Auto accidents can come in many shapes and sizes. A minor car accident would not result in major physical injuries or damage to the property. While a major auto accident usually involves significant damage to the people and cars involved. Each can result from the same event, and each can require expensive repairs and medical bills.
When you’ve been in a car accident, the first thing to do is to seek medical attention, then file a claim with your insurance company. Ultimately, the insurance company will decide who is at fault for the accident. Usually, the drivers involved will work through their insurance companies to determine fault and agree on a settlement.
If a settlement cannot be reached, it will go to court for a jury to determine who is to blame. This process can be pretty straight forward, but it verifies from state to state, so that is not always the case.
How Do You Prove an Auto Accident Claim?
The leading cause of auto accidents is negligence. To establish fault, the negligence elements should be considered; the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Every driver on the road owes a duty to everyone else on the road. That duty is to avoid accidents. The plaintiff must prove the other driver breach that duty of care and that breach was the cause of injury and damages to them.
To prove an auto accident claim, there are a few steps to take immediately following the accident:
- Seek medical attention
- Call the police to take an accident report;
- Gather the contact information for the other parties involved with the accident;
- Gather information of the witnesses;
- Take pictures of the damages to the vehicles and property;
- Take pictures of the surrounding areas;
- Look for any business or traffic cameras that might have caught footage of the incident;
- Take notes of what you noticed when the accident occurred, and after;
Most car accidents involve property damages, and some include physical damages. In addition to the above evidence, also consider collecting the following:
- Medical records;
- Related records to car repairs;
- Related Records to property damage and reparations.
What Damages are Available in an Auto Accident Lawsuit?
More often than not, an auto accident claim can lead to a lawsuit in civil courts for damages. Every case is different, and all facts are unique; thus, there are many options for damages. For instance, the responsible party may have to reimburse the victim of an accident for their losses. If there are multiple parties involved, the responsible party may be liable for all victims’ damages, such as:
- Damage to vehicles;
- Damages to other property, this includes items located inside of the car and property outside of the car, such as buildings, powerlines, or lawns;
- Personal injuries expenses, like hospital bills and physical therapy costs;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Lost wages or earning capacity;
- Any penalties that arise with criminal indictments are usually included in such cases as drunk driving or homicidal accidents.
Are There Any Defenses Available in an Automobile Accident Lawsuit?
There are several options to defenses when defending against an auto accident lawsuit. This is particularly true when multiple drivers may be at fault. Additionally, auto accidents are relatively unique, so that there can be several parties associated with one claim.
The following are examples of defenses drivers involved in car accidents may assert:
- Expired Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is a set time that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. If the plaintiff has not brought the lawsuit in the necessary time, this can be used as a defense.
- Contributory or Comparative Negligence: Either defense depends on the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit has been brought. Some courts do not allow plaintiffs to recover if they contributed to the accident and their injuries. Other jurisdictions permit damages in two ways if the plaintiff was at fault: (i) if the jury finds the plaintiff was less than 50% at fault for their injuries; or (ii) an award can be given at a reduced rate based on the percentage the plaintiff was at fault. For example, if the plaintiff is 40% at fault, they will only be given 60% of the award.
- Assumption of Risk: As a defense, the assumption of risk may apply when the defendant can prove the other party knew inherent risks involved but still acted.
- Lack of Proof: When there is not enough evidence to prove liability.
- Lack of Fault: If the plaintiff is found to be at fault, the defendant may use this as a defense.
- Involuntary Intoxication: If the accident was caused because the defendant was intoxicated against their will, they could assert this defense.
- Failure to Mitigate Damages: If the plaintiff acts in a way that leads to more severe injury – such as refusing medical treatment- the defendant may use this as a defense.
Are There any Auto Accident Laws Specific to the Fairfax Area?
Auto accidents can vary drastically among each state. It is crucial to know and understand the laws and rights of your state. If you are involved in an auto accident in Fairfax, Virginia, there are some distinctions from other states you should know about.
First, the statute of limitations is short. A plaintiff must bring a lawsuit within two years of the data of the accident. This is shorter than most places, including the DC area and neighboring state, Maryland, where plaintiffs must bring suit within three years.
Secondly, it would be more beneficial to a car accident victim to pay out of pocket for medical bills, rather than using their insurance. This is because Virginia is known as an anti-subrogation state. There is no obligation for a defendant to pay the insurance company back.
Lastly, Virginia abides by the contributory negligence doctrine, as opposed to the comparative negligence doctrine. This hinted at above; contributory negligence is a defense that places some contribution of the damages on the plaintiff. In this case, the court reduces the amount of recovery based on the percentage of fault. If the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, they won’t recover anything.
What are the Steps for Filing an Auto Accident Lawsuit in the Fairfax Region?
Here are the necessary steps for filing an auto accident lawsuit in Fairfax, Virginia:
- Notify the other party’s insurance company and get a claim number. Your attorney will send a letter of representation sent from your attorney’s office;
- The insurance company will conduct an investigation, and settlement options will take place;
- When settlements fail, the case goes to court;
- A claim can either be filed in the Circuit Court or the District Court, depending on the damages
Do I Need to Hire a Fairfax Lawyer for Help with an Auto Accident Claim?
To proceed with an Auto Accident Claim in the Fairfax location, you will need a personal injury lawyer licensed in the area. Auto accident claims can involve complex theories specific to your location and facts of the accident. A lawyer specializing in auto accidents in your area can provide you with advice and assistance with your case.
A local attorney can provide you with your best course of action, whether you are a driver, passenger, or pedestrian involved in the accident. Accordingly, they will evaluate your defense according to the local laws and can represent you moving forward. Additionally, a lawyer can negotiate a settlement to avoid going to court.