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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How does Google Maps know when there’s heavy traffic or a car accident?
Technology has certainly changed since Google Maps debuted on February 8, 2005. Today, Google obtains some of its information about traffic and car accidents from people who don’t know they’re providing it and from others who want to share it.
Three Ways Google Maps Gets the Info it Needs
Google can’t get the information it needs to report on traffic and car accidents without help from others. Specifically, Google Maps gets its information about road conditions from:
- Crowdsourcing. People are encouraged to report traffic conditions through Waze, and that information is included in the traffic condition data reported back by Google Maps.
- Local highway authorities. Local highway authorities may have road sensors or cameras and may share that information with Google.
- Information from your phone you may not know you’re sending. If you have location services turned on in your phone settings, you may be transferring information about traffic conditions to Google without even knowing it. Google analyzes how fast you are moving while the Google Maps app is open and uses that as part of its traffic condition analysis.
Google Maps provides many benefits to users who are traveling to a new location or who are stuck in traffic. The app may tell them how to bypass traffic, which lane to be in to ensure getting off at the right exit, and the length of time for certain slow-down points.
Google Maps may be a helpful tool for you and other drivers, but as with any map or GPS, it’s important to not become distracted when using it and to keep your eyes first on the road.
If you have been in a car accident, please contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi today by sending us a message or calling 877.652.1553.
How are future medical costs calculated after a car crash?
If your car accident injury will require medical treatment that extends after your accident case resolves, you need to include the costs of future medical treatment in your settlement (or court verdict). Otherwise, you will bear all of the financial responsibility for your future medical costs.
Valuing Expenses in the Future
Determining future medical costs for your injury can be difficult to do, but a personal injury attorney can help you do this accurately. In order to value medical expenses for future treatment, it is important to have:
- An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. This should include all of your accident injury reports and all of the medical care you are likely to need.
- An expert witness. This type of witness can testify as to what your future medical needs are likely to be and what they may cost in the future. These witnesses can include doctors and healthcare economists.
- An experienced attorney. You need to hire an attorney who can analyze the financial data and make convincing arguments to the insurance company or to the court about future medical costs, so you are awarded fair compensation for your injuries.
You Have Just Once Chance to Make a Fair Recovery
Once you accept a settlement or your case is decided in court, your case will be over. You will not be able to seek additional damages from the defendant in the future. Accordingly, you need to properly value your future medical costs while your case is pending. This includes damages for all of your future doctor visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation therapies, and other medical costs related to your car accident injuries.
Do I need an attorney if my injuries were caused by a driver who ran a red light?
Yes. It may appear that the other driver was at fault for the accident and for your resulting injuries. However, car accident liability is not always clear, and car accident damages can be complicated.
How an Attorney Can Help
Even if you feel the other driver was definitely at fault for your car accident and injuries, a personal injury attorney can help you by:
- Gathering evidence to establish liability. You may know that the other car ran the red light, but that is not enough to convince the insurance company or the court to provide you with fair compensation. Instead, you need evidence that proves liability.
- Being prepared if you are accused of being at fault. In Virginia, you may be unable to recover damages if you bear any responsibility for the accident. For example, if you were distracted at the time of the crash and are found to be partially at fault, you will be unable to recover damages even if the other driver ran a red light.
- Establishing the value of your damages. The other driver may be clearly at fault for the crash, but his lawyers may dispute how badly you were injured in the crash and the value of your damages. An experienced lawyer can review your medical records and gather the required evidence to prove how badly you were hurt and what you should recover for past, current, and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, and pain and suffering.
Don’t Hesitate to Call an Attorney
Not only can your attorney help maximize your damages, he will deal with insurance adjusters, file court papers, and negotiate your settlement while you concentrate on your physical recovery and moving forward with your life.
We would be pleased to provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation if you have been hurt in a crash caused by a driver who ran a red light. Please call us, or contact us via this website today to learn more.
What kind of damages can I recover if I’m hurt in a Virginia truck accident?
Before you can recover any damages in a settlement or in court, you have to do two things. First, you must prove that the defendant is legally responsible for the truck accident injuries you’ve suffered. Second, you must prove the value of the damages you’ve already incurred and those you may incur in the future.
Damages That Should be Included in Your Recovery
When you file a personal injury claim after a truck accident, you may be able to recover compensation for all of the following damages related to your injury:
- Medical expenses. These include surgeries, hospitalizations, doctor appointments, medical tests, medications, and rehabilitation therapies.
- Lost income. Any income you cannot earn because of your injuries should be part of your recovery. This includes partial or total loss of income, bonuses, and other compensation received from an employer or income from self-employment.
- Out-of-pocket costs. Any expenses you incur as a direct result of the truck wreck may be compensated.
- Pain and suffering. You should be compensated for your physical pain and emotional suffering. Mental anguish, scarring, physical disfigurements, and disabilities will be considered.
Additionally, you may be able to recover compensation for your property damage and for anything else you can prove that you lost as a direct result of your truck accident. In limited circumstances, punitive damages are also possible.
How to Protect Your Fair Recovery
If you’ve suffered injuries due to a truck driver’s negligence, you have the right to recover damages, and you need an experienced lawyer to protect your rights.
Our lawyers know how to investigate your case, gather evidence, and argue for a fair recovery. Don’t take unnecessary chances with your financial future. Contact us our Fairfax, Virginia experienced personal injury attorneys for a confidential consultation about your rights and potential recovery.
What type of eye injury could I suffer in a car accident?
The trauma of a car crash can result in a serious eye injury. As with any type of car accident injury, you will need to prove what injury you suffered, why it happened, and who is legally responsible for it in order to recover damages.
Car Crashes and Eye Injuries
There are a variety of eye injuries you can sustain after a car crash. These injuries include:
- Lacerations. If the crash causes an object to scratch or punctures your eye, your vision may be impacted.
- Orbital fractures. Broken bones around your eye could impact your vision.
- Corneal abrasions. A scratch or abrasion of the cornea could impact your vision.
- Retinal detachments or tears. The force of the car crash can cause this serious type of eye injury.
- Chemical burn. If the powder from the airbag enters your eye, your vision could be affected by a chemical burn.
- Traumatic brain injury. Your vision may be impacted if certain areas of the brain are hurt.
Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi Can Help Personal Injury Cases
Once the cause of a crash and the responsible parties are identified, you may decide to take legal action to recover damages for your eye injury. Through a settlement or court case, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, out of pocket costs, pain, suffering, and other damages.
Let us help you get the fair recovery you deserve if your vision has been damaged or lost after an accident. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer at your convenience.
Can I receive injury compensation if I wasn’t wearing a motorcycle helmet when a vehicle hit me?
Yes, you can still seek compensation if you were injured while you weren’t wearing a motorcycle helmet. However, proving that you aren’t partially at fault for your injuries may be very difficult. The state of Virginia mandates helmet use because a helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment available to motorcycle riders. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, helmets are about 29 percent effective in avoiding motorcycle fatalities and approximately 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. Failure to wear a helmet means that a motorcycle rider is 40 percent more likely to sustain a lethal head injury.
Virginia Motorcycle Helmet Laws
According to Virginia Code 46.2-910, motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet whenever the bike is in motion. The helmet must meet or exceed the specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the Federal Department of Transportation. Virginia also mandates that motorcycle operators wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles, or they must ride a bike equipped with safety glass or a windshield.
Mitigation of Damages
Some defense attorneys may attempt to argue that failure to wear a helmet is a form of contributory negligence. Virginia’s contributory negligence rules bar plaintiffs from recovery when their own behavior contributed to the accident. This means, if you are found partially responsible for your motorcycle accident, you may be denied compensation for your injuries. However, Virginia’s motorcycle helmet statute clearly states that simply failing to wear a helmet does not constitute proof of negligence.
Every vehicle operator in Virginia has a legal duty to mitigate damages. Not wearing a motorcycle helmet may be seen as a failure to mitigate damages, since a helmet can significantly decrease the severity of head injuries. If a plaintiff failed to wear a helmet and suffered head injuries in a motorcycle accident, the defense may successfully argue that the lack of a helmet led to those injuries. This could result in damages being reduced or even eliminated entirely.
Recovery for Injuries
While it is true that failure to wear a helmet can impact your ability to recover damages, this is only the case in those instances where a helmet would have significantly reduced the probability of injury. A severe impact can overcome the protection offered by any helmet, resulting in severe head injuries. If it can be proven that you would have sustained head injuries while wearing a helmet, you may still be entitled to compensation.
Furthermore, if you did not sustain head or neck injuries, failure to wear a helmet is legally irrelevant. This is true even though Virginia law requires you to wear one. You will still be entitled to compensation for any other injuries you’ve sustained, including:
- Biker’s arm. Biker’s arm occurs when a motorcycle rider is thrown in an accident, and his arm gets the force of the impact as he braces against the fall.
- Leg injuries. Leg, knee, and foot cuts and fractures are common in a motorcycle accident.
- Internal injuries. When the body is hit with enough force, internal organs may be damaged, which may also result in dangerous internal bleeding.
- Road rash. Serious abrasions can occur when a rider is thrown from his motorcycle and slides across the pavement.
- Broken bones. Hitting the ground hard or at the wrong angle can easily cause bones to break, and broken bones are very common in motorcycle accidents.
- Muscle damage. Muscles may be injured anywhere on the body.
- Spinal cord injuries. If the rider lands on his back, or if an object pierces his spinal cord, he may suffer serious spinal cord injuries.
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, it’s important that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney. When you’ve been injured while not wearing a helmet, you especially need a lawyer’s expertise and guidance in the pursuit of your claim. To learn more, contact the vehicle accident attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC by using the form on this page.
What should I do after an accident with a hit-and-run driver?
If you’re involved in a car accident in Virginia, the law requires that you stop and give contact information to the other person involved. However, not all drivers follow the rules and stay at the scene. If you’re involved in a crash, and the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident, it’s important you know your next steps.
Your First Steps After a Hit-and-Run
In general, a hit-and-run occurs when someone is involved in a car accident—whether it’s with another car, a pedestrian, or a fixed object—and then that person leaves the scene without giving aid to an injured party or identifying himself. In some states, a hit-and-run can include an accident with an animal.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that fatal hit-and-runs have been on the rise since 2009, and your actions after this type of accident are important to your successful recovery and adequate compensation. After a hit-and-run, make sure to:
- Get information. After the accident occurs, do your best to make mental notes about the model of the other vehicle, the color, any unique dents or stickers, the license plate number, the appearance of the driver, and the direction the fleeing vehicle was headed. Then, write it all down on paper while it’s fresh in your memory. Additionally, speak with any witnesses to the accident, and record their contact information.
- Document your damages. As soon as you’ve moved your vehicle out of harm’s way, document the damage done to your vehicle by taking photos of it. Additionally, write down your version of what happened and the order of events as they occurred.
- Call law enforcement. It’s important to inform the police that another driver left the scene of the accident. An officer can take your statement and make an accident report, which will help you and your attorney after you’ve been able to identify the driver.
- Call your insurance company. Your insurance company should be aware of the hit-and-run accident. For this type of accident, it’s helpful to have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage on your policy, so your insurance company can begin to help you get medical assistance and get you safely back on the road.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Can Help
It’s helpful to purchase UM coverage for your vehicles. Virginia law permits drivers to file claims against their UM coverages for compensation after hit-and-run accidents, and if the at-fault driver can’t be found, UM coverage can help you with:
- Medical bills
- Property damages
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Get in Touch With an Attorney Today
If you or a loved one suffered injuries after a hit-and-run accident, you need the help of an attorney who can advocate for you. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can use the information you collected at the scene to build a strong case and help get you the compensation you need. Contact us today by starting a live online chat on our website today.
What steps should I take if I'm involved in a car accident?
Although responsible drivers can take steps to avoid car accidents—such as obeying speed limits and avoiding distractions—car crashes still happen frequently. In the event a car accident does occur, you should know how to properly handle the situation, stay safe, and protect the compensation you’ll need for bodily injury, property damages, or lost wages.
What to Do When You’re Involved in a Crash
Being involved in a car accident can be traumatic. Whether or not you were at fault, you may have suffered injuries and damage to your vehicle. In the weeks following the accident, you may have to deal with expensive medical and repair bills, as well as a long recovery time. You may be left unable to return to work on a temporary or even permanent basis. Here are some important steps to follow to help ensure you receive the compensation you need during this difficult time:
- Get to safety. If your accident is minor, you and the other driver involved should move your vehicles out of the way to decrease the chance of causing another accident. However, before you do this, it’s vital that you take photos and videos of the original positions of the vehicles right after the accident. Then, move the vehicles to the shoulder of the road.
- Call the police. Law enforcement is able to step in and mitigate any tension after a car accident and can call for the proper emergency or non-emergency medical professionals. Additionally, law enforcement is a third party who can document what happened, procure statements from those involved, and keep the scene of the accident safe with cones and flares.
- Inform your insurance company. Make sure your insurance company knows you were involved in an accident. They’ll be able to work with you, the evidence you collect at the scene, and your attorney to make sure you get adequate recovery for your injuries.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine or suffered only minor injuries in the car accident, it’s important you get medical attention. Often, car accident injuries can surface days or weeks after the incident. A medical professional will be able to tell you if you need further medical attention.
- Get the other driver’s contact information. Depending on the severity of your injuries, attempt to safely exit your vehicle and speak with the other driver involved—making sure to note his insurance information, driver’s license number, contact information, and vehicle details.
- Speak with bystanders. In addition to speaking with the other driver, find people who may have witnessed the accident and ask questions. If you don’t have pen and paper, use your phone to record what they saw and their contact info—in case your attorney and law enforcement want to speak with them.
- Take photos and videos. To assist your insurance company and attorney during the claims process, take extensive photo and video evidence of your injuries, injuries of your passengers, damage to your vehicle, damage to the other vehicle, and the whole scene before any vehicles are moved.
- Stick to the facts. When you speak to anyone at the scene, be sure to avoid saying anything that might be misconstrued. Apologizing to the other driver, exaggerating your injuries, or giving an inaccurate account of events to law enforcement can all hurt your claim. Be factual when you speak—and remember to avoid speaking with the other driver’s insurance company at all. Simply refer them to your injury attorney.
- Follow up with your doctor. If your injuries were severe enough to warrant further medical help, it’s important you make all scheduled appointments on time, follow all instructions given to you, take any medications prescribed to you, and complete any exercises your doctor orders. Doing these things will show the other parties involved in your claim that you take your health seriously.
- Call an attorney. After a car accident, call an attorney who can prioritize your interests right away. Especially in Virginia, where contributory negligence law can easily compromise an injury claim, it’s important you don’t try to handle your claim alone.
We Can Help
If you’ve been involved in an accident and feel confused by complicated laws and paperwork, call an attorney to assist you. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can take the evidence you’ve collected and use it to win compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. To get started on your case, call us at 877-652-1553.
What are some common defenses for a DUI charge?
Drunk driving is one of the most common offenses committed, but offenders aren’t caught every time. In fact, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that the average offender drives under the influence over 80 times before an arrest. However, if you’ve been pulled over and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), it’s important you understand the defenses a lawyer can use in your case and the possible penalties you face.
You Can Challenge Your DUI/DWI Charges
Virginia comes down hard on those who choose to drive drunk, and if you’ve been arrested, you may be worried about your future. Although the consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction are serious, an experienced lawyer can challenge the charges—potentially minimizing the penalties. Possible defenses an attorney can use include:
- Challenging blood, urine, and breath tests. The police officer conducts these field tests to determine sobriety. However, some officers don’t follow proper test administration protocol, their machines may not be calibrated correctly, or the results of a test may not be accurate. This can be due to the food you’ve eaten, medications you take, and how recently you’ve had an alcoholic beverage.
- Challenging the officer’s reasonable suspicion. The officer’s description of suspicious behaviors is a large portion of the evidence against a person charged with a DUI. For example, if the officer says you were swerving, speeding, or reacting slowly, you can find witnesses to testify that you were driving defensively, following the rules, or didn’t drink at all before driving. This could potentially render that portion of the evidence irrelevant.
- Challenging the administration and submission of field sobriety tests. Police use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine whether probable cause exists for an arrest. However, officers must carefully follow specific protocols to meet the testing standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It’s possible to argue that an officer didn’t take the correct steps or perform the test accurately. Additionally, one unreliable FST is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, in which an officer asks the suspect to follow the horizontal movements of an object with her eyes. If the suspect’s eyes jump suddenly, it’s supposed to be evidence of drunkenness. However, because an officer is not a medical professional and cannot reliably establish baseline eye movements, it’s improper for him to interpret the results as evidence.
- Challenging the location of the stop. The prosecution must be able to show with solid evidence that the county or city in which you were stopped is the same government entity bringing the charges against you. If they cannot do this, the charges are irrelevant.
- Challenging the suspect’s involvement. If an officer did not actually pull you over but arrived at the scene of an accident after you’d already exited the vehicle, the officer and prosecution must show evidence that you were actually driving before he arrived. If they cannot supply evidence to show this, the charges may be dropped.
- Offering alternative explanations for your behavior. What police consider to be tell-tale signs of drunkenness can often be explained by other causes. For example, you may have failed to walk in a straight line because of a twisted ankle; your eyes may have been bloodshot because of your contacts; you may have slurred your speech because of a medication you take; or you may have been confused by the officer’s instructions. Explaining the correct cause of your behaviors can help poke holes in the case against you.
Virginia Is Strict on DUI/DWI Offenses
Virginia law is tough on DUIs, even for a first offense, for which the penalties could include license suspension or revocation, fines, and a recorded DUI on your criminal record. However, if you’re arrested on a second, third, or fourth offense, the penalties increase. Fines could double or triple, you could face mandatory jail time, and you could lose your license permanently.
If You’ve Been Charged With a DUI
Since Virginia is harsh on DUI/DWI offenders, it’s crucial you don’t attempt to handle your case on your own or simply accept penalties without a defense. An experienced lawyer can help answer your questions and walk you through the process of eliminating or downgrading your DUI conviction. The legal team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can do just that. Call us at 877-652-1553.
What is a guardian ad litem?
The Virginia State Bar (VSB) defines a guardian ad litem (GAL) as “a guardian, usually a lawyer, appointed by the court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of an incompetent or minor party.” During your divorce and child custody case, it’s important to understand what a GAL does, his duties, when one is appointed, and why he’s needed.
Understanding the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem
Usually, Virginia family courts prefer not to hear testimony directly from a child, as it can place undue stress on both child and parents. So, a GAL is a court-appointed representative, advocate, and objective observer to speak on behalf of a child in court. However, the duties of a GAL include more than speaking for the child.
Outside the courtroom, a GAL must thoroughly investigate to determine the best interests of the child. Because child custody cases can place stress on every member of a family, a GAL serves to displace some of that stress by assisting the court in making an informed custody decision. A GAL does this by:
- Conducting interviews with the child. Although it’s possible a judge may not honor a child’s wishes, she will take into account what the child wants. A GAL can help family courts decide what’s in a child’s best interests by asking that child about her impression of her parents, her relationship with her parents, how she lives, and how she likes her environment.
- Conducting interviews with the parents. Through this interview, a GAL attempts to get a complete picture of the child’s relationship with each parent. A parent may be asked to describe his relationship with the child, his parenting style, his relationship with the other parent, and the child’s daily routine. GALs hope not to hear either parent speak poorly of the other.
- Conducting interviews with other involved adults. What teachers, pastors, babysitters, and extended family members see is also important to a GAL. These perspectives are an important component of gaining a complete picture of each parent’s relationship with the child.
- Making home visits. Seeing a child in each home environment—with each parent, in her room, and going about her daily routine—is an invaluable piece for building a recommendation for the court.
- Investigating reported problems. If there are any accusations of neglect or abuse, a GAL must investigate these by conducting interviews with family members, speaking with police, and asking the child.
When Does a Court Appoint a Guardian Ad Litem?
Since the duty of a GAL is to step in and provide an objective picture of what may best benefit the child, the court appoints a GAL to a case most commonly when:
- A child has experienced neglect or abuse
- Parents cannot agree on what’s best for the child
- A parent wants to relinquish custody
- A child files for emancipation
- Other instances in which a court feels the child needs better representation
In some cases, it could be prudent for one parent to request the representation of a GAL, since his findings might align with the wishes of that parent. For example, if you want custody to keep your child safe from an abusive ex, a GAL might be able to find evidence that would support your case.
How Should Parents Interact With a Guardian Ad Litem?
If a GAL becomes involved in your cases, treat her with respect. Her opinion of you could directly affect custody proceedings. Here are a few pointers for engaging with a court-appointed GAL:
- When she requests documents or information, be prompt in getting this material to her
- Speak in an even, respectful tone
- Do not speak poorly of your spouse in her presence
- Work with your attorney to develop complete, accurate answers to her questions prior to the interview
- Be engaged with your child
Getting Legal Help
If you need help in your child custody suit or have more questions about the GAL appointed to your case, the legal team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can help. We’ve served our community and worked with families for decades, and we’re available now to speak with you. Start a live online chat on our website to speak with a member of our team.