Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in Virginia, which makes familiarity with Virginia car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what you need to know about Virginia car accidents, including what to do after an accident and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.
What Should You Do After an Accident in Virginia?
Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:
- Don't leave the scene; leaving the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
- Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
- Call the Virginia highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police or accident report
- Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
- Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security camera footage, if applicable
- Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
- Get checked out by a doctor
You can and should consider doing all of this before you think about bringing a personal injury lawsuit.
Virginia Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance
Check out the table below for more information on Virginia Car Accident Compensation Laws:
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Proving Fault: “At Fault" and “Pure Contributory Negligence" Laws
Recovering damages for injuries sustained in a car accident in Virginia is not as easy as in many other states. First, you must prove that the other driver was "at fault," or responsible, for your injuries. Second, you must prove that the driver responsible was 100% at fault. In other words, Virginia employs the pure contributory negligence rule which dictates that you can only receive damages if the court finds that you were in no way responsible for the car accident. This is a much stricter rule than the comparative negligence rule that exists in most states.
Damage Types Allowed in Virginia
In estimating your total damages suffered in a car accident, keep in mind that you can often recover for economic and non-economic damages. Economic recovery includes out-of-pocket expenses such as car repairs, medical bills, and lost wages from time unable to work. Non-economic recovery is tougher to estimate, but pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are all potentially recoverable.
Damages from a car accident might include:
- Car repairs
- Medication co-pays
- Doctor visits
- Lost wages
In rare cases, punitive damages may be available. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for wrongdoing, such as driving intoxicated.
Damage Caps in Virginia
Most states impose time limits on how long you can wait before filing a claim, and Virginia is no different. With only two years to file most personal injury claims, Virginia's statute of limitations does not let you waste any time. However, the time limit is five years for personal injuries to an infant and for personal property damage claims.
Virginia has instituted multiple damages caps that may limit the damages recoverable in your case. If punitive damages are available in your case, Virginia imposes a limit of $350,000 on punitive damage awards. If a Commonwealth employee is the party at fault, Virginia limits the liability of Commonwealth employees to the greater of $100,000 or the maximum of any applicable liability insurance policy. Finally, if your car accident involved the willful or malicious damage of public or private property by a minor, you will only be able to recover up to $2,500 from that minor's parents.
An interesting twist is that Virginia specifically protects against Insurance companies denying claims in bad faith. If your insurance company denies you a comparable rental car while your car is being repaired, your insurance company may owe you the greater amount of $500 or double the cost of a comparable rental car. If your insurance company denies in bad faith a claim of $3,500 or less in excess of the deductible, the court may award you double the amount due plus reasonable attorney's fees and expenses.
Learn More About Virginia Car Accident Compensation Laws from a Lawyer
Car accidents may be common, but that doesn't make them any less stressful. You should speak to a skilled car accident attorney in Virginia to determine if you may be able to recover for your injuries. Many personal injury lawyers experienced in car accidents offer free initial consultations and can help you better understand your legal rights. Again, keep in mind that you should act promptly because of the time limit.