Virginia Auto Accident Laws & Resources
From Roanoke to Lexington to Richmond, scenic Virginia has thousand of miles of roads and sights to explore. You can see downtown, historic Richmond, Civil War battlefields, Colonial sites, the Shenandoah Valley and the Chesapeake Bay. As you drive the roads used by more than three million licensed drivers who drive 10,000 miles per year, you could be involved in a serious or even fatal car accident. Whether you are living or working on the Old Dominion State, it is important to be sure you are carrying enough auto insurance. Also, you should be familiar with the driving rules and regulations here. That way if the worst happens and you have an accident, you will know how to proceed.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits
In 2015, the Virginia Highway Safety Office reported there were 37,000 people injured in car accidents, and 28,650 of them were drivers. Also, car accidents that year caused 321 deaths. Most of these fatalities happened during daytime; this makes sense because most driving is done during the day. However, it also is important to note most of the accidents in daylight happened without road defects or bad weather. Thus, driver error was a major part of most of the accidents reported.
Also that year, traffic accidents injured 1718 pedestrians and 78 were killed. More than 300 of these accidents were caused when the walker was crossing the street at an intersection with a traffic light. Many intersection/pedestrian accidents are because of driver inattention or failure to yield.
There were 661 bicyclists injured in traffic crashes in 2015, and 15 of them were fatal. Many accidents were at intersections and involved failure to yield by the car driver. Statistics indicate most drivers and bikers were not impaired when the crash happened. Thus, it is possible distraction and inattention may have been a contributing cause.
Pickup trucks were involved in 17,400 injuries and 205 deaths in accidents in 2015. Most of these accidents happened in the rain or at night. Some accidents were caused by failure to yield or speeding.
Commercial trucks caused 5000 accidents in 2015 in the state and 3340 injuries, as well as 77 deaths. Because of their size and weight, big rigs have a higher rate of major injury. Common causes of truck accidents are driver fatigue, failure to yield, and distracted driver due to cell phone.
A major vehicle accident case that received attention in recent months in this state was an $8 million settlement paid by a Massachusetts company. It stemmed from a Newport News accident where the woman suffered a traumatic brain injury. The news report states the woman lost her ability to earn a living and can no longer do many daily activities that most people take for granted.
A worker for the Massachusetts company Environmental Services, Inc. was hired to clean out septic tanks at a facility in York County, Virginia. One of the workers got intoxicated and then drove a company pickup truck to a bar in Newport News. The driver rear ended the woman who was seriously injured, at a high rate of speed.
The female victim was left with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and various soft tissue injuries in her neck and back. The truck driver was charged with DUI and was found to have a BAC of .15, or double the legal limit.
The guilty driver only received five days in jail and was fined $500, with a 12 month license restriction. The jury found Clean Harbors to be liable and it awarded the woman $8 million so she could receive the medical car she will need for life.
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Auto Insurance Requirements in Virginia
The laws of Virginia mandate that you carry a minimum level of auto insurance. If you do not have enough insurance, you could face financial penalties and other problems if you are in an accident. Virginia features a tort system in the case of an accident. This means if you are found to be at fault, you can be sued for a variety of damages, including economic and actual damages, as well as pain and suffering.
The minimum level of insurance you must carry in Virginia is:
- $25,000 for bodily injury for each person in an accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury for all parties in an accident
- $20,000 in property damage liability
- $25,000 and $50,000 for uninsured motorist liability coverage
- $20,000 in uninsured motorist property damage and $200 deductible for hit and run incidents
This state does not require you to carry other coverage such as collision or comprehensive insurance. But if you have a lot of financial assets, you would be wise to carry additional coverage in case you are sued after an accident.
Virginia Accident Settlement Taxes
Generally, a personal injury settlement or verdict in Virginia is not taxable as income. The idea of a personal injury settlement is to make you the injured party whole again. As a result of the accident, the injured person will usually have medical costs, lost earnings, pain and suffering, etc. The settlement is supposed to compensate you for these losses, so the settlement should not usually be taxed.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule. First, punitive damages are always taxable at the federal and state levels. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct. The settlement in such a case would be more than the amount that is supposed to make you whole again. Thus, punitive damages are taxable.
Another exception relates to medical expenses. If you itemize your state tax return in Virginia and deducted medical expenses, the deducted part is subject to federal and state taxation.
Next, any appreciation or interest you receive on your personal injury settlement is taxable at the Virginia state level. Another exception is regarding losses that are sustained only for emotional damages. You would pay taxes on the proceeds that you receive that relate to your verdict or settlement.
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Negligence Laws in Virginia
Know that if you are in a car accident in this state, you will deal with some of the strictest negligence laws in the country. The law here is known as contributory negligence. This means if you have accident injuries and were in any way responsible for the car accident, you may not be able to collect damages.
For example, if you are pedestrian who is hit in a crosswalk by a car but the crosswalk sign was red, you may not be able to be compensated for your injuries. You were in this case at least partially responsible for the accident. In most states that follow a comparative negligence standard, you might be found 25% responsible. This would mean your potential claim would be reduced by 25%.
As you can surmise, winning a personal injury lawsuit in Virginia where you may have been partially responsible for the accident is challenging at best. It is important to hire a good personal injury attorney who can help you to clearly show you did not cause the accident that injured you. Your skilled attorney will be able to work with the accident evidence and your injuries and hopefully demonstrate you were acting within reasonable and possible means to avoid injury, and that it was the other person’s negligence that caused the accident.
The burden of proof lies with you to show the other party was at fault and caused the accident. Even if the jury finds you 1% at fault, you collect nothing. So a lot depends upon the skill of your attorney in Virginia.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Virginia
According to state law, if you were injured in a car accident, you have two years from the date of the collision to file a suit or claim. Second, if your vehicle or property was damaged, you have five years from the date of the accident to file the claim. Third, if your loved one died in the accident, you have two years from the date of death to file the claim.
Other Virginia Driving and Accident Laws
There are several new driving-related laws in Virginia to know:
- There is a ban on texting and driving that applies to all drivers.
- Virginia has a ban on using cell phones of all types for novice drivers, including hands free devices
- You must have auto insurance before you register your car or you can be fined $500
- When you drive in this state, using a radar detector is against the law. You can be fined and the device may be confiscated, even if it was shut off.
- As of 2012, first time DUI offenders must pay for an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
Virginia Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in Virginia, you will probably be under stress and not sure what to do. Below are some resources you could find helpful during this process. It is recommended to speak to a personal injury attorney if you have been injured or injured someone else in a car accident.
- If you were in a serious vehicle accident in Virginia, you may have medical bills, lost wages and even pain and suffering. If so, you may be considering the filing of a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Lawsuit Info Center can be a very valuable resource for you. This is a free website that assists injured drivers and passengers to locate an experienced personal injury attorney in their area. The website also can be used to find out what your accident claim could be worth in a settlement and at trial. Determining these values can be vital in deciding how to proceed.
- If you were in a car accident in Virginia, and there was more than $5000 in damages to people or property, it must be reported to law enforcement. If the police showed up at the crash site, they filed a police report.
- If you are in the middle of a claim or lawsuit and need a copy of a crash report, you can obtain a report from the Department of Motor Vehicles. If the crash report shows the other driver in Virginia caused the accident, this could be helpful for your claim.
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