Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

Every motorist in Virginia is required to obtain a certain amount of car insurance. The idea behind this requirement is to ensure that anyone injured in a Virginia car accident will have a means of recovering compensation to help them cover the costs of the injuries they sustained in the accident.

Car AccidentCar insurance companies, however, operate on a for-profit basis and rely on taking in more money in monthly premiums than they pay out in approved claims. Thus, it is not uncommon for an insurance company to deny borderline cases in hopes that the accident victim will not file a personal injury lawsuit.

Virginia lawmakers have enacted a law to discourage insurance companies from acting in bad faith, contained in the Code of Virginia section 8.01-66.1. Under section 8.01-66.1, an insurance company that is found to have denied “a claim of $3,500 or less in excess of the deductible” in bad faith is liable to the insured for double the amount otherwise due. This law applies both to the insured that is named in the policy as well as to any third parties injured by the insured’s negligence.

Continue reading

Arbitration agreements have become more and more common over the years, especially in certain contexts. For example, many companies are beginning to include arbitration clauses into their contracts that are provided in advance of the service the company provides. For example, it is very common to see issues involving arbitration clauses come up in Virginia nursing home cases as well as Virginia car accident cases.

Signed ContractArbitration agreements, if valid, are generally enforceable. However, before a court will hold a party to their obligation to arbitrate a claim, the court must determine that the party was bound by the agreement. Obviously, signing an agreement is usually sufficient. However, in some cases, a non-signing party may be bound by an arbitration agreement as well. A recent case discusses a rental truck company’s attempts to compel a non-signing party to arbitrate a claim against the company.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a warehouse worker. One day, the plaintiff’s employer rented a truck and asked that the plaintiff deliver some merchandise to the state fair. The employee had not performed delivery services for the employer in the past, but he agreed to do so on this occasion.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that required the court to discuss an issue that often arises in Virginia premises liability cases. The case involved a plaintiff who was injured while crossing the street from an off-site parking lot to the church that owned the lot. The court had to determine if the church could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries despite the fact that the accident occurred on a public street that was not controlled by the church.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a member of the defendant church. One evening, the plaintiff planned on attending an evening service at the church. He drove to the church and upon his arrival found that the church’s regular parking lot was full. A volunteer parking attendant directed the plaintiff to the church’s off-site parking lot across a five-lane road.

The plaintiff entered the off-site lot and parked his car. The parking lot was located mid-block, about 100 feet away from either intersection. The plaintiff exited the parking lot and, rather than walk over to the intersection to cross the street, crossed the street mid-block. As the plaintiff was crossing, he was struck by a passing motorist and seriously injured.

Continue reading

When someone is injured in a Virginia car accident, they may pursue compensation for the injuries they sustained through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident and the relationship between the parties, there may be one or more defenses that can prevent the defendant from being found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. One defense, called the “fireman’s rule,” is discussed in a recent appellate opinion involving a police officer who was injured in a car accident while responding to the scene of an accident.

LawnmowerThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on duty as a police officer when he received a radio call dispatching him to the scene of an accident where a motorist slid off the roadway, rolled, and ended up in a nearby field. The evidence presented showed that the motorist lost control of his vehicle when it encountered a patch of grass clippings. The clippings had been left behind when an employee of a nearby used car dealership mowed the grass and failed to clean up the clippings. A subsequent rain storm wet the clippings, which made a slick spot on the road.

As the plaintiff was responding to the scene, he encountered the area of the roadway with the wet grass clippings. The plaintiff lost control of his patrol car and ended up veering off the side of the road and into a tree, sustaining serious injuries as a result.

Continue reading

Insurance companies are supposed to make life after a Virginia car accident easier, although in reality, that is not always the case. In too many cases, insurance companies look for ways to avoid paying out on an accident victim’s claim, leaving the accident victim without any real means of recovery.

Rear EndedEarlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a car accident case that provides valuable insight to Virginia car accident victims. The case illustrates how difficult it can be to deal with an insurance company following a car accident – even a driver’s own insurance company.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with another driver and sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident. Believing that the other driver was at fault for the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver as well as that driver’s insurance company. Since the plaintiff was unsure whether the other driver’s insurance limits would cover all of his expenses, the plaintiff also named his own insurance company in the lawsuit, citing his policy’s underinsured motorist provision.

Continue reading

When a Virginia personal injury trial has concluded, and after the jury’s verdict has been rendered, the parties have an opportunity to file post-trial motions seeking relief for perceived errors that occurred during the trial. Most often, these post-trial motions seek to preserve certain rights for appeal or seek judgment as a matter of law on claims that were not established by the evidence. A recent product liability case illustrates the complex issues that may arise when arguing post-trial motions.

Speeding vanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff owned a van manufactured by the defendant. One day, as the plaintiff was driving his sons and their fellow Boy Scouts home from a camping trip, the van rolled, and the plaintiff was paralyzed as a result. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the van’s manufacturer, claiming that the van’s seatbelt mechanism was defective and that the manufacturer was negligent for failing to conduct safety testing on the mechanism.

The case proceeded to trial, where the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on only the claim regarding the manufacturer’s failure to conduct safety testing. However, despite the very serious nature of the plaintiff’s injuries, the jury awarded him only $1 million for past damages. No award was provided for future damages, despite evidence that the plaintiff will suffer from permanent paralysis for the rest of his life.

Continue reading

Car insurance is mandatory in Virginia and should help injured accident victims get back on their feet after being involved in a serious Virginia car accident. However, the reality is that insurance companies are for-profit companies that view claims as “expenses” that should be minimized. Thus, in most cases, insurance companies will either deny an accident victim’s claim for compensation or offer a low-ball settlement figure in hopes of quickly resolving the matter in as inexpensive a way as possible.

Deployed AirbagsEarlier this month, a Rhode Island court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a good samaritan who was seriously injured when she exited her car in an attempt to assist another motorist who had just been involved in an accident. The case is a good example of how Virginia car accident victims may encounter difficulties when dealing with insurance companies, and how an attorney’s assistance may make a difference in whether an accident victim receives compensation for their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The two were on their way to a grocery store and had pulled into a space in the store’s parking lot. After parking the car, the plaintiff and her friend got involved in a conversation and stayed in the car for a few minutes. During this conversation, the plaintiff heard a loud noise that turned out to be a car accident that had occurred on an adjacent street.

Continue reading

When someone is injured while using any kind of product, they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a product liability lawsuit filed against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product. In many cases, these lawsuits do not require that a plaintiff establish that the named defendants knew about the alleged defect; however, additional damages may be available if a plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant knew about the defect and failed to correct it.

Disc BrakesOne key issue in many product liability cases is the availability and admissibility of “other similar incident” evidence, or OSI evidence. OSI evidence is important for product liability plaintiffs to understand, and it can be very persuasive because it may show that a defendant manufacturer should have known about the alleged defect, based on the other reported incidents. However, courts are careful about admitting OSI evidence because it may complicate matters for the jury and can result in undue prejudice. A recent case illustrates how plaintiffs in a recent car accident case were able to admit OSI evidence.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a red light on a highway off-ramp when they were rear-ended by another motorist who was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry. The Camry was traveling at approximately 75 miles per hour when it rear-ended the plaintiffs. Two of the five plaintiffs in the vehicle were killed as a result of the accident, one sustained a traumatic brain injury, one was left a paraplegic, and the final plaintiff suffered a broken leg.

Continue reading

Virginia courts see tens of thousands of cases each year. If each of these cases was presented to a jury, the court system would get bogged down, resulting in cases taking several years to be heard. Thus, Virginia courts only allow cases to be presented to a jury when there is an important and disputed fact that the jury must resolve. However, if the issues presented in a case are legal in nature, a judge can make the decision through a process called summary judgment.

MotorcycleVirginia’s Summary Judgment Standard

In Virginia, either party can move for summary judgment, asking the court to find in their favor without the necessity of going to trial. This can save considerable time and expense; however, summary judgment is only appropriate when there “is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court will look at the parties’ pleadings and proffered evidence. A recent motorcycle accident case illustrates a situation in which an appellate court agreed with the lower court that summary judgment was appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving wife of a man who was killed in a motorcycle accident. On the day of the accident, the motorcyclist was driving eastbound on the highway in the far-right lane of travel. The defendant pulled up to the intersection, heading northbound on a perpendicular street, and was waiting to make a left turn across the highway to head westbound.

Continue reading

In Virginia personal injury trials, the presiding judge has the power to determine which evidence the jury can consider. In doing so, the judge must consult with the rules of evidence, which are passed by the state legislature. As a general rule, only evidence that is relevant to the case may be considered. However, not all relevant information is admissible.

Police CarRelevant evidence may be inadmissible for a number of reasons. For example, hearsay evidence is generally excluded. Similarly, evidence that is very prejudicial to one party may be excluded even if it is technically relevant. In a recent car accident case, the court was tasked with determining whether a defendant’s two prior convictions for driving under the influence were admissible.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on his way to work when he was involved in a head-on collision with another motorist, who was driving home from a bar. That driver was later determined to have a blood-alcohol content of .18, which is over twice the legal limit.

Continue reading