Northern Virginia includes the Washington DC metro area, as well as part of the DC Beltway and many other high volume roads connecting Northern Virginia to DC across the Potomac River. This area is infamous for very heavy traffic and the DC area has been determined to have the 2nd worst traffic congestion in the US.
While auto accidents are inevitable in any place automobile traffic is allowed, the relatively high traffic volume and congestion makes auto accidents exceedingly likely in Northern Virginia.
What are Auto Accident Lawsuits?
An auto accident lawsuit can result anytime a driver is involved in an auto accident that they feel was not their fault, and therefore, they should have no responsibility to pay for any damages (physical, financial, or emotional).
The party at fault in an auto accident may face criminal charges if their actions rise to a criminal level (e.g. if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or were otherwise driving recklessly or negligently), but the auto accident lawsuits discussed in this article are civil lawsuits filed by a party to the accident for the purpose of seeking compensation for injuries suffered. These suits fall into the broader categories of personal injury lawsuits and property damage lawsuits.
What are Some Common Auto Accident Causes?
Some of the most common causes for auto accidents are:
- Distracted Driving: This could include texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, eating while driving, adjusting the radio at an unsafe time, etc.
- Purposeful Reckless Driving: Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a very common cause of accidents. Running red lights, tailgating, overly aggressive driving, or excessive speeding are also examples of purposeful reckless driving.
- Naturally Occuring Conditions: Some accidents are the result of conditions beyond anyone’s control. Snow, rain, and fog frequently contribute to auto accidents, as do other naturally occurring conditions like nightfall, bright sun in a driver’s eyes, an animal darting into a driver’s path, or even the presence of objects that could obstruct a driver’s vision (e.g. low hanging tree limbs, bushes).
- If all parties involved are driving as safely as can be expected in light of these naturally occurring conditions, it’s likely that the accident will not be considered to be the fault of any party involved. In contrast, a driver who fails to take naturally occuring conditions into consideration, such as not slowing down on slick roads or in dense fog, can be determined to be at fault for the accident.
- Unforeseeable Complications: Sometimes the cause of an accident is a blown tire, a pothole, or even a design defect in the vehicle.
What Types of Injuries are Often Involved in Auto Accidents?
The first thing most people think of in terms of injuries resulting from an auto accident are physical injuries to someone involved in the accident. Physical injuries involved in auto accidents typically fall into one of the following categories:
- Cuts and Scrapes: Superficial cuts and scrapes almost always occur in auto accidents. Common examples would be minor cuts from broken glass, or a superficial bruise or scrape caused by unsecured items in the vehicle hitting an occupant of a car involved in an auto accident.
- More Serious Chest/Arm/Leg Injuries: Auto accidents also frequently result in more serious injuries like broken bones, internal bleeding, significant cuts, crushed limbs, or traumatic amputations.
- Soft Tissue Injury: This is the most common type of injury suffered in an auto accident. Soft tissue injuries involve the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body (e.g. whiplash, bruising from a seatbelt).
- Head Injuries: An auto accident that causes an occupant’s head to come into contact with the steering wheel, window, or other hard surface, will likely result in a concussion, a cut at the point of impact, or in more severe accidents, brain bleeds or open skull fractures.
An auto accident can also result in financial injury in the form of lost earnings, loss of future earning potential, or vehicle/property damage that is for whatever reason not covered by insurance.
Emotional injury from auto accidents usually takes the form of emotional pain and suffering, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), or loss of consortium — which is the loss of a family relationship or interaction because of injuries suffered in the accident.
Who Can be Held Liable in an Auto Accident Lawsuit?
An auto accident lawsuit can seek damages from one of the parties to the accident, the vehicle manufacturer in the case of vehicle design defects, or a third party whose actions are believed to have contributed to the accident.
Can I Recover Damages for a Northern Virginia Auto Accident?
Yes, you can recover damages for an auto accident occurring in Northern Virginia, so long as you satisfy the requirements established in Virginia state law.
Are There any Unique Northern Virginia Auto Laws I Should Consider?
Yes. Northern Virginia has a few unique auto laws that must be taken into consideration. The unique Northern Virginia auto laws include:
- The “At-Fault” Rule: Many other states have adopted “no-fault” rules for car insurance coverage, However, Virginia remains a pure “at-fault” state for auto accidents. In other words, the at-fault driver’s insurance in the case of an auto accident will always be primarily responsible for covering the damages. The driver not at fault will not be able to receive payment from their own insurance unless the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured. As a result, the determination of fault in an auto accident is especially important in Virginia.
- Statute of Limitations: In Virginia, claims involving personal injury or death resulting from an auto accident must be made within 2 years. Claims only involving property damage can be made within 5 years.
- Contributory Negligence: Only a small number of states, including Virginia, continue to follow the rule of contributory negligence in auto accidents. This basically means that a party cannot recover damages unless the other driver is found to be 100% at fault for the accident. A driver determined to be even 1% at fault is unable to recover.
Should I Hire a Northern Virginia Auto Accident Lawyer?
It is almost always advisable to hire an auto accident lawyer if you are involved in an auto accident and feel as though you are entitled to damages. Similarly, it is equally advisable to hire an auto accident lawyer if you are involved in an auto accident and another party involved is seeking to recover damages from you.
In states using the “no fault” rule (and depending on your exact coverages), insurance companies will usually pay for physical and property damages suffered by their customers, and then use their own attorneys to get the at-fault driver’s insurance company to reimburse them, leaving no reason for the parties to the accident to hire their own lawyers.
That would not be the case in Northern Virginia. If the car insurance company used by a Virginia driver determined to be at fault refuses to pay damages to the party not-at-fault, the car insurance company of the party not-at-fault will most likely not pay the damages.
In this event the not-at-fault party would have to try to recover damages from the at-fault party’s insurance or from the party personally, almost certainly resulting in an auto accident lawsuit. This makes it especially important to consult a car accident lawyer in the case of a Northern Virginia auto accident.