Is Virginia a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
Is Virginia a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
No. Virginia is an at-fault state for personal injury claims like car accidents. This means that the at-fault driver or their insurance carrier should be responsible for the other party’s damages (and their own). There is often disagreement about who is at fault after an accident, so it is important to contact a Virginia car accident lawyer right away if you have been in a crash.
What Does “No-Fault State” Mean?
No-fault states like Florida expect drivers to use their own insurance to pay for accident damages regardless of who is at fault (with some exceptions, such as severe injury cases). The idea is to reduce strain on the court system, which would otherwise hear lawsuits in many situations where the drivers disagree about fault. Instead, everyone files a claim with their own insurance company and no one needs to prove fault. This type of coverage is called personal injury protection, or PIP.
Understanding Virginia No-Fault Car Insurance Laws
Although Virginia is an at-fault state, its laws do allow consumers to buy PIP coverage along with other car insurance (such as liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage). Because Virginia is a at-fault state, PIP policies are not required, but consumers may choose to purchase them as an “add-on.” This can be an excellent idea, for several reasons:
- PIP coverage will pay for your medical expenses, lost income, and disability and rehab costs if you are injured in an accident that was your fault. You may be a careful driver, but even conscientious people can occasionally make mistakes, and it only takes a split second for an error to turn into an accident. It also pays death benefits to your family if you are killed in an accident even where you were at fault.
- PIP coverage may also be beneficial if you know you were not at fault in a car crash, but you simply cannot prove it. One note about this is that you should speak with an attorney before deciding concluding that you are unable to prove that the other driver is at fault. In many cases, an attorney can investigate and uncover more evidence in the case, and we may be able to demonstrate fault to the other driver after all. Do not rely on what an officer said or an insurance agent claims. Worst case scenario, you can still use your PIP coverage for your expenses, should you not prevail.
- There is one final thing you should understand about proving fault in a Virginia car accident: This state uses pure contributory negligence statutes, under which you must prove the other party was 100 percent at fault to recover damages from them. In many car accidents, both parties made mistakes. The defense will try to prove that both parties’ mistakes contributed to the crash. For instance, you might be going a few miles over the speed limit, but the other driver runs a stop sign, and your cars collide. If your case were to go to trial and a jury found that you were just one percent responsible for the accident, you would not be able to recover damages from the other driver, even though the other driver was 99 percent responsible. In this situation, you could still be able to use your PIP coverage for your damages.
Notes on Contributory Negligence
There are a few exceptions to pure contributory negligence, such as in cases involving young children who are hit by cars but are not old enough to be considered negligent. Older children (ages 7-14) may or may not be considered negligent depending on their age and whether other children in that age group would have acted the same way. Minors who are at least 14 are usually assumed to be capable of negligence unless it can be proven that they are not. If your child was hit by a car, a Virginia car accident lawyer can advise you of the options in this situation.
Additionally, there are some cases where we may be able to make an argument that the other driver had the “last clear chance” to avoid the accident. But in many circumstances, this is too difficult to prove, so you should not count on it as an option. Your lawyer will go over the details of your case and help you determine the best solutions for getting your expenses covered.
What About Damage to My Car?
PIP coverage does not address personal property damage, which is damage to your car and items inside it, like a phone or laptop. However, collision coverage, another type of optional policy, will cover damage to your vehicle regardless of fault. This is also a valuable addition to your auto insurance for all the same reasons that PIP is useful.
If I Am At Fault in an Accident, Will I Have to Pay the Other Driver’s Damages?
Virginia requires a minimum of $30,000 in bodily injury liability per person ($60,000 per accident) and $20,000 for personal property damage liability. These are minimums – you can buy a higher amount of coverage. But if you only have the minimum coverage, and you cause an accident, your insurance should pay up to the limits for the other party’s medical-related damages and property damage. However, if the other party’s damages exceed the limits of your liability coverage, they could sue you for the remaining amount. For example, if they have $50,000 in medical bills and you only have $30,000 in bodily injury liability, then you might be liable for $20,000.
But remember, if the other driver also contributed to the crash, and you can provide evidence that they were at least partially to blame, you will not have to pay anything. If you are in this situation, please contact a lawyer right away so they can begin reviewing the facts of the case and gathering evidence of the other driver’s responsibility.
Another possible issue is your insurance adjuster. Sometimes the adjuster will find an excuse not to pay the other party’s liability claim. They might cite a clause in your policy that they claim means you are not covered in this particular case. This is another situation where you should contact a lawyer right away, as the insurance adjuster may not be interpreting the policy correctly. Many people simply take the adjuster’s word that something is “not covered,” but this may not be right. Always check with an attorney before accepting that your insurance policy does not cover something.
Finally, do not drive without insurance. Although Virginia allows drivers to drive uninsured for a $500 fee at the DMV, this is not recommended. An accident can happen any time, and if you cannot prove it is 100 percent the other driver’s fault, you could be left with both your own expenses and possibly those of the other people involved in the accident.
How to Get Help with Your Car Accident Case in Virginia
If you or a loved one have suffered injury in a car accident and you have questions about liability or insurance coverage, or other concerns about your claim, please contact Lugar Law for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to answer your questions, and if we take your case, there is no fee until we win. Please call today to get started on your car accident claim.