the incident.
- Track down and interview any and all witnesses to the accident. The sooner this is done, the clearer and more reliable witnesses’ memories are.
- Intervene on your behalf with the other driver’s insurance company. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to pressure victims into settling for much less than what they are entitled to for their injuries and/or property damage.
What should I do if I’m in an auto accident?One of the first things to do is to obtain medical help for yourself and any passengers in your vehicle. If you are physically able, you should then collect the following information from the other driver:
- Their name, address, phone number, and date of birth;
- Their driver’s license number, along with the expiration date;
- Their auto insurance carrier;
- The make, model, and license plate number and expiration. If possible, you should also obtain the vehicle identification number (VIN). All of this information can usually be found on the vehicle’s registration;
- The name, addresses, and phone numbers of any passengers in the other vehicle;
- Try to obtain the names of any and all witnesses to the accident. If a witness will not identify themselves, you can write down their license plate number, which can be traced if their testimony is needed later on; and
- If you have a camera on your cell phone, take photos of the scene, as well as any damage done to all vehicles involved;
- Write down as many details as you can, such as weather conditions, road conditions or construction, etc.