Despite what TV shows and ads may lead you to believe, most car accident cases in Virginia do not go to court. However, this doesn’t mean your case won’t go to trial, and you need to have a car accident attorney prepare your claim thoroughly from the start to show the insurance company you mean business and increase your chances of success.
You should understand the accident claims process and when you may have to take your case to court, and you need to contact an experienced Virginia car accident attorney immediately if someone caused an accident that hurt you or someone you love.
Almost all car accident claims are covered by insurance, and you may obtain the compensation you need by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Unlike most other states, Virginia allows drivers to pay a $500 no-insurance fee to drive their cars without auto insurance. So, there’s a considerable chance you can get into an accident with a driver who does not have car insurance, and you will have to sue them to get the money you need.
Virginia’s Car Accident Injury Claims Process
If you suffered injuries in a car accident in Virginia that someone else caused, you first need to get immediate medical treatment. This is important to ensure you are safe and well, first and foremost, but it also provides documented evidence you sustained injury.
The next important element to your injury claim is to show the other driver caused the accident and your injuries. All injury claims rely on the concepts of causation and liability, so you must establish the other driver’s liability for your injuries by showing how their careless, reckless, or unlawful actions caused you harm.
To prove your injuries and losses and establish the other driver’s liability, your attorney will gather evidence and information from:
- Police and accident reports
- Your medical records, including lab and diagnostic test results
- Videos and photos of the accident scene
- Photographs of your injuries
- Witness statements
- Vehicle damage estimates
- Evidence of missed work, such as pay stubs
Since Virginia is an at-fault state, both sides will investigate the claim and work to determine cause and liability. Many times, those determinations rely on interpretations of facts and evidence, and the other driver’s insurance company will likely dispute your attorney’s determinations, and vice versa.
Regardless, your attorney will submit a demand letter to the insurance company when they file your claim. The letter will specify your injuries and provide evidence as to the other driver’s liability. It will also include a settlement amount the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court.
In most cases, the insurance company will respond with a lower settlement amount, and your car accident attorney will negotiate to get more. Also, the insurance company may claim the policy doesn’t cover your injuries or certain areas of your injuries, such as specialized testing or accommodations. Your attorney may have to fight to get them to honor your claim, and they may have to submit even more evidence and documentation.
Settlement negotiations can take many weeks or several months, but once you settle the dispute, the agreement will be legally binding, and you will have to sign a release promising you won’t pursue additional compensation in the future. Therefore, you should never accept an initial or low settlement offer, and your attorney should always fight to get you the most allowed under the law.
When You May Have to Go to Court
If you are dealing with an insurance company regarding your claim, you may have to sue them to get the money you deserve if:
- The insurance company denies your claim and refuses to negotiate
- Negotiations break down and you cannot settle the dispute
You may also have to take the insurance company to court if they fail to honor the settlement agreement or act in bad faith regarding your claim.
If you are dealing with a driver who did not have car insurance, you will have to take them to court and sue for damages. However, even if you win your case, the defendant may have no way to pay, and you may have a hard time collecting the money. Also, their lawyers will likely appeal the verdict, and you may not see any money for a long time, if at all.
One safeguard against this scenario is if you carry adequate coverage on your own auto insurance policy. Since Virginia doesn’t legally penalize drivers who pay the no-insurance fee and drive without insurance, the state requires insurance companies to offer uninsured, underinsured, and personal injury protection insurance coverage to their policyholders. These coverages can help offset the out-of-pocket costs you incur because the other driver didn’t have insurance.
If you have proper coverage under your policy, you can file a claim with your insurance company, and they will cover the costs of your medical treatment, lost wages, and other associated expenses. Your insurance company will then try to collect the amount from the defendant.
When Should I File a Car Accident Injury Claim?
Your attorney needs to submit your injury claim to the other driver’s insurance company as soon as possible. Some insurance companies have strict deadlines of 30 days from the date of the accident, so you have no time to spare.
Your attorney should also file your lawsuit in civil court when they file your claim with the insurance company. Virginia allows you five years from your injury to file your lawsuit in civil court. The sooner you get on the court’s docket, the better.
Whether your case ever makes it to trial, you want to have your attorney file your claim in court to have a record on file. This will also show the insurance company you have a viable claim, which can help with getting a favorable settlement and check quicker. Through all stages of the process, you need an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney on your side to improve your odds and do the hard work for you.