Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Claims
Below you will find the most frequently asked questions we hear from our personal injury clients at BenGlassLaw.
If you have a personal injury case that you would like to discuss with our team of experts, call our main office at (703)584-7277. We will ask you questions about your claim and talk with our attorneys to help you make smart choices about your case. Remember that your case can have a significant financial impact on your future, especially if you have any significant injuries. Don't leave your result to chance - talk with us today.
Additionally, you can request a free book about the personal injury process that will guide you through the process of these cases in Virginia.
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How Much is Pain and Suffering Worth in Virginia?
When you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, you have a right to be compensated for many things:
- Property damage to your car
- Medical bills incurred
- Lost wages
- Pain and mental anguish
While the first three of this list are pretty straightforward, the last two (commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”) don't have an easily fixed value. That’s mainly because, unlike things like medical bills, they are not incurred in the form of a set number of dollars. Pain and suffering is inherently abstract and subjective. The pain and suffering for one person is different from just about anyone else.
The ultimate question you have is, “How do you put a value on MY pain and suffering?” The answer to that question really lies with the jury. The good news is that an experienced Virginia personal injury will be able to give you the best estimation. Juries everywhere are different, from state to state and even city to city.
When it comes down to it, we have to assume your case will go to a jury trial. There are a few factors worth considering when trying to determine the value of your pain and suffering in a Virginia claim.
Would a Virginia Jury Understand the Pain and Suffering Claim?
Let’s say, for instance, you were rear-ended at a high rate of speed. Your car suffered significant property damage, you were taken to the ER where you were diagnosed with injury (fractures, whiplash, tendon tears, for example), and you required either surgery, extensive rehabilitation, and/or both. And you have doctors willing to support your case - another factor in evaluating the value of your claim.
In cases like these, the argument for pain and suffering will be one that a jury can easily understand. There’s a mechanism of injury and medical treatment that are tangible and seemingly logical. This makes it more like that the valuation of pain and suffering will be greater.
However, in cases where there is low property damage, or you didn’t see doctors until days or weeks after the accident (always make sure you go and see a doctor soon after an accident), or you weren’t diagnosed with anything but received substantial treatment, it’s hard for a jury to understand. Unfortunately, many jurors will have a hard time believing what they don’t see.
Will You Be Able to Properly Describe the Pain and Suffering?
If your case were to go to trial, you get only the brief moments on the stand to articulate your pain and suffering. While it may seem that that’s a lot of time, in reality, it’s only a blip on the radar of your case. That means witnesses that can powerfully articulate their injuries with simplicity often receive better results from the jury. It also means that witnesses who are not as strong at communicating their pain and suffering properly will make a jury trial in Virginia difficult.
While it may seem unfair, human judgment is a central part of trials. Just like interviewing for a job, manners of speech, dress, and general presentation matter. Some people are better than others in these areas. When we evaluate a case, your “likability” and “credibility” are vital in the determination of the potential value of your pain and suffering.
At BenGlassLaw, we take the time to coach our clients to best communicate with a jury. It is important for our clients to be able to tell their story coherently so that they will receive the best chance to get a fair recovery for their pain and suffering.
What Are Your Other Damages?
If your accident is one in which you incurred significant medical bills for treatment, property damage to your vehicle, and/or lost wages, juries are more likely to award greater amounts of pain and suffering. If you think about logically, it makes sense. High dollar medical treatment such as surgery usually requires more substantial recovery which means more pain and suffering.
The “It” Factors?
Whenever we look at a case, we will look for “it” factors in the client's story. This means that we are looking for an unusually compelling part of your story. For example, let’s say your hand was broken in your accident, and now you have limited movement; plus, before the accident, you were a pianist. A jury could see how your injury clearly caused pain and suffering.
There’s no exclusive list of “it” factors. They are aspects about your injuries and your life that weave together for a jury to truly take a second look and think, “Wow, this person dealt with significant pain and suffering due to their accident and/or injury.”
The fact is that there’s no mathematical formula to answer this questions. Trial work is more an art than a science. But we can make two guarantees: 1) communication is key, and 2) we will put in the work to communicate your claim.
Should I Ask My Lawyer for A Referral to A Doctor After My Accident?
There are many ways an attorney can help with your personal injury case. They can advise you on what to do, what to look for, who you should (or should not) speak to, and how to give your case the best chance possible. However, there are many things a lawyer shouldn't help you with, like finding a doctor who will support your claim.
To understand why you have to consider the optics of such a situation. When a judge reviews your case and discovers that the lawyer and doctor do a lot of work together, the judge would want to know why. It raises a lot of suspicions. The judge will assume the lawyer and doctor have a relationship because the doctor helps cases by exaggerating injuries.
It is insurance fraud if a doctor and lawyer team up to support a personal injury case when the client isn't necessarily injured. Naturally, this kind of lawyer/doctor relationship is viewed negatively. Working with a lawyer that has a history of this kind of behavior can damage your personal injury claim.
If a lawyer is going to refer a client to a particular doctor then the client must be advised that:
- Some judges have called a lawyer to doctor referral the kiss of death to a case.
- The lawyer has made referrals to the same doctor over the years and that this might be raised as a credibility issue at trial.
My advice is clear: if your lawyer tries to steer you to certain doctors for routine accident care, do not go to that doctor. As the client, you have the right to know about these relationships before your case is wrecked.
I Was in A Car Accident in Quantico. How Can I Prove That the Accident Was Not My Fault?
In Virginia, the person who causes a car accident is liable for any injuries and property damage that result from the crash. If you are involved in a Quantico car accident, you don’t want to be blamed for an accident that was someone else’s fault. Stafford and Quantico accident attorney Ben Glass suggests that you take the following steps to protect your Virginia accident claim.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. Use your cell phone and take pictures of the accident scene, the positions of the cars at the scene, and the damage to each vehicle.
- Contact the police. Virginia law requires that you contact the police when a car accident causes death, serious injury, or property damage. It is also a good idea to call the police even if the damage is minor. The insurance company may require a police report before it will pay damages. To report the accident, call 911 and let the dispatcher know that there has been a crash. Stay at the scene of the crash until the officer arrives.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver. You can give the driver your name and phone number, but be careful about giving additional information.
- Get contact information from witnesses. If you are able to, ask any witnesses for their names and phone numbers. If your injuries prevent you from asking, ask someone at the scene to do this for you.
- See a doctor. A doctor will treat your immediate injuries and will give you a list of symptoms to watch for. Always follow your doctor’s instructions. Make sure you keep any follow-up appointments.
- Contact the other driver’s insurance company. Ask the agent how to file a claim and how to get your car repaired. The insurance company will send you forms to fill out. Take these forms when you meet with your Stafford accident attorney.
- Fill out paperwork. Fill out all paperwork accurately and completely, and make sure you get it in on time. The insurance company may use late or incomplete paperwork as an excuse to deny your claim.
- Contact a Stafford car accident lawyer. If you are seriously injured, a personal injury attorney will collect the evidence to prove liability, file your accident claim, and negotiate with the insurance company while you focus on getting well.
Could a Prior Injury Affect My Car Accident Claim?
Yes, a prior injury can certainly affect the outcome of your Virginia car accident case. It is important to understand that all personal injury cases are unique. The impact of your prior injury depends heavily upon the circumstances, evidence, and details surrounding your health history and recent car accident.
For example, if you suffered a back injury ten years ago but haven’t had symptoms or back treatments for years, it’s likely that your old injury won’t affect your new injury case. However, if you were recovering from a back injury or were suffering from chronic back issues, these facts could impact your car accident case if your back was injured in the wreck.
The bottom line is that you must prove that your current injury—the one you are seeking compensation for—was directly caused by the car accident and someone else’s negligence.
If you are suffering from a preexisting injury at the time of your Virginia car accident, it’s important to be open, honest, and straightforward with your lawyer and to your insurance company so that you receive fair compensation.
Why Shouldn’t I Call A Lawyer Referral Hotline to Find Lawyers in Virginia?
The lawyer you get from a lawyer referral hotline is often just the next lawyer on their list to be referred out, not the best lawyers in Virginia for handling your specific legal needs. While you may get a personal injury lawyer, you won’t be guaranteed he or she knows how to handle the type of accident or injury for which you’re seeking compensation.
A hotline typically has callers identify their legal need, and that’s all they need to give you the name of a lawyer that can take your case. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is, and that’s the scary part -- it’s TOO simple. Hiring lawyers is a serious matter that should not be taken care of with a phone call to an automated referral system. If you’re pressing 3 for a lawyer, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
To be listed on these hotlines is not saying that a particular lawyer is one of the best lawyers in Virginia. This is not a prestigious place to be mentioned; it is just another form of lawyer advertising. Lawyer referral hotlines usually are nothing more than lists of attorneys who pay to be there so their names come up every hundred or so calls.
If you really want to make sure that you’re getting dedicated legal advice specific to your case, do the work yourself. No one knows your legal needs better than you do, so you are the one who should contact lawyers.
How Do Attorneys Get Listed on Directories?
Lawyer directories may not be the best way to find a lawyer after a car accident in Virginia, and here’s why...
To get listed in many of the generic lawyer directories, all you need is a valid credit card and proof that you’ve passed the Virginia bar exam.
Directories like AttorneyFind.com are paid listing sites, and if you take the time to read the fine print at the bottom of the website you’ll see they do admit this.
If you really want to know what it takes to get a listing on sites like these, click the “attorneys – get listed” area on a directory site and see what is needed to submit to claim a listing. Aside from proof of passing the bar exam and a payment method, it’s rare that they’ll ask for any further credentials.
It’s also important to point out that many of these directories have “featured” attorneys that appear at the top of the page. This usually doesn’t mean those attorneys are any better, it just means they spend money to get their ad placed on top. And yes, it’s an ad, not a listing; they are PAYING to advertise their firm on the page.
If you do want to do some online research, we recommend using Avvo.com to find good lawyers in your area. While there are many paid opportunities for lawyers, its rankings are ultimately based on client reviews and endorsements from other lawyers.
Finding a Lawyer after a Car Accident without Lawyer Directories
If you can’t trust lawyer directories, what can you trust when finding a lawyer after a car accident or other incident? Trust yourself! Do the research, schedule the consultations, and don’t give up until you’ve found an attorney that you’re confident you can work with to get you the settlement to which you are entitled.
Why Is Having A Trial Attorney Important When You Need A Lawyer for A Personal Injury Claim?
A trial attorney is the type of attorney you want when you need a lawyer. If the lawyer is being truthful then he or she should demonstrate a willingness to take your case to court if need be. Not all cases end up in court, but a stubborn insurance company may necessitate filing a lawsuit to recover the settlement you deserve.
Attorney Should Be Prepared for Trial
There’s no way to tell if your case will go to court at the start of filing your personal injury claim. The reason personal injury claims turn into lawsuits is because the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement for your damages. Even the best trial attorney is not always able to negotiate a fair settlement out of court, but will be prepared to pursue the case before a judge and/or jury.
Lawyers who advertise being “aggressive” with cases should be ready to go to court to fight for your rights. If you’re not proactive about asking the lawyer if he or she has relevant trial experience, you’re taking a gamble on whether or not you’ll be able to achieve the settlement to which you’re entitled.
Don’t Let Your So-Called Trial Lawyer Back Out of Going to Court
If you have a lawyer that won’t go to court, he or she may try and talk you into accepting a settlement that just won’t cut it when it comes to fully compensating you for your injuries. When you need a lawyer, it’s worth the effort now to make sure you find one who is prepared to go to trial.
Will the Lawyer I See in Ads Be the One Working on My Case?
Finding a lawyer that looks like the ones you see on TV dramas and in movies shouldn’t be the ideal you’re searching for. Smart clients hire an attorney based on credentials, case history, and professional ratings, not appearance. Still, some lawyer advertisements in Fairfax and the rest of the country still rely on glamorous ads to get clients.
Who’s in the Advertisement?
When you’re looking at lawyer advertisements for law firms, it’s not always the lawyers themselves who are portrayed. Many law firms hire actors or even celebrities to appear in TV ads. If you’re lucky, you may catch the mumbled “spokesperson is not an attorney” disclaimer that’s required by law, but most of us don’t pay attention to boilerplate statements.
If the law firm does use its own people in the advertisements, there’s still no guarantee that’s the lawyer you’ll be working with. Finding a lawyer means you need to attend consultations with that law firm to meet the attorney and make sure that the attorney you want is the one who will handle your case.
There’s no rule that says if you hire The John Doe Firm that attorney John Doe will be the man on your case. That’s why it’s up to you to do your homework when looking for a lawyer. There’s no harm in working with an attorney whose name isn’t found in the firm name, provided that you find him or her qualified based on credentials, case history, etc.
How Does A Practice Area Matter in Lawyer Advertising?
The practice area a lawyer advertises is mainly used draw in potential clients. Of course, a good lawyer only advertises a practice area if he or she dedicates a good portion of the practice to handling those types of cases. However, that’s not always the situation.
Anyone can advertise as, say, a personal injury lawyer in Richmond as long as he or she is in good standing with the Virginia State Bar. Lawyers can decide to establish a practice area in any sort of law, but just because they list “motorcycle accidents” as a practice area doesn’t guarantee they handle a lot of those claims.
I have seen lawyer advertisements that read like a bullet list rather than an informative piece of literature. They list more practice areas than you care to imagine, and some are obscure, like "left-hand turn motorcycle accidents." While it’s good for personal injury lawyers to have various niches in their practice, it can be wrongfully interpreted in some situations.
Personal injury lawyers without a good focus may advertise every general practice area. This way, they get a big response from clients, and either can pick the cases they want or stretch themselves thin by taking too many cases they can’t handle.
Don’t Go for a Personal Injury Lawyer with Practice Area Fever
Attorneys who advertise one practice area after another shouldn’t convince you that they’re good at any of them. Likewise, personal injury lawyers who don’t advertise a practice area may be generalizing their practice as well.
Is It Too Late for an Attorney to Help with My Accident Case?
You may hire a personal injury lawyer at any time. That’s your right. But there are points in the accident case settlement process where a lawyer may not have the legal ability to help you.
There are two points in the accident case process where everyone, lawyers included, are pretty powerless to do anything. The first is when the statute of limitations runs out. For Virginia, that’s two years. If you’ve waited that long, even the best Fairfax personal injury lawyer may not be able to help you obtain a settlement.
The next event that may reduce a lawyer’s ability to assist you is when you’ve already signed the settlement release. In a typical settlement release, the fine print prohibits you from taking any further legal action against the insurance company or the defendant.
If you sign the release and incur additional medical expenses that were not accounted for in the settlement, you typically have no legal recourse to file an additional claim.
However, I’m going to go ahead and say it doesn’t hurt to ask an attorney for help if you’re facing these or any other situations throughout your accident case. Sometimes, when you’re settling your case on your own it’s best to get a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you have questions about your case, and lawyers like me can provide that advice.
No decent injury attorney will turn a potential client away without offering an opinion or guidance on an accident case. Whether you’ve just been in the accident and have yet to take action or you’re nearing settlement, it never hurts to seek the opinion of someone who’s dealt with cases such as yours.