Addressing Frequently Asked Legal Questions And Concerns
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How are accident claims settled?
Insurance claim adjusters take many factors into consideration when reviewing your auto accident claim. They may call the officer to review any statements made at the scene; examine how soon you sought treatment for injuries, or label some injuries as pre-existing and then want to review your medical records from before the accident. Given the uncertainty of the process, it’s best not to speak with the other insurance company about the injury portion of your claim, rather seek counsel.
My personal injury claim is greater than the at fault party’s insurance coverage, what now?
Hopefully, you purchased enough underinsured coverage on your policy to cover the gap in what was covered by their insurance company and the expenses you have incurred. Both uninsured (UM) and underinsurance (UIM) are available when you purchase your policy (and, in fact, Virginia law mandates having both for Virginia policies) and it is a good idea to increase the limits to as much as you can afford. This will give you coverage if the other party has no insurance or if it is not enough to cover your losses.
Do I need a JAG divorce attorney if my spouse or I are military?
No. There is no such thing as a JAG divorce attorney. While each base has a legal department, their role is not to pursue divorces (and, in fact, they may not even be licensed in Virginia). While there are not many differences in the law involving divorces between civilians and those in military service, there are unique topics and a few laws that require some additional experience and knowledge. While Virginia will have jurisdiction over any divorce proceedings, you want to be represented by an attorney who has experience with the military regulations/laws and factual issues that arise in these types of cases. As an example, one such law is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which deals with the disbursement of pensions and use of the commissary after a divorce is finalized.
Can I receive more support now that I am not working full-time?
Child custody, visitation, and support are always modifiable by a court. In order to change something that has been entered in an order, you must first show a material change in circumstances from the time the order had been entered, and then, if you meet that hurdle, the court will determine what is in the best interests of the child for custody and visitation, and run presumptive guidelines as to support. Many things can constitute a material change - every case is unique, which is why we recommend hiring counsel before seeking a change in court.
Can I have child support modified based on my ex-spouse’s new spouse’s income?
By Code, child support is based solely on the two parents’ incomes. The increase in household income due to marriage, by itself, cannot be grounds for child support modification. However, if your ex-spouse quits his or her job thereby becoming voluntarily unemployed and not able to provide their share of the child’s support, a modification may be warranted. If the court is going to deviate from the presumptive child support formula (which it can do if it finds that the application of such guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case), then it might be able to take such other income into account under the catch-all factor of the Code for such deviations.
Should I give the at-fault party’s insurance company a recorded statement following an accident where I have been injured?
No. One of the most common mistakes made by people involved in an auto accident is to give a statement, recorded or not, to the at-fault party's insurance company. Insurance companies are in business to make money, so if they can get you on record as stating you do not have any serious injuries before you realize you need continued care, they will save money and you will not receive fair compensation for your needs. If you are injured in an accident, we recommend always talking to an attorney to help you maximize your financial settlement and avoid procedural blunders like talking to the other side's insurance company.
I was in an accident and am now being offered money to pay my medical bills, should I take it?
That depends on what you are actually being offered. Will the offer cover all your incurred and projected medical expenses, lost wages, travel expenses? What about your pain and suffering from the accident? Determining what a fair settlement is can be a complex process. Before you accept an offer, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you build a strong and persuasive case using their experience to skillfully negotiate with the insurance company to receive the full compensation your case deserves.
I’ve heard Foreign Divorces are much cheaper and easier. Why wouldn't someone in the military take advantage of this option?
You can get divorces quickly in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, among other places. Getting a divorce where you or your spouse have not established domicile will cost you much more when you have to hire a lawyer to make your divorce legal. Per the U.S. Supreme Court, only a divorce granted in the state which one or both individuals have established legal residence has the jurisdiction to issue such a decree. You wouldn't want to be in the position of committing bigamy after getting re-married because your first marriage wasn't properly ended. I can assist you with a legal Virginia divorce decree while protecting your military benefits.
The driver that hit me received a DUI, can I sue the bar that he was at prior to driving into me?
Not in Virginia. In order to hold a person or a business who serves alcohol responsible for the actions of an intoxicated person, you would have to be in a State that followed Dram Shop Liability laws. Virginia is one of only a few states that do not follow such laws. (Dram refers to the old term by which alcohol was measured). While states like Virginia feel the individual should be responsible for their own actions, there are many organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) that argue these laws reduce alcohol-related crashes and serve a similar purpose of responsibility to the establishment that did not reasonably cut them off when obviously drunk or call them a cab.
My Spouse is in the military and deployed; will this delay our divorce proceedings?
The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act allows suspension of a civil action involving deployed service members until they are home and able to fairly participate. However, servicemembers can waive their right to delay proceedings, thereby allowing the finalization of your divorce while they are deployed.