If you were in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you might assume that the other driver’s insurance will pay for everything.
However, this isn’t true in every situation.
Sometimes, it can be advantageous to hire a personal injury attorney who can help you receive the settlement you deserve after an accident.
Sometimes, you may not even need to speak with an attorney, and can instead resolve the matter yourself.
In this article, we’ll broadly cover the various reasons why you might want to hire an attorney after a traffic accident that wasn’t your fault.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident in Virginia?
In Virginia, the legal process following a car accident that wasn’t your fault is relatively straightforward.
Basically, after dealing with the immediate aftermath of the accident (calling the police, receiving medical attention for any injuries, etc…), you’ll want to report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company.
After you file your claim, the insurance company will investigate it.
Then, if they determine that you were not at fault for the accident, they will return to you with a settlement.
If you accept this settlement, you waive your right to sue on your own.
However, you don’t have to accept the insurance company’s first settlement.
Instead, if you feel that the insurance company’s settlement doesn’t adequately cover your damages, you can choose to hire an attorney and negotiate for a better offer.
At this point, you and your lawyer can gather evidence and submit a counteroffer for why you deserve a higher settlement.
If the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement, you can then take the case to civil court to have a jury decide the outcome.
Keep in mind that you can still reach a settlement with the insurance company at any point in this legal process.
For this reason, extensive negotiation is common in accidents involving large settlements.
For more information, check out our article: “What to Do After a Car Accident in Virginia: A 6-Step Guide”
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney if the Accident Wasn’t My Fault?
In most cases, no. You only need to hire an attorney if:
- The car accident was damaging enough to impact your everyday way of life; and,
- The insurance settlement failed to adequately cover the costs of your damages (such as if you have extensive medical injuries or if they claimed that you were at fault for the accident).
For example, the benefits of hiring an attorney for a minor fender-bender are minimal.
However, if you are injured in the accident, or if the accident caused significant damage to your vehicle, you may want to discuss your options with an attorney.
Basically, the primary reason that you should contact an attorney after an accident is so that you can negotiate a larger settlement with your insurance company.
If you think about it, this makes sense. After all, insurance companies are businesses.
They make a profit by offering you the smallest possible compensation they can, which may be less than the amount you actually deserve.
For this reason, it can be in your best interest to contact a lawyer if you feel that your insurance settlement doesn’t cover the cost of your damages.
This is especially true in scenarios where you were injured but were not at fault for the accident.
If you suffered a significant injury during your car accident, you should strongly consider contacting a lawyer.
Insurance settlements are usually designed to deal with vehicular damage. For this reason, they tend to under-compensate personal injuries.
This fact is especially true for accidents that result in disability or other long-lasting problems.
Finally, keep in mind that you only have two years to file your person injury suit after an accident.
Liability in Virginia
There’s one more reason you might want to contact a lawyer after a car accident in Virginia.
Virginia is one of a small number of states that observes the law of contributory negligence. Effectively, this means that you may not receive money for an accident that you were even partially responsible for.
Notably, contributory negligence does not take how much of the accident you were responsible for into account.
All that matters is that you were partially responsible.
For example, let’s say that you were struck by a drunk driver and sustained injuries. However, a nearby traffic camera shows that you were texting at the time of the accident.
In most states, the court would assign partial damages based on how much of the injury each party was responsible for.
In Virginia, however, you’re generally out of luck.
Except for in very specific situations, any amount of responsibility for an accident can bar you from compensation.
As a result of this rule, seemingly airtight personal injury cases can break down under scrutiny, even in cases where you may not be primarily at fault for the accident.
For this reason, it is very important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
Even in scenarios where you may not be wholly at fault, even a minor detail can cause your case to go off the rails.
If you you are involved in a traffic accident which results in serious medical injuries, you may want with an attorney before accepting the settlement from the insurance company.
This is especially true in cases where you are not at fault for the accident, or where you have large medical bills which are not covered by your insurance policy.
Even if you don’t decide to pursue litigation, an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you make sure that the insurance company is treating you fairly when it comes to financial compensation.