Getting a ticket for following too closely is common in accidents where one driver was rear-ended. In heavy traffic, it is not uncommon for these accidents to involve three or more vehicles. Typically, the last driver in the chain will be the one ticketed. In a case involving four vehicles, you may be dealing with four insurance companies, including your own.
The First Steps After The Car Accident
First, you should contact your insurance company and report the accident. If you have the contact and insurance information from the other drivers, give that info to the insurance company. You will also give them the police report, and information about your ticket. Sometime after you report the accident, you will be contacted by your insurance company for a recorded statement.
A recorded statement can be a scary thing. The insurance company will use the information from the recorded statement to determine your liability. Since you have been ticketed, the liability is fairly clear. However, you insurance company will also want other details of the accident, particularly if the other drivers contributed to the accident in any way.
While getting a ticket is a pretty clear indication you were at fault, that does not mean the other drivers are without blame. In Virginia, if you were at fault in anyway for the accident, even 1% at fault, then you are barred from recovering for damages.
If one of the other drivers were also ticketed for the accident, let your insurance company know. You should also contact a lawyer about your case. Depending on the details of the accident, you may want to contest your ticket if another driver caused the accident.
Even if you were ticketed, it is unlikely your case will result in punitive damages. In Virginia, there are three kinds of negligence; simple negligence, gross negligence, and willful and wanton negligence. For a court to consider punitive damages, you will need to be accused of willful and wanton negligence, which is uncommon for a simple car accident case. More likely, your case will involve simple negligence.
The Process of a Car Accident Case
If you are solely at fault for the accident, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be sued. If liability is clear, then your insurance company will likely settle with the other drivers quickly. Your insurance company will want to avoid a court case if possible.
It is unlikely the drivers will come after your personal assets. Typically, the drivers will receive payment from your insurance company first, then their insurance company, before pursing compensation from your personal assets. In a simple fender-bender, it is unlikely the damages will exceed your insurance coverage.
Yes, your insurance rates will probably increase next time your policy renews. You could avoid this if your policy has accident forgiveness, but be prepared for this possibility.
Finally, if the accident was your fault, learn from your mistake. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recommends at least 3 seconds of space between you and the car in front of you. Always practice safe a cautious driving, and avoid accidents like this in the future.