For a plaintiff to win an auto accident case in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they have to establish four things:
- That the other driver owed her a duty;
- That the other driver breached the duty;
- That the Plaintiff was injured in the case;
- And that the Plaintiff’s injuries were directly caused by the breach of the duty.
What does all this mean in English?
Establishing the duty in the motor vehicle case is typically the easiest part. Each driver on the road owes all of other drivers several duties. We are obligated to operate our vehicles in a safe manner. We are obligated to maintain reasonable control over the vehicle. We are required not to drive too fast. We are prohibited from drinking and driving.
Breach of the Duty
Establishing that there was a breach of a duty in a Virginia motor vehicle case can be difficult sometimes. In rear-end cases, it is usually easy to show that the driver in the rear breached one of the duties – that she wasn’t paying full time and attention to the road, that she was looking at her cell phone, that she didn’t apply the brakes in time.
But in other cases, it can be more difficult. For instance, in an intersection accident, both drivers may say that the had the green light. It is incumbent upon the Plaintiff to find witnesses who agree that she had the green light. If the Plaintiff cannot produce independent witnesses who agree with her story, she will lose at trial nine times out of ten. This is why it is important to get a lawyer involved early on in your case – it gives the lawyer time to track down witnesses while their memories of the crash are still fresh.
Injuries & Causation
Most people who are injured in Virginia auto accidents think that this part will be easy. They think, “I was injured, I had to go to the doctor, he diagnosed me and treated me, what could be hard about this part?” But the insurance company might hire a doctor to testify on their behalf to say that you weren’t injured – either because the accident was too small or because you had some prior injury or degenerative condition. At trial, it will be up to a jury to determine whether to believe you and your doctors or whether to believe the insurance company’s doctor about the extent of the injuries.