I was Hurt in a Virginia Car Wreck? Do I Sue The Driver or the Insurance Company or Both?
In Virginia, a lawsuit is always brought against the at-fault driver and not against the insurance company directly. This rule is different than some other states which under certain circumstances allow you to name the insurance company for the at-fault driver as a party defendant. If you are hurt in a Virginia car wreck the insurance details will not be obvious in a case.
In Virginia, the jury is never told whether there is or isn’t automobile insurance. As far as the jury is instructed in a Virginia personal injury action the lawsuit is just against Bob Smith or whoever the at-fault driver is. In a Virginia personal injury complaint which is the initial pleading against Bob Smith, the at-fault driver, you are not allowed to mention the fact that the driver is insured by GEICO, Allstate, Nationwide, State Farm or Progressive Insurance Company.
As an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in automobile accident cases, this idea that you can only sue the at-fault driver and not tell the jury about the existence of insurance has always seemed a bit odd to me. First, the jury knows that there is automobile insurance. Most of the members of the jury are in fact drivers themselves.
They know that there is likely insurance for the at-fault driver. The fiction that you only are allowed to name Bob Smith and not mention the word insurance in front of the jury is supposed to make it fairer. However, the idea is not to have the jury worrying about the ability of the defendant to pay or not.
I think that the fiction where we don’t mention car insurance in an automobile accident lawsuit really leaves some jurors unsure. My understanding is that the question often comes up during jury deliberations and the more experienced and wise person will tell anybody who’s in doubt that yes, of course, there’s insurance. If there weren’t insurance there would be no reason to bring the lawsuit because Bob Smith probably wouldn’t have enough money to pay a judgment anyway.
One way that personal injury lawyers have to signal to the jury that there’s probably plenty of insurance to cover whatever the injury is when there is a commercial insurance policy and a corporate defendant. Under those circumstances, the plaintiff or claimant is allowed to name not just the at-fault driver but their company if they were driving within the scope of their employment.
If the defendant is a salesman driving a Pepsi truck for Pepsi-Cola doing a delivery I’m allowed to name both Bob Smith the delivery guy who’s behind the wheel and his company Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company. Under those circumstances, the jury has an even more clear picture that there is not only insurance but likely a million dollars or more of coverage.
This aspect of personal injury law has always seemed odd because it means that if you get hurt by Bob Smith in his personal car the jury may be less generous with you for the same exact injury than if he happens to be driving a company vehicle for work at the time of the wreck. This leaves it a bit to chance as to how full and fair the recovery of the injured person is based upon the mere happenstance as to whether it’s a commercial business vehicle rather than a passenger vehicle. If you are seriously injured in Virginia you are likely to recover more money if the driver who hit you was driving for a company.
Unfortunately, the insurance is a major ingredient in the outcome of serious personal injury cases. As an experienced VA Beach personal injury lawyer, I know I’m looking for three things to have a strong case if you are hurt in a Virginia car wreck, namely:
- The crash should be the fault of somebody else and not your fault.
- You have a significant injury.
- How much insurance is there on the person and vehicle that hit you.
One way to protect yourself from this is to make sure to keep as much insurance as you can afford on your own vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes your own family automobile insurance will kick in to allow a better recovery than you would otherwise get if the defendant is driving with minimum coverage which is only $25,000.00 in Virginia.
Sadly, this really is a bit of economic inequality in Virginia. If you’re a poor person who can’t afford more than minimum insurance and you get hit by another person running around on minimum insurance you may not get as full a recovery as the person who is in the same circumstance as far as the accident and injury but happens to have been able to afford better automobile insurance themselves. When you add to that differences in how much health insurance different people can afford and the system really does tend to benefit the haves over the have-nots. As our current President might say “Sad!”
We hope you are not hurt in a Virginia car wreck. If this does happen, you should hire an attorney with a detailed knowledge of the personal injury system. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077.