Your mother was visiting and you took her for a day out at Croatan Beach to relax and enjoy the sun. It was a great afternoon, with plenty of rays and strolls. You didn't want it to end, but it was getting late and you had to get home. Unfortunately, just getting out of the parking area proved a challenge today, as a lost tourist rear-ended you while checking out his map app.
What happens now? What do you do? Here is some basic information to help you navigate through your car accident in Virginia Beach.
Make Sure To Stop
In general, Virginia law requires that in any accident involving injury, death or damage to attended property that you immediately stop, render reasonable assistance to any injured party and provide your name, address, driver's license number and vehicle registration number. Failure to comply with this law can be considered a Class 5 felony and if the driver fails to comply, passengers 16-years-old and older have a duty to report it within 24 hours to the Virginia State Police or the Virginia Beach Police Department.
Even if you strike an unattended vehicle or property, you are still required to leave a note and make a report to the state or city police within 24 hours. So whatever the scenario, after any accident, make sure to stop, check whether anyone is hurt, and provide the required information.
Provided that all medical needs are taken care of, it is also a good idea to start collecting evidence and information after the accident. This can include things like taking pictures, jotting down notes and getting contact information from any witnesses. Make sure you get the other driver's name, address, driver's license and registration number as well. Because nerves are usually frayed following an accident, here is a printable guide to first steps following an accident (PDF).
Who Is At Fault?
Generally in a car accident, one party claims that the other acted negligently. To act negligently is basically to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident.
Sometimes both parties to an accident act negligently. In most states, being negligent yourself is not a complete bar to pursuing an action against the other party. Virginia, however, is one of the few states that still adheres to the principle of pure contributory negligence. In Virginia Beach and the rest of the state, if you are even 1% at fault you are barred from bringing an action.
It is a good idea to at least consult with an attorney, particularly before you give recorded statements or sign any waivers. An experienced lawyer can help you determine whether you have a good legal claim and in most cases, the initial meeting is free of charge. Check out the FindLaw section on Car Accident Legal Help for tips on what to look for in a lawyer, an explanation of the most common legal fee arrangements and more.
Make sure not to wait too long. The statute of limitations (or timeframe within which you must file your lawsuit) for a personal injury action in Virginia Beach is 2 years.
Dealing With Insurance
You are not required to have car insurance in Virginia Beach, but if you do, you must carry at the following minimum levels: $25,000 for bodily injury/death to one person, $50,000 for bodily injury/death to more than one person, and $20,000 for property damage. Refer to this summary by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for more information. Keep in mind that if you do not have insurance, you must pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee.
If you have insurance, you should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you can after the accident. Cooperate and be truthful with them, but remember that you don't have to agree with everything they propose. Here is a helpful list of Car Insurance Claims Dos and Don'ts that may provide some more information. If you find that you need to file a complaint, you may do so through the Bureau of Insurance.
There are a variety of damages you can claim for your car accident injuries, including lost wages, medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering. In some cases your spouse may even have a claim for loss of affection and, if there is a death, the surviving family members may bring a wrongful death action.
Check out this FindLaw section on Car Accident Damages for more detailed information.