Filing an Insurance Claim vs. Filing a Lawsuit for Personal Injury after Your Car Accident in Virginia
Insurance companies are involved in nearly every type of lawsuit. If your personal injury case involves a car accident, medical malpractice, slip and fall, dog bite, or work accident, chances are good that an insurance company will play a role in your case.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit at any time, but usually you will file an insurance claim before filing a lawsuit in civil court. In most cases you will file a lawsuit only if negotiation breaks down and you are unable to get a fair settlement from the insurance company. Sometimes, however, you’ll want to file a lawsuit soon after the accident so you can negotiate from a position of strength.
Have a question about the best route to receive fair compensation for your injuries after an auto crash? Call or e-mail Richmond car accident lawyer Corey Pollard for a free, no obligation consultation.
Filing an Insurance Claim for Personal Injuries in Virginia
If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you should file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance coverage. Also, your own insurance company may have to offer “uninsured driver” coverage that takes affect if you’re injured by an uninsured driver. It’s important to work with an insurance agent to make sure you have adequate car insurance coverage.
Likewise, you may file a claim with your employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier if you’re hurt on the job, a claim with your doctor’s malpractice insurance carrier if he or she makes a mistake during a procedure or misdiagnoses your condition, or a claim with a store’s commercial liability insurance if you’re hurt in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property.
After the insurance company receives notice of the claim, a claims adjuster will take over your case. The adjuster has authority to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the insurance company and defendant. The claims adjuster will investigate whether the insurance was at fault or negligent, the extent and severity of the injury, and potential damages. The investigation may include:
- Interviewing the injured (do not give a recorded statement without talking with an attorney first);
- Interviewing the defendant;
- Interviewing any accident witnesses;
- Reviewing police reports or reports from governmental investigations;
- Visiting the accident scene;
- Taking videos and photos of the scene;
- Assessing property damage;
- Reviewing medical evidence; and,
- Talking with potential expert witnesses.
The claims adjuster is trying to determine two things: 1) the likelihood that a judge or jury would find their insured liable for damages and 2) the extent of the victim’s injuries, medical costs, out of pocket costs, wage loss, future wage loss, and pain and suffering.
After the adjuster completes the investigation, he or she will start to negotiate a settlement. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the injury victim may want to file a civil action in the appropriate court.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Virginia
If settlement negotiations breakdown between the injured and the insurance company, you may have to file a lawsuit. Do not make the decision to file suit lightly. There are additional costs, expenses, and risks that come with filing a personal injury lawsuit in Virginia.
Expenses and costs associated with filing a lawsuit include:
- Court filing fees: You have to pay a filing fee to file certain documents with the court
- Service of process: You have to serve court documents on the other party. The Sheriff will charge a fee to serve these documents.
- Court reporter fees: Your attorney will need to depose the defendant driver, witnesses, and possibly even the claims adjuster. A court reporter is required and will charge for taking testimony and providing a deposition transcript.
- Expert fees: Most cases require supportive expert witness testimony. Obtaining expert witness testimony is expensive.
- Attorney’s fees: Most attorneys charge a higher fee if trial is necessary.
- Copying costs: Medical providers and police stations charge for obtaining records and documents.
- Time from work: You may need to miss work for depositions, mediation, and trial.
In Virginia there are caps on medical malpractice awards and punitive damage awards. You should consider these caps when deciding whether to file a lawsuit for your personal injury.
There are alternative dispute resolutions options available in many cases. Arbitration or mediation may be appropriate depending on the facts of your case and the issues in dispute. After you’ve filed a lawsuit you can still try to reach a settlement.
In Virginia there are statutes of limitation that govern the time you have to file a claim for personal injury. Depending on the basis of your personal injury claim, you may have anywhere from two to five years to file. So act quickly!
Attorney Corey Pollard helps accident injury victims in Richmond, Newport News, and Virginia Beach resolve their claims using insurance claims, lawsuits, and informal dispute resolution methods. Call or e-mail today for a free claim evaluation. And don’t forget to read our guide on how to negotiate an insurance settlement after a car accident in Virginia.