Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia Personal Injury Law

We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions and answers on a broad range of Virginia personal injury and wrongful death topics. Take some time to get informed on personal injury law, railroad worker injury law, and more by browsing our FAQs.
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  • What is surveillance, and how can it affect my personal injury claim?

    The insurance company may put you under surveillance after you file a personal injury claim. In most cases, this will involve a company employee or private investigator filming outside your house or near your place of work. Such surveillance is legal as long as it is done while the person being surveilled is in a public area.

    Camera and audio recording technology has advanced to the point that surveillance can happen practically anywhere and at any distance. Even camera drones have been used by insurance companies. For this reason, no one who has filed a personal injury claim following a car or truck crash, slip and fall, incidence of medical malpractice, or use of a dangerous or defective product should assume they are not being watched and recorded some of the time.

    Insurance companies conduct surveillance in order to collect evidence they can use to support decisions to deny claims or offer low settlement amounts. For instance, an insurance claims adjuster might refer to a video of the injury victim playing with their children or gardening as “proof” that injuries were not serious or never occurred at all.

    If you suspect you are being watched and recorded by someone who was hired by the insurance company, try to identify the people conducting the surveillance. Do this nonconfrontationally. Take pictures unobtrusively and write down license plate numbers; do not approach or threaten the people you think are staking you out.

    Share the videos, pictures and other information with your personal injury attorney. The lawyer can then take more formal steps to confirm whether surveillance is being conducted and to determine who is paying for it.

    Once a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the injury victim and their lawyer can request copies of surveillance footage compiled by the insurance company. The judge overseeing the case will decide exactly how much material the insurance company must hand over, but some of the footage should be made available for review. At a minimum, the personal injury lawyer and their client will have access to videos the insurance company plans to introduce as evidence during trial.

    Viewing surveillance footage during the pretrial discovery period allows the plaintiff and their lawyer to ensure everything the insurance company wants to argue is true. Questions to ask while reviewing videos range from whether the injury victim is actually the person being shown in the recording to whether edits have been made to give a misleading account of what actually happened.



  • 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.


  • How often does a drugged driving crash occur?

    It is difficult to determine just how many car accidents are caused by a drugged driver. This is because:

    • Unlike testing for alcohol at the scene, there is no roadside test that has been developed that can accurately measure drug levels in a driver’s system.
    • Some drugs stay in a user’s system for days or weeks and this makes it difficult to determine which drug was used prior to the crash and if it had an effect on the driver.
    • If a driver has tested positive for an illegal blood alcohol level, law enforcement usually do not test for drugs since they already have enough evidence for a DUI charge.
    • Many drivers who are at fault for a crash are found to have both alcohol and drugs in their system and it can be difficult to determine which substance had the greatest impact on the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle.

    However, a critical fact provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association is that in one year, approximately 40 percent of drivers killed in car accidents had at least one drug in their system, and half of those drivers tested positive for two or more drugs.

  • How does an attorney in North Carolina prove loss of consortium?

    Your attorney will look at the state of your marriage before and after the injury or death. Some of the areas of most importance are spousal support and enjoyment and household help. It needs to be known how much time you spent together and how often you engaged in sexual relations as well as activities together. Without a close marital bond, pursuing the claim for loss of consortium is difficult.

  • How can it be proven that a distracted driver contributed to my injury?

    As personal injury attorneys in Virginia, we can subpoena cell phone records in a car accident. If we can establish that a driver was illegally using a handheld device when the accident occurred, you could be entitled to compensation.

  • What does Virginia law have to say about distracted driving?

    A new distracted driving law will take effect in Virginia on Jan. 1 2020. The law requires a $125 fine for the first time a driver holds a handheld, personal communication device while driving in the state. This law applies to any road with a speed limit of 35 MPH or higher in the state.

  • How common are fall injuries with children?

    National statistics show that one million children go to the hospital due to injuries suffered in falls. Falls are the top cause of nonfatal injuries for children in America. Many of these accidents are due to property owner negligence.

  • What is a common type of accident involving children that results in many personal injury lawsuits?

    Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for children in the US. Every year, at least 700 children die in car accidents and thousands more are injured. If your child has been hurt in a car accident cause by another driver, you should be certain to talk to a Virginia personal injury attorney right away.

  • How is pain and suffering proven?

    Some of the information that a personal injury attorney will use to prove their client’s pain and suffering includes:

    • Medical Records: If the medical records show the seriousness of the injury, this would be a good way to document the presence of pain and suffering the victim endured.
    • Medical Experts: Using medical experts to testify during a trial is another way to prove pain and suffering. The witness can explain to the jury what kind of physical pain is likely from the types of injuries the victim suffered.
    • Therapist Testimony: If the victim is working with a therapist after the accident, the therapist can testify any emotional issues the victim is having, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.  
    • Family and Friends: Family and friends can also testify about a victim’s emotional state and any lifestyle changes their injuries have caused. They can also confirm any emotional and/or physical changes the victim went through after they were injured.
    Photos, Videos, and Journals: An attorney can also use photos, videos, and social media accounts to show the difference in the victim before and after they were injured. It is also a good idea for victims to keep a journal and write in it daily as to what their pain level is and any emotional issues they felt that day.