Select Page

Is driving safer in Canada?

We all know that driving can be dangerous, from motorists using their smartphones to speeders and drunk drivers. So is it any safer driving in Canada compared to the United States and similar countries? YES! In ratio, Canada has about 40% fewer vehicle fatalities than their southern neighbor. For the last few decades, Canada has steadily reduced their national vehicle fatalities rate, in part because of their national campaign for safer roads. In contrast, the U.S. has become a pretty damn dangerous country for drivers!

That’s good news for Canadians as long as they avoid any tourists from the States. But even though Canada is far safer for drivers, the country still has its share of car accidents resulting in personal injuries. If you get in a car wreck because some idiot is yarning on their cell phone or had a couple of mickeys, and suffer a personal injury, here is what you need to know to cover your ass.

In British Columbia, The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) rules the roads

In the United States car insurance can be purchased from many different sources, but in British Columbia, the ICBC is the only source for getting certain auto insurance. Under the ICBC, all motorists are required to purchase a Basic Autoplan at a minimum.

The ICBC Basic Autoplan covers five areas:

  1. Third-party liability insurance covers both bodily injury and property damage up to $200,000.
  2. Underinsured motorist protection covers your medical bills if the other vehicle involved in the accident had no insurance or didn’t have enough coverage, up to $1 million per person.
  3. Medical coverage up to $150,000 per person.
  4. Hit-and-run coverage up to $200,000.
  5. Inverse liability coverage: If you’re in an accident where the local laws don't let you make a claim against the at-fault party, you’re covered under the inverse liability coverage(in Canada and the U.S).

The ICBC mandatory coverage doesn’t cover vehicle replacement and repair because the program is designed to cover personal injury. If you want to protect your car, then you will need some additional coverage. In British Columbia, you can turn to private insurance companies for this coverage, but you will always have to have at least the minimum plan through the ICBC.

How personal injuries from an automobile accident work in British Columbia

If you are injured in a car wreck in British Columbia, the ICBC will probably be handling your personal injury situation with two types of compensation:

  • No-fault accident benefits:The ICBC offers compensation called “accident benefits” to any covered parties injured in an accident. Because the coverage is “no-fault” insurance, even if you caused the accident, the ICBC will pay the accident benefits. The compensation from the accident benefits will cover lost wages, medical and rehabilitation benefits, and other financial losses.
  • Damages:This is often referred to as a tort claim. Unless you are found to be completely at fault, you can receive compensation for as pain and suffering, lost wages both past and future, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

It’s wise not to settle a personal injury claim until your injuries have stabilized and your doctor can determine when your injuries will most likely be resolved. Since it’s difficult to know if your injuries will continue or worsen, or if you will suffer from effects that you haven’t discovered yet, it’s best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney before making this very important decision.

Once you file a claim with the ICBC, they will offer a settlement and you can either accept the offer or seek other recourse. Keep in mind that once you settle your claim, you can’t make any further requests for compensation related to that accident.

Making a claim with the ICBC

An auto accident should be reported to the ICBC as soon as possible. You report the accident and start your claim by calling the ICBC’s Dial-A-Claim at 604.520.8222 in the lower mainland and 1.800.910.4222 elsewhere in British Columbia. You also have the option of reporting and filing online. Since filing a claim and receiving adequate compensation can depend on so many factors, some drivers will contact a personal injury lawyer before contacting the ICBC. The ICBC will accept a claim through a licensed attorney, so you may want to let your lawyer handle the claim from the start.

After your claim has been received, an ICBC adjuster will investigate the accident, talk to any passengers, other drivers, and witnesses to determine who is at fault. This same adjuster will later review your medical information regarding treatment, etc. and review any out-of-pocket expenses and other financial losses related to your injury.

Once you have filed a claim, you should consult a doctor right away. The quicker you learn the extent of your injuries, not only will you get the medical treatment needed immediately, you will be better able to estimate how your personal injury will affect you later. It’s important to keep detailed documentation of all medical care because the ICBC adjuster will continue to review your treatment and progress to determine how much the ICBC will reimburse you.

What to do if you disagree with the ICBC’s decisions

If you disagree with the ICBC’s investigation, determinations, or settlement offer, then you will need to contact a personal injury lawyer if you haven’t already. If your attorney can’t reach an acceptable agreement with the ICBC, you can resort to the ICBC’s appeal process. You have the right to appeal any decisions regarding fault, denial of claims, and settlement offers. The ICBC also offers what they call a Fairness Process for resolving other issues that fall outside the realm of the appeal process.

If you still aren’t satisfied, then you can sue the owner/drivers of other vehicles involved in the wreck. It’s important to know that the ICBC’s decision regarding fault or the compensation offered isn’t legally binding. A court can conduct their own investigation and determine fault, fair compensation, and more.

Where and when you can file claims and lawsuits

If you decide to file a lawsuit, you must file the suit within 2 years from the accident date, or you could lose any rights to recover damages. If you received any no-fault benefits, then the 2-year deadline to sue runs from the date of the last benefit payment instead of the date of the accident. Also, if you were under the age of 19 at the time of the accident, the 2-year deadline to file a suit doesn't start until you turn 19.

In British Columbia, where you file your lawsuit depends on the amount you are suing to recover. If the amount is $5,000 or less, then you will file through the Civil Resolution Tribunal. For amounts over $5,000 but under $35,000, you will file through Small Claims Court. If your suit is seeking damages that exceed $35,000, then you will have to take your case to the B.C. Supreme Court. Regardless of the amount you are seeking, it’s always wise to consult a personal injury attorney.

So there you have it. If you drive in British Columbia, then you’re going to be dealing with the ICBC every mile of the way! But now that you know how things work, if you’re ever injured in a car accident, you can rest a little easier knowing what to expect and what to do.

You will have 4 wrecks in your life, on average

You could be the most careful driver in the Tarheel State, but if you've been driving long enough, the odds are against you. According to some auto insurance industry reports, the average driver will be involved in a car accident once every 18 years. This means 4 wrecks over the course of a lifetime. Sooner or later, no matter how careful you are, some idiot is going to run a red light or change lanes without any warning.

While North Carolina ranks somewhere in the middle of all states when it comes to auto accidents and personal injury, statistics don't mean much when it's you that gets hurt. If you travel in one of the major cities like Charlotte or Raleigh, the congested highways and roads packed full of drivers who are often distracted and in a hurry put you at risk. If you drive in some of the rural areas, then you have to contend with two-lane roads that can be harder to maneuver and often have higher speed limits than around town.

Here are some things you'll want to know if you are (inevitably!) involved in a car accident and suffer a personal injury. Let's start with what you need to do immediately after an accident to cover your ass.

What you do right after an accident sets the stage for personal injury cases

Assuming you are able, here is a list of what you should do to protect yourself after any car accident.

Pull over. If you are involved in a car crash, North Carolina requires that you avoid obstructing traffic by pulling over to the side of the road. Law or not, this is good advice. Just think of all those YouTube clips of car wrecks where other drivers just keep plowing into cars that have already been in a wreck, and you'll understand why this is a good idea.

Call the police. This is another great idea and another requirement in North Carolina. Drivers involved in car accidents are required to notify local law enforcement by the quickest means possible. This isn't a requirement if the accident doesn't involve property damage, personal injury or death. But it's still a good idea. You will want an official report of who is at fault to protect yourself.

Get those statements. Another auto accident law in North Carolina requires that each driver involved provide other drivers involved their name, address, license number, and vehicle registration information. It's not mandatory, but exchanging auto insurance information is always a good idea too.

Watch your mouth! It's a good to cooperate with the police and provide some basic facts, but remember what we learned from watching SVU and CSI: ANYTHING YOU SAY ABOUT THE ACCIDENT, VERBALLY OR IN WRITING, CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU! We know you're going to be shaken up, but always try to keep this in mind.

Can I get a witness? Try to get the name, telephone number and address of any witnesses who might have information about the accident. Regardless of how sure you are that the other drive is obviously at fault (more on that later), you should try to get as many sides of the story as possible.

Keep notes. From the accident and diagram report you fill out at the scene of the car accident to the ensuing doctor's visits, you need to keep notes throughout the process. Get out that phone and take your own pictures of the accident and continue to document your side of the story for future use.

See a doctor. Even if you don't think you were seriously injured, you should always see a doctor as soon as possible. Injuries can show up days or even longer after the accident. When you visit the doctor, explain that the car accident caused your injuries.

Call the insurance companies. Report the accident to your insurance company and get all the details about your coverage. And don't count on the other driver to contact their insurance company. Call them too and notify them of the accident. Just like before, watch what you say. You aren't required to give them any information or your opinion of the accident.

Know the rules

Who's at fault? North Carolina is a “fault” state, which means that if you are injured in an auto accident, you can recover damages from the driver who is “at fault.”

If you get hurt in a car crash in North Carolina, you can receive compensation for your personal injuries from:

  • Your own insurance provider, who will then seek reimbursement from the at fault driver’s insurance company
  • The at-fault driver by filing a lawsuit for personal injuries
  • The at-fault driver’s insurance company in a third-party claim

Be aware that the at-fault driver may not always be the driver of another car in the accident. If the driver of the car where you are a passenger is at fault, then you may have a case against them.

But…

North Carolina also follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means that the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by whatever percentage you are found to be at fault. If the court finds that you are more than 50 percent at fault, then you are shit out of luck. You won't be able to collect a dime.

What about insurance?

North Carolina requires motorists to carry the following minimum automobile insurance amounts:

• $25,000 per single person claim for injury or death
• $60,000 maximum coverage amount per incident
• $25,000 for claims of property damage

UM and UIM coverage is required

North Carolina also requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist (UM) and under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM coverage allows you to file a claim with your own insurance company if you are injured in a car crash and the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance. UIM allows you to file a claim when the at-fault driver doesn't have enough insurance. These mandatory types of coverage protect you and your insurance company.

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

Regardless of the circumstances, you have a specific window of opportunity to file a personal injury claim. Known as the statute of limitations, this North Carolina law says that you have three years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit.  Miss this window and you forfeit any chance of getting compensation for your injuries.

Is there a limit to how much I can get for my personal injuries?

In North Carolina, you are entitled to recover compensation for any actual damages. This means that you can recover the amount of money it would take to fully compensate you for any losses such as medical care, property damage, car rental expenses, and loss of earnings. You can also receive compensation for pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, physical impairment, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.

So there you have it. Sooner or later, you will probably be in a wreck. We hope it's just a fender-bender, but if you are unfortunate enough to be injured, you'll know what to do to protect yourself and what you'll need to know for a personal injury claim.

Need to find a personal injury lawyer in NC?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

DUIs = the most common crime in the USA

Driving under the influence or DUI is probably the most common crime in the United States. The penalties for it are often harsh depending on the state, but if it’s your first time getting arrested for the crime and it’s a simple DUI at that, you can consider yourself fortunate because things could have been worse. You could have been charged with aggravated DUI.

An aggravated DUI arrest will send you into in a much deeper hole than a regular DUI because it’s a felony in most states. And if you get arrested in states that actually have aggravated DUI in their laws, you will be thankful if all you will have to defend in court is a simple DUI case.

Aggravating factors

As with a simple DUI, anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% will be booked initially for DUI, which could then be elevated to a more serious charge if officers of the law discover the existence of aggravating factors.

So what would cause a person to be on the receiving end of an aggravated DUI charge?

1. Driving without a valid license

A person is already in enough trouble if he or she is caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit, or while impaired by other substances. However, if the authorities discover that he or she was actually driving with a license that has been suspended, canceled, revoked, refused, or restricted, the charges against that person will most likely be upgraded to an aggravated DUI.

2. Prior DUI convictions

If the driver has multiple prior convictions for DUI, he or she will likely be charged with a felony DUI in most states, particularly when the latest DUI arrest takes place within a given number of years from the last conviction. The number of prior convictions and the specified time period to justify an aggravated DUI charge may vary from state to state. Some states put it at two convictions and seven years, while some states, like New York, for example, only require one prior conviction within the past 10 years to charge a person with aggravated DUI.

3. The absence of Ignition Interlock Device despite a court order

If the accused has been previously ordered to install an Ignition Interlock Device but didn’t, then that would be another factor that would justify the filing of an aggravated DUI case against that person. An Ignition Interlock Device or IID is a tool that functions like a breathalyzer, but one that prevents a car from starting if it detects a pre-programmed amount of alcohol in a driver’s system. They are usually part of sentences handed down to DUI offenders, with varying durations.

4. Children in the vehicle

A drunk driver’s night could turn for the worse if he or she is arrested on suspicion of DUI, then found to have a passenger below a certain age set by the state. In Arizona, which has a reputation for having some of the nation’s strictest DUI laws, drunk drivers with a passenger below the age of 15 will be hit with an Aggravated DUI – Class 6 Felony charge, which carries penalties harsher than your usual DUI.

5. Injury to a person or damage to property

A drunk driver will be facing an aggravated DUI charge if he or she causes property damage or injures another party while driving under the influence.

Penalties for aggravated DUI

A regular DUI, which is typically a misdemeanor in most states, carries penalties which many would already find serious. Aggravated DUI, on the other hand, is considered by many as a felony, and as such, the consequences are far more severe depending on the state. Typically, the maximum penalties for a person convicted of Class 4 Felony Aggravated DUI include prison time of up to 3.75 years, fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges, and supervised probation that could last up to 10 years.

The minimum penalties, on the other hand, could include 120 days in prison, a $750.00 fine, the installation of an IID for 24 consecutive months, the revocation of your driving privileges for three years, and screening, counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse.

The penalties increase dramatically if a person is convicted of a Class 6 Felony Aggravated DUI. A person convicted of a 1st Time Class 6 Aggravated DUI Sentence may spend up to two years in prison, pay up to $4,700 in fines and fees, have their driver’s license revoked, and install an Ignition Interlock Device for two years, among other things.

Long-term consequences

If you lose an aggravated DUI case, then you automatically become a convicted felon, and this permanent black mark on your record can have long-lasting consequences on your life.

You can lose your job or have a tough time finding one, for one thing. Your car insurance rates will likely double or triple as well because an aggravated DUI conviction makes you a “high-risk” driver in the eyes of insurance firms. Your insurance company may even drop your coverage if they so choose.

If you’re still a student hoping to get a scholarship to a reputable school, know that an aggravated DUI conviction means schools won’t likely accept you. If you have a scholarship, don’t be surprised if the people or institutions behind it pull it because they don't want to be associated with a convicted felon.

What to do if you’re facing aggravated DUI charges

Facing an aggravated DUI charge is a tough situation to be in, but as long as you’re being represented by a good lawyer, your chances of beating the felony DUI charges against you will be better. However, you don’t just pick out the best criminal defense attorney available. For an aggravated DUI case, you must pick out a criminal defense attorney that specializes in DUI defense. With a highly skilled and experienced DUI defense lawyer by your side, you have a decent shot at getting the best possible result from your aggravated DUI case.

Need to find a DUI defense lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

Buckle up. Drive safe. Be careful.

We've all heard this advice from friends and family as we get in our cars and drive away. While these adages may be so commonplace that most of us don't give them a second thought, that is still some damn good advice to keep in mind as we drive. And this advice is especially good if you are driving around Atlanta, Georgia. That's because Georgia has reported the fifth highest increase in vehicular deaths in recent years, and that rate is twice the national average. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

In 2016, 1,500 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Georgia, predominately caused by speeding, drinking while driving, and distracted driving. No big surprise there. The interstate that surrounds Georgia's capital of Atlanta, Interstate 285, holds the dubious distinction of being the most fatal Interstate in the United States. WTF! That makes driving around Atlanta one hell of a risk!

Overall, the state is ranked the seventh-worst in the U.S. for fatal car accidents. So if you live in Georgia, and especially Atlanta, or are just traveling in these areas, then you need to know that you are more at risk for a serious automobile accident than you may realize. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car wreck and suffer a personal injury, here's what you need to know.

The four factors involved in a personal injury claim in Georgia

Some of the most common types of accidents that result in personal injury claims involve auto accidents. But not all injuries from a car wreck meet the requirements to file a personal injury claim in Georgia. To file a claim after an accident, you’ll need to be able to establish the following four factors:

Duty of care – A duty of care is the legal responsibility of another driver to avoid any behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen to cause harm to you or others. Examples would be some jerk cutting you off in traffic or some other irresponsible and dangerous behavior.

Breach of duty – When you file a claim for personal injury, you’ll also have to show that the other party intentionally acted in a way that somehow breached their duty of care. Examples would be a drunk driver or some asshole kid going too fast in his new Mustang. This breach of duty is commonly called negligence.

Causation – Next, you’ll have to prove that the other driver's negligence was the specific cause of your injuries. Establishing a breach of duty or negligence is not enough to receive damages. There must also be a direct cause-and-effect between specific injuries and specific negligence.

Damages – Lastly, you must prove identifiable and measurable damages. These damages would include non-economic losses like physical injury, economic losses like lost wages and property repairs and replacement.

Understanding comparative negligence in Georgia

In any personal injury case, one of the most critical elements that affect how damages are awarded is proving the degree of negligence. Georgia is one of 12 states that currently use the Modified Comparative Fault rule. This means that a driver who is found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the car accident can't file a personal injury suit against the other driver for any amount of damages. If you were 49 percent or less at fault for a car accident, you are eligible to recover damages.

It's important to know that how much you are found to be at fault will directly affect the amount of damages you can recover. The other driver's attorney will do everything they can to find evidence to increase your share of negligence. You will also have to contend with the insurer of the other driver doing their best to find this type of evidence as well. This determination of who is at fault and by how much will involve witnesses, expert testimony and other parts of the investigation.

In Georgia, your percentage of fault reduces the amount of damages you can recover by a 1:1 ratio. So, if the court determines that you were 30 percent at fault, this determination reduces the amount you can recover by 30 percent. The amount you recover in a personal injury case could affect you for the rest of your life. So this comparative negligence element is one that requires the skill and experience of a good personal injury attorney to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

Statute of limitations and types of damages in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, a time limit, or a “statute of limitations”, applies to personal injury cases that result from automobile accidents. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury suit in court. For personal injury claims related to an accident involving a county or city-owned vehicle, you only have six months to file a lawsuit.

Georgia is not one of those bullshit “no-fault” states, so you can sue the other driver for all losses. These losses include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other financial losses directly resulting from the car accident. The damages you can recover in Georgia for personal injury fall into three categories:

Economic Damages – Economic damages are pretty easy to determine because they involve financial losses that can be measured in dollars. These include the following:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Property damage costs
  • Any other out-of-pocket expenses that are a direct result of the personal injury

Non-economic Damages – These types of damages are more difficult to calculate than economic damages because they involve things like “loss of consortium,” “pain and suffering,” and other factors that can't be measured. These intangibles are why non-economic damage awards can vary so greatly. In many ways, the amount of compensation is a result of opinions, rather than hard facts.

In essence, your future well being is determined by how much each juror thinks a potentially debilitating injury will affect you in the future, how much weight they attribute to your ability to recover, and many other factors based on their opinion. The final outcome involves some often complicated calculations involving degree of injuries, multipliers, professional opinions and even per-diems related to your earning capacity.

Punitive Damages – Punitive damages in Georgia are designed to punish the offending driver for behavior that is considered reckless or highly irresponsible. These damages are rarely awarded and are capped by law at $250,000. Since these awards are meant as a punishment for the offending driver, and not as an award for the injured driver, 75% of these awards are paid to the state treasury. Sounds like bullshit to us too! Punitive damages must also be sought in the initial suit to be considered.

Hopefully, all this newfound knowledge will never come in handy. But if you are injured in an auto accident in Georgia, you can be confident that you at least know what to expect if you file a personal injury lawsuit. So buckle your ass up and stay safe!

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

One morning, a driver was making their way along a secondary road near Scranton, PA headed to work. As he came to an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane just as you were approaching the intersection coming from the opposite direction. Before you even have time to react, the other driver made his turn and you plowed into the side of his car. That's a pretty straightforward case of the other driver being at fault, right? After all, you were just driving down the road, and a car turned in front of you, case closed. Not so fast. Please read on to see why the obvious may not always be the conclusion when it comes to auto accidents in Pennsylvania.

It's three weeks after the accident, and you have sustained some pretty serious injuries. In fact, the total damages you have suffered combined with the damage to your car total up to around $80,000! Once the police investigation was completed, it was determined that the other driver failed to yield. BUT. A witness said they saw you texting at the time the accident happened. Not only do you not get compensated for the whole $80,000, but you also get a ticket for using a mobile device while driving!
Confused? Keep reading, and we'll explain how this happened and what else you need to know if you are ever injured in a car wreck in Pennsylvania.

Comparative Negligence Law in Pennsylvania

So what the heck happened in the above scenario? Comparative negligence, that's what. Also known as the “51% Rule,” comparative negligence is just one of many state laws in Pennsylvania regarding personal injury. Under comparative negligence law, a court can assign a percentage of fault in personal injury cases. In the scenario above, the court ended up assigning the other driver 80% of the fault and 20% to you for being on your phone! So all things being equal, you would end up getting $64,000 ($80,000 – 20% = $64,000.)

Ouch. Just be glad the jury didn't find you 51% or more at fault. Then you wouldn't have seen a penny of compensation. If the jury found that the other driver's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and yours equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding you any compensation for the damages. If that all sounds a little unfair, we promise we didn't make any of that up. Well, we made up the story, but not the rules! For your reading pleasure and reference, you can check out the laws that played a part in our story above.

Comparative Negligence: Section 42-71-7102
Right of Way: Section 75-33-3322
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 75-33-3316

How Is fault determined in Pennsylvania personal injury cases?

To see how the above scenario played out the way it did, you have to know something about how fault is determined in Pennsylvania when it comes to personal injury cases. To be able to collect any compensation for your personal injuries, Pennsylvania law requires that you prove another party was negligent, at least to a certain degree. It's not enough to just prove that the other driver turned in front of you, you have to prove certain things to the court.

To prove another party is negligent in your personal injury case, Pennsylvania says there are specific requirements that must be met. And remember, under that “51% Rule,” you better be able to prove that at least half of the negligence can be attributed to the other driver.

  • The party causing your injuries had a responsibility not to injure you and failed to live up to that responsibility
  • There is a connection between the other party's lack of responsibility and your injury
  • You suffered personal damages or financial loss as a result of your accident

So assuming you can prove the other driver was negligent, then you can receive compensation, at least partially, for the following:

  • Medical bills for treatment related to your injuries
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Repair or replacement of any property damaged, such as your car
  • Lost wages that are a direct result of your personal injury accident
  • Costs of hiring assistance for tasks you can no longer perform because of your injuries

But what about insurance?

Just like in other states, Pennsylvania has laws regarding financial responsibility with minimum limits of car insurance. The Keystone State requires that every motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that provides liability coverage for all damages that may result from an automobile accident.

  • At least $15,000 per person
  • At least $30,000 for two or more people
  • $5,000 per occurrence for property damage

Pretty straightforward, right? Again, not so fast! Pennsylvania is also a “no-fault” state, and all drivers are required to carry this type of insurance. No fault insurance, also called “personal injury protection,” or PIP, is an optional type of car insurance that allows someone to file a claim with their own insurance provider for certain damages.

States like Pennsylvania typically enact PIP laws to limit the number of lawsuits filed against at-fault drivers while offering protection for drivers who are injured an auto accident. PIP covers the insured driver and their passengers, regardless of who is at fault. While this type of insurance is designed to protect the insured party, it doesn't cover damage regarded as “pain and suffering” and can often fall short of providing adequate compensation.

You can circumvent the no-fault law and file a liability claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet the “serious injury” criteria outlined by Pennsylvania State law. The state defines “serious injury” as “A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Considering the limitations of PIP insurance and the difficulty in determining the longevity and degree of injuries, this is a part of the personal injury process often worth pursuing to protect injured parties now and in the future.

Where and when to file a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania

Like most states, Pennsylvania limits the amount of time between a car accident and the date to file a lawsuit. Called the statute of limitations, this Pennsylvania law requires that any lawsuit for personal injury or property damage be filed within two years of the date of the accident. This means that if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or incurs property damage due to a negligent driver, the injured party must file a lawsuit within the two year period or they are not entitled to any compensation at all.

For Pennsylvania personal injury claims seeking more than $8,000, you would file your lawsuit in the appropriate Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. If your personal injury accident claim is for less than $8,000 ($10,000 for the Philadelphia municipal court), you would file your case in the Pennsylvania District Court or Justice Court (or the municipal court for cases in Philadelphia) that has jurisdiction.

Hopefully, the story at the beginning remains just that, a story. But if you ever find that you are the victim of a personal injury in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you now know what to expect. Drive safe!

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

It's late afternoon on a Friday, and you are cruising down Highway 55 in New York, headed for Poughkeepsie. You knocked off work a little early so you could get your big weekend off to a good start and you can almost taste all those Hudson Valley wines you'll be sampling at the vineyard. As you pull off the exit, you can see the Hudson River off the side of the road, and you come up to a four-way stop.

As you come to a stop, you pull out your phone to double check the directions. The windows are down, and the sun is in your eyes as you try to make out the directions on your phone. Satisfied you're heading in the right direction, you put the phone down and pull out into the intersection and immediately hear the screech of brakes. Before you can even react, a pickup truck plows into the passenger side, knocking your car out of the intersection and onto the shoulder.

Auto accidents and personal injury law in New York

If that's you in the above scenario, you probably think that it's a pretty cut-and-dried case of who was at fault. After all, you stopped at the four-way-stop and looked before you took off down the road, right?

Or did you? And then you remember that there are some rules about four-way-stops and who has the right away, isn't there? Either way, the truck must have gone right through the stop sign because you have the wrecked car and injured arm to prove it. Right?

That's a lot of questions already. Even if you think there's no way any of this could be your fault, there are a lot more questions that will have to be answered under New York State personal injury law.

  • Who was at fault and to what degree?
  • How much should your insurance company pay?
  • How much should the other driver's insurance company pay?
  • How injured are you?
  • How will your injury affect different areas of your life?

These and other questions, and more importantly the answers, will determine how much compensation you will receive in your personal injury case. Under New York State personal injury laws regarding auto accidents, there are several key points you will come across in your case. These laws can be quite complicated, so it's always a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you handle your situation.

Personal injury and auto insurance in New York

The first thing you need to know is how car insurance affects drivers involved in an accident in New York. State law requires motorists to carry certain minimums of coverage:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident
  • $50,000 of “no-fault” insurance

No-fault insurance is a type of car insurance coverage that pays for your and your passengers' medical bills when there is a personal injury in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Also known as personal injury protection (PIP), this no-fault law means that if you're injured in a car accident in New York, your options to recover compensation could be limited. In the event of an accident, you must turn first (and often exclusively) to your own insurance company for compensation for losses.

You can circumvent the rules of no-fault and file a liability claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet the severe injury criteria outlined by New York State law. Determining “serious injury” can often be a complicated process and includes the following:

  • Significant disfigurement
  • Bone fracture
  • Permanent limited use of an organ or limb
  • Significantly limited use of a bodily function or system
  • Substantial complete disability for 90 days or more

If your personal injuries meet these requirements, you can hold the at-fault driver liable. These “serious injuries” mean that you can file a suit for compensation for all losses, including pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that wouldn't be covered under a no-fault claim.

Contributory negligence in New York

A common legal term used to determine the degree of fault of all drivers in an auto accident, contributory negligence has a significant impact on compensation. This state law establishes compensation awards according to how much “negligence” was involved regarding each driver. If the court finds that you share in any responsibility for the accident, the total compensation will be adjusted proportionately.

Negligence is determined by considering what a “reasonably prudent person” did, or didn't do, to contribute to the accident or personal injury of someone involved. That's a pretty broad term, and it can lead to a lot of contention and confusion in many cases. Taking our scenario at the beginning of this post as an example, the court will try to determine if you looked before proceeding, if the other driver stopped or not, did you actually witness the other driver run the stop sign, and many other factors.

Four elements to proving negligence

There are four elements to proving negligence, both in the plaintiff's and the defendant's actions:

  1. Duty of Care – Was the defendant responsible for ensuring the plaintiff's safety during the injuring incident?
  2. Breach of Duty – Did the defendant breach their duty of care?
  3. Causation – Was the breach of duty responsible for the plaintiff's injuries? Were the injuries within the reasonable scope of the defendant's duty to prevent?
  4. Damages – Do the injuries represent actual damages such as medical treatment bills that can be compensated?

As if all of the above isn't confusing enough, there are still some things that you will have to know before you have a good picture of how your personal injury case will play out.

The “collateral source” rule and statutes of limitations

In New York State, if you are injured in a car wreck and filing a personal injury claim against another driver, their attorney will request records of any compensation you have already received. This compensation is often made by your auto insurance company or your medical insurance for losses under no-fault rulings. The defendant's attorney will use these records to reduce the amount of compensation you are awarded if your case is successful.

Three years to file

All states have what's called a statute of limitations which defines the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. It may seem like a long time, but the three years that New York allows from the date of the accident to hear a claim can go by quickly. Significant injuries requiring expert assessment and other complicated factors of presenting your case take more time than you may realize. So it's always best to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. These types of cases can be complicated and are often long, drawn-out affairs requiring a lot of investigation, planning, and strategy.

So there you have it. Now you know what to expect if you ever end up on the wrong side of an auto accident in New York State. You'll know what to do when to do it, and how things will most likely unfold.

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one on BernieSez.  It's quick, easy, and a free service to locate a PI lawyer in your area.  Give it a try.  Click/tap below to post your case.

Texas. 10-gallon hats, wide open spaces, and second only to Alaska in total area, the Lonestar State is proud of their slogan that everything is bigger in Texas. Heck, the King Ranch in Texas is bigger than the state of Rhode Island! There's no doubt that it's a big state, full of ranches, people, and with 303,176 miles of public roads, by far more roads than any other state.

So with all those roadways and all those drivers, are your chances of being injured in a car wreck “bigger” in Texas? The state consistently ranks in the top 10 for the number of auto accidents and the highest percentage of deaths from drunk driving of any state at 40%. While no research says you have a higher chance of being injured in an auto accident in Texas than other states, with all those miles of roads and almost 14 million licensed drivers, odds are not on your side.

Add in the surge of drivers using mobile devices while driving, and it's easy to see that the risk of getting into an auto accident in Texas is pretty high. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 20% of all car wrecks involve driver distraction. For better or worse, there are no statewide laws banning cell phone use, but cities have enacted specific bans on using mobile devices while driving. So be on the defensive when you're driving in Texas and learn what to expect if you are ever injured in an accident.

Car Insurance Requirements in Texas

Texas is a “fault” state, which means that insurance companies will determine fault in an accident before they determine damages and coverage. In “no-fault” states, insurance companies will automatically cover both parties, regardless of who is at fault. Under Texas’ fault law, drivers are required to carry a minimum of insurance coverage:

  • $30,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $60,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $25,000 for property damage

These minimums are designed to pay for the other party’s medical bills and property damage if you are at fault for an accident. The other driver's minimum insurance will pay for your losses if they were at fault. It's important to keep in mind that these are minimum coverage amounts and there is the risk that they won't be sufficient for some accidents.

Unfortunately, you may be in a car wreck and find that the other driver is either underinsured or uninsured. Fortunately, Texas law also requires insurance companies to offer Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Most policies will include PIP automatically, but a policyholder can decline it. PIP coverage most often includes increments of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000.The amount of coverage covers each party in your car in case of an accident and pays out regardless of fault.

Modified Comparative Fault Laws in Texas

In Texas, it's not just a matter of who is at fault, but also by how much. Comparative fault laws take into account how much each driver is at fault in an auto accident. Texas law states that you can recover damages only if it is determined that you were less than 50% at fault. The court will determine the percentage of fault after the car accident investigation is complete. The court then reduces the claimant’s compensation by a percentage that matches the claimant’s amount of fault.

For example, the court says you are 20% at fault for having a broken turn signal, but the other driver is 80% at fault for speeding. If the total award amount were $40,000, you would be awarded $32,000, which is the adjusted amount under comparative fault laws. Texas’ comparative fault laws are called “modified” because of the compensation adjustment at 50%. Pure comparative fault states let injured parties receive compensation at any percentage of fault below 100%.

Types of Damages Considered Under Texas Personal Injury Law

Economic damages

This type of compensation covers actual financial losses. Medical expenses, both current and future, are considered economic damages. These expenses are often the most significant and result in the majority of damages awarded. Other economic damages are a loss of past earning capacity, the losses incurred since the injury occurred, and loss of future earning capacity. While the calculation of past lost wages is relatively easy to determine, calculating future lost wages involves a variety of factors from estimating how long recovery will take to the likelihood of injuries being permanent.

Non-economic damages

These damages refer to pain, suffering, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement, and any other losses that aren't considered financial. Because these damages are hard to quantify, the awards for these damages vary greatly. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and loss of consortium (how the injury affects the relationship between the injured party and their spouse or children).

Exemplary damages

Also called punitive damages, these damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for particularly reckless or negligent conduct. In Texas, punitive damages are defined and regulated by Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code: (5) “Exemplary damages” means any damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment but not for compensatory purposes. Punitive damages are limited to the value of two times the amount the jury awards for economic damages plus an amount equal to what the jury awards for non-economic damages (up to $750,000).

Texas Statute of Limitations

In Texas, the statute of limitations for most car accident lawsuits is the same timeframe that applies to any personal injury case. According to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, any claim for injury, whether filed by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian, must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. The same two-year deadline applies if you are filing a lawsuit over vehicle damage. A claim against a government entity, such as a public bus, has a shorter timeframe of 60 to 90 days after the accident. If you don't discover your injuries until some time after the accident, keep in mind that the statute of limitations begins with the discovery of injuries.

Collecting your settlement

Being represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer in Texas ensures that you will receive fair compensation for your injuries, financial losses, and any other harmful effects of the accident. Your attorney will make sure that the process unfolds as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once a settlement agreement is reached, your attorney will assist with factors such as settling liens against your settlement, disbursing funds to the appropriate parties and even guide you through the tax implications of the award.

Your attorney will be able to give you an approximation of the settlement amount prior to settlement, but the result will vary depending upon how the trial unfolds. For a reference point, the average car accident settlement in Texas amounted to about $15,440 in 2013, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. While that is an average, it should give some idea of what to expect from your settlement.

So if you're going to be driving in the big state of Texas, be aware of all those other distracted drivers. In the unfortunate instance where you may be injured in a car wreck, at least you know how personal injury laws work and how to get started on receiving the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries and losses.

Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Let Bernie find a PI lawyer for you.  It's a quick and easy process, and a free service to boot.  Click/tap on the button below to get started.

Key Takeaways for Car Accident Injuries in Florida

  • You can file a lawsuit after suffering a personal injury from a car wreck as long as the court determines that your injuries are “serious” enough to warrant a case
  • You have four years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit, but these cases are complicated so quickly finding a good personal injury lawyer is important
  • You may be 100% sure that the other driver was entirely at fault, but it's up to you and your attorney to prove it, or you could receive less compensation than you deserve
  • Don't get distracted by all those personal injury attorney billboards on Florida highways, or you just might find yourself needing one!

I-95: There's a Reason it's Littered with Lawyer Billboards

Sunny Florida. Home to year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches along the Atlantic, and retirees looking to kick back and relax to enjoy the fruits of their labors. So if the Sunshine State is so laid back and relaxing, why are there so many personal injury attorney billboards plastered along the highways? I-95, in particular, really stands out with its seemingly constant congestion of traffic and more than its share of ads from lawyers.

The 380+ miles of Interstate 95 that stretch across Florida are filled with traffic nearly all the time, and it looks like a good number of drivers just aren't paying attention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that I-95 in Florida is the most dangerous highway in the United States, with 1.73 fatal auto accidents per mile. That's bad news for drivers, and big business for personal injury lawyers. It's no “accident” that there are so many billboards focused on personal injury.

So if you live in Miami-Dade County, are just passing through Florida, or hauling the kids to Disney World, chances are you will find yourself traveling along I-95 or some other congested highway. It's always good advice to keep your eyes on the road, but in Florida, you have to be extra cautious because of so many distracted drivers. Maybe it's because I-95 is such a boring drive….lots of flat, long, straight stretches of nothing.

Hopefully, you won't ever need one of those serious looking attorneys up on those billboards, but if you do, here is what you need to know if you suffer a personal injury from a car accident in Florida.

Injured in an Auto Accident in Florida? Time Is Not On Your Side

Just like all states, Florida has a statute of limitations regarding personal injury cases. Injured drivers looking to be compensated for their own injuries must file their claim within four years of the date of the car accident. Also just like in most states, personal injury laws are often difficult to decipher, so it's always a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after an accident.

These often complicated laws and statutes require a lot of research and strategy to create a successful case. While the statute of limitations in Florida is four years, which seems like a long time, filing a lawsuit in a personal injury case from a car wreck can take more time than you may think. Doctors visits, tests, investigations, and a lot of planning are just some of the elements of a typical injury lawsuit.

You may discover that you have personal injuries that weren't evident in the months or even years following the car accident, or your resulting injuries may worsen. In any case, where personal injury is involved, there are always unforeseen circumstances, so expect the unexpected and be prepared. It's rare, but under Florida law, if you do find that you have suffered undiscovered or worsening injuries, your attorney may be able to have the statutes of limitations extended. But don't count on it. Again, be prepared.

He Said, She Said: Comparative Negligence Law in Florida

Your personal injury attorney handling your automobile accident case will do everything in their power to prove the other driver was at fault. The other driver's attorney will, in turn, do their best to show that you were at fault, at least to some degree. That ‘s because, in Florida, and 11 other states, personal injury law includes the “pure negligence rule.”

This comparative negligence law means that the amount of compensation you are entitled to can be reduced by an amount directly related to your degree of fault. There is no real “formula” for determining who is at fault, or to what degree. Determinations like how much responsibility is attributed to a particular driver are often based on interpretations of the law, expert opinions, and other subjective factors.

To put it plainly, consider this scenario: You're traveling down I-95, and another driver cuts across your lane to catch an off-ramp at an exit, and they sideswipe your car, sending you into the retaining wall. You both survive, thankfully, and you are hauled off to the hospital. Sounds pretty cut and dried, doesn't it? You were driving along, minding your own business, eyes on the road, and all that stuff.

But once you get to court, it's determined that you were actually speeding about 10 mph over the limit. After some give and take, and some subjective calculations, the court says you are 20% at fault. If you are awarded $30,000 in compensation, the amount will be reduced by 20%, leaving you with $24,000 instead. More than anything else, the comparative negligence law should convince you that you need the very best personal injury attorney you can find.

Florida Car Insurance and Personal Injuries

Of course, no personal injury lawsuit in a car accident would be complete without the insurance companies weighing in. In Florida, automobile accidents fall under a no-fault insurance system. This means that after many traffic accidents, the injured driver's own insurance company will compensate for certain expenses like medical costs, loss of income, etc. regardless of fault.

Most minor car wrecks will fall under this automobile insurance clause. But this no-fault factor also means that you can't hold the other driver liable unless the accident resulted in “serious injury” to you. Under Florida personal injury law, serious injury is determined by many factors, including permanent injury, significant scarring or disfigurement, and permanent loss of a bodily function.

The legal system must first determine if you meet the criteria for serious injury before you can even proceed with filing a lawsuit. So how does the court decide if your personal injuries are permanent or if they will get worse? Just like with the rest of personal injury law, much of this determination will be subjective. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the muddy waters of these laws and protect your interests.

Punitive Damages and Compensation Caps

Florida personal injury laws set a limit on how much compensation can be awarded to an injured driver. These damage caps are determined by the types of losses, non-economic damages like pain and suffering, and other factors. Assigning a dollar amount to things like “pain and suffering” is, you guessed it, very subjective. How can you really measure pain, suffering, and other intangibles?
In car accident lawsuits, these compensation caps impact “punitive damage” significantly. Punitive damages are meant to punish the offending driver for dangerous, irresponsible behaviors.

Florida limits punitive damage compensation to three times the amount awarded for other losses and damages. These punitive damages are only granted in a small number of injury lawsuits, but in these limited number of cases, the damage caps can play a significant role in getting you the compensation you deserve.

Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Let Bernie find a PI lawyer for you.  It's a quick and easy process, and a free service to boot.  Click/tap on the button below to get started.

Can't always blame an accident on the rain…

A lot of us probably think of rain when we think of Washington. And we all know that rain and other adverse weather can cause car wrecks. But it looks like Washington gets a bad rap when it comes to their climate. Seattle gets its share of rain throughout the year, but the city comes in at a pretty dry number 44 among major U.S. Cities. Even Miami, Florida gets more rain than Seattle. So while there are plenty of other vehicle accident causes in Washington, you can't always blame it on the rain.

Even without the over-hyped rainy weather, Washington still has their fair share of auto accidents. From the rugged coastline along the Pacific to the Cascade Mountains, the beautiful scenery can be distracting for drivers. Its common for drivers to get caught with their eyes off the road and that creates a higher risk of car crashes, especially on those long, winding roads. When these unfortunate wrecks happen, there can often be personal injuries. So its good to know what to expect before something happens.

Washington personal injury compensation: The sky's the limit!

First, the bad news. Many states across the United States have what's called “Punitive Damages” as part of their personal injury laws. Punitive damages can be defined as “damages exceeding simple compensation and awarded to punish the defendant.” Courts typically award punitive damages as a form of punishment to drivers who behave recklessly. While most states consider punitive damages in personal injury cases, Washington rarely allocates any type of punitive damages.

Now, the good news! Whether it's an attempt to balance out the lack of punitive damages awards, or some other reason, in Washington, there is no monetary limit to personal injury awards. Washington courts have determined that personal injury damage caps are unconstitutional. This determination means that victims who are injured in an automobile accident can recover damages without financial limitations, but the laws are quite detailed when it comes to what kind of damages can be compensated.

In other news…In Washington, economic and non-economic damages are determined by specific laws:

  • Economic damages are “objectively verifiable monetary losses” like medical expenses, vehicle replacement or repair, and loss of wages.
  • Non-economic damages are “subjective, nonmonetary losses” like mental anguish, pain, and suffering. These non-economic rules even address the injury to reputation, inconvenience, and the destruction of a parent-child relationship, so they are pretty detailed.

Before a victim gets to the stage where compensation is considered, who is at fault and how much at fault they are has to be determined.

Who's to blame?

While Washington typically doesn't award punitive damages, the state does follow a rule of law regarding negligence. Negligence is the failure of someone to exercise an expected degree of care, resulting in personal injury to someone else. That's some pretty vague verbiage that doesn't lend itself to objective interpretation. So how do the courts determine negligence? There are a lot of laws regarding personal injury and a lot of different takes on what they all mean. But two of the most critical factors are Contributory Fault and Elements of a Negligence Claim.

Contributory fault

Most state negligence laws are very similar and based on common law, but they often differ regarding fault. In Washington, contributory fault (how much each party is to blame) decreases in relevance to the degree of damages, but still allows recovery of compensation. Here's an example: If the injured party is awarded total compensation of $100,000, but the court finds that the defendant is only 70% at fault, then the injured party will receive $70,000.

Elements of a negligence claim

To determine who is at fault, and to what degree, in a personal injury case, a plaintiff must prove five things.

  1. Duty – This simply means that the defendant owed the plaintiff a “duty.” Either to act in a certain way that would be expected from a “reasonable” person or to refrain from acting in a certain way that would be expected from an “unreasonable” person.
  2. Breach of Duty – The defendant acted, or failed to act, in a manner that resulted in their failure to fulfill their duty to the plaintiff.
  3. Cause in Fact – The defendant's breach of duty caused personal injury to the plaintiff, either completely or partially.
  4. Proximate Cause – The defendant's actions or inactions occurred in spite of their knowledge of the risks of their behavior. (They should have known better!)
  5. Damages – The plaintiff suffered personal injury, personal property injury, or other losses as aresult of the defendant's negligence.

The fine print, (aka… hurry while supplies last!)

While there's no limit on how much financial compensation is awarded for personal injury in Washington, there is a limit on how much time is available. Like most states, Washington personal injury laws include a Statute of Limitations. This statue dictates that an injured party has up to three years to file a claim for personal injury or personal property injury. ( RCW § 4.16.080)

While three years may seem like a long time, a personal injury lawyer has a lot of research to do and needs plenty of time to create a strategy for a successful case. (You did remember to get a good attorney, didn't you?) Not to mention the immediate financial losses and physical and mental pain and suffering. Do you really want to wait three years to get your life back on track?

Other, very detailed, laws regarding personal injury in Washington should convince most plaintiffs to contact a good personal injury lawyer, at least to act as an interpreter!

  • If a personal injury case includes taking action against a government entity, the injured party still has three years to file, but they must wait 60 days after filing to start proceedings. (RCW § 4.96.020)
  • Non-economic damages are limited to an amount equal to the average annual wage of the injured party multiplied by their life expectancy, but not less than 15 years. (RCW § 4.56.250)
  • A limit of $5,000 can be recovered from a minor's parents for willful or malicious acts (RCW § 4.24.190)
  • In some cases, the compensation awarded to victims of personal injury may not be awarded all at once.
  • Defendants may be able to make periodic payments. (RCW § 4.56.260)

So there you have it, the “ins and outs” of personal injury law in Washington. Hopefully, you will never be a victim of personal injury in a car accident or a plaintiff in a personal injury case. But if you do find yourself involved in one of these cases, at least you have an idea of what to expect. If you don't remember anything else, remember that your shot at compensation is truly a “limited time offer.”

You'll also have a heads-up on some of the more vague, “subjective” statutes in Washington regarding personal injury. So enjoy the scenery, drive carefully, and remember that an experienced personal injury attorney can help interpret all those rules and get you the compensation you deserve.

Need a personal injury lawyer in Washington State?

Click/tap the button below and we will hook you up.

Get ready to fight for your rights

It's a Tuesday morning, and it's raining hard as she makes her way to work. As she enters the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel, traffic begins to slow. She knows she's going to be late, but at least she's out of the rain for a bit. The tunnel is filled with the glow of headlights, and now the traffic comes to a complete stop. Her mind begins to wander as she cuts on the defrost and starts going through emails on her phone.

Then she hears it. The loud smack of metal on metal from behind her echos through the tunnel. She looks up at the rearview mirror and sees the driver behind her still looking at their phone! Immediately she sees the car behind them crash into their rear end and before she can blink, the car behind her rams into her rear bumper. Her head slams against the dash, coffee spills all over the windshield, and she already knows that she's going to be in that tunnel for quite awhile.

Incredibly, the driver who just crashed into her is back on their phone, shaking their head. She realizes that she is shaking a little, and unbuckles the seatbelt as she calls her husband.

Like most husbands, his first response is

“Are you okay!?”

because she never calls him on the way to work.

“I'm okay; I just got rear-ended in the tunnel though. I only hit my head.”

His response was immediate,

“Sit tight and don't talk to anyone about the accident until I get there!”

In Virginia, it's not “who” is at fault, it's “how much”

If the above scenario seems familiar, but the husband's response seems a little paranoid, that's for a good reason. It turns out our driver in the story above is married to a personal injury lawyer, and he knows all too well how tricky personal injury cases can get in Virginia. Just like he would later explain to his wife, here's what he would tell you if you were injured in a car wreck.

If you are injured in an automobile accident in Virginia, and you hope to get compensation for personal injury and other losses, you have two options:

  1. You can pray the other party is insured and that their insurance company will offer a fair settlement, or,
  2. You are going to have to sue. You will have to go to trial and hope a jury decides in your favor.

If you were hit from behind, like the poor woman in our story, then you probably have an open and shut case, right? Not so fast. While it may seem obvious who is at fault, that's not the whole story. In Virginia, it matters very much how much responsibility can be blamed on a party involved in a wreck.

In a Virginia personal injury trial, the judge will typically tell the jury that they have to make decisions on some aspects of the personal injury laws before coming to a conclusion on the case as a whole:

  • Is the defendant in the case legally at fault?

The personal injury lawyer must prove that the defendant not only did something against the law but that “something” must be the direct cause of the accident. Did they violate a statute such as speeding? Did they do something, or not do something, that would indicate negligence? To add a little more uncertainty, negligence is defined as “the failure to use the ordinary care that a reasonable person would under the circumstances.” That's a lot of “ifs,” and it only gets more complicated from here.

  • Is the injured party in the case legally at fault?

What!? That's right; the jury now has to decide if you were at fault as well. Welcome to the world of “contributory negligence.”  Virginia is one of the few states that still follow this seemingly unreasonable law. Under contributory negligence, if the jury determines that you are at fault, no matter how small the degree, then the case is concluded right then and there. You lose. No compensation for your injuries, time lost at work, trauma, etc. Nothing. You better believe that the focus of the defendant's attorney will be finding anything that could plant a seed of doubt as to the defendants 100% responsibility.

  • How much pain, suffering and financial loss has resulted from the personal injury?

If you've made it to the third decision that the jury must make, then you are in rare company. It takes a skilled personal injury attorney to navigate the first two stages of a personal injury case, but there are numerous decisions and technicalities ahead. Now the jury must determine what injuries and losses have been proven and what compensation is fair. Read on to find out more about this all-important process.

So you won your personal injury case in Virginia. What's next?

In personal injury law, injuries and other losses are referred to collectively as “damages.” In Virginia, these damages, and the compensation awarded, are broken down into three categories. Just like the decisions above, much of what follows can be very subjective and open to interpretation.

  1. You can receive compensation for medical expenses that are “reasonable and necessary” regarding treatment for injuries that were caused by the auto accident. One of the pitfalls in this stage can be the jury's inability to consider futuremedical treatments that may be needed.
  2. Compensation can also be recovered for the wages from your job if you are unable to work because of your personal injuries. This second category of compensation will typically require a physician's decision to keep you out of work.
  3. This brings us to damages that are considered intangible losses. The typical law jargon used for this is “pain and suffering.” Terms like this are hard to define and even harder to attach a compensation amount. The jury will have to decide the answers to a variety of questions. How have your personal injuries affected your overall health? How severe are the injuries and how long will the effects last? How much suffering, stress, and inconvenience resulted from the injury? Etc.

That's a lot of decisions about your future well-being that a group of strangers have to decide. Much of the personal injury law is vague so it can be difficult for anyone to make fair decisions. There are a lot of questions that must be answered just to get this far, but the most crucial question is always:

“What is my personal injury case worth?”

The answer to this question is pretty straightforward. Your personal injury case is worth the dollar amount a jury awards you in court or the dollar amount offered by the other driver's insurance company (assuming they have insurance). But as you can see already, this answer may be true, but it's a lot more complicated than that.

An experienced personal injury attorney can give you an estimate of compensation after reviewing your case and give you a good idea of what the verdict will be. If you, unfortunately, find yourself suffering from a personal injury in a car wreck, do yourself a favor and let a pro handle your case. Or you could just hope the insurance company offers you a fair settlement?