Categories
Auto Accident News

How Long Can It Take to Resolve a Car Accident Claim in Virginia?

You may have heard that every car accident claim is different. This sounds cliché, sort of like when a professional athlete tells a reporter he or she is trying to take it one game at a time.

However, every claim is different. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to the question of how long a claim may take to resolve.

Below, learn more about the factors that impact how long it may for a case to resolve. There are no guarantees for the outcome of any personal injury lawsuit. However, having a lawyer at your side may help to keep your claim progressing and allow you to recover more compensation than if you go through the process alone.

Give us a call today to schedule a free initial consultation and learn more about how our Richmond auto accident lawyers may be able to help you. We have obtained millions in compensation on behalf of our clients.

Severity of Your Injuries

Crash victims may not realize that settlement negotiations do not usually begin until they have reached maximum medical improvement. This is the point where your injury has either fully healed, or it has healed as much as will likely be possible. You may need more treatment in the future, but your level of impairment is unlikely to change.

How long does it take to reach maximum medical improvement?

The answer depends on the severity of your injuries and how you respond to your recommended plan of care. Some people respond well to treatment, and their recovery moves forward at a steady pace. However, with more serious injuries, it can take quite a while for victims to reach maximum medical improvement. Some victims may need physical therapy, in addition to other medical care, to try to rebuild strength, flexibility and regain some amount of function.

Cooperation of the Insurance Company

When a crash victim suffers a severe injury, he or she is probably going to need long-term treatment. The costs associated with any ongoing medical care can add up very quickly. Unfortunately, insurance companies often look for ways to deny or devalue claims involving complex injuries. Their focus is to save the insurance company money.

If the insurance company denies your claim or makes lowball settlement offers, the negotiation process could take quite a while. Keep in mind, negotiations probably will not begin in earnest until you reach maximum medical improvement.

Insurance companies also know the statute of limitations for personal injury claims – two years from the date of the accident. Part of the reason they make lowball offers and drag their feet is to try to run out the clock.

It is important to note insurance companies are not always difficult to work with. Having an experienced attorney at your side often causes insurance companies to move more quickly on a claim.

Disputes Over Fault for the Crash

Virginia is different from most other states when it comes to fault for personal injuries. If the victim bears any amount of fault for what happened, he or she cannot recover any compensation. That means there is extra incentive for insurance companies to claim victims are partially to blame for a crash.

If the insurance company claims you are partially at fault, you will need to present evidence to dispute this. That is why working with an attorney can be helpful. At Geoff McDonald and Associates, we know how to counter insurance claims that our clients are at fault. Our firm has the resources to thoroughly investigate your accident to build a strong case, and we are prepared to bring in expert witnesses if necessary.

Whether Your Case Goes to Trial

You have two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit, but the it could take weeks or months after that to get to trial.

Most claims do not end up in court. Attorneys and insurance companies are usually able to reach a settlement, even if the lawyer needs to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit may often push the insurance company to make a better compensation offer.

However, sometimes the only way to obtain maximum compensation is to take a case to trial. If you hire an attorney from our firm, we will be committed to your best interests throughout the process. We will let you know if we think going to trial may be the best option in your situation.

Have Questions About Your Claim? Call Today

The attorneys at Geoff McDonald and Associates are here to help you recover compensation for your car accident damages. First, we need to validate your claim in a free consultation.

If we find you have a valid claim, and you hire our firm, there are no upfront fees or obligations. We only get paid if we recover compensation for our clients.

We know crash victims often have many questions about their claim, including how long it may take. We are ready to discuss this and any other questions you have in a free consultation. Our goal is to recover the compensation you need as quickly as possible, because we know how it can help to provide financial relief during this difficult time.

Categories
Workers' Compensation

Can an Independent Contractor Seek Workers’ Comp Benefits?

 

Virginia’s workers’ compensation system provides benefits for employees who get injured while doing their jobs. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act has a specific definition of an employee and many independent contractors do not fit that definition.

However, employers have been known to misclassify people as independent contractors even though they are employees. For example, if your employer has a high degree of control over your work and how you do it, you may be an employee.

If you have questions about your eligibility for Virginia workers’ compensation benefits, our attorneys are here to help. There is no cost or obligation when you meet with us for an initial consultation. We have helped numerous employees obtain benefits after a workplace injury. Founder Geoff McDonald has recovered millions in settlements and awards from cases heard before the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.

How State Law Defines an Employee

According to Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is anyone in the service of another, whether it is under a contract or apprenticeship. The contract or apprenticeship can be written or implied.

This definition excludes those whose employment is not in the usual course of the trade, business, occupation or profession of the employer. The law gives numerous examples of those who qualify as employees under this definition. The law also lists workers excluded from this definition, such as casual employees, taxicab drivers, licensed real estate salespeople, and owner-operators of motor vehicles leased with or to a common or contract carrier in the trucking industry. There are numerous other examples listed.

However, it can be difficult to apply the text of the law to your situation. That is one of the benefits of seeking representation from our highly experienced workers’ compensation team.

The lawyers at Geoff McDonald and Associates have extensive knowledge of the law and how it applies to a variety of workers.

How Does the Workers’ Comp Commission Determine if Someone is an Employee?

There are four things the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission will review to determine if someone is an employee rather than an independent contractor:

  • Right to hire
  • Power to fire
  • Control over the worker’s actions
  • Obligation to pay wages and how wages are paid

The most significant factor to be considered is how much control the employer has over your actions. Essentially, employers have the power to control and direct employees in how they do their work. They specify the result that must be achieved, and the methods used to achieve this result.

If you can accomplish a task in whatever way you see fit, there may not be an employee-employer relationship. However, if you are given specific instructions about how to complete a task, there may be an employer-employee relationship.

Employees vs. Independent Contractors

Generally, workers are considered employees if their relationship with their employer fits the following criteria:

  • Continuing, long-term relationship
  • Tools, materials and labor needed to complete tasks were provided by the employer
  • You would not be liable for damages if you stopped working
  • Employer provides instructions on when, where and how to do your work
  • You were trained by the employer

Generally, workers are considered independent contractors if their relationship with their employer fits the following criteria:

  • You do the same work for this employer that you do for another
  • You own the tools needed to do the job
  • You can hire others to help you complete the job
  • You profit or suffer a financial loss based on how well you manage the job
  • You set the hours you work

If you have read any of the criteria above and believe you may be misclassified as an independent contractor, and you were injured on the job, it is important to discuss the situation with a qualified lawyer. Being out of work for even a short period can be financially devastating and workers’ compensation benefits can help you stay afloat financially.

If you have a long-term injury, such as a permanent partial disability, these benefits may be provided for an extended period as you attempt to recover or find other work.

Need Help with Your Workers’ Comp Claim? Call Today

We know you may have many questions about pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, particularly if your claim has been denied and you need to file an appeal. We are here to help.

The initial consultation to discuss your situation is free of charge. You are under no obligation to hire our firm. If you do, there will be no upfront fees or costs while we manage your case.

Give us a call today to see how we may be able to assist you. We have helped many injured employees obtain benefits to help them while they are unable to work.

Categories
Workers' Compensation

Can I Recover Workers’ Comp Benefits for a Heat-Related Injury?

construction worker in vest at construction site

You never know how long you may be unable to work due to a heat-related injury. Even if you are eligible for workers’ compensation, these benefits do not cover all your lost earnings while you are unable to work in the same capacity as before.

That is why, if your job puts you at high risk for heat-related injury or illness, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. Below, learn more about workers’ comp benefits for heat-related illnesses and what you can do to lessen the risk for injury while working in the heat.

If an injury occurs, our Richmond workers’ compensation lawyers may be able to help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits. We have helped many employees recover benefits for their injuries.

Workers’ Compensation and Heat-Related Illness

If you suffer an injury while doing your work, you are likely eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, even if the injury was your fault. For example, if you pushed yourself too hard doing your job and this resulted in heat stroke or heat exhaustion that prevents you from working for more than seven days, you may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits.

One of the main challenges with recovering compensation for a heat-related illness is proving the injury is work-related. Your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer may claim you only suffered heat-related illness because of a preexisting condition (such as those who are overweight or suffer from heart issues are more prone to heat-related illness).

Virginia’s workers’ compensation system does not cover preexisting injuries, unless you can prove your preexisting injury was aggravated by the demands of your job.

These are all reasons you should strongly consider seeking representation from a qualified attorney who can help you gather the medical documentation you need to prove your claim. Even if you have already filed your claim, Geoff McDonald & Associates may be able to help you.

Dangers of Working in the Heat

There are many jobs that require people to work outside, even in extreme cold or heat. For example, construction workers often spend many hours working outdoors. Farmers and others who work in agriculture often spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Oil and gas well operators, landscapers and those who work in mail and package delivery are also at risk for heat-related illness.

Some of the most common heat-related illnesses these workers suffer include:

Heat Exhaustion

When your body overheats, you may experience heavy sweating, increased heart rate and a lowering of your blood pressure. Low blood pressure can result in dizziness, particularly when standing up.

Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke if you are not careful. If you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, it is important to take a break, get out of the heat and drink water.

Heatstroke

This occurs when your body temperature rises above 104 degrees. Without treatment, this can cause damage to your brain, muscles, heart and kidneys. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the worse the damage can be.

Heat Cramps

These are muscle cramps caused by exposure to intense heat. The muscles in your calves, thighs and shoulders are most susceptible to heat cramps. The cramps are brief, involuntary, and go away on their own. However, if you begin feeling nauseous, dizzy or short of breath, you need medical treatment.

Heat Rash

This occurs when sweat is trapped under the skin due to blocked pores or sweat ducts. You may notice superficial blisters or deep, red lumps. Sometimes heat rash can be extremely itchy. If there is increasing pain, swelling or redness, victims should seek medical treatment.

What Can You Do to Stay Safe?

Staying hydrated is one of the keys to avoiding heat-related illness. This includes drinking water or a sports drink before going into the heat and drinking water or sports drinks throughout the day. You should not wait until you are thirsty to drink water.

Your employer can schedule outdoor work periods for early in the morning or times when it is not as hot. Despite the pressure to complete work and meet deadlines, shorter shifts can be an important step for keeping workers safe.

Employers should also keep an eye on employees to try to ensure they are taking regular breaks in the shade or away from the heat. When possible, taking a break in air conditioning can be very helpful.

Employees should watch each other for signs of heat-related illness. Symptoms should be reported right away to help prevent them from worsening.

Have Questions? Give Us a Call for Legal Help

We know employees often have many questions after suffering a work-related injury, including whether they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and how much compensation they may receive.

Our attorneys offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to discuss the situation with you. We can explain if you may have a valid claim and discuss how we may be able to assist you. We are not paid for providing legal help unless you receive benefits.

CEO and President Attorney Geoff McDonald is a member of the National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

Categories
Personal Injury

What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Claim?

cemetery with rose on headstone

When someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior is responsible for the loss of a loved one, legal options may be the last thing you want to consider. However, there can be a lot of unexpected financial burdens that arise from the loss of a loved one. Holding the responsible party accountable for his or her actions will not change what happened, but it may help you to recover the compensation for your loss.

The lawyers at Geoff McDonald and Associates will discuss two options you may have for holding the at-fault party financially responsible for his or her negligent actions: wrongful death actions and survival actions.

Contact our firm to schedule a free consultation where you can speak to one of our attorneys. None of the meetings cost money – we only get paid if you do.

What is the Purpose of a Wrongful Death Claim?

Surviving family members may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim after the death of a loved one that was caused by someone else’s reckless behavior, negligence or willful misconduct. Often these claims arise as the result of construction site accidents, medical malpractice, slip and falls and car accidents. Regardless of the type of accident, if your loved one’s death could have been prevented but for the negligence of another person, then you may have a valid wrongful death claim.

In Virginia, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed on behalf of eligible beneficiaries by the decedent’s personal representative. Surviving family members or other beneficiaries who may sue are granted eligibility in a specific order according to state law.

Damages that eligible family members may be awarded include:

  • Final medical costs
  • Future expected financial earnings
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of companionship, comfort and services
  • Burial expenses
  • Loss of inheritance

While typically there are no inheritance or other taxes assessed on damages from a wrongful death lawsuit, this is something you should discuss with your Richmond wrongful death attorney to determine whether any exceptions may apply to your specific claim.

What is a Survival Action?

Unlike a wrongful death claim, which is brought on behalf of surviving beneficiaries, a survival action pursues damages on behalf of the decedent and his or her estate. These are the damages the deceased could have pursued in a personal injury claim but for the fatal accident caused by the negligent party.

Both non-economic – pain and suffering – damages and economic damages may be included in a survival action claim:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning capacity (from the date of injury to the time of death)
  • Loss of future earnings (calculated for the decedent’s estimated future earnings from working)

The damages awarded in a survival action are paid directly to the deceased person’s estate, rather than any surviving beneficiaries. Prior to 2007, this compensation may have been subject to an inheritance tax. However, under Virginia’s Estate and Inheritance tax law of 2007, residents no longer pay inheritance tax, which includes damages an estate receives through a survival action.

Can You File Claims for Both Wrongful Death and Survival Action?

Virginia state law does not prohibit your attorney from filing both types of claims. However, it is common that the attorney for the defendant in that situation may file a motion to require your loved one’s estate to only sue for wrongful death. In some circumstances, such as if the cause of death is being contested, your attorney may argue for the jury to determine which type of claim is most appropriate.

Contact Geoff McDonald & Associates for Legal Help

If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to the negligent or willful misconduct of another, we are prepared to help.

At Geoff McDonald & Associates, we have been helping injured victims and their families pursue compensation against negligent parties for more than 20 years. Our firm has recovered more than $400 million in compensation on behalf of our clients.

During your free initial consultation, we can discuss your legal options and answer your questions about what type of claim you may wish to consider. There is no obligation to hire our services after this meeting. If we represent you, there are no upfront costs to pay. All costs and fees are advanced and paid only in the event we obtain compensation on your behalf.

Categories
Auto Accident News

Why Are Left-Turn Crashes So Common and Who is Usually at Fault?

signs for left turn on stop lights

Left turns are some of the most dangerous traffic maneuvers you can make. You are cutting across traffic heading in the opposite direction. When you are turning right you can speed up and potentially prevent being hit from behind. However, when you are turning left, speeding up may still not get you out of the way of a potential collision.

If you hit a car that was turning left or were hit while turning left, you may be eligible for compensation for your damages. As fault is complicated, it is important to contact a licensed lawyer if you think the accident was the other driver’s fault.

Left-Turn Crash Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), left turns occur in approximately 22.2 percent of collisions. A study by CNN found left turns are three times as likely to kill pedestrians than right turns.

Research like this emphasizes the need to be extra cautious when making a left turn. In fact, if there is a way to avoid the left turn, or at least turn at an intersection with a green arrow instead of a green light, you may want to do it. If you are unsure if you have enough time to make it through the intersection before the approaching vehicles, maybe wait for traffic to clear more.

Fault for a Left-Turn Collision

There are some general rules that apply to liability for a left-turn crash. First and foremost, traffic heading in the other direction has the right of way. You must wait for traffic to clear before making the turn. This means the driver turning left is generally at fault for the collision.

Virginia state law says drivers turning left in an intersection, alley, private road, or driveway must yield to vehicles approaching from the other direction if they are so close as to constitute a hazard.

However, there may be exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you had a green arrow and approaching traffic had a red light, you had the right of way. If a collision occurs, it is likely to be the other driver’s fault.

If you can prove the other driver was speeding, he or she may be partially at fault for the crash, and our Richmond car accident lawyers may be able to pursue compensation on your behalf. However, partial fault would not help your claim, as Virginia follows a harsh contributory negligence rule. If you are at fault for the accident in any way, you are barred from seeking compensation. Even if the accident was entirely the fault of the other driver, you would need to prove he or she was speeding.

Although rare, it is possible an animal could dart out into the road. If this happens, you may delay the turn, causing a collision with an approaching vehicle. In these situations, the other driver may be at fault. However, in Virginia, you cannot obtain compensation unless the other driver is 100 percent at fault.

Fault for a Left-Turn Crash with a Pedestrian

Under Virginia law, you have a duty to yield to pedestrians who are in crosswalks, whether they are marked or not. That said, pedestrians are prohibited from interfering with the orderly passage of vehicles in a way that is malicious or careless. Pedestrians must be responsible when crossing the street.

If you were turning left and a pedestrian ran out into the road in your path, the pedestrian may be at fault for the crash. That said, always keep watch for pedestrians to prevent an accident, as these accidents often cause severe injuries or even death. If you are even slightly to blame for a pedestrian crash, you will be ineligible for compensation, whether from the insurance company or a lawsuit.

Need Legal Help? Call Today to Discuss Your Claim

Geoff McDonald and Associates has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of personal injury victims. The initial consultation comes with no obligation to take legal action and there are no upfront fees for hiring our firm.

If you think you may have a valid case, call our firm today to schedule your free legal consultation. We are here to answer your questions and determine if we may be able to help you.

Our CEO and President Attorney Geoff McDonald is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Association: Top 100.

Categories
Workers' Compensation

Are Remote Work Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

typing on laptop at home

Many people have been working from home to help slow the spread of coronavirus and try to avoid contracting this potentially deadly disease. With this increase in remote work, there could be an increase in at-home injuries while people are on the clock.

This raises important questions about workers’ compensation. It may be harder to connect an at-home injury to your work and your employer may be more likely to challenge your claim because you were not in the office. It also less likely there were witnesses to your injury.

If you have been working remotely because of the pandemic and you were injured during work hours, our experienced attorneys may be able to help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits. The initial consultation comes with no obligation and it is entirely free.

Workers’ Comp When Working at Home

Virginia’s workers’ compensation system provides compensation for medical bills and lost wages for employees who suffer work-related injuries. Generally, that means if you are an employee who is on the clock and you get injured while doing your work, you are eligible for benefits.

The burden of proof for your claim is on you. That means it is up to you and your Richmond workers’ compensation attorney to prove you were engaged in work-related activities when the injury occurred.

This could be more challenging for an injury that occurs during offsite activities or remote work. Even if there are witnesses, they are likely to be friends or family members – your employer and its workers’ comp insurer may claim they are biased in your favor. Most people do not have security cameras in their homes, so it is unlikely you will have video footage of the accident.

What if I was Injured While Away from My Desk?

At-home injuries might not occur while you are in your home office or designated workspace. You may slip and fall on the way to the kitchen for a snack or on the way to the bathroom.

This raises questions about your eligibility for benefits – walking to the kitchen is not really a work-related task. However, if you were in the office and you were injured while on your lunch break in the company breakroom, you are likely eligible for benefits. The same rationale likely applies to injuries that occur during remote work.

However, employers often set guidelines or rules about working from home. For example, they may require you to have a designated workspace and prohibit you from working in a location that may be distracting, such as in front of the TV or on your couch. They may also prohibit you from doing household chores. If you violated these guidelines and your employer or its insurer can prove it, you may be ineligible for benefits.

Your employer may have also set some safety requirements for at-home work to help reduce the risk of injury. For example, you may be required to have an ergonomic workspace to reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome or neck and back injuries.

A key factor to consider is how clearly-stated your employer’s work-at-home guidelines are. If they were only mentioned in passing and not written down in a company handbook or email, they may not be enforceable.

Preserving Your Workers’ Comp Claim

As with any other workers’ compensation claim, it is important to file a claim as soon as possible. You should also notify your employer about your injury immediately. Reporting things quickly helps to show the severity of the situation and leaves your employer and its insurer less room to dispute the validity of your claim.

You should also take pictures of your injuries and the location of the accident. If friends or family members witnessed the accident, have them write down what they remember. You should also write down what happened before you forget.

Learn more about preserving a workers’ compensation claim by reviewing our blog.

Find Out How We May be Able to Help You Pursue Benefits

Our experienced legal team knows you may have questions about filing a workers’ compensation claim. We have helped many employees obtain benefits after a workplace injury and we are very familiar with what work injury victims want to know.

We are available to answer your questions in a free legal consultation at no obligation to you. Our firm does not charge upfront fees for representing you and we are not paid unless you receive compensation.

Review some of our client testimonials to see what our clients have to say about the representation we provided in their time of need.

Categories
Auto Accident News

What Are Your Options After a Car Insurance Claim Denial?

claim form for car crash

There is often a lot of uncertainty and confusion after a car crash. The uncertainty and confusion are only heightened when the insurance company denies the claim.

Victims often do not know what to do next. You may be unsure if you still have a chance to obtain compensation for medical expenses and other damages. You may not know if the insurance company had valid reasons for denying your claim.

Fortunately, you may have options for pursuing compensation. It is vital to speak with an experienced attorney about your claim, as he or she can help determine what to do next. At Geoff McDonald and Associates, the goal of our Richmond auto accident attorneys is to recover maximum compensation to help you move forward after an accident.

Reasons Why Car Insurance Claims Are Often Denied

One of the most common reasons car insurance claims are denied is because the victim did not establish that another party was at fault for the crash. They may even claim you are at fault for any number of reasons, even if they have little evidence. Insurance companies are looking for any reason to deny or devalue your claim, as their main goal is to protect their company’s bottom line.

Insurance companies may also claim your injuries are not that serious. They may say you did not seek medical treatment soon enough after the accident.

These are not necessarily invalid reasons for the denial of your claim. That means there may be room for you to challenge the insurance company.

However, if you missed the deadline for filing a claim or failed to provide information about your injuries, the insurance company may have been within their rights to deny your claim. If you provided a recorded statement the insurance company is using as the basis for denying your claim, it may be difficult to challenge what is in the recording. That is why you should avoid giving a recorded statement before you discuss it with your attorney.

Challenging an Insurance Claim Denial

Insurance companies in Virginia are bound by state contract law, which governs how contracts, like insurance policies, must be interpreted. For example, rules in contracts should be interpreted based on the plain meaning of the words used. Insurance companies must also act reasonably with their investigation and the decisions they make about claims.

If you think the insurance company is being unreasonable or misinterpreting or twisting the words in your policy, you should consider talking to a lawyer about challenging them.

However, sometimes the insurance company does not misinterpret your policy. Sometimes they claim you are at fault for the crash with little evidence. They may use your own words against you – if you said you were in a rush when the accident happened; they may claim that means you were speeding or distracted, and your claim is invalid.

No matter the reason given for the denial of your claim, there are some options for challenging the insurance company.

The one option most victims think of first is suing the insurance company. Sometimes filing a lawsuit is all it takes to get the insurance company to negotiate.

However, filing a lawsuit may not be the only way to pursue compensation for your damages. For example, mediation may allow you to resolve the situation. This refers to a meeting between both sides that includes a mediator, which is an unbiased third party that attempts to help both sides reach a middle ground.

Another option may be arbitration, which is like mediation. This refers to a meeting with an arbitrator who makes a binding or non-binding decision about your claim.

If you have questions about challenging the denial of your claim, our attorneys are ready to help you. There is limited time to file a lawsuit (generally two years from the date of the accident), so it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Call Today to Discuss Your Claim

There is no cost or obligation to meet with a licensed attorney from our firm to determine what to do after a car insurance claim denial. We are also not paid for representing you unless we obtain compensation on your behalf. This means there is no risk to you in meeting with us.

We have recovered hundreds of millions in compensation on behalf of personal injury victims throughout Virginia, including many car crash victims. This includes $1.75 million for the victim of a rear-end crash.

Our CEO and President Attorney Geoff McDonald is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Association – Top 100.

Categories
Auto Accident News

How Can an Attorney Prove an At-Fault Driver Was Distracted?

woman looking at phone while driving

Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and is known to lead to significant injuries and fatal car crashes. If you were injured by a distracted driver in Virginia, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages.

But how can you prove that the other driver was distracted during the accident? Proving this happened is critical to the success of your claim.

Below, we discuss several ways an attorney could help you prove that a driver was texting, eating, drinking, or distracted in another way when he or she hit you. While building a strong case against a distracted driver can be difficult, our legal team knows how to investigate and collect evidence to help bolster your claim for compensation. An initial consultation with us is free, with no obligations involved.

Evidence That May Demonstrate Liability

If you have a valid claim and decide to move forward, there are multiple sources of evidence that we could use to help demonstrate that the crash was potentially caused by distracted driving, such as: 

The Police Report

It is always important to contact the police after a car accident, especially if you suspect distracted driving. The police officer will examine the accident scene and develop a report of his or her initial findings. Some findings that may provide compelling evidence to support your claim include:

  • The officer’s own observations of distracted driving
  • How fast the other driver was driving when the crash happened
  • Whether the other driver hit the brakes
  • The at-fault driver’s own admission of being distracted
  • Statements from other drivers, passengers, pedestrians or witnesses
  • What the officer found on the driver’s cellphone

Photos and Video of the Crash Scene

Photos and video footage taken at or close to the time of the crash might suggest that the other driver was distracted. Pictures showing a lack of tire or brake marks could serve as proof that the other driver failed to hit the brakes because he or she was most likely distracted. Capturing any vehicle damage could also help establish that the other driver never swerved before impact. 

Video footage from traffic cameras, people in the vicinity, or surveillance cameras from nearby businesses may have recorded the at-fault driver using a cellphone or engaging in other distracting behaviors at the time of the crash. Distracted drivers often get “caught on camera” without realizing it.

Speaking with Witnesses

Other people might be willing to offer testimony about what they saw at the scene of the accident. Potential witnesses could include your passengers, the other driver’s passengers, bystanders or pedestrians within the vicinity, or people in other vehicles. They may have noticed the at-fault driver texting, reaching for items, adjusting the radio or GPS, or otherwise not paying attention. Requesting statements from these witnesses could serve as proof of driver distraction and help strengthen your claim.

Driver Cellphone Records

Your attorney may be able to subpoena the other driver’s cellphone records, which could establish that the driver was texting or talking on the phone at the time of the crash. Cellphone records would also show the exact time and date of this activity.

In some cases, the responding police officer will inspect or seize a cellphone at the accident scene, which could provide additional evidence needed to help prove that other driver was distracted.

Our Richmond car accident lawyers are prepared to use cellphone records to establish that the driver was reading a text message, typing a text message, or was browsing on the web at the time of the crash.

Social Media Interactions

Other forms of evidence that leave an electronic trail are social media interactions. If the other driver was using social media at the time of the crash, this activity might be logged and timestamped.

Your attorney may decide to hire an expert to find electronic evidence of distracted driving, such as him or her posting a message or uploading a photo or video on a social media platform to bolster your claim.

Learn more about how social media impacts claims after a car accident.

Virginia Laws on Distracted Driving

Virginia law currently prohibits reading or sending text messages while driving and using cellphones while driving in work zones. However, a new law (House Bill 874), which was passed and will go into effect on January 1, 2021, will prohibit all drivers from holding a handheld cellphone will driving.

Traffic penalties will remain the same. Drivers using a cellphone while driving will be fined $125 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $250 for violations in a work zone, regardless of whether it is the driver’s first offense. In Virginia, texting while driving is also still a 3-point offense for non-commercial vehicles.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

If you were injured in a car accident and you suspect that it may have been caused by a distracted driver, there may be evidence to help support your claim for compensation. Our licensed lawyers at Geoff McDonald & Associates know what it takes to build a strong case on your behalf. We fight to maximize compensation for our clients, having recovered over $400 million on their behalf.

Our consultations are free and there are no upfront fees for our services. We only get paid if you do.

Categories
Auto Accident News

What Do I Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident in Virginia?

road with tire streaks going away

Fleeing the scene of a car accident is illegal and victims can face stiff criminal penalties. However, the at-fault driver being fined or imprisoned does nothing to help you with medical bills and other damages.

Fortunately, victims of hit-and-run accidents may be able to obtain insurance compensation, particularly if the police are able to find the driver who fled. There are steps victims can take to possibly improve their chances of recovering compensation.

One of those steps is calling an experienced attorney to review the accident with you. At Geoff McDonald and Associates, the initial consultation is free. You are also not obligated to hire our firm if we validate your case.

Moments After a Hit-and-Run Crash

Victims of these accidents are often angry, and they should be. Someone else damaged your car and may have caused you to be physically injured. That person is also trying to avoid responsibility for it.

However, you may have just a few seconds to watch the driver flee. In those few seconds you can gather a lot of information to help the police locate this individual.

The license plate number is probably the most important piece of evidence. Identifying the make, model and color of the vehicle is also important, along with damage the car suffered in the crash with your vehicle.

Try to get a good look at the driver. Even from a distance you may be able to determine if the driver is a man or woman.

Write down what you see as quickly as possible, before you forget. You could also record a video where you say what you saw. It is easy to quickly forget important details you will need in your claim for compensation. 

Why You Should Not Chase the Driver

Your car may still be safe to drive, and it may be tempting to chase down the driver who fled. However, there is no telling why the driver left the scene. It is possible he or she has a warrant out for his or her arrest. The driver may have just left the scene of a crime. The driver may also not have insurance and is hoping to escape financial responsibility for your injuries and damages.

No matter the reason, it can be dangerous to chase down a hit-and-run driver. You should leave that to the police.  

Building a Case for Compensation

Your main priority after any car accident is receiving medical treatment. You should call 9-1-1 so first responders can come to the scene and begin providing treatment. Calling 9-1-1 will also send the police to the scene. You can provide the officer with the information you collected about the fleeing driver and his or her vehicle so the police can try to find him or her.

While you wait for the police to arrive, try to move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic into a safe location. If you are in pain, you may want to just stay in the car instead of getting out and moving around and possibly making your injuries worse.

If it is safe to get out of your car, look for witnesses. They may have gotten a good look at the driver. They may also have seen things that help show the other driver is at fault. Make sure to ask for contact information, that way your attorney can contact them later as he or she works to build a strong case.

Insurance Claims for Hit-and-Run Crashes

If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your Richmond car accident lawyer may be able to file a claim against it, even if the police cannot find the other driver. Even if they do find the driver, it is possible he or she does not have insurance – being uninsured may be the reason the driver left you at the scene.

If the police locates the driver, and he or she has insurance, your lawyer may be able to file a claim against his or her liability coverage. This claim would proceed in much the same way claims over non-hit-and-run crashes would.

Virginia Law Prohibiting Leaving a Crash Scene

Virginia drivers have various obligations after an accident. Drivers must provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured in an accident, such as taking injured people to the hospital. Drivers must also stop as close to the scene as possible. They are also required to report injuries, contact information, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number to state police or local law enforcement.

Failing to uphold these obligations is against the law and could be considered a Class 5 felony, depending on the damages suffered in the crash.

Call Today to Find Out How We May Be Able to Help

There are many advantages to having legal representation as you pursue car accident compensation. It costs nothing to discuss these advantages with one of the licensed attorneys at our firm. If you have a valid case and hire our firm, we will not be paid unless we recover compensation on your behalf.      

Learn more about how we could assist you by calling us or completing a free case evaluation form to schedule your initial consultation. This meeting is also a chance to get answers to your questions about the legal process.

Categories
Workers' Compensation

What to Know About Permanent Partial Disability from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation System

helping man walk with prosthetic leg

Sometimes employees make a full recovery from on-the-job injuries. However, other workers may be left with a permanent impairment. When they can still work in some capacity, they may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits from Virginia’s workers’ compensation system.

Whether you have suffered an on-the-job injury or not, there are several things you should know about these benefits, including:

  • When employees may be eligible
  • How much compensation may be provided
  • When to file a claim
  • Proving a disability resulted from a work injury

Virginia workers’ compensation claims are often complex, so it may benefit you to seek legal help from a licensed attorney with a track record of success. At Geoff McDonald and Associates, we have obtained millions in compensation on behalf of injured employees. CEO and President Attorney Geoff McDonald is a board member with the Workplace Injury Law and Advocacy Group.

Our Richmond workers’ compensation attorneys are ready to take your call today.

What Are Permanent Partial Disability Benefits For?

If you suffered a work-related injury that caused lasting impairment or restricted your ability to work in the same capacity as before, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits.

Virginia allows employees to receive these benefits for different types of work-related lung diseases, such as byssinosis or pneumoconiosis, injuries that resulted in the amputation of a body part, loss of use, scarring or disfigurement of certain body parts.  

According to § 65.2-503 of the Code of Virginia, permanent partial disability benefits may be awarded for the loss of:

  • Fingers
  • Toes
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Vision
  • Hearing

Employees may also receive benefits for a severely marked body disfigurement caused by an injury that is not mentioned in the Virginia workers’ comp code.

Can I Receive PPD Benefits for Head, Back, Neck, Brain or Spinal Cord Injuries?

These injuries are not listed in the Virginia code, but you may be eligible for PPD benefits if one of these injuries causes permanent disability for a body part that is listed. For example, if your spinal cord injury causes paralysis in one of your legs, you may be eligible for benefits.

When do Employees Become Eligible for PPD?

Benefits are not awarded until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point when there is no reasonable expectation that you will see further functional improvement, even with continued treatment. If you reach this point and are still disabled, you may be eligible for benefits.

The burden of proof for maximum medical improvement is on you and your attorney. Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) evaluates the medical evidence and your treating doctor’s opinion to make its decision.  

The WCC can determine you have reached maximum medical improvement even if you need surgery in the future. The surgery might not even be scheduled yet.

Future surgery is often necessary when workers suffer injuries such as:

  • Herniated discs
  • Back injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Shoulder injuries

How Much Compensation Could I Receive for a Permanent Partial Disability?

Virginia has a scheduled loss system for awarding permanent partial disability benefits. Employees who are approved for benefits receive 66 and two-thirds percent of their average weekly wage. Virginia has a schedule setting the duration of benefits for each injury that qualifies for benefits:

  • Leg – 175 weeks
  • Arm – 200 weeks
  • Hand – 150 weeks
  • Foot – 125 weeks
  • Loss of vision in one eye – 100 weeks
  • Loss of hearing in one ear – 50 weeks
  • Thumb – 60 weeks
  • Index finger – 35 weeks
  • Middle finger – 30 weeks
  • Ring finger – 20 weeks
  • Pinky – 15 weeks
  • First phalanx of either thumb – half the compensation that would be paid for the loss of an entire thumb or finger
  • Big toe – 30 weeks
  • Any other toe – 10 weeks
  • First phalanx of a toe – half the compensation for loss of a full toe
  • Severely marked disfigurement of a body part – no more than 60 weeks
  • First stage of pneumoconiosis – 50 weeks
  • Second stage of pneumoconiosis – 100 weeks
  • Third stage of pneumoconiosis – 300 weeks
  • Byssinosis – 50 weeks

How Do I Prove a PPD Claim?

Often, injured employees must be assessed by a physical therapist specializing in functional capacity evaluations. You can then have your attorney talk to the therapist about signing off on a disability rating.

You must also prove you cannot use the injured body part like you could before. Often, this requires testimony at a workers’ compensation hearing or through an affidavit that describes the ongoing problems caused by your injury.

What is a Disability Rating?

The Workers’ Compensation Commission must decide on your disability rating once you reach the point of maximum medical improvement. This is a rating of your percentage of incapacity or lost function.

It is generally best to use the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to determine this rating. However, the WCC does not have to comply with these or other published guidelines when setting an impairment rating.

The information you and your attorney provide will be critical in the WCC’s determination of your disability rating and whether you are eligible for PPD benefits.

What is the Deadline for Filing a Claim?

If you were only awarded medical benefits but not temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits, you have three years from the date of your accident to file a claim for permanent partial disability.

If you received wage loss payments as part of an award agreement, you have three years from the date you last received wage loss benefits to file a claim for PPD.

However, it is best not to wait to file a claim. You should file for PPD benefits when you first file your workers’ compensation claim. Your attorney can ask the WCC to not refer your claim to the hearing docket until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement.

What if an Employer or Insurance Carrier Tries to Hold a Hearing Before You Reach MMI?

You are not eligible for PPD until you reach maximum medical improvement. If a hearing is held before you reach that point, your claim is going to be denied. If a hearing has been requested, you should consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. A lawyer may be able to reschedule your hearing, so you have a chance of being approved for benefits.

What Happens if Your Employer and its Workers’ Comp Insurer Dispute Your Impairment Rating?

Workers’ compensation insurers are likely to disagree with the impairment rating set by the medical examiner your lawyer sends you to. This may result in the insurance company sending you for an independent medical examination. The doctor they refer you to may very likely give you a much lower impairment rating.

When these disputes arise, you will need to attend a hearing before the WCC deputy commissioner. This hearing can have one of two outcomes:

  • Take the average of both impairment ratings to determine your final impairment rating
  • Select one of the impairment ratings as your permanent impairment rating

Call Today with Your Workers’ Compensation Questions

Our firm is ready to take your call anytime, 24/7. The initial consultation with one of our licensed attorneys is free, and you are not obligated to retain our firm. We also are not paid unless you receive compensation. There is no risk is talking to us about your claim and finding out how we may be able to help you.