Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

handshakeAccording to the most recent estimates, approximately 95% of civil cases are resolved through pre-trial settlement negotiations. While it may seem that an attorney’s assistance is not necessary with the chances being so high that a case will not make it to trial, the exact opposite is true. Virginia personal injury attorneys are crucial to negotiating favorable settlement offers, and ensuring that the terms of the offer are fair to their client.

A settlement agreement is a contract between the parties. Most often, the agreement is that the plaintiff will withdraw their case against the defendant and in return, the defendant will provide some amount of compensation to the plaintiff. Normally, the amount of compensation provided to the plaintiff is less than it would likely be if the plaintiff were to succeed at trial; however, the plaintiff is provided with the certainty that they will be recovering a given sum for their injuries

Virginia personal injury plaintiffs should take care in executing a settlement agreement because these are binding contracts. A recent case illustrates one potential problem that a plaintiff may face when executing a settlement agreement with some, but not all, of the potentially liable parties.

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car accidentIn a recent case, a state appellate court denied a plaintiff’s claim against an insurance company based on the fact that the state where the claim arose precluded accident victims from stacking their insurance policies. In that case, the insurance company had approved and paid out on a similar claim filed by the plaintiff a few years earlier. However, the court held that the insurance company’s previous error in paying out on the plaintiff’s claim did not mean that the insurance company was prevented from raising the anti-staking defense in the more recent case.

Had this case been brought in Virginia, the insurance company would not be able to raise the anti-stacking defense because Virginia allows accident victims to stack multiple insurance policies. Stacking allows for accident victims to combine the policy maximums from multiple policies, up to the point where they are able to recover fully for their injuries they sustained.

Without Insurance Policy Stacking

If an accident victim sustained $300,000 in a car accident in a state that does not allow stacking, and the at-fault motorist’s insurance policy has a policy maximum of $100,000, and the plaintiff’s own policy has a maximum of $150,000, the plaintiff will be able to recover the following:

  • $100,000 from the at-fault motorist’s policy, and
  • $50,000 from the accident victim’s policy

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criminal lawThe determination of whether an insurance company is responsible to defend the at-fault party in a Virginia car accident case is often a critical issue because the at-fault party frequently will not have sufficient assets to fully compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they have sustained. In the event that an accident is covered under an insurance policy, the insurance company will cover the costs of the accident, meaning that the plaintiff will more likely be able to collect should the case be resolved in their favor.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case raising an important insurance issue that frequently arises in Virginia car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if an employer’s insurance policy covered an accident caused by an intoxicated employee.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was traveling for work when he caused a traffic accident that injured the plaintiff. At the time of the accident, the defendant was driving a company owned vehicle, although he was not on the clock at the time and was not performing any work-related activity. It was later determined that the defendant was intoxicated.

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wrong dateFor nearly the first two hundred years of the nation’s history, state and federal governments could not be held liable in a lawsuit brought by a citizen unless the government entity being named as a defendant specifically consented to being sued. In effect, this insulated the government from acts of its employees, leaving those who were injured as a result of a government worker’s negligence without any real means of recourse.

In the mid-20th century that began to change with the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA provided a legal mechanism for those who had been injured due to the negligent or wrongful act of a government employee to seek compensation for their injuries. In the wake of the FTCA, states began to follow, passing their own versions of the law. The Virginia Tort Claims Act was passed in its current form in 1981, and is contained in Virginia Code, Title 8.01 sections 195.1 to 195.12.

In order to bring a lawsuit against a government entity under a tort claims act, the conditions of the act must be followed. In most cases, tort claims acts require plaintiffs to provide adequate notice to the government entity being sued and pursue their case in a timely manner. A plaintiff’s failure to file these rules precisely will almost certainly result in the dismissal of their lawsuit. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret the procedural requirements of tort claims acts.

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Recently, a state appellate court handed down an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that will be of interest to many Virginia car accident victims. The case required the court to discuss one defendant’s potential liability in a multi-vehicle accident that began with an instance of road rage. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant was not liable based on his reaction to another driver’s road-rage induced erratic driving.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on a highway on-ramp about to get onto the highway when a driver quickly came up from behind her, passed her, and made an obscene gesture as he did so. The plaintiff changed lanes to get behind the car that had just passed her, and as she did that car slammed on its brakes. To avoid what would have been a certain collision, the plaintiff also slammed on her brakes. The driver behind her did the same.

The defendant was two cars behind the plaintiff. As the vehicle behind the plaintiff applied the brakes, the defendant braked as well. However, because his truck was fully loaded with cargo, he was unable to stop in time and ran into the back of car in front of him. That vehicle was pushed into the plaintiff’s car, injuring the plaintiff.

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Virginia law requires that all driver maintain a certain level of insurance coverage in order to legally drive on the state’s public roads. Indeed, car insurance is very important in the event of a Virginia car accident, especially those that result in serious bodily injury. These accidents often result in significant expenses, including medical bills and lost wages, not to mention the emotional toll that being involved in a serious accident can take.

Legal News GavelIn theory, car insurance should help with these issues by compensating motorists for their injuries. However, in practice, insurance companies often tend to view claims with an eye toward denial or low-ball settlements. This can result in a major headache for accident victims.

Given the realities of insurance coverage, it is important that accident victims do everything they can to comply with all the requirements contained in their policy. A recent case illustrates the difficulties that an accident victim may encounter when filing a claim with an insurance company.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presents an issue that is relevant to Virginia car accident victims considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case should have been dismissed based on the dishonest answers he provided during the discovery process.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

About seven years ago, the plaintiff was involved in a collision with the defendant. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the accident caused various injuries to his shoulder, back, and neck, and that the other driver should be liable for the accident and damages.

After the complaint was filed, the parties engaged in the discovery process. Discovery is part of the pre-trial procedure that allows each party to obtain evidence from the opposing party. Some common forms of discovery are requests for medical documentation, depositions, and interrogatories.

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Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a written opinion in a Virginia car accident case discussing whether a third party’s insurance policy covered the plaintiffs’ accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company was acting within its right to deny coverage and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, based on the fact that the vehicle the plaintiffs were operating was not a “covered auto” under the third party’s insurance policy.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were independent contractors who agreed to deliver furniture for a local furniture company. However, since the plaintiffs did not have their own vehicle, the furniture company allowed the plaintiffs to deliver the furniture using a Penske truck that it had rented.

During the delivery, the plaintiffs pulled over, and one of the plaintiffs got out of the truck to check that the load of furniture was secure. At this time, another vehicle crashed into the truck, killing one plaintiff and seriously injuring the other.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that may have increasing importance in Virginia car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if a defendant can assert an imputed negligence defense against an owner-passenger who is injured due to the alleged negligence of someone whom she allowed to use her car.

Legal News GavelAlthough this defense was historically permitted, the court held that recent changes in the law and how insurance policies are written no longer provide support for the defense. Thus, the court held that the defense was not valid.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a woman who was waiting in the front-passenger seat of a car she owned while her husband – the driver – ran into a restaurant to grab the couple’s order. The plaintiff’s husband had parked the vehicle in a lane that was perpendicular to the defendant’s truck. As the defendant backed out of the parking space, he crashed into the plaintiff’s vehicle.

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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.

Legal News GavelCar 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.

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