What To Do After A Virginia Car Accident
No one wants to think about getting into a car crash, but it’s an unavoidable reality for tens of thousands of Virginia drivers every year. These accidents happen on the interstate, busy city roads, and quiet highways. Unfortunately, no place is immune. In 2020, Virginia recorded 105,600 car accidents and 52,668 car wreck-related injuries, which was a noted decrease from previous years, likely because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and an increase in remote working led to fewer cars on the road.
Tragically, Virginia deaths were the highest they have been in five years, with 847 people killed in fatal car accidents. Even car wrecks that don’t kill can cause lasting damage and leave victims needing medical care and legal representation to help them recover compensation.
Virginia Car Accident Stats
Virginia is consistently ranked as one of the country’s best for quality of life, but unfortunately, that distinction doesn’t extend to our roads. A recent study found that Virginia is one of the most dangerous places for car accidents because many drivers have DUIs, speeding tickets, and at-fault traffic violations. Some of the most populous Virginia counties, Fairfax County, Chesterfield County, and Henrico County, lead the state for fatal car accidents. Speeding-related crashes caused the most injuries in 2020, followed by drunk driving and passengers not wearing proper safety restraints. Data from the state’s Highway Safety Office reveals more data about Virginia car accidents.
- Even with fewer crashes, 2020 was one of the deadliest for auto wrecks in Virginia in recent years.
- Virginia sees one accident every five minutes, and 144 people are injured in car wrecks daily.
- 82% of crashes happened on non-interstate roads, with the rest happening on interstates.
- Labor Day is the deadliest holiday on Virginia roads, followed by Thanksgiving.
- Car accidents on I-95 in Virginia are especially hazardous because it’s one of the most dangerous highways in the country.
What Are the Causes of Virginia Car Wrecks?
If you’re injured in a car wreck, there’s a good chance someone else was involved. About 2 in 3 Virginia accidents are multi-vehicle incidents. Even if you’re a cautious driver who is aware of risks, you can’t control how the drivers around you behave. Driving under the influence sharply increases the risk of a fatal car accident, while distracted driving is responsible for an estimated 25% of crashes. Drowsy driving is dangerous and can be just as detrimental as driving drunk, and disregarding the speed limit while behind the wheel is another top car accident cause. The Virginia Highway Safety Office tracks the leading actions that lead to car accidents every year. Knowing which behaviors frequently lead to crashes can help drivers remain aware.
Following too closely: Virginia law states that a driver shouldn’t ever follow another car closer than is “reasonable and prudent.” There are a few common reasons for following closely. Drivers tailgate to try to get the vehicle in front of them to speed up. Sometimes, tailgating is a sign of road rage and done out of frustration. Regardless of the reasoning, following too close increases the chance of a rear-end collision. If you’re on the road and a driver is tailing you, move over to a slower lane of traffic. Never tap your brakes as a warning to the car behind you.
Failure to yield: Police will cite failure to yield if a driver doesn’t slow down for a vehicle with the right-of-way and causes an accident. Turning left on green into oncoming traffic, not braking for a pedestrian who’s in a crosswalk, and not moving over for an emergency vehicle are all examples of failure to yield.
Improper lane change: Switching lanes is like second nature for most drivers, and it can be easy to get too comfortable and forget to be mindful of other cars. When you merge into another lane without signaling, the chances of a crash go up. Merging without double-checking your mirrors and any blind spots can also cause a car wreck.
Running traffic control: Traffic control signals maintain the flow of traffic and reduce danger at intersections. Sometimes, drivers disregard these signals by running a red light or blowing through a stop sign. Safety measures like red light cameras disincentivize drivers from behaving recklessly, but this still was responsible for 3.4% of Virginia traffic accidents in 2020.
Not all crashes have a clear cause, nor is it always obvious who’s at fault. About 44% of Virginia crashes were filed under “no improper action,” which means that the drivers involved didn’t break any traffic laws. Sometimes, car accidents are unavoidable. But in many cases, driver error is responsible for the crash.
What To Do After A Virginia Car Accident
The moments after a car accident are difficult for even the most experienced drivers. You might feel panicked as you try to piece together what happened. The top priority is getting to safety. If your car is still driveable, move it to the side of the roadway. If it isn’t, leave it where it is and get as far away from traffic as possible.
Call the police. In most cases, you should call the police after a car accident. After a minor accident where no one is injured and there’s no property damage, you may decide to handle things without involving law enforcement. But if there’s any injury or death, reporting an accident is required by Virginia law. A police officer will write up an official report that will prove crucial when filing a car accident claim. It’s essential to be cautious when being interviewed at the scene of a car crash.
Emotions will likely be heightened, and you may still be reeling. You should never tell a police officer that a car accident was your fault, even if you think that’s the case. Only answer questions that you’re sure of, and don’t offer unnecessary additional information. While police are supposed to present a factual, third-party report, they may sometimes rely too much on one side’s testimony, leading to misplaced fault.
Take pictures. In past years, insurance companies recommended keeping a disposable or digital camera in the glove compartment to capture photos of an accident scene. These days, most people carry their cell phones everywhere and don’t need to worry about keeping an additional camera on hand. Here are a few things you should take pictures of:
- Faraway and close-up shots of both cars and any damage you see
- Skid marks and any debris on the road
- Nearby traffic control signals, stop signs, and speed limit signs
- The location of the crash
- Weather conditions
See a doctor. It can take a while for the adrenaline rush that follows an accident to wear off. Some accident victims don’t notice related injuries for days or even weeks. If there’s any chance of injury, it’s essential to get evaluated by a medical professional. If you try to report injuries several weeks later, your insurance company might argue that you hurt yourself doing something else and refuse to cover your medical bills. Some common car accident injuries include:
- Sprains and cuts
- Back and neck sprains
- Brain damage
- Broken bones
- Migraine headaches
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Contact your car insurance company. Ideally, you’ll notify your insurance company within a day of a car accident so that they can help you with immediate needs. If your car is totaled in a crash, you’ll need your insurer’s help renting a car and paying for a replacement. They can also contact the other driver’s insurance company to get the ball rolling. If you wait too long to report an accident to insurance, they may deny you coverage. Contact a Virginia car accident attorney and ask legal advice before giving your insurance company a recorded statement.
Virginia requires minimum liability coverage of $25,000/$50,000/$20,000 in auto insurance coverage, or $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and $20,000 per accident for property damage. Virginia drivers must also carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which pays for your injuries and damage if you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance. Some states make this coverage optional, but it is mandatory in Virginia.
How A Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Logically, it makes sense that you would be able to recover damages from the at-fault driver who hit you. In many states, comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to win cases even if they’re partly at fault. In Virginia, something called contributory negligence often complicates car accident cases. It holds that a driver can’t recover compensation if they’re even 1% at fault for a car crash. For example, a pedestrian who wasn’t walking in a marked crosswalk may lose their case thanks to contributory negligence, even if the driver also misbehaved. Virginia is one of five states that still use the contributory negligence system, and it’s been sharply criticized because of how it affects injured drivers and pedestrians.
An auto accident lawyer familiar with contributory negligence is a must for any Virginia car accident case. The defense will try to stop an injured party from being awarded anything and argue that they didn’t act reasonably for their safety. If they succeed, the injured plaintiff receives nothing.
If you lose a loved one in a fatal car accident in Virginia, you’ll be feeling the grief of unexpected death and wondering how to move forward. A Virginia auto accident lawyer would help you file a wrongful death lawsuit if the driver responsible acted negligently or recklessly. Texting while driving, excessive speeding, drunk driving, and driving without a license are all examples of driver negligence.
Had the deceased not been killed in the car crash, would they have had grounds for a personal injury lawsuit? If the answer is yes, your loved one’s case qualifies for wrongful death action. You can take legal action on behalf of your loved one and receive compensation for your grief and solace, funeral expenses, medical bills, and lost income.
Regardless of the seriousness of an accident, insurance companies prefer to settle car accident claims out of court. Settling is less expensive and usually takes less time to resolve. It is always wise to consult a personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement offered by an insurance company to make sure the settlement is in your best interest. Insurers may pressure you to accept a settlement, even if it’s unfair to you and doesn’t repay all of your losses.
Lawsuits aren’t only for severe physical injuries or death, either. Suppose you’re left with significant property damage or diagnosed emotional trauma after a car crash and can’t reach an agreement with an insurance company. In that case, legal action may be your only option. An auto accident attorney who is expertly familiar with Virginia’s negligence laws and personal injury statutes will help you file a claim and recover the compensation you are legally entitled.
If you’ve been in a Virginia car accident, call us at 703-836-3366, or visit us at curciolaw.com to discuss your legal options.