Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

Auto Accident

If someone caused a car accident that injured you or someone you love, you could obtain compensation from them. In most cases, insurance covers car accidents, and your attorney will first file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.

However, Virginia does not require drivers to maintain auto insurance, which means you may have to sue the at-fault driver in court. Even with insurance, situations may arise where you need to take your case to trial and sue the insurance company to get the compensation you deserve.

Either way, you have every right to sue for damages in Virginia following a car accident someone else caused, but you need to understand what the process involves so you know what to expect. You also need to consult an experienced Virginia car accident injury attorney immediately for help.

Liability Insurance Limits Exceeded

Liability Insurance Limits ExceededUnlike most other states, Virginia does not require drivers to carry auto insurance on their vehicles. In fact, the state allows drivers to pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle (UMV) fee to drive their cars without insurance. The $500 fee does not offer any insurance protection, and drivers who choose not to carry insurance understand they do so at their own risk.

If you choose to carry auto insurance, you must obtain a minimum level of liability coverage. Liability insurance protects you from lawsuits if you cause an accident, and it covers damages to other people’s cars and property and any injuries other drivers and passengers sustained in the accident.

Virginia requires all insured drivers to carry the following minimum liability insurance limits for policies effective from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2024:

  • $30,000 for injury or death of one person
  • $60,000 for injury or death of two or more people
  • $20,000 for property damage

Policies effective before January 1, 2022, have lower limits for injury and death at $25,000 per person, and limits will increase to $50,000 per person and $25,000 property damage for policies effective on or after January 1, 2025. Drivers may buy additional coverage, and many insurance experts recommend you have $1 million liability coverage on your vehicle to ensure you have enough to cover any claims that arise.

Although liability insurance covers injuries you suffered in the accident, it will only cover up to the policy amount. If the cost of your injuries exceeds the policy limit, you may have to sue the at-fault driver to get compensation for the remaining amount.

For instance, if the driver who hit you had only the minimum liability coverage, their insurance company would pay you $30,000 for your injuries and another $20,000 to replace or repair your car. If the cost of your injuries was $50,000, and the cost to replace your car was $40,000, you would essentially be out for $40,000 total, and you may have to take the person to court to get the money.

No Insurance

If the driver who caused your injuries does not have car insurance, you may only have two choices:

  1. File a claim with your own insurance company. Since the state does not require drivers to carry auto insurance if they pay the $500 no-insurance fee, Virginia requires insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist protection to their policyholders. You can also obtain additional coverage under your own policy for personal injury protection, or MedPay in Virginia. These coverages are optional but will kick in if an uninsured driver hits you to help cover your medical and property damage expenses. They also cover hit-and-run scenarios.
  2. File a lawsuit against the at-fault party. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or it doesn’t cover your losses, you may have to take the person to court and sue for damages. Although the court may award you money, the defendant may have no way to pay, and their lawyers will likely appeal. Unfortunately, filing suit against an individual is no guarantee you will see any money.

If the person was driving a company car or was making deliveries, for instance, you may also obtain compensation through the company’s insurance company. Obtaining compensation when drivers do not have insurance can be extremely challenging, and you need to speak with an attorney right away about your situation.

Suing the Car Insurance Company

If the driver who caused your injuries had auto insurance, your lawyer will file an injury claim with their insurance company. When they file your claim, your attorney will also include a demand letter that details your injury and its related expenses, and they will provide a settlement amount the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court.

After receiving your claim, the insurance company will schedule an adjuster to investigate your case and determine whether the policy covers your injury and how much, if anything, the insurance company will pay. In the best-case scenario, they will accept your claim without dispute and pay you the money you asked for but this is far from the norm.

The Insurance company will likely respond with a lower settlement amount, or they may dispute your claim and refuse to cover certain costs related to your injury. They may also deny your claim altogether.

Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a higher settlement, or they will wrangle with the insurance company to make them honor your claim and help you get the maximum amount. If settlement negotiations break down or the insurance company denies your claim and refuses to budge, you will have to take them to court to get what you deserve.

File Your Lawsuit Soon

Walter Emroch - Virginia Attorney for Car Accidents
Walter H Emroch, Car Accident Attorney

Virginia gives you five years from the date of your injury to file your lawsuit in civil court. After that, the court will likely dismiss your case, and you will not be able to obtain compensation.

As your attorney prepares your case for trial, they will have to gather a lot of evidence to prove the other party was responsible for your injury. You have no time to waste, and your attorney should file suit with the court when they submit your claim to the insurance company.

You want to present the most compelling case possible to sway the jury or judge’s decision in your favor. To increase your chances for success, and to obtain a complete and objective review of your injury claim, you need to consult a Virginia personal injury law firm‘s attorney as soon as possible.