Filing a Car Accident Claim in Fairfax

To initiate a car accident claim in Fairfax you or your Fairfax car accident lawyer must put the other party’s insurance company on notice of a claim and obtain a claim number. Typically this is done simply by an attorney writing a letter of representation to the other party’s insurance company saying that they are representing the injured party as a result of the injuries they sustained in the collision with the insurance company’s driver. As this point the insurance company will likely conduct their investigation, which gets the ball rolling as far as the claims process goes.

With that said, however, filing a case in court is quite different. That is actually filing a lawsuit whether it’s General District Court, which you can do by filling out a warrant in debt, or by writing a complaint, or filing a complaint with a Virginia Circuit Court.  No matter how you institute the action, you are filing a case, which is instituting a civil action in court, which must be done within the time set forth in the statute of limitations, whereas a claim is just done with the other party with their insurance company and does not affect the statute of limitations.

Unique Ways Car Accident Claims are Handled

In Virginia, the biggest thing that makes filing claims unique is the doctrine of contributory negligence. Most other states, about forty five jurisdictions or so in United States, have some form of what’s known as comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence, which essentially stands for the idea that if the injured party played some role in causing or contributing to the accident, that their recovery can be reduced by the amount that they are at fault. Some jurisdictions may require the plaintiff to be less than 50% responsible in order to recover, but it varies by jurisdiction.

So, for instance, in most jurisdictions that apply comparative negligence, a plaintiff who is partially responsible for their own injuries may only receive damages in proportion to a defendant’s fault. So, say in a state with comparative negligence or comparative fault you get into an accident and a jury finds that you’re 35% at fault and the defendant is 65% at fault. In such a situation, that’s not going to bar your recovery completely but it would only reduce your recovery by the proportion of your own fault. In Virginia you would be barred from recovery completely. If the jury finds that you’re even 1% at fault, you can be barred from recovery in Virginia.

Important Nuances to Know

One thing that everyone needs to be aware of when filing a claim is the statue of limitations as if you wait too long you will not be able to recover damages. Another important thing to be aware of is if there is a government entity involved as cases involving the government have different time periods for notice. In general, if you were involved in an accident with a Virginia state vehicle you have a two year statue of limitations but only a one year notice of claim provision.

This basically means you have two years to file your lawsuit, but you are first required by law to give notice to the government within one year of your damages or else they can plead that you failed to satisfy that notice of claim provision with is set forth in Virginia Code and then you’re going to be out of luck as far as recovery.

Similarly, claims against counties have their own claim provision also and that requires notice within six months of the harm of your intent to pursue a claim. The notice provisions are something that people aren’t really necessarily aware of because they assume that  if they were in an accident, that’s what happened and the people responsible know there was an accident, so no worries there. However this isn’t really the case, and you have a short amount of time to put governmental entities on notice of your claim.

Going to Court

After someone has been injured in a car accident that was the result of another person’s negligence, they often want to file a claim to recover damages for their injuries. In these cases, a person would file either in Circuit Court or in General District Court. Someone who is unsure of what to expect throughout the process or how to proceed, should speak with an experienced local attorney who can provide much needed clarity during this stressful process.

General District Court v. Circuit Court

The difference between district court and circuit court is really the maximum amount of damages you can claim to bring the suit in that court. In circuit court, there is no limit as to how much you can recover. The district court, however, has a jurisdictional limit of $25,000.

Also, in district court, there is limited discovery, which is limited to just a bill of particulars and interrogatory questions, but there are no depositions. Furthermore, in district court, unlike circuit court, the defendant does not have a chance to require your examination by one of their doctors. Also, there is no jury in district court, it is only a bench trial.

District court is much quicker. There is no jury to worry about in the district court. In a way, there is a lot more stability in district court because a judge decides those cases and the judge knows what the values of the cases are. Because a judge sees the same cases day in and day out, there is more stability in district court.

Federal District Court

In federal court, you can only file if the value of the case is over $75,000 there is diversity of jurisdiction, meaning there is diversity of state citizenship between the parties. Thus, if a Maryland resident wants to sue a Virginia resident, they can go to federal court. If a Virginia resident wants to sue West Virginia, they can go to federal court.

Contact an Attorney Early

One of the most important things is to be able to conduct a thorough investigation, make sure you can gather as much information as you need, identify witnesses, and make sure to identify potential problems out there at the outset. Getting an attorney involved in the early stages helps to make sure you don’t make any mistakes that are going to be fatal to your case, also to make sure that you can focus on getting the treatment you need while they focus on putting together your claim and building your case to pursue on your behalf.