Learn More about Your Rights: Explore These Personal Injury FAQs
- What is the statute of limitations for personal injuries in Virginia?
- What are my rights if I am injured in an auto accident with an uninsured driver?
- What are the minimum limits for automobile insurance coverage in Virginia?
- What is underinsured motorist coverage and why is it so important?
- Will filing an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim raise my premiums?
- Are waivers of liability forms enforceable in Virginia?
- What is the threshold for DUI in Virginia?
- Can I make a claim for injuries in a hit-and-run accident?
Q: What is the statute of limitations in Virginia for personal injuries due to an automobile accident?
In most cases the statute of limitations in Virginia is two years from the date of the auto accident. If a lawsuit is not filed within two years of the auto accident, the claim will most likely be dismissed. There are exceptions that lengthen the statute of limitations. For example, except in medical malpractice cases, the two year statute of limitations does not apply for children until the child reaches the age of 18. Therefore the child has until he or she is 20 years old to file a lawsuit. Injuries caused by government employees while they are on the job may be subject to a shorter statute of limitations. If you are injured by a "phantom driver," i.e. run off of the road you must report the claim within 30 days to pursue it. The statute of limitations is strictly enforced. Therefore it is never too soon to contact an attorney to determine your legal rights and obligations.
Q: What happens if I am in an auto accident with an uninsured driver?
In Virginia, most automobile insurance policies provide "uninsured motorist coverage." Your insurance company is responsible for paying you up to your policy limits for injuries caused by an uninsured motorist. This does not get the other driver off the hook. Your insurance company has subrogation rights against the uninsured driver. That means your insurance company can sue the uninsured driver to recover what was paid to you.
Q: What are the minimum limits for automobile insurance in Virginia?
Virginia law requires all drivers to have automobile insurance or pay an uninsured motorist fee of $500. Insurance policies issued in Virginia must provide at least $25,000 in liability insurance per person and $50,000 per accident. Except for minor accidents, the minimal insurance is insufficient. The Silverman Law Firm LC supports the lobbying of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association to raise the minimal limits in Virginia. We recommend that you purchase as much insurance coverage as you can afford. It usually costs only a couple dollars a month to raise your premiums. This will protect you if you are sued and will also protect you if you are injured due to an uninsured motorist.
Q: What is underinsured motorist coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you are injured by a driver with less insurance than you have under your automobile insurance policy. Let's say you are in an automobile accident caused by a careless driver with only $25,000 in automobile insurance from Allstate and you have $100,000 in coverage on your policy with State Farm. In that case, Allstate will pay you a maximum of $25,000 and your insurance will pay up to $75,000 giving you a net recovery of $100,000.
Until recently you could not settle a case with the other driver's insurance company without waiving your rights to collect underinsurance benefits from your own policy. This was a ridiculous rule that delayed compensating deserving victims. In 2016, Virginia law changed and we can now settle cases against the other driver's insurance company while continuing the claim for under-insurance benefits. This has enabled us to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars for our clients promptly without waving their rights to seek additional compensation under their own insurance policy's underinsured motorists coverage.
Q: Will filing a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits raise my premiums?
No. This is one of the most common questions heard in my office. By law, an insurance company can not raise your premiums for an accident that was not your fault. Of course, you have already paid premiums for these benefits so it would be foolish not to use them when you are seriously injured. Otherwise else your premiums are just gifts to your automobile insurance company.
Q: Are waivers of liability forms for personal injuries enforceable in Virginia?
A: The short answer is no. Businesses, particularly recreational businesses like ski resorts, river rafting companies, amusement parks, children's activity centers like Jumpology®, and soccer leagues, often require participants or their parents to sign waivers of all liability including for their own negligence. Fortunately in Virginia these waivers are typically unenforceable. The Virginia Supreme Court has found that it is against public policy to enforce a waiver of liability that is signed before engaging in the activity. The rationale is that liability risk encourages businesses to engage in safe practices. Remove the risk and businesses lose the incentive to exercise reasonable care.
Q: What is the threshold for DUI in Virginia?
A: Under Virginia law, a driver can be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. Additionally, if the drunk driver is in an automobile accident the driver may be liable for causing personal injuries. Even if the driver is grossly intoxicated his or her insurance company is responsible for paying damages up to the insurance policy limits. In addition to damages to compensate the injured persons, punitive damages may be awarded if the drunk driver's BAC was equal to or greater than .15 at the time of the collision. Punitive damages are additional compensation awarded to punish the driver and to deter others from drunk driving. Again punitive damages are covered by Virginia automobile insurance policies.
Q: Can I make a claim for injuries in a hit-and-run accident?
A: Victims of hit and run accidents may assert a claim under their own automobile insurance policy's uninsured motorist coverage. It is called a John Doe claim. In Virginia, victims can recover compensatory damages and in many cases up to $350,000 in punitive damages. For more information or to discuss your situation, please click here to contact us.
To have more of your questions answered, contact Silverman Law Firm LC today.