Categories
Auto Accident News

New distracted driving laws

On January 21, 2021, Virginia became one of the only states in the country with a comprehensive distracted driving law. It is now illegal for drivers to hold and use a cell phone in the Old Dominion. The previous law had very limited applicability.

 

Hand-held devices combine all three forms of distracted driving: (1) these operators take their eyes off the road (visual distraction); (2) they take a hand off the wheel (manual distraction); and (3) they take their minds off driving (cognitive distraction). However, as outlined below, other distractions are often just as serious.

 

The law also muddied the waters in terms of injury claims. Many people are unsure of their rights. Even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) did not violate the cell phone law, a Richmond accident lawyer can still obtain compensation for these car crash victims.

Device Distraction and Negligence Per Se

 

If a driver violates the new cell phone law and causes a crash, that driver may be responsible for damages as a matter of law. The negligence per se doctrine usually applies if the tortfeasor violated a safety law and the victim is of the class the law was designed to protect. 

 

These cases are not just easier for Richmond personal injury attorneys to prove. Since these drivers arguably ignore the safety of others, jurors often award substantial verdicts in these situations. These verdicts usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

 

However, even if a driver was using a hand-held phone, many emergency responders do not issue tickets. Generally, responders arrive at crash scenes after the fact. If they did not see the tortfeasor using a phone, these charges often do not hold up in court. So, from this perspective, writing a ticket may be a waste of resources.

 

Furthermore, many responders do not issue tickets after accidents as a matter of departmental or personal policy. Many police officers view car crashes as civil disputes, and they do not want to get involved.

Ordinary Negligence

 

If emergency responders do not issue a cell phone ticket, the ordinary negligence doctrine usually applies. In this context, ordinary negligence is usually a lack of reasonable care. The law holds commercial operators, like Uber drivers and truck drivers, to a higher standard.

 

This rule also comes into play if a hands-free device distracted the motorist and caused a crash. Considerable evidence indicates that hands-free phones are worse than hand-held phones. Hands-free devices are visually and cognitively distracting. Additionally, these gadgets give many drivers a false sense of security. So, they often take unnecessary risks behind the wheel.

 

In these claims, victim/plaintiffs must prove negligence, which again is a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Evidence in these claims includes:

 

  • Erratic driving before the crash
  • Device use logs
  • Witness statements
  • Presence of a phone near the driver
  • Tortfeasor’s statements about device use

 

A preponderance of the evidence is the lowest burden of evidence in Virginia law. So, a little bit of this evidence goes a long way.

 

Device use logs are often the most compelling bit of evidence. An attorney must act quickly to preserve them. Frequently, people “accidentally” delete these logs. Deleted logs are still buried on the device’s hard drive. But it’s more expensive and time-consuming to extract them.

 

It’s much easier to send a spoliation letter. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all possible physical evidence for trial. Spoliation letters also preserve other electronic evidence, like a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. An EDR is basically like a black box flight data recorder.

Victim of an Auto Accident? Learn More with a Free Consultation

 

Distracted driver crash victims usually have multiple legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Categories
Workers' Compensation

Workers’ Compensation and Repetitive Stress Injuries in Virginia

Many people unintentionally torpedo their own injury claims when they give statements to insurance adjusters. Work-related repetitive stress injuries are a good example. Unless your pain has an ascertainable starting point, as outlined below, claims examiners in Virginia will almost always deny your application.

 

Workers’ compensation is unavailable for repetitive stress injuries, such as back pain, knee pain, and CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). Many of these injuries require extensive surgery to correct.

 

If you experienced such an injury, it’s important to team up with a Richmond work accident lawyer right from the start. A lawyer knows more than what evidence to present. An attorney knows how to present this evidence in a way that maximizes your compensation. In job injury claims, this compensation usually includes lost wage replacement and medical bill payment.

Filing a Claim

Job injury victims must immediately file written claims. Depending on the policy, most victims only have ten days to file. So, even if your injury might have involved repetitive stress, notify your supervisor straight away.

 

However, also depending on the policy, you can typically amend your claim later. In these cases, it’s usually best to initially describe the injury in vague terms. With the help of a work injury lawyer, you can add details later.

 

Do not speak with a workers’ compensation insurance adjuster about your claim. Telephone adjusters seem nice, but they are trained to extract damaging information from job injury victims. For example, in repetitive stress claims, they usually ask open-ended questions. Furthermore, they never prompt the victim to give the pain a starting point.

 

At some point, the insurance company will want your statement, and they have a right to demand it. You also have a right to speak with your attorney before you make such a statement.

The Starting Point of Repetitive Trauma Injuries

All pain begins somewhere. At some point, the victim feels or hears what we refer to as a “snap, crackle, or pop.” Sometimes, the indication is so subtle that the victim must work to remember the starting point. But it’s almost always there.

 

If your pain has a concrete starting point, and, more importantly, if your claim reflects that starting point, you are typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even if your condition is normally associated with repetitive trauma.

 

These benefits usually include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment. Usually, these benefits are available for up to 500 post-injury weeks in Virginia.

Aggravation

In Virginia, repetitive stress injuries are really aggravation injuries. This aggravation could be work or non-work-related.

 

As for work-related aggravations, most victims do not run to the doctor the first time they feel a twinge in their backs. Instead, they try to tough it out, sometimes for many weeks or months. If subsequent work-related acts, especially lifting, aggravate the work injury, full compensation is usually available.

 

Generally, full compensation is also available if a non-work or pre-existing condition aggravated the work-related injury. For example, Michael might hurt his back at work and aggravate the injury when he picks his small child up off the floor. Victims like Michael must simply prove that a job injury accelerated, aggravated, or exacerbated their pre-existing or non-work condition.

Call Today to Get Started

Repetitive stress injuries are difficult to classify in Virginia. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. We routinely handle matters in Richmond County and nearby jurisdictions.

Categories
Personal Injury

Who May Be at Fault in a Construction Accident?

They may seem simple on the onset—a fall from a scaffold or faulty machinery causing injury—but construction accidents can be quite complex. In some cases, you may have to file for workers’ compensation. In other cases, you may have to make a third-party claim to seek damage recovery. Not only that, but your role or classification on the construction site may further complicate things. Were you a contractor at the time? A part-time employee? Full-time employee?

Your case may be made easier with all these complexities out of the way, and clearing the air starts by understanding ways fault may vary in construction accidents and how personal injury attorneys go about proving fault.

A Brief Summary of Negligence

If you’ve never made a personal injury claim, you’re likely unaware of how negligence plays into a successful case. Day-to-day activities come with underlying duties, sometimes more explicit than others. Managers of a construction project, for example, may have a duty to ensure their employees and contractors understand Virginia and industry safety regulations. If they do not adhere to this duty, the managers may be considered “negligent” and the company held liable. On the road, drivers must fulfill a duty to adhere to driving laws. When they do not do so, they breach this duty and may be considered the at-fault, negligent party should their actions result in an accident.

Fault by Scenario

What does all this mean for a construction accident? When personal injury lawyers perform their investigation of the accident details, they trace the evidence to identify who is more likely to have been negligent and therefore liable. Liability can change drastically based on one or two simple details. Take the following scenarios, for example:

Scenario 1

A property owner doesn’t adequately maintain a safe environment for a construction company they have hired for a remodel job. Consequently, a worker becomes injured as a direct result of this unsafe environment—unrelated to their job duties. In this case, the property owner is at fault for the accident. Therefore, the construction worker will need to make a claim with the property owner’s appropriate insurance company and, if necessary, take them to court. This is what’s known as a third-party claim.

Scenario 2

A worker performing their job-related duties becomes injured without any visible signs of negligence or fault on their part or the part of a third-party. After seeking medical attention, the worker should submit a written notice of the incident to their employer as soon as possible (under 30 days). They should then contact an attorney and file a workers’ comp claim through their employer’s workers’ comp insurance company. Note that your classification may affect your ability to make a claim. The workers’ compensation lawyer you consult with can better help you understand your options for damage recovery.

Scenario 3

A subcontractor is hired for a construction job. While performing their duties alongside a full-time employee of the construction company, the subcontractor leaves machinery running and goes off to perform another task. Then, the full-time employee, unaware that the machinery is on, subsequently injures themselves. In this case, the subcontractor is at fault and their representing agency or insurer will need to compensate for the accident. In cases like these, the full-time employee may first make a workers’ comp claim and then the workers’ comp insurer may then follow up with the subcontractor’s representative with their own claim.

Start Your Case Today with a Free Consultation from Geoff McDonald & Associates

As you can see, there are a lot of details that make a difference in whether a person may make a construction accident claim and where they must go to seek compensation. If you were injured in a construction accident, connect with our office today for a free consultation to better understand your options moving forward.

 

Categories
Personal Injury

What If I Was Partially at Fault for My Accident?

Until it’s them or their loved ones involved in the accident, most people don’t consider how state laws and regulations affect their pursuit of financial recovery. After all, what the average American knows about personal injury claims and lawsuits usually stems from high-profile cases that may involve a celebrity or commercial conglomerate. It’s perfectly normal to wonder—and to not know, for that matter—whether your own contributions to your injury will prevent you from a successful personal injury case. To start, let’s jump right into Virginia negligence laws and how they can impact personal injury claims.

Virginia Negligence Law

Unless the injury occurred to a railroad employee or another party falling under Virginia’s civil remedy titles, individuals who are partially at fault for their own injuries are not likely to recover financial compensation per Virginia law if they contributed to their injuries.

However, it’s very important to note that while you may believe you are partially responsible for your injuries, the evidence may say otherwise. Some individuals spend months—if not years—after a traumatic accident playing the event over in their minds, wondering “if only I had just done X or Y, I would have my health.” But the simple fact is that these cases are complex and how an insurer or civil court sees the event is not always how the injured party sees it.

To understand the full scope of negligence in a personal injury case, and consequently better understanding whether you yourself had a hand in your injury, you can schedule a free case consultation with an experienced attorney.

What Exactly Is Negligence?

You have a role. Whether you’re a worker, a physician, a parent, or the driver of a motor vehicle, you adhere to a set of—sometimes unspoken—standards for what it means to be a reasonable participant in that role. Negligence occurs when you fail to reasonably perform your duties in that role. Negligence, as it relates to personal injury cases, involves something called “duty of care.”

That is, when you drive your vehicle, it is expected that you abide by the laws of the road. In abiding by these laws, you’re upholding your duty in caring for yourself, your passengers, and those in other vehicles.

In legal terms, when you fail to meet your “duty of care,” your duty of care has become “breached.” In successful personal injury cases, lawyers will seek to prove that the defendant—who must compensate the injured if the case is successful—breached their duty of care and that this breached duty directly led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

So, to recap, parties who are at-fault in an accident:

  • Held a duty of care
  • Breached their duty of care
  • Their actions (or inaction) directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries

Also note, it is the plaintiff and their attorney’s responsibility to prove that the damages claimed in the personal injury case be directly connected to the event in question. For example, you were to claim a bill for physical therapy, you will have to prove that the physical therapy is for the injuries sustained in the accident. 

Pure Contributory Negligence

Virginia is an outlier in the United States in that it recognizes the pure contributory negligence rule. This rule states that individuals or groups found partially at fault for their injuries may not recover financial compensation for their related losses.

Connect with Geoff McDonald & Associates for a Free Consultation

Unsure whether you have a personal injury case? There’s no harm in reaching out! Our attorneys have decades of combined experience in and out of the personal injury courtroom. We also review a wide range of personal injury case types and we serve Virginians from throughout the state. You can call our office in Richmond or contact us online to get started. 

 

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.