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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  • Are punitive damages allowed in Virginia personal injury cases?

    Punitive damages, or damages that are meant to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff, are allowed in Virginia personal injury cases. However, punitive damages are only allowed in specific situations, and they can be very difficult to obtain. Punitive damages awarded in personal injury cases

    Punitive Damages for Egregious Behavior

    Although you may have suffered a very serious injury or your loved one may have been killed in an accident, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically recover punitive damages. Instead, if you are pursuing a punitive damage award, the court will consider the defendant’s behavior that resulted in your injury.

    Punitive damages may be awarded to you if you can prove that the defendant acted with either malice or with willful and wanton disregard for the rights of others. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. If the defendant’s conduct is not malicious, willful, or wanton, but the defendant failed to use reasonable care, and that resulted in your injury, you may still be able to recover compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

    Punitive Damage Limits in Virginia

    The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, and this financial support will  provide you with compensation over and above the value of your compensatory damages. As with other kinds of damages, you will need to prove the value of the punitive damages you are seeking by providing convincing evidence to the court.

    While the exact value of your potential punitive damage award is dependent on the facts of your case and the arguments you make, Virginia law limits the amount of punitive damages to a maximum of $350,000.

    Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer About Punitive Damages

    Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. Our experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers will review the facts of your case and provide you with our professional opinion about whether or not you should pursue punitive damages. Call us, or start a live chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights and all of your potential compensation.


  • Who gets the pet when a couple divorces in Virginia?

    In Virginia, a pet is considered personal property. Therefore, unlike child custody which may be shared, a pet will be awarded to one spouse if the court must get involved and make the decision for you. Who gets the pet in a divorce

    What the Court Considers When Deciding Pet Custody

    If you and your soon to be ex-spouse can’t decide who should have the pet after the divorce, the court will decide. Often the court will consider factors, such as:

    • Who is home more often
    • Who the pet is most attached to
    • Who brings the pet to the vet or groomer
    • Who feeds, walks, and plays with the pet
    • Who owned the pet prior to marriage (if applicable)

    The court may also consider whether one spouse neglected or abused the pet.

    Should Pets Be Personal Property?

    Because both spouses may share in the care of a pet, some states are considering other ways to assign pet ownership after a divorce and may no longer treat pets as personal property. However, this is not yet the case in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Pets are personal property, and you should be prepared to fight for ownership of your pet if you want the pet to live with you after a divorce.

    Talk to Your Divorce Lawyer About Pet Ownership

    If keeping your pet is a priority for you, it is important to let your lawyer know. He can work hard to help you keep your pet, as well as help you divide the rest of your property fairly. Contact us today via this website or by phone to learn more.


  • What’s the best way to hire a criminal defense lawyer?

    If you need a criminal defense attorney, the person you hire could play a pivotal role in whether you go to jail, pay significant fines, or face other legal penalties. How to hire a criminal defense attorney

    What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

    As you consider different attorneys to represent you in your criminal case, it is important to think about:

    • Whether the lawyer has experience in the local court system
    • Whether the lawyer will explain all of your options to you, so you can make informed decisions
    • Whether the lawyer has trial experience and can/will participate in plea bargaining
    • Whether the lawyer will be available and willing to answer questions as your case progresses
    • Whether the lawyer will represent you if you need to appeal

    When you’re making a decision about legal representation, it is often a mistake to hire a lawyer who does not specialize in criminal law. You may have a used a great attorney for a real estate closing or to draft your will, but if you have been charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer to represent you.

    Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

    When you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to schedule an initial meeting before you hire anyone. At that meeting, you can get to know the lawyer and how he can help you. You may consider asking questions, including:

    • How long have you been practicing criminal defense law?
    • How often do you appear in the court where my case will be heard?
    • How frequently do you go to trial? How many of your cases end in plea bargains?
    • Have you ever handled a case similar to mine before?
    • What are my legal options?
    • Do you see any potential problems with my defense?
    • Who else at the firm will be working on my case?
    • Can I call you if I have any questions about my case?
    • How are you paid?

    If you would like to schedule your first appointment with the experienced Northern Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC, please call us, or fill out our online contact form today.


  • What happens if a dog bite results in an infection?

    If a dog bit you, it may result in an infection. Symptoms of an infection may include redness, swelling, fever, or discharge from the wound site. After any dog bite, it’s important to get immediate medical care, as a proper diagnosis and treatment plan are necessary to prevent further illness and, in some cases, death. Dog bite infections

    Types of Dog Bite Infections

    An infection may develop because the dog bite broke your skin and exposed you to bacteria. Some specific infections caused by a dog bite include:

    • Staph
    • Strep
    • Capnocytophaga
    • Pasteurellosis
    • Cellulitis
    • Rabies

    Consult a Northern Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer

    If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s dog, you may be entitled to financial damages for all of the injuries you’ve suffered. Our Fairfax dog bite lawyers will work hard to help you recover for all of your past, current, and future expenses related to your injuries, which may include but are not limited to:

    • Hospitalizations
    • Surgeries
    • Doctor appointments
    • Medications
    • Rehabilitation therapies
    • Lost income
    • Out-of-pocket costs
    • Physical pain
    • Emotional suffering

    Together, the attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC have more than 100 years of legal experience. We apply this experience and our passion for justice to every client we represent. To find out more about your rights and potential recovery, please contact our Fairfax dog bite law firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.


  • What strange or outdated laws in Virginia can still affect the public?

    Most people take for granted that their state has understandable, reasonable laws that everyone must follow. It’s against the law to steal, assault or kill another person, and drive recklessly or while intoxicated. However, the Commonwealth has some laws on the books that you may not know about. Strange Virginia laws

    Strange Virginia Laws

    As a Virginia resident, you should know that it is technically illegal to:

    • Use profane, indecent, or threatening language on the phone. This includes the language you use in your text messages.
    • Tickle a woman. Men, however, may be tickled.
    • Hunt any animal other than a raccoon on a Sunday. If you are going to hunt a raccoon on a Sunday, however, you must do so by 2 a.m.
    • Have sex with the lights on.
    • Have sex outside of marriage. This is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

    Additionally, different counties and municipalities have their own strange laws. For example, it is:

    • Illegal to flip a coin to decide who pays for coffee in Richmond.
    • Illegal to wash a mule on the sidewalk in Culpeper.
    • Illegal to spit on a seagull in Norfolk.
    • Illegal for a woman to be out at night in Norfolk unless she is wearing a corset and is accompanied by a male chaperon.
    • Legal for a man to beat his wife on the courthouse steps in Stafford County as long as he does it before 8 p.m.

    Will You Face Legal Penalties for Breaking These Laws?

    Whether you can face penalties for breaking these laws depends. In 2012, for example, the Virginia Supreme Court applied the law making it illegal to use profane, indecent, or threatening language over the phone. However, there are no known recent cases where a couple having sex with the lights on was prosecuted.


  • What are your rights at Virginia sobriety checkpoints?

    Police can legally operate sobriety checkpoints in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but their right to stop and search a driver is not unlimited. Instead, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects drivers from unreasonable search and seizure and gives drivers certain rights at sobriety checkpoints. Virginia sobriety checkpoints

    What Police Can and Cannot Do at a Sobriety Checkpoint

    The police must publicize a sobriety checkpoint before operating it. This information may be found on the police department’s website and usually in the local newspaper. At this checkpoint, the police can’t do the following:

    • Stop every vehicle that goes through the checkpoint. Instead, police may stop vehicles according to a predetermined pattern such as every third or fifth car. Of course, this does not prevent the police from pulling you over if they have reasonable cause to believe that you have violated the law.
    • Insist that you take a BAC test or field sobriety test simply because you drove through the checkpoint. However, the police may require one or more of these tests if they reasonably believe you are intoxicated.
    • Require you to answer questions about where you are traveling from or what you were doing prior to being pulled over. While you should always be polite to the police and provide your license and insurance information, you do not have to answer questions that may be self-incriminating.

    While you may not be able to prevent being pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, you can control what happens after the police stop your car.

    Protect Your Rights at a Virginia DUI Checkpoint

    Understanding what the police can and cannot do is the first step in protecting your rights at a sobriety checkpoint. However, if you are arrested for drunk driving in Virginia, you need to take further action. You need to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer quickly for help getting the charges against you possibly reduced or dismissed.

    The criminal penalties for drunk driving in Virginia can be significant. Call us, or contact us via this website for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights, so you can protect your future.


  • How is child custody handled if my child is breastfeeding?

    The court will prefer that you and your child’s other parent come to an agreement about child custody. However, if you can’t come to an agreement, the court will make a decision about child custody based on the best interests of your child, and breastfeeding may be a factor in the court’s decision. Child custody and breastfeeding

    Breastfeeding May Be Considered in Child Custody Decisions

    Nursing moms will not be automatically granted sole custody in Virginia. Instead, the court will consider the evidence presented by the nursing mom and the child’s other parent to determine if breastfeeding is in the best interests of the child. This evidence may include:

    • The age of the child and how long the child has been breastfeeding
    • Information about whether the child takes a bottle or eats solid food
    • Information about how feasible it is for the nursing mom to pump and provide breast milk to the other parent for the child’s feedings
    • Medical studies or expert testimony showing the importance of breastfeeding for a baby’s health
    • Information about the potential impact on the child if the child is to be weaned

    Modifying a Child Custody Agreement When Breastfeeding Ends

    At some point, breastfeeding will end, and this will likely be seen as a material change in circumstances by the court. For that reason, a child custody agreement may be modified when a child is no longer nursing or when the non-breastfeeding parent can prove that the nursing mom is breastfeeding in order to keep the current physical custody agreement in place. In order to get the child custody agreement modified, you will need to petition the court and explain the material change in circumstances.

    Whether you are creating an initial child custody agreement or are seeking to modify your current child custody agreement, it is important to work with an experienced Fairfax family law attorney who can make sure that your rights are protected. Call us, or reach out to us for an initial consultation about your rights.


  • What is the difference between full tort and limited tort car insurance?

    Full tort coverage and limited tort coverage are car insurance options that impact how much an injured party can recover in a car accident case. Limited tort is not available in all states, but it is an option in some. It is an option that must be exercised at the time auto insurance is purchased and not at the time a crash occurs. Full and limited car insurance

    Full Tort and Limited Tort Car Insurance

    People with full tort car insurance can pursue full damages from a negligent driver or an insurance company after a crash. This includes damages for lost wages and pain and suffering. While injured parties must still prove the value of these damages, the amount they can recover is not limited by their insurance contract.

    People who instead choose to purchase limited tort insurance pay less in insurance premiums than people with full tort coverage, but they are also paying for less insurance. If a person with limited tort insurance is hurt in a crash, that person may only recover pain and suffering damages if his injury hits a certain threshold and is classified as a serious injury.

    Virginia is a Tort (Fault) Car Accident State

    In Virginia, the driver who caused the crash is responsible for paying for the injuries resulting from the crash. This includes pain and suffering. While there is no exact science in determining the value of pain and suffering, insurance companies and courts may consider things such as:

    • The extent of your injuries
    • The medical treatment that you have received and will need in the future
    • The impact the injuries have had on your daily life, your ability to work, and your family life

    Auto insurance policies contain a lot of technical language that can impact your recovery of damages after a crash. If you have been hurt in an accident, the best way to ensure that your right to a fair recovery is protected is to contact an experienced Fairfax car accident lawyer. Our attorneys are here to help you. We would be pleased to offer you a free, no-obligation consultation, so you can learn more about your rights and potential compensation. Please call us, or reach out to us today via this website to learn more.


  • How do I change my name after getting divorced in Virginia?

    Virginia law allows you to change your name during your marriage, during divorce proceedings, or after your divorce. You do not need your spouse’s consent if you decide to change your name. The decision is yours to make.  Changing your name after a divorce

    Requesting a Name Change While a Divorce Is Pending

    If your divorce has not yet been finalized, you can still request that the court legally change your name as part of your divorce proceedings. You do need to file a separate application for a name change. However, your name change request must be included in your initial divorce pleadings or orally during your final divorce hearing. The court may only change your name back to a name you had prior to marriage if you seek the name change during divorce proceedings.

    How to Request a Name Change

    If your divorce case is not currently active and you are not about to initiate a divorce action, you will need to file a separate application with the court in order to have your name legally changed. This action must be filed in the circuit court of the city or county where you live. The filing must be accompanied with the required fee.

    Important Documentation for a Virginia Name Change

    When you request a name change, the court will to want to see certain documentation, including:

    • A Virginia Application for Name Change. The application will ask for basic information such as your current name, your current address, your parents’ names, whether you have ever been convicted of a felony, and any previous names you have had. The application must be witnessed by a notary public or a clerk of the court.
    • Your Birth Certificate. This will provide proof of your maiden name.
    • Your Marriage Certificate. This will provide proof of your married name.
    • Your Divorce Decree (if one has already been issued). This will provide the court with a non-fraudulent reason why you want to change your name.

    If all of your paperwork is in order, your name change should be granted by the court. Once the court grants your name change request, you will need to take steps to change your name with:

    • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
    • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    • The Social Security Administration (SSA)
    • Your banks
    • Your credit card companies
    • Your retirement and investment accounts
    • Your insurance companies
    • Your utility companies
    • Your employer
    • Your kids’ schools

    Changing your name because of a divorce may be one of the easier aspects of the divorce process. However, if you have any questions about changing your name or any other issues concerning your divorce, please contact our experienced Fairfax family law attorneys today for an initial consultation.


  • What is the legal definition of aggressive driving?

    In Virginia, aggressive driving is not the same thing as reckless driving or road rage. Instead, aggressive driving is a specific criminal misdemeanor. In order to be convicted of aggressive driving, you must have violated the aggressive driving statute. The definition of aggressive driving

    Aggressive Driving Is Defined in Section 46.2-868.1 of the Virginia Code

    According to Section 46.2-868.1 a driver is guilty of aggressive driving if:

    • He failed to drive on the right side of the highway (§46.2-802)
    • He failed to observe lanes marked for traffic (§46.2-804)
    • He was following another vehicle too closely (§46.2-816)
    • He failed to stop or yield the right-of-way before entering a highway (§46.2-821)
    • He evaded traffic controls (§46.2-833.1)
    • He failed to abide by the laws for passing when overtaking a vehicle (§46.2-838)
    • He failed to give way to an overtaking vehicle (§46.2-842)
    • He failed to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highways (§46.2-842.1)
    • He failed to obey certain limitations on overtaking and passing a vehicle (§46.2-843)
    • He failed to obey maximum speed limits on highways and roads (§46.2-870)
    • He stopped on the highway (§46.2-888)

    In addition to violating one of these laws, a driver must have presented a hazard to another person or committed the violation of the law with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another driver.

    Criminal Penalties for Aggressive Driving

    In most cases, violating the aggressive driving statute is a Class 2 misdemeanor. In Virginia, a Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by jail time of not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000.

    However, if the driver acted with the intent to injure another person, violating the aggressive driving statute may be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. The potential consequences of a Class 1 misdemeanor are more significant than those of a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor, you face jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.

    If You’ve Been Charged With Aggressive Driving

    If you have been charged with aggressive driving, you not only face jail time and a fine, but you also face a criminal conviction that will be on your permanent record. This could impact your future.

    Remember that an aggressive driving charge is not a simple traffic ticket. Instead, you have been charged with a crime. Therefore, it is important to take this criminal charge seriously and to contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi as soon as possible. Our lawyers will make sure all of your rights are protected from the time you contact us until your case is resolved.

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