Ignoring a traffic control device, such as a red light, is a clear violation of Virginia law and puts other drivers at risk of an auto accident and grave losses. Therefore, assuming emergency responders issue a citation for the incident, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies. In this case, drivers who violate safety laws and cause injury are usually considered negligent as a matter of law.
So, the legal issues in these cases are often straightforward. Negligence per se car crash claims are almost impossible to defend, at least from a legal perspective. However, as outlined below, the procedural issues are often a different story.
Legal responsibility for a red light wreck is usually not an issue. The extent of that responsibility is another matter.
Even though evidence isn’t usually necessary to establish legal fault, evidence collection is still an important part of the process. Normally, there is a direct relationship between the amount of compensation jurors award and the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents.
Pure economic figures, such as the cost of medical treatment and the cost of property damage, are usually easy to determine. Ascertaining the actual value of these losses could be more problematic. For example, a used car might have very little financial value. Its replacement value is usually higher. Dealers always charge substantially more than the Blue Book value. Additionally, the family car has an emotional value that could exceed its dollar value.
As for medical expenses, because of privacy laws, non-lawyers often have a hard time obtaining these documents. Furthermore, these documents are not always admissible as-is.
Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, most attorneys send demand letters to insurance companies. As the name implies, this letter demands a sum of money in exchange for a liability waiver.
Lawyers normally wait for treatment to finish because, if the final settlement doesn’t account for all possible future medical bills, the victims could be financially responsible for these charges. Doctors understandably hesitate to estimate future medical expenses until current treatments are concluded and analyzed.
If all issues are clear, the insurance company usually has a legal duty to settle the claim quickly. However, there is usually some question as to liability. Although insurance company lawyers normally cannot challenge the legal aspects of a red light claim, they can certainly question the amount of compensation.
Filing a Claim
Therefore, many red light claims advance to the next level, which involves filing legal paperwork with the court. This move pressures the insurance company to settle. For the company, the longer the case lasts, the higher its legal bills climb. Additionally, by this time, the statute of limitations is normally approaching. So, filing a claim preserves the victim’s legal rights.
In response to a filing, most insurance company lawyers file procedural motions. In a negligence per se claim, these motions usually assert a lack of jurisdiction or another technical matter. Assuming there is sufficient evidence to support the victim/plaintiff’s claim, and there almost always is, judges generally overrule these motions.
Resolving a Claim
Informal settlement negotiations usually continue throughout this process. As the trial date approaches and the insurance company’s legal bills mount, the likelihood of informal settlement increases.
Car crash victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. Lawyers can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.