We handle automobile personal injury cases. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, please call us for a free consultation.
Though the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before trial, we have found that the best way to get a good settlement is to be prepared to go to court.
In court the plaintiff in a personal injury action must prove that the defendant was negligent and that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The results of a traffic citation from the accident are not necessarily determinative of negligence. For example, a driver may be convicted of reckless driving in traffic court, but found not to be negligent in the civil case. No matter what happened in traffic court, the plaintiff in the civil case must be prepared to prove that the defendant was at fault.
A plaintiff must also be prepared to show that he was not negligent. In Virginia, if a plaintiff is also negligent, called contributory negligence, he cannot recover even if his negligence was slight in comparison with the gross negligence of the defendant.
In addition to proving that he or she has a right to recover damages from the defendant, the plaintiff must also prove the amount of those damages. In a personal injury action, damages fall into three main categories -- medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Medical bills and lost wages are generally easy to calculate, though they generally require the expert testimony of a doctor to show that the costs are the direct result of the defendant’s negligence. Pain and suffering is far less exact, and a jury can award damages from nothing to millions of dollars for pain and suffering.
A victory in court in only useful if the defendant can pay it. Therefore, the amount of insurance available is a factor in the settlement of many automobile accident cases.
This is an area of law where it is difficult to act as your own attorney. It requires dealing with an insurance company which has a lot of knowledge and experience, and has no obligation or reason to look after your interest. I highly recommend that before accepting a settlement offered by an insurance company, you speak with an attorney.