Auto Accident Attorneys in Northern Virginia
When we get into our cars, none of us think about getting into an accident. In 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 6 million car accidents in the United States alone, with 116,386 occurring in Virginia. We hope never to be included in these statistics, but sometimes accidents happen. We here at Ashcraft & Gerel believe that every Virginia driver should be aware of the process, rules and legal guidelines involved in the aftermath of a car accident.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia drivers do NOT have to purchase auto insurance by law. However, this is conditional on a payment of $500 to the Virginia Department of motor vehicles. This fee must be paid at the time of car registration and again for each following license renewal. However, this fee is not any form of insurance. If you pay this fee in place of car insurance, you assume the risk of an uninsured vehicle. For those who choose to have car insurance for their vehicles, the state requires minimum coverage in a few areas:
- At least $25,000. This covers any physical injury or death of a single person in case of a car accident.
- At least $50,000. This covers any physical injury or death of two or more people involved in the car accident.
- At least $20,000. This covers any property damage that may have happened during or as a result of the accident. Typically, this goes toward any damage to the vehicle or vehicles involved in an car accident.
These numbers may seem high. And while we hope we will never have to use it, there is a reason the majority of people who drive have insurance: if you are involved in a Virginia car accident, you and the others involved in the accident will be protected by this coverage up to the amount in your policy. Those without insurance in the state of Virginia are personally responsible for any costs from a car accident, often having to pay out of their own pocket.
What Happens After a Virginia Car Accident
- The most important thing to do after a car accident is make sure you and any passengers in your car are physically alright and seek immediate medical attention if necessary.
- Assuming there are no serious injuries requiring immediate medical attention, it is usually a good idea to call the police. This typically helps ensure that insurance information is exchanged between you and the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
After the accident, once you have received any medical attention and exchanged insurance information with the other person or people involved, the process of dealing with insurance companies begins. This can be a complicated and frustrating process. Although people handle insurance companies by themselves, many will hire an attorney to help guide them through the twists and turns of dealing with auto insurance companies. Here is some general information every person involved in a Virginia car accident should know:
1. Giving notice. The state of Virginia has a 2 year statute of limitations to file a car accident claim. The time begins on the date the accident occurs. With that in mind, as soon as possible after the car accident, call the other driver’s insurance company to “give notice,” or inform them that a claim is being filed. If you choose to hire an attorney after this point, he or she will promptly follow this verbal notice with a written letter to the insurance company.
2. Fault. Virginia is what is known as a “Fault” State. In states like this, if you are hurt or your car is at all damaged, you can file a claim with the other driver or driver’s insurance company, assuming that they are at fault. This type of claim is what is known as a “third party claim.” For example, if you are stopped at a red light and are rear ended by a driver or are involved in an accident while driving your car for work or a company vehicle, you would file a claim with the other person’s or your company’s insurance company.
3. Contributory negligence. Virginia is one of the few states that still uses what is known as contributory negligence, also known as comparative fault. In simplest terms, this means that if you are found to be responsible for the accident in anyway, you cannot recover any money by Virginia law. This law can also affect you insurance claim. For example, an adjuster, the insurance company employee who handles accident claims, will use this in settlement negotiations to try and lower the amount of money the insurance company has to pay out. If you choose to file a civil lawsuit in addition to your insurance claim, contributory negligence also applies. If the judge or jury finds the other driver 99% responsible and you only 1% responsible, that 1% will bar you from collecting any money from the insurance company. Because there is no concrete, scientific way to prove or disprove blame, the way to receive insurance money on your car accident claim will typically come down to negotiation between your attorney and the claims adjuster. In the case of a civil lawsuit, the same idea applies.
This is just a brief introduction into the world of Virginia car accidents and insurance companies. There is a lot a red tape to cut through and the task can seem daunting. In Virginia our five car accident attorneys are experts in these matters. Allow us at Ashcraft & Gerel to help guide you through the complexities of your case. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident in the state of Virginia, please, don’t hesitate to contact us by email or call us at 800-829-7037.