Common Questions About Personal Injury, Family Law, and Criminal Defense in Virginia
Do you have questions about how Virginia laws apply to your situation or what you can do to reach your legal goals after an accident, arrest, or divorce? Our experienced attorneys in Fairfax answer some of the most frequently asked questions from clients here. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, or if you need more information about your rights, reach out to us today at 877-652-1553.
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What happens if I’m the victim of a road rage accident with an aggressive driver?
Most drivers have seen aggressive drivers on the road. Aggressive driving is any behavior that is intended to harass, intimidate, or injure another driver. Aggressive driving can become even more dangerous with the driver exhibits “road rage” which is considered a serious criminal matter because the driver who is overcome by road rage ultimately hurts someone else. That driver may wield a weapon, run into the other driver’s car, or try to corner the other driver by jumping out of his car to physically confront him.
If you suffer an injury in an accident with an aggressive driving or someone engaging in road rage, they may face criminal charges. You may also file a civil case against the driver to recover damages.
Behaviors That Constitute Reckless or Aggressive Driving in Virginia
Most people know the signs of reckless or aggressive driving. These include:
- Following too closely (tailgating)
- Failing to stop or yield the right-of-way when appropriate
- Driving outside of marked lanes
- Making unsafe lane changes
- Cutting off other drivers or preventing them from entering the roadway
- Passing illegally
Aggressive driving with the intent to injure another driver is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. Penalties can include fines and jail time (no longer than 12 months). If no one is injured in an aggressive driving incident, the charge might be a Class 2 misdemeanor. Offenders may also be required to participate in an aggressive driving program.
Filing a Civil Claim After a Road Rage Accident
Whether or not the at-fault driver is been charged with a misdemeanor in an aggressive driving incident, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit if you suffered injuries during the accident. You will have to show that the other driver violated one or more of the offenses listed in the Virginia Code, and the driver had the intent to harass, intimidate, or injure another person.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Your chances of making a fair recovery of damages after a road rage accident is better with the help of an experienced lawyer. Your lawyer can help deal with the complexities of a complicated aggressive driving case, including police investigators, eyewitnesses, insurance companies, medical expenses, and in some cases, wrongful death.
Please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights and to discuss the details of your case.
Does Virginia place a cap on car accident damages?
If you are injured because of a car crash that involved someone else’s negligence, suing the other driver can help cover your costs for mounting medical bills and lost income. In the state of Virginia, however, a damage cap may place a limit on how much you can recover.
The Definition of a Damage Cap
When you sue someone after being injured in a car accident, you are usually seeking compensation for economic and non-economic damages. With a damage cap, this will limit the amount of money you’re awarded. Damage caps are put in place to avoid large-payout verdicts that jurors sometimes make based on emotion and negatively impact the economy.
In Virginia, certain damage caps may limit the amount of compensation you can recover in your case. If punitive damages are a consideration in your situation (which happens only in rare cases), this means the at-fault driver is found to have acted in a reckless or outrageous way that is deserving of punishment. Damages are capped at $350,000. If your accident involved a minor who damaged your property, you will only be able to collect $2,500 from their parents.
Types of Damages You Might Get in a Car Accident Case
Some of the economic damages you might be able to recover include:
- Cost for car repairs
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages can be tougher to estimate, and these can include pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
The best way to ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your damages is to work with an experienced car accident attorney.
Our Fairfax Car Accident Lawyers Can Help With Your Injury Case
Virginia is one of a few states that applies a standard known as “contributory negligence.” This means that accident injury victims who are found to have contributed to the accident in any way—even if they are deemed just one percent at fault—they may not be able to recover damages. It’s crucial that you work with an attorney who has experience with this type of challenging case. Contact the law firm of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Will I owe federal taxes on my personal injury settlement or verdict?
If you receive a settlement for your personal injury lawsuit, it’s likely you won’t have to pay federal taxes on the amount. However, there are exceptions, and it’s important to know the factors that affect whether or not you’ll have to pay.
After You Get a Personal Injury Settlement
Once you get your settlement amount, your lawyer will deduct legal fees from the full amount, leaving you with the rest. In general, neither the federal government nor the state of Virginia will be able to collect any proceeds that you received in your personal injury lawsuit that compensate you for physical injuries. This includes damages that compensated you for lost income at work, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. These are called compensatory damages.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. If you received punitive damages, this amount will be taxable. In addition, if you have a claim for emotional distress or employment discrimination but did not suffer an actual physical injury as a result, this settlement amount will likely be taxable. Insurance companies typically cut one settlement check, which will not account for the different types of damages.
Work With a Tax Professional
When it comes to questions about taxes or dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, it’s always best to contact a tax professional. The federal government will have access to your settlement information, and the insurance company will likely submit a 1099 form to report the amount of compensation you received. Every personal injury settlement is different, so you will need to get advice on yours from a qualified tax professional to determine if any taxes will be due.
Call Us for Help
Have you been injured because of another person’s negligence? Please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights and to discuss the actions we can take on your behalf to recover the damages you deserve. Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you won’t owe us any upfront legal fees. We don’t get paid until you do. To learn more, please contact us here.
How does a medical lien affect my car accident claim?
A lien is a security interest placed by one party against another party’s property. For example, if you borrow money to buy a car, the bank places a lien on the title until the loan is paid in full. This means, you cannot sell the car until you’ve paid off the loan and the bank releases the lien.
Medical liens are similar, but instead of loaning money, medical care providers treat an injured party without getting paid right away, retaining the right to be paid for those services with a lien. The lien in this case is against the settlement money from your personal injury case. A healthcare provider agrees to treat you in exchange for your agreement to pay the provider once your personal injury claim has been resolved.
Medical Liens Make Personal Injury Claims More Complicated
This type of a lien is often unavoidable because injured people need immediate treatment, and that treatment is often expensive. Incurring a lien on a personal injury claim makes resolving your personal injury claim a bit more complicated. The final lien amount has to be double-checked to ensure it covers only treatment that was related to the accident.
There may be room for negotiation of the final amount owed if the claim amount is insufficient to fully compensate you for your injuries. In most situations, a personal injury attorney will try to negotiate with healthcare providers to get them to accept less than the amount of the lien.
Call Us for Help
Lien law is extremely complicated, and most people will find it difficult to navigate without the assistance of an attorney. Please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights and to discuss the actions we can take on your behalf to protect the recovery you deserve. We work on a contingency fee basis. This means, you won’t owe us any upfront legal fees, and we will be paid when your case is settled or resolved in court. To learn more, please call, or contact us through our website.
If I don’t have health insurance, can I get medical help after a pedestrian accident?
If you are a pedestrian injured in an accident and you have no health insurance, you may wonder how you can get the medical treatment you need and who will pay for it. You may also wonder why the person who was responsible for your injuries isn’t required to pay for your medical care. However, the only thing the law requires is that the at-fault party pay any damages you are owed as a result of a lawsuit.
Options for Covering Medical Bills
Even if you do not have health insurance, it’s crucial that you get medical treatment after you’ve been injured in a crash. This creates documentation of your injuries, which will be useful when filing auto insurance or other claims.
There may be options available for you to get at least some of your medical bills paid, including:
- Medicaid coverage. This is a federal health insurance program that provides insurance to low-income recipients. If you are injured in an accident and lose your job because of your injuries, you might qualify for Medicaid. Go to your state’s website to find out if you are eligible.
- A payment plan arranged with healthcare providers. Some doctors who treat accident victims with no health insurance are willing to work out a payment plan. Some providers might agree to treatment based on getting paid out of the victim’s settlement. The providers will have to sign a personal injury lien, which will be sent to the victim’s lawyer. The lawyer will pay the healthcare providers before the victim gets any money from the case.
- Your own automobile insurance. Even if you were not driving when the accident occurred, you might still be able to collect from your own automobile insurance policy.
- Filing a case against the negligent driver. If you were injured in a pedestrian accident and you believe that you were not at fault, you should meet with an experienced attorney to help build a strong case, so you can get the compensation you deserve.
To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online. All personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. We collect no fee unless we secure compensation for you.
What biases do people have against motorcyclists?
Motorcyclists face unique challenges if they are involved in an accident while riding their cycles. One of those challenges is the bias people have about motorcyclists in general. Law enforcement, insurance companies, and those who witnessed the accident often stereotype bikers, assuming they behave in a careless manner, are reckless, and are irresponsible on the road. These prejudices can affect your claim and your ability to obtain fair compensation.
Reasons Behind Motorcyclist Bias in VA
There are certainly many factors that contribute to the bias against motorcyclists, but some of the most common include:
- Pop culture. In movies and tv shows, people on motorcycles are often considered “bad boys.” In the media, motorcyclists are typically portrayed as those who are wild and like to break the rules and push limits. No matter how untrue, these pervasive images have been shown to the public for a long time.
- Road ownership. Everyone likes to have their own personal space, and this can include space on the road. Other drivers can be irritated or even resentful when they see a motorcyclist near “their” space. Additionally, they may be intimidated by a group of motorcyclists riding together and taking up long stretches of road, even when these groups are abiding by the law and riding safely.
- Nervousness. Motorcycles can navigate the road much more easily than a car, especially when there is traffic congestion. Motorcyclists moving through stalled traffic can make other drivers feel nervous, especially if the driver is worried about visibility or has had a close call with a motorcycle in the past.
How Motorcyclist Bias Can Affect an Accident Claim
Bias against motorcyclists can have a negative impact on a motorcycle crash claim. The bias can make others quick to judge and blame the motorcyclist for a crash, even when it wasn’t the motorcyclist’s fault. Because other drivers, witnesses, and even law enforcement may view a motorcyclist as reckless, this bias can lead to:
- Added liability. In an accident claim, determining liability is extremely important. This is especially true in Virginia, which follows contributory negligence rules. This means, if a crash victim is to blame for an accident in any way, he will be unable to obtain any compensation. For motorcyclists, this can be a significant concern, as it is common for others to assume the biker played at least some role in causing the crash. Motorcyclists may find themselves facing blame that drivers of other types of vehicles would not.
- Lower settlement offers. Insurance companies know this bias exists, and they will use that knowledge to offer a low settlement. They may hope that the fear of this prejudice will keep motorcyclists away from pursuing a claim or from enlisting the help of an attorney.
- Reduced damages compensation. Similarly, it may be the case that a judge or jury awards a motorcyclist less compensation than deserved. They, too, may give in to false ideas of a motorcyclist’s careless, unsafe behavior.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, the attorneys at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty, & Joshi, PLLC will review your case and discuss how bias may influence it. Our legal team has helped many motorcyclists address this unfair prejudice to obtain the compensation they needed to recover as fully as possible after a crash. Call our Fairfax office, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about how we may be able to help.
Can I get compensation for PTSD after a car accident?
Car accident victims can suffer a wide variety of injuries in a crash. Physical injuries may be fairly easy to diagnose; however, for victims and their families, there may be emotional consequences that can be more difficult to identify. While not as tangible as a physical injury, the stress, worry, and depression that victims face are just as real. Emotional trauma can have a significant impact on daily life, and victims deserve care and compensation for these injuries just as they would any medical condition. It’s not uncommon for an accident victim to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can be experienced by a person who has witnessed or been involved in a traumatic event, including a serious car accident. Symptoms of PTSD can begin soon after the triggering event or may not appear for years. Commonly, these symptoms include:
- Intrusive memories. These memories can occur as upsetting nightmares or simply unwanted, pervasive thoughts related to the accident.
- Avoidance. Accident victims may try to avoid people or places that remind them of the accident. Others may try not to feel anything at all—a behavior referred to as emotional numbing.
- Negative thoughts. These negative changes can manifest as hopelessness, lack of interest in typical activities, feelings of detachment, memory changes, and negative thoughts about oneself or others.
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions. People suffering from PTSD often have trouble controlling their reactions to different situations. This can mean being easily startled or frightened, feeling constant fear, being irritable, having angry outbursts, engaging in dangerous behaviors, and having difficulty concentrating.
Obtaining Compensation When You Suffer From PTSD
Suffering from PTSD can make life extremely difficult. Accident victims who experience PTSD may have trouble maintaining their jobs, and they can require a significant amount of care from a medical professional. This disorder can manifest itself in different ways for different people, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and find the best treatment options for your unique situation.
After a crash, it is possible to obtain compensation for PTSD through a personal injury claim, but victims should know that proving claims of PTSD can be challenging. Victims must show that they truly suffer from this disorder and demonstrate its impact on their lives. Testimony and the opinions of experts in the field would likely be necessary to:
- Prove that the victim does suffer from PTSD specifically
- Prove that the PTSD is, in fact, related directly to the car accident in question
- Explain the prognosis and consequences of the PTSD on the victim’s life both now and likely in the future.
The American Psychological Association names car accidents as one of the leading causes of PTSD in the U.S. Given the extremely personal nature of the disorder, however, it can be difficult to determine how much compensation should be awarded. An experienced attorney can help accident victims and their families understand their rights, as well as prepare a comprehensive claim with ample, effective evidence. Our Fairfax lawyers understand how difficult life can be following a car accident, and we have helped many victims obtain the compensation they need to recover as fully as possible. Call our office today, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about how we may be able to help.
Should I file a wrongful death claim even if the at-fault driver has been charged with a crime?
When a negligent driver is responsible for killing another person, he could be charged with murder or manslaughter and face consequences such as jail time, loss of driving privileges, and fines. Although a successful conviction in the criminal courts may bring a sense of justice or closure for surviving family members, it doesn’t provide compensation for the victim’s family. That’s why the law allows civil charges to be brought against the person responsible.
Understanding a Civil Claim in Virginia
A civil claim is a legal action brought by one person who seeks to hold another person liable for some harmful act. In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members file a suit against the person responsible for the accident. The consequences in a civil case are typically monetary, and the at-fault driver must pay compensation to the victim’s family rather than face jail time.
Why You Should File a Wrongful Death Claim in Civil Court
While the at-fault driver may already be facing charges in criminal court, a civil action can be significant for surviving family members for a few reasons. First, the burden of proof is not as great in a civil case. Rather than having to prove the at-fault driver is guilty “beyond reasonable doubt,” guilt simply needs to be shown “by a preponderance of evidence.” This means, the defendant is more likely guilty than he is not, which is a much lighter burden to prove.
Second, surviving family members can obtain compensation to help address financial costs associated to their loved one’s death. If a driver is found to be responsible for another’s death, he could be obligated to provide compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before the death
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Loss of care, comfort, companionship, and guidance
- Value of lost wages that the deceased could have been reasonably expected to earn if he or she had lived
If someone you love has died as the result of another driver’s negligent behavior, it may be possible to file a wrongful death claim. These claims can provide both justice and compensation that you and other surviving family members need to pick up the pieces and begin to move forward after a sudden death. Even if you aren’t sure if you have a claim, our legal team can explain your rights and answer your questions. Call our Fairfax office, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to arrange a free case review today.
How is wrongful death defined in Virginia?
Any time a loved one dies, families are faced with a distressing and emotional grieving process. To learn that your loved one was lost because of the careless action of another person can make that time even more difficult. Families often want answers, and they want to hold that person accountable. To that end, state law allows surviving family members to file a civil claim against those who caused the death.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death occurs, according to the state of Virginia, when a person dies “by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person or corporation.” The claim itself is, in effect, the personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to pursue had they survived their injuries. Simply, their family members are acting on their behalf. The most common types of wrongful death cases include those involving car accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death Case in Virginia?
To successfully pursue a wrongful death claim, surviving family members must prove certain facts in court. These include:
- The responsible party owed the deceased a duty of care. This means that he had an obligation to behave in a safe and appropriate manner.
- The responsible party breached that duty. He failed to adhere to rules and law, acting in a careless or negligent manner.
- The responsible party’s action caused the death. Not only must it be shown that the person failed to uphold their duty of care, but that failure must have led directly to the death.
The Impact of a Wrongful Death Claim
Considering a legal claim after the death of a loved one can seem overwhelming. These claims are important, though, for both surviving family members and all those in Virginia. For a family member, awards for damages can provide vital compensation that is necessary to address the changing needs and new challenges brought about by the loved one’s death. Additionally, a judgment against those responsible sends a clear message about the consequences of disregarding the safety of the community. It may prevent that same offender from further poor behavior and discourage others from acting in a similar unsafe manner, potentially saving lives in the future.
If your loved one has died in an accident, a wrongful death claim may bring your family the peace of mind and compensation you need to begin to move forward. Speak with the experienced legal team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC to learn how we may be able to help during this difficult time.
What will happen to my health insurance coverage if I get a divorce?
Health insurance is expensive. If both spouses have their own insurance plans, health insurance coverage isn’t typically an issue during a divorce.
However, both spouses may have health insurance from one spouse’s employer. In this situation, a divorcing couple must decide what will happen to their health insurance when the divorce is final.
Health Insurance While Divorce Is Pending
Until your divorce is final, your health insurance coverage should continue as it was before filing for divorce. Whether you are the spouse who petitioned the court to end the marriage or the spouse responding to the divorce complaint, your health insurance should remain unchanged.
Virginia law specifically provides this protection to both spouses by allowing the court to order the continuation of health insurance coverage while divorce proceedings are pending. Therefore, if a spouse tries to end health insurance coverage for the other spouse before the divorce is finalized, and the insured spouse objects to the end of that coverage, the court may order health insurance to continue.
Health Insurance After Divorce
Health insurance coverage for a spouse should continue during a divorce, but it will not continue unchanged after a divorce. Health insurance companies allow spouses to cover family members on their health insurance policies, but once you are divorced, you are no longer legally related, and your ex-spouse cannot include you on a health insurance policy.
After the divorce, your health insurance coverage options may include getting:
- Health insurance through your own employer. A divorce is a triggering event that allows you to sign up for health insurance outside of your open enrollment period.
- COBRA coverage for a period of up to 36 months. You must notify the administrator of your ex-spouse’s health insurance plan of your decision to use COBRA within 60 days of your divorce.
- Private health insurance. Private insurance can be very expensive. While your ex-spouse may not have to pay your health insurance premiums, the cost should be considered when determining spousal support.
Contact KFFJ Law
Don’t get caught by surprise with substantial health insurance costs after a divorce. Instead, make sure your health insurance needs are considered in your Virginia divorce agreement. Please read our free article for more tips on planning for divorce, or contact us today to get your questions answered.