What damages can people seek following Virginia auto accidents?

Following Virginia auto accidents, those injured may seek compensation for their resulting losses in the form of special, general or punitive damages.

The Virginia Highway Safety Office reports there were 125,800 motor vehicle collisions across the state in 2015 alone. In addition to causing damage to the vehicles involved, car accidents often result in serious injuries or death for the vehicles' occupants. Consequently, those who suffer harm in auto wrecks may assume the costs of repairing their vehicles, as well as undue medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. In situations when the at-fault drivers may be held financially liable, it may be important for people to understand the types of damages they may be entitled to receive.

Special damages

Following an auto accident, people may be subject to a range of out-of-pocket expenses. These may include auto repairs, vehicle rental fees, co-pays for medications, and coinsurance for doctor's visits and other necessary medical care. Should people choose to take legal action, these types of economic losses may be recovered through the award of special damages. Such awards may also include reimbursement for lost wages while those injured are off work recovering from their injuries. With few exceptions, there are no limits placed on the amount of special damages that people may receive.

General damages

Not all of the losses people suffer as a result of motor vehicle collisions can be assigned an economic value. Auto accident injury victims may be compensated for their pain and suffering, inconvenience and shortened life expectancies, among other such intangible losses, through an award of general damages. Since a monetary value cannot be applied to these types of losses, juries or the court may take into account such factors as how long the injury lasted, the degree of its severity and its potential future effects when determining the amount of these awards. By law, general damages should not be reduced in cases when people also receive some financial reimbursement from another source.

Punitive damages

Although not common in car collision claims, juries or the court may sometimes see fit to award punitive damages to accident injury victims. A form of punishment for the at-fault drivers, punitive awards cannot exceed $350,000, and may only be awarded in cases where people's malicious or reckless behavior is deemed far in excess of regular negligence. For instance, a motorist who was highly intoxicated at the time she caused a serious crash that resulted in significant injuries may be ordered to pay punitive damages to those who were harmed.

Contributory negligence

With regards to personal injury claims, the state of Virginia employs the rule of contributory negligence. This principle specifies that if the victims are in any way to blame for car wrecks, they may not be entitled to recover damages. For example, a driver makes a left-hand turn without signaling. While turning, his vehicle is struck by a speeding car. The driver may not have a right to recover damages because him not signaling may be considered a contributing factor to the crash.

The legalities involved in obtaining financial compensation for the losses they have suffered following Virginia auto accidents is not always a straightforward process for those who suffer harm. Therefore, those who have been injured as a result of motor vehicle collisions may benefit from consulting with a legal representative. A lawyer may help them understand their rights and what to expect, as well as guide them through the legal process.