How can a Personal Injury lawyer in Roanoke Virginia Help You?
This is a question people may have for many different reasons. Maybe you think getting a lawyer is too much trouble. Maybe you’re not sure if you have a claim or if you can even afford an attorney. Maybe you’re not the sort of person who ever thought about filing a lawsuit.
But now you’ve been injured, you might not be able to work due to your injuries, and your bills are piling up. Your health insurance is barely making a dent in your medical bills, and does nothing about your rent, gas, or groceries. Worse, the person or entity responsible for your injuries isn’t getting a bill at all.
Unfortunately, this is a situation a lot of people in Virginia find themselves in after a car accident. However, car accidents aren’t the only reason for personal injury claims. We also help people injured in boating accidents, slip and falls, workplace injuries, and various other situations where the negligence of another has caused them harm. Sadly, we also meet people who have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.
No matter what your particular situation is, a personal injury attorney will listen to your story, ask questions for clarification, and explain your options so you can decide how to proceed. They will also answer any questions you have. Your personal injury attorney should offer you a free consultation. If you decide to pursue a claim, most won’t take a fee until you receive a settlement, so you don’t have to worry about upfront costs.
How do Personal Injury Claims Work?
There are three parts to any personal injury claim: Liability, damages, and insurance coverage. Liability refers to fault, and often when lawyers depose people for such a claim, they ask questions to determine who is at fault for the injury that occurred. Typically this is determined by negligence, which Virginia law states is “a breach of legal duty owed by one person to another.” (However this applies not only to individuals but also businesses or other entities for the sake of personal injury claims.)
What is a “legal duty?” There are many examples. Individuals have a legal duty to drive their cars in a safe manner, so as not to injure others on the road. Businesses have a legal duty to ensure their premises are reasonably safe for both employees and customers. So if you slip and fall on a wet floor at the grocery store and get hurt, the grocery store may have been negligent. Likewise, if someone is driving recklessly and causes an accident in which you are hurt, the other driver may have been negligent.
Payouts for Personal Injury Claims
What about damages? While in many cases people suffer injuries aside from financial ones, the only way the courts can award damages is through a financial award. Under Virginia personal injury law, damages can be awarded to “recompense for the injury actually received, and include compensation for insult, pain, humiliation, mental suffering, injury to the reputation, and the like.”
While there is no formula for determining exactly how much any case is worth, here are some things usually taken into account:
- Bodily injuries and their effect on the injured person’s health, especially those causing long-term pain, disability, or other difficulties.
- Physical pain suffered from the injuries, including possible/probable future suffering.
- Mental suffering, including anxiety, depression, or PTSD following a traumatic injury.
- Disfigurement or deformity resulting from the injury.
- Inconvenience, including future inconveniences, like doctor visits, traveling for treatment, etc.
- Medical expenses, including future expenses like continuing to care for a chronic problem caused by the injury. (It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been able to pay the bills. Damages will include the full amount owed.)
- Lost earnings. If you or a loved one is no longer able to work after being injured, your lost wages should also be taken into account.
- Loss of future earning capacity. If you’re not only currently unable to work, but will likely remain that way for a long time or even the rest of your life, this should also be considered. This is also true if you’ve lost a loved one who used to be the primary earner in the household.
What About Insurance Coverage?
Insurance coverage is also important in the personal injury claims process. When we say this, we don’t just mean your personal insurance coverage. Even if you have excellent health insurance, there will likely be some bills it doesn’t pay. Worse, your injuries could make your premiums go up.
However, personal injury attorneys are usually concerned with the insurance carrier for the person or entity responsible for your injury. So if you were in a car accident, they will likely have a conversation with the other driver’s insurance company. Businesses also usually carry liability insurance for these situations, like when customers are injured in their store or on their property, or hurt on the job. (For workplace injuries, you may also need to consider whether a worker’s compensation claim is a better option.)
Personal Injury Claim Time Limit
You may be wondering how much time you have to file a claim. In Virginia, the personal Injury claims statute of limitations is two years, and this typically starts from the date of the accident or situation that caused your injury. There are certain exceptions if your claim is against a governmental agency in the state of Virginia. In some cases like these, you may have as little as six months to give the agency notice of your claim. If you have any questions about the statute of limitations on your case, your personal injury lawyer should be able to answer them for you.
Personal Injury Settlements in Roanoke, Virginia
Often people picture the personal injury claims process as being like a legal show on TV, with a lengthy session in a courtroom. Sometimes people are nervous about whether they will have to testify in court. Many of our clients are surprised to learn that most personal injury cases don’t get settled by a judge and jury. Frequently they are settled out of court, with the responsible party agreeing to pay a certain amount in damages.
Why would they do this? In the less common situation where personal injury cases do go to trial, sometimes the jury may give a very large award to the petitioner (the injured party filing the claim). In Virginia, there is no cap on damages. If there is significant evidence that the other party is at fault, they or their insurance carrier may be willing to offer a settlement amount to avoid the uncertainty of a trial. In a lot of situations, especially with car accidents, the insurance company may do all the negotiating and make an offer fairly quickly, especially if there is significant evidence the other driver was at fault.
When to Settle Personal Injury Claims?
There is no one answer to this question. It depends on a variety of factors, including the extent of your injuries, any reservations you have about a lengthy trial, the amount of the settlement offer, the amount of damages you’ve received and likely will receive in the future, and how much evidence there is of the other party’s fault. You should think carefully about whether the offer is enough to cover all the costs you already have, plus additional future expenses. In some cases, this includes future lost income.
However, you don’t necessarily have to choose between accepting the other party’s offer and going to trial. Your personal injury lawyer can negotiate with the other party’s attorney if you are willing to settle for a somewhat higher amount. In some cases, the other party may even be expecting to negotiate, and may start with a lowball offer knowing they will probably need to go up to actually make a deal.
Your attorney may advise you if they think it’s likely that a better deal is possible, or if the other party seems to have reached their final offer. Then it will be up to you to decide how to proceed.
If you do end up going to trial, you are not required to testify. However, your attorney may recommend it. You may be the only person who can fully explain to a jury just how devastating your injuries were, and the many ways you continue to suffer from them. Even if you don’t ultimately go to trial, you may need to give a recorded deposition early in the process, explaining what happened when the injury occurred.
What Should You Do Next If You Think You Might Have a Personal Injury Claim in Virginia?
You should gather any evidence that you think relates to your injury, including any accident reports, pictures of the scene, list of witnesses, etc. Also get together all your medical bills and/or cost estimates for treatment. Next, you should contact a personal injury lawyer in Virginia who offers a free consultation, so you can learn more about the ways you can proceed.