Follow these steps to strengthen your injury claim
Whether you’re driving through a small neighborhood or on a major road – like Orange Avenue in Roanoke, U.S. Route 29 in Danville, or I-81 in Botetourt County – knowing what to do after an accident can make the difference between accepting a lowball settlement offer and collecting maximum compensation.
The stakes are especially high after a Virginia car accident. Unlike most states, which use some version of “comparative negligence,” Virginia law takes an all-or-nothing approach to car accident compensation. If a crash victim is proven to be even slightly at fault for causing the accident, they can lose their right to collect compensation from the negligent driver. This is called contributory negligence – and it’s a very favorable law for the insurance companies.
That’s why one of the most important things you can do after a car accident in Virginia is to get an experienced attorney on your side who can protect your rights from the beginning. It’s also important to take the right actions at the scene and in the aftermath to strengthen your case.
Eight steps to take after a Virginia car accident
No one plans to be in a car accident. That’s why it’s important to know what to do after a crash ahead of time. If you become the injured victim of a Virginia crash, these eight steps could help you gather proof and avoid costly mistakes in the claim process.
- Call 911. Get to a safe location, call 911, and wait there until law enforcement arrives. The responding officer will likely be with the Virginia State Police (VSP) or a local police department. Law enforcement will secure the scene, conduct an initial investigation, and prepare a police accident report. It’s important to remember, though, that their investigation is focused on determining whether a traffic violation occurred, not whether you get full compensation. Your attorney will launch their own investigation in support of your case (and the insurance company will do the same).
- Never admit fault. Never say “I’m sorry” or say anything else that might be construed as an admission of fault. When asked about the crash by an officer or others at the scene, avoid going into detail about how the crash happened. Stick to the facts like the time and location. You should also avoid discussing your injuries in detail.
- Take photos and video. Start collecting evidence. Get photos and videos of the crash from various angles and distances (close-up and far away). To best capture details, take photos of the same thing with and without a camera flash. Strong evidence to capture on photo or video includes crashed vehicle positions, points of impact, physical evidence like tire marks and broken glass, property damage, wide-angle or panoramic views, roadway configuration, and environmental factors like work zones, detours, or road debris. In addition, take pictures of any visible injuries.
- Talk to witnesses. Write down or record their names, contact information, and brief statements of what they saw. Your attorney can follow up with witnesses later.
- See a doctor as soon as possible. Crash victims can sometimes have serious injuries like a brain injury or internal injury and not know it. Other times, people sustain "delayed pain” injuries like whiplash. Left untreated, car accident injuries can get worse over time. In addition, if you don’t get prompt medical documentation of your injury, it’s easier for the insurance company to argue that your injury was not caused by the accident. To protect their health, and their injury claim, crash victims should get thorough medical examinations as soon as possible. Go to the emergency room, urgent care, or your primary care provider (PCP) if they have same-day appointments available.
- Inform your insurance company. Most car insurance policies require drivers to inform their insurance company soon after a crash has occurred. However, you are not required to go into detail. Tell the insurance company the basic facts: time, location, and so on. Don’t go into detail about your injuries either; it’s sufficient to say you are getting medical treatment. Refer any further questions to your attorney. And remember, you don’t have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company at all.
- Keep a crash journal. An injured car accident victim’s personal story can be powerful evidence. Write down all the car accident details you can recall. Then, record the development of their injuries and medical treatment. Also include examples of pain and the effects your injuries have on daily life.
- Consult a lawyer. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to leverage the law to get more out of the insurance companies. A lawyer can calculate a compensation package that puts the highest value on past, current, and future medical expenses, losses, and a crash victim’s comfort. To get clients the results they deserve, lawyers conduct thorough crash investigations, collect evidence, gather expert testimony, interview witnesses, build strong cases, meet legal deadlines and requirements, file effective claim documents, and negotiate aggressively for maximum compensation. If the insurance company doesn’t make a substantial settlement offer, a lawyer can prepare to take them to court. Throughout the process, your lawyer will deal with the insurance company on your behalf while you focus on getting better.
Free legal consultation for injured Virginia car accident victims
With so much on the line, it’s in your interest to consult an experienced Virginia car accident attorney. Studies show that, on average, people who consult lawyers collect more in damages than those who do not. This is true even after the lawyer is paid.
Hiring a Virginia car accident lawyer does not cost anything upfront or out of pocket. Car accident lawyers work for a contingency fee, which is an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement or verdict. If the lawyer doesn't win, they don't get paid.
Virginia car accident attorneys offer free case consultations to injured car accident victims and the families of fatal car accident victims. At no cost and with no obligation to hire, crash victims can get answers to their accident-related legal questions, an estimated claim value, and help to decide what to do next. If you’ve been injured in a car crash in Virginia, contact an attorney in your area today.