Answers to All of Your Virginia Legal Questions
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Can I be Stopped for Texting when I'm Driving?
Yes. Due to the dangers of texting while driving, it has become illegal in many states. In Virginia, texting and driving is a primary offense. This means a police officer can pull you over if they see if you are texting and driving. A ticket for texting and driving can cost $125, and a second offense can cost $250. If it is in a work zone it is a mandatory $250 fine.
Keep in mind that if you are pulled over for texting, you could subject yourself to other issues if applicable, such as such as driving while drinking or under the influence of drugs, out of compliance registration, insurance issues, and/or inspections.
You shouldn’t text and drive for your safety and others – period. Don’t add to that risk the fines and other possible legal woes.
Keep in mind you cannot use a handheld device at all when driving (with very few exceptions such as reporting an emergency).
My child was injured in a car accident. Can I file a lawsuit on her behalf?
Yes. Either parent may sue for the child. However, there are particular requirements for how the lawsuit must be worded, and failure to comply with those requirements can be fatal to the case.
Importantly, the procedure for filing suit to recover for medical bills incurred by the parent or parents can be different from the action for injuries suffered by the child. Typically these two actions are combined in one lawsuit but not always.
Finally, different statutes of limitation can apply to each action—generally two years after the child reaches the age of 18 (the child’s 20th birthday) for the injury claim but only five years after the accident for the parent’s recovery of incurred medical bills if the parent pursues that claim separately. If this sounds confusing, it can be. For this reason, it is highly recommended that anyone pursuing a claim on behalf of an injured child be represented by an experienced attorney. Consult with an attorney early on in the process to avoid potential pitfalls.
Is the time in which you can sue (“statute of limitations (SOL)”) for personal injury different for children than adults?
Yes. The usual SOL for personal injury matters is 2 years. For children, however, unless they have been legally emancipated, they have until they turn 20 to file a personal injury claim (age 18 when they become an adult and then the usual 2 years added to that). If they were already emancipated at the time of the accident, they have two years from the date of injury. If the injury happened before emancipation, they have two years from the date of their emancipation to file a claim.
Should I take photos of my car accident?
Yes! If it is possible to safely get photographs, we highly recommend it. Photos can be used to help establish fault and can also be used as evidence of injuries or damage. If possible, get pictures of the entire accident scene from multiple angles, including damage to cars or property (fences, bushes, etc), skid marks on the road, traffic signs, any visible body injuries (bruises, scrapes), and anything you think might have contributed to the accident.
Should I settle my personal injury case from my accident last week?
No. You should not settle until you have finished your medical treatment and the doctor says you are healed. You may not be fully aware of the extent of your injuries or how much medical treatment you will actually require. If you settle too soon, you take a risk that the settlement amount will not be enough to cover your needs. Keep in mind that in Virginia, you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, so you have time to ensure everything is 100% done. Consult a lawyer well before time runs out if you think treatment will take longer than 2 years.
I was in a minor car accident, but I feel fine. Do I need to see my doctor?
Yes. You should see your doctor right away and let him know what happened, along with any problems you notice, no matter how minor they seem. Sometimes it takes a few days before you really start feeling the effects of a car accident. If you don’t see your doctor immediately, some insurance companies may try to claim that your injury stemmed from an unrelated event after the accident. Better safe than sorry when dealing with your health.
If I hit a pedestrian who had a "don't walk" signal, am I at fault?
Maybe. A common misconception is that a pedestrian always has the right of way. This is not true. As long as you were following all traffic laws (speed limit, traffic lights/signs, paying attention, etc.) and did everything in your power to avoid hitting someone once you saw them, then you are not at fault. A pedestrian is at fault if he or she is jaywalking or crossing outside of the crosswalk, crossing against traffic control signals, crossing highways or roads without traffic controls, or walking on highways/bridges/areas where pedestrian access is prohibited. Virginia is one of the few places where “contributory negligence” is still applied, which essentially says that if a person is even a little at fault, they are prohibited from recovering anything in an accident. Every case is unique and if you are involved in an accident, you should seek experienced Virginia legal counsel.
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.
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.