Between medical bills, lost wages, and vehicle repair expenses, the financial toll resulting from vehicle accident injuries can be devastating. In Virginia, accident victims have only two years to file a personal injury claim, so it’s important to understand the ways that someone who has been harmed in a vehicle accident can receive compensation for injuries.
Virginia has a fault-based automobile insurance system, meaning that the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating all accident victims. This may include other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, or cyclists. To receive compensation, an accident victim can choose to:
- File a first-party claim with his own insurance provider
- File a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver
Vehicle Insurance Requirements
Drivers in Virginia aren’t required to have car insurance. In lieu of purchasing a policy, they can pay $500 to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows them to legally operate an uninsured vehicle in the state for 12 months. Drivers who choose to obtain car insurance must carry the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000 for injury or death to one person
- $50,000 for all injuries or deaths per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Virginia adheres to the contributory negligence doctrine. This means, if you have contributed in any way to your vehicle accident, you can’t receive compensation for your injuries. If you file a civil lawsuit against another driver, and the judge or jury finds you even 1 percent responsible, you will be barred from collecting compensation.
The last clear chance doctrine is a defense against the contributory negligence doctrine. According to this doctrine, if one driver had the final opportunity to avoid a collision, he can be held liable even though the other driver was partly at fault.
Compensation for driver injuries is generally pretty straightforward, but compensation for passenger injuries can be much more complicated. In Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C., the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating injured passengers. A passenger may be able to file a claim against multiple drivers, if more than one of them was potentially at fault.
In Virginia, a vehicle owner isn’t liable for a driver’s negligence solely because the driver had the owner’s permission to drive the car. Instead, a plaintiff must prove that the driver was an agent of the vehicle owner. For example, the driver may be an employee of the owner. If the driver has the owner’s permission to drive the vehicle, and he isn’t the owner’s agent or employee, the vehicle owner cannot be held personally liable. However, according to Virginia Code 38.2-2204(A), all automobile insurance in Virginia must insure any driver of the vehicle. Therefore, while a vehicle owner might not be held liable for a driver’s negligence, the owner’s liability insurance will still cover the driver.
Types of Damages
There are several types of damages you may be entitled to after an injury accident. You might be able to receive compensation for:
- Lost wages. Injuries resulting from a vehicle accident can negatively impact your capacity to earn income. You may also miss work due to time spent in a hospital or in physical therapy.
- Pain and suffering. You may also recover damages for mental or physical distress. These damages are dependent on the type of injury suffered, the degree of pain experienced, and the future prognosis for recovery. Pain and suffering may also include compensation for emotional damage or mental anguish.
- Medical expenses. Vehicle accident injuries can range from a few minor scrapes to permanent disability. Medical costs arising from a car accident may include:
- Ambulance fees
- Doctor visits
- Physical therapy
- Permanent disability
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, you need professional representation by an experienced attorney who will fight for the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the vehicle accident attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC by using the form on this page.