Our Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys Have the Answers You Seek
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Will my reckless driving conviction affect my ability to obtain a green card?
If you are applying for a green card in an attempt to become a U.S. citizen, you may be worried if you are charged with reckless driving. While a reckless driving conviction may not automatically preclude you from obtaining a green card, it can be a problem. That is why it is crucial to retain an experienced reckless driving attorney to help you avoid the harsh penalties associated with a reckless driving conviction and its effect on your application for a green card.
How a Reckless Driving Conviction May Impact Your Green Card Application
Some people are under the mistaken impression that reckless driving is a traffic ticket. However, reckless driving can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia. On the application for a green card, you will be asked if you were "arrested, charged, indicted, convicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance, excluding traffic violations." This means that you would need to disclose a reckless driving conviction on your application whereas you would not be required to do so if you received a traffic ticket, such as for speeding.
Certain criminal convictions would automatically disqualify you for a green card. They are serious crimes that include the following:
- Sexual abuse of a minor
- Drug or gun trafficking
- Child pornography
Fortunately, you are not automatically disqualified from getting a green card if you are convicted of reckless driving. Its effect on your application will depend on the circumstances surrounding the charges you face. If you seriously injured another person, this was a second or subsequent offense, or drugs were involved in your reckless driving, a conviction could be a serious concern. However, when this was your first offense and you otherwise have a clean criminal record, it may not impact as much on your application.
Contact Our Firm for Assistance
Our experienced reckless driving attorneys can help you build a strong defense to the reckless driving charges you face that may result in their dismissal or reduction to a less serious offense, such as a speeding ticket. When you are applying for a green card, this may allow you to complete the application without having to disclose a reckless driving conviction. To learn more about how we can help, call our Fairfax office to schedule your free initial consultation.
Is my car accident settlement taxable?
When you reach the settlement stage of your car accident claim and receive your compensation, you will probably feel a sense of relief—thankful that this part of the ordeal is finally over. However, there is one more issue that you need to consider: whether you owe income taxes on your settlement. Unfortunately, this can be more complicated than you might expect.
Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Your Auto Crash Settlement?
If you are like many accident victims, you were most likely entitled to and received compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering in your settlement or award at trial. It is important to know how much of your settlement was for each type of damage since this will impact on whether or not you owe income taxes. Here is how the taxability of each type of damages works:
- Medical expenses. You generally will not owe any income taxes on the medical expenses portion of your settlement. However, if you took a deduction for medical expenses on a prior tax return, that portion that was reimbursed to you in your settlement is most likely taxable.
- Lost wages. Your lost wages proceeds are paid to you to reimburse you for wages that you lost or will lose due to your injuries. Like your wages, the lost wages portion of your claim is taxable.
- Pain and suffering. It is more complicated to determine if you owe taxes on compensation for your pain and suffering. The portion you receive for your pain and suffering is not taxed, but the amount for your emotional distress would be taxable. In many cases, the pain and suffering and emotional distress damages are lumped together under pain and suffering, which may mean that you don’t owe any taxes.
- Property damages. You are not taxed on the proceeds that you receive to reimburse you for the costs to repair or replace your vehicle or property in it and rent a car while yours is in the shop.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded when the negligent driver’s actions are especially outrageous. If you do receive punitive damages, they are taxable.
If you were injured in a car accident, you need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate your settlement so that you receive what you deserve. To learn about our extensive experience fighting for the rights of car accident victims and how we can assist you, call our Norfolk office today to schedule a free consultation.
Who is at fault in a rear-end collision?
Whenever you are injured in a car accident caused by another driver, you must prove the other driver’s fault in causing the crash. Fortunately, it may be easier for you to prove the driver’s liability in a rear-end collision. However, without the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney, it may be difficult to establish fault and receive fair compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
Who Is Liable in a Rear-End Collision in Norfolk?
In Virginia, all drivers are required to maintain a safe distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them so that they can slow or stop quickly if necessary. Because of this, the driver in the rear will almost always be presumed to be the at-fault driver. In some cases, the negligent driver’s insurance company will not argue about liability, but this does not mean that the insurance adjuster will not dispute the seriousness of a victim’s injuries.
There are some exceptions to the general rule that the driver in the rear was negligent. The driver in the front could be found partially or completely liable in these situations:
- He reversed suddenly.
- He started to turn but failed to complete the turn and went forward instead.
- He put on his signal to merge into another lane and started to merge but suddenly changed his mind.
- His brake lights did not work properly.
- He had a flat tire or other maintenance problem with his vehicle but did not pull over.
Multi-Vehicle Rear-End Collisions
In some cases, a rear-end collision will cause a multi-vehicle accident involving three or more vehicles. In this type of crash, the driver who initially caused the crash may be liable to all of the accident victims if the driver in the middle was stopped at a light or was otherwise driving safely. Determining the negligent parties and negotiating a settlement with the insurance company when there are multiple victims can be complex. You want to retain a lawyer right away if you were hurt in one of these accidents.
Contact an Experienced Norfolk Car Accident Attorney Today
Do you need to file a claim for compensation following a rear-end collision? You can schedule a free consultation with a member of our skilled legal team to get your questions answered and learn more about your legal options. Fill out our online form to schedule your appointment today.
How can social media posts hurt my DUI case?
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, you are facing some very serious penalties, including a possible jail sentence, fine, driver’s license suspension, and a permanent criminal record. You will want to do everything you can to build a strong defense to the charges that you face. Unfortunately, one way that you can do the opposite and hurt your case is by posting on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ways That Your Social Media Posts Can Be Used Against You When You Face DUI Charges
Your posts on social media sites can be used as evidence against you in your DUI criminal proceedings. Because of the popularity of social media sites, the police will frequently search a person’s social media sites for evidence that they can use against him. In some cases, the police may create a fake profile and try to friend a person who they have arrested or are investigating. You want to be very careful who you friend if you have been arrested for DUI so that you don’t give law enforcement easier access to your posts.
While you may already know not to discuss your DUI case or your arrest on your social media sites, you may not realize that your earlier posts prior to your arrest could also be used against you. Here are some of the ways these posts can be harmful:
- Posts and pictures. Many people like to post about fun activities that they are doing with friends and family or share a photograph. If you were at a bar or friend’s house consuming alcohol before your arrest and posted a picture of yourself holding a beer or glass of wine, this information can be retrieved by the police. It can be used as evidence to prove that you were consuming alcohol before you drove.
- Timeline. Facebook and other social media sites often timestamp a person’s posts and pictures with the time. In addition, the location can also be identified by the post or picture. The police can use this information to establish a timeline of where you were and what you were doing prior to your arrest. In addition, this information could lead the police to witnesses who could testify against you, such as the waitress at the restaurant who served you alcohol.
- Privacy settings. Even if you have set your social media post settings to private, this does not mean that your posts are as private as you think. If you have tagged a friend or family member in your post or picture, they could repost your post to their own social media sites, which may be public and can be discovered by the police. In addition, just because you set your settings to private does not mean that your posts cannot be admitted as evidence against you in court.
- Deleted posts. After your arrest, you may realize that you have some incriminating posts on a social media site and delete them. Unfortunately, the police may be able to obtain a subpoena and retrieve them. In addition, the fact that you deleted the posts can cause additional damage to your case.
Contact Us for Help in Building a Strong Defense to Your DUI Charges
Are you worried about potentially damaging social media posts that could hurt your DUI case? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you minimize the damage and build a strong defense to the charges that you face. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.
What is an attractive nuisance that could subject a property owner to liability for a child’s injuries?
Keeping children safe can be challenging since they often do not understand when they face a dangerous situation. In some cases, a child becomes injured due to inherent dangers of an object on another’s property. He may even trespass on an individual’s or business’ property because he is drawn to the dangerous item. If a child suffers injuries, the property or business owner could face liability in Virginia under the attractive nuisance doctrine—even if the child was trespassing.
What Is an Attractive Nuisance?
Attractive nuisances are features of a property, or objects on a property, that pose risks to young children who are unable to understand the dangers they face. In many cases, the object or property feature is something intended for children to use and can be used safely under adult supervision. Common attractive nuisances that result in children suffering injuries include:
- Swimming pools
- Playground equipment
- Abandoned vehicles and appliances
- Tool sheds
- Construction sites
- Man-made ponds and fountains
What Is a Property and Business Owner’s Duty to Protect Children From Attractive Nuisances?
Property and business owners have a duty to protect children who may enter their property—even if the children are uninvited—from attractive nuisances on the property. In order to be liable, the following is usually required:
- The owner knew or should have known that children might trespass onto the property.
- A condition on the property could result in a child suffering an injury or death.
- A child who suffered the injury on the property was too young to understand the danger.
- The cost of repairing or maintaining the attractive nuisance so that it is safe is small in comparison to the potential injury to the child.
- The owner failed to take reasonable steps to keep children from suffering injuries from the attractive nuisance. This can include installing a fence, locks, or posting warning signs.
Did your child suffer injuries on another property? He may be entitled to compensation from the business or property owner for his injuries. For help pursuing his legal rights, call our office today to schedule a free initial consultation.
What is the statute of limitations to file my truck accident lawsuit in Virginia?
While some truck accident victims are able to settle their claims with the negligent truck driver, trucking company, and other liable parties without the need for litigation, others must file a lawsuit and litigate their claim for compensation. If you must file a claim for your injuries in a truck wreck, you need to be prepared for this possibility. One key deadline that you need to know and follow is the statute of limitations.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing Your Complaint in Virginia?
The statute of limitations is the time period that you have for filing a civil lawsuit in your truck accident case. This deadline is usually strict, and the penalty for failing to file it is that you are barred from filing a complaint. Every state has its own statute of limitations for the filing of truck accident and other personal injury complaints. In Virginia, the time period you have to file your lawsuit is:
- Two years from the date of the accident for personal injuries
- Five years from the date of the crash for property damage
- Two years from the date of the victim’s death if he died due to injuries caused in the truck wreck
If your truck accident happened recently, you may feel like you have a lot of time to retain an experienced truck accident attorney and pursue your claim. However, this would be a big mistake. Important evidence could be lost and you could make other mistakes that weaken your claim and make it harder for your attorney to negotiate a settlement for what your claim is really worth.
Do you need to file a claim for compensation following a truck accident? We urge you to contact our office as soon as possible so that we can begin a thorough investigation of your crash. Call our office or fill out our online form to get started and to schedule your free initial consultation.
How can the car’s black box help in my car accident case?
When the negligent driver’s insurance company disputes the cause of your auto crash, you must prove the other driver was at fault in order to receive the compensation that you deserve. Pictures of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles, eyewitness testimony, and an accident reconstruction expert’s report are some of the ways that you can do this. Another key piece of evidence that may help you convince the insurance adjuster to settle your claim is data from the black boxes in the vehicles that were involved in the wreck.
How Can Black Box Data Help Prove Liability in a Car Accident Claim?
You may not realize that your vehicle contains a black box—also known as an electronic recording device (EDR). However, these data recording devices are required to be installed in vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2014, and were installed in some vehicles manufactured prior to that date. These black boxes do not record all the same data as an airplane’s black box, such as audio and video footage inside the vehicle, but still can provide a wealth of useful information.
EDRs in autos will store data in two situations. If the airbag deployed in a crash, the black box will permanently store all of the information in the seconds leading up to and after the accident. When an airbag does not deploy, the data will only be stored for a shorter period of time before it is recorded over. Helpful information that an EDR provides includes:
- Vehicle’s speed prior to the impact
- Vehicle’s speed at the time of the actual collision
- Steering angle when the crash occurred
- Whether the vehicle’s occupants were using their seat belts
- Whether the driver used his brakes before the impact
- Whether the airbags were deployed
- Number of crashes and the time period between them, which can be useful in a multi-vehicle crash
You will need to act quickly to obtain this data before it is destroyed or taped over. Retaining an experienced car accident attorney right after your wreck is crucial if you want to obtain this and other evidence that could be lost if you wait too long.
If you need assistance filing a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company, our skilled legal team is here to collect the evidence you will need and to negotiate your settlement for you. To get started, fill out our online form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
How should I handle being stopped at a DUI checkpoint?
In Virginia, the police are permitted to set up a DUI checkpoint to check for drunk drivers as long as certain rules are followed. These include publicizing the checkpoint before it is set up and using a mathematical formula, such as every fifth vehicle, in deciding which ones to stop. If you have not consumed any alcohol before driving, you may not be worried about being stopped. But what should you do if you know that you had been drinking?
Take These Steps to Protect Yourself at a DUI Checkpoint
The actions that you take if you are stopped at a checkpoint can have ramifications on what happens to you and the strength of your DUI defense if you are arrested. Here are ways that you should handle being stopped:
- Remain calm. Just because you were stopped does not mean that the police suspect you of doing anything illegal. The officer will be observing your behavior, so try to remain calm and polite.
- Do not avoid the checkpoint. Do not engage in suspicious behavior—such as turning around—to avoid the checkpoint. The police may perceive this as suspicious.
- Cooperate. It is important to cooperate with the police and supply the information requested, such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
- Do not volunteer information. You want to say as little as possible during the checkpoint stop and not offer information. Remember that any statements you make can be used against you.
- Do not agree to a field sobriety test. You do not have to agree to submit to a field sobriety test, and agreeing to one could give the police probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated—even if you are not.
Do you have further questions about your rights at a DUI checkpoint? Were you stopped and arrested for DUI at a checkpoint? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to aggressively fight the charges that you face. Call our office today to learn more about what you can expect in your criminal case and the defenses that you may be able to raise.
How can I be a good client for my attorney in my divorce?
Even an uncontested divorce can be complicated when deciding how to split up property and decide on the parenting of your children. You need an experienced family law attorney who is on your side and looking out for your interests. While it is important to have a good attorney, you need to realize that he is not the only one who needs to work on your case. You are team player with him, and you can help achieve a better outcome in your case by being a good client.
Ways to Be a Good Client in Your Divorce Action
Divorces are a stressful and emotional time, and some clients let their anger at their spouses spill out into how they treat their attorneys. This can damage their relationship with their lawyer. If the situation gets bad enough, the attorney could ask the court to allow him to withdraw from the case.
You never want to be in this situation with your attorney, and you should want to do what you can to help him in your case. Here are ways that you can be a good client during your divorce:
- Be reasonable. You need to be realistic about what you expect to achieve in your divorce settlement. In most cases, both spouses must compromise in what they are willing to accept.
- Follow the court’s rules. In some cases, the judge will issue an order requiring you to take a certain action. If this occurs, it is important that you follow the judge’s order. This makes your case stronger and your lawyer’s job easier.
- Provide information promptly. If your attorney is requesting information from you, it is because he needs it to move your divorce along. In divorces, the parties are required to exchange many financial documents that will be used in dividing your property and determining child support. Provide any requested information to your attorney as soon as possible.
- Keep your attorney informed. You want to communicate regularly—but not excessively—so that you know the progress in your divorce proceeding. In addition, you need to inform your lawyer if there are problems between you and your spouse. You do not want him to learn of these situations from your spouse’s attorney at court when he will be at a disadvantage with the judge.
- Follow your attorney’s advice. Hopefully, you hired your attorney because of his experience in family law matters. While you do not have to agree with everything he says, you should follow his advice—even if it is not what you want to hear. He knows the laws governing divorces in Virginia and how to resolve your case with your best interests in mind.
Are you considering filing for divorce? Call our office to schedule your free consultation to learn about our experience in family law matters and how we can assist you.
Who could be liable for compensating me for my injuries in a rollover truck crash?
While it is true that truck driver negligence causes the majority of truck rollover accidents, this does not mean that there were not multiple reasons—and liable parties—for a rollover wreck. If you or a family member were injured in a rollover wreck, you could suffer catastrophic injuries that may prevent you from working for the rest of your life. To ensure that you are fully compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, it is crucial that you identify all potentially liable parties and file claims with their insurance companies.
Who Are the Potential Liable Parties in a Rollover Truck Accident?
An experienced truck accident attorney can help determine all the reasons for your rollover accident and identify the liable parties. These can include the following:
- Truck driver. If the truck driver engaged in negligent driving practices—such as speeding or talking on his cell phone—and this caused your injuries, he would be a liable party.
- Trucking company. In Virginia, the trucking company may be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its trucker if he was within the course of his employment when he caused your accident. You may also have a negligent hiring claim against the company.
- Shipper. If the load was improperly loaded or unsecured and this caused the truck to roll over, you will need to file a claim with the insurance company for the shipper who loaded the goods.
- Maintenance company. Some trucking companies contract with a maintenance facility to perform routine inspections and repairs. If the brakes, tires, or other components were not maintained or repaired, you may have a claim against the maintenance facility.
- Manufacturer. If defects in the design or manufacture of the truck’s brakes, tires, or other parts caused your rollover, you may have a products liability claim against the manufacturer.
Determining the liable parties after a rollover truck accident is complex. Let our experienced truck accident attorneys take over the burden of determining the liable parties and negotiating your settlement so that you receive what you deserve. Get started by calling our office to schedule your free consultation today.
What is an independent medical exam in an auto accident case?
When you file a claim for compensation following a car crash, you have to prove the negligent driver’s fault in causing the accident and the severity of your injuries. The insurance company will investigate your claim and look for information that it can use to deny or reduce your claim. One of the ways that it may try to do this is to request that you submit to an independent medical examination.
What You Should Know About Independent Medical Exams
An independent medical exam is a medical examination performed by a doctor at the request of the insurance company. It is also known as a compulsory medical exam because it is not independent nor is it voluntary. There is a good likelihood that the negligent driver’s insurance company will request that you submit to one if your claim is disputed. Here are some important points to keep in mind about these exams:
- The insurance company requesting a compulsory medical exam gets to pick the doctor performing the exam and is responsible for paying for it.
- You may not be required to submit to an independent medical exam unless you file a civil lawsuit. As part of the litigation process, the insurance company can most likely require you to submit to this exam.
- If you file a claim under your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, your insurance company may require you to submit to this type of medical exam. You may be obligated to agree to this under the terms of your insurance policy.
- You need to remember that the doctor for the insurance company is not your friend. He is paid by the insurance company and is looking for ways to minimize your injuries.
- You should come to the compulsory medical exam prepared to answer questions about treatments that you have received and how your injury has limited your ability to work and do other activities.
You should never agree to an independent medical examination or other request of the insurance company without first consulting with an experienced car accident attorney. Start learning about your legal options and pitfalls to avoid when filing your claim. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
What should I do if I am behind in my child support payments?
If you get behind in your child support obligations in Virginia, you do not want to make the situation worse by doing nothing. You do have options, and it is important to exercise them so that you do not face harsh penalties, such as garnishment of your wages or suspension of your driver’s license. One of your first steps should be to retain an experienced family law attorney who can assist you in resolving your problem.
Filing a Motion to Amend Your Child Support Order
If you have a good relationship with the other parent of your children, you may want to first try talking about your financial situation with that person and trying to agree on a new child support amount that you can afford. You will need an attorney to file the appropriate paperwork to modify your child support obligations if you reach an agreement. If not, you will need to file a motion to amend or review your child support order as soon as possible.
In order to be successful, you will need to show a material change of circumstances that make it difficult for you to pay your child support payment or that you made a good faith effort to pay what was ordered. Your inability to pay must not be due to a voluntary act. Examples of changes in circumstances that may justify a reduction in your child support include:
- Medical emergencies
- Loss of a job
- Increased income of the other parent
- Changes in the child support guidelines
Your motion will only affect future child support obligations after you file the motion. You still will owe the back payments, which is why it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible once you know that you are unable to pay. You will need to provide proof of your current income, and your attorney can file a subpoena ordering the other parent to provide proof of his or her income and expenses for the children. A hearing would be scheduled where the judge would decide how much child support you will have to pay.
Are you behind in your child support payments? Fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our family law legal team to learn how we can help.
Who could be liable for compensating me in a crash caused by truck brake failure?
If a truck’s brakes fail, the injuries that can result are often catastrophic. Brake failure can cause the driver to lose the control necessary to maneuver the truck to safety. Unfortunately, brake failure truck wrecks are often caused by the negligence of the truck driver or another party. If this was the cause of your injuries, an experienced truck accident attorney can help hold the responsible parties liable for compensating you.
Possible Parties at Fault in Truck Crashes Caused by Brake Failure
Your lawyer will need to conduct a thorough investigation of your accident to determine its cause. This can include hiring an expert to inspect the truck, reviewing the trucker’s maintenance and inspection records, and interviewing witnesses. If truck brake failure led to your accident, these parties could be liable:
- Truck driver. The truck driver has a duty to conduct a pre-trip and post-trip inspection of the truck and vital parts—including the brakes—as well as during the trip. The driver is not allowed to drive the truck when he knows that the brakes are in need of maintenance or repair. If he violated the rules regarding required inspections or drove the truck when he knew there was a problem with the brakes, he is most likely a liable party.
- Trucking company. The trucking company could face responsibility for your wreck on a number of grounds. First, the company could be responsible for the negligent actions of the truck driver. You could also have a separate legal claim against the company for violating its own inspection and maintenance requirements. Through his investigation, your attorney may find that the trucking company deliberately depowered the front brakes to save on brake maintenance and replacement costs—another way to prove negligence caused your wreck.
- Maintenance company. If the trucking company had a contract with a maintenance facility to conduct routine inspections and to perform maintenance and repairs, this company may face liability if maintenance and repair issues with the brakes were the cause of your accident.
- Shipping company. If the truck’s load was not loaded properly, this could cause the brakes to wear down and malfunction, making the shipping company at least partially responsible for your losses.
- Manufacturer. If the brake parts were designed or manufactured defectively, you could have a products liability claim against the parts manufacturer. The trucking company could also face liability if it knew about the defective part or that the truck was subject to a recall but continued to keep the truck in operation.
Do you need assistance filing a claim for compensation following your truck accident? Let our experienced and compassionate legal team guide you through the process and negotiate your settlement so that you receive what you deserve. To get your questions answered and learn about the next steps you need to take, call our Norfolk office today to schedule your free consultation.
How do I keep track of my medical bills for my injuries in an auto accident?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, it can be overwhelming to deal with both your injuries and the pain that they cause you on a daily basis. Your stress can increase when you are forced to take time off work with no pay while you recover, and a barrage of medical bills starts pouring in that you cannot pay. However, it is important that you keep track of your medical bills so that you can obtain compensation for all of your medical expenses in your settlement.
Types of Medical Expenses to Document
You will not know if you are receiving what you are owed for your medical bills unless you keep accurate records for your attorney. The first step in staying organized is to know all the medical expenses that you should be compensated for. These include the following:
- Emergency room visits
- Doctor and specialist appointments
- Physical and other types of therapy
- Diagnostic tests
- Mental health treatments
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
- Medical devices and equipment, such as braces, crutches, and wound dressings
- Ambulance rides
- Transportation and lodging expenses if you must travel to receive your treatment
- Home health care
- Household replacement services if you need someone to clean your house, take care of your children, or otherwise take care of your personal needs
How to Keep Track of Your Medical Bills
Keeping your medical bills in an organized fashion not only documents the amount of money that you are owed for medical expenses, but it also helps you keep a record of what medical treatment you received. When you are seeing doctors, specialists, and physical therapists on a regular basis, it may be hard to remember what treatment you received and when you received it. Your medical bills are one way that you can refresh your memory if you must testify at a deposition or trial. Here are ways to stay organized:
- Keep a journal. Keeping a medical journal is an important way to keep track of your medical care. You can jot down a note about every doctor appointment, physical therapy session, and other expenses that you incur with the date of the event. You can also keep notes about your pain and limitations of movement due to your injuries on a regular basis here.
- Take pictures. Some people like to take pictures of their medical records and bills to store on their computers and retrieve later.
- File medical bills. File your medical bills in a designated place as you receive them to ensure that you keep track of them. You should talk to your attorney about ways that you can organize your bills that will make it easiest for him to review them and calculate your expenses when determining the value of your claim.
Do you need to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company? Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to guide you through the process and to fight for the compensation that you deserve. Call our office to schedule a free consultation to get your questions answered and learn more about your legal options.
What is Virginia’s open container law?
Virginia is one of a few states that does not prohibit passengers from having open containers of alcohol in a vehicle. However, if you are the driver, this does not mean that you will not be charged with DUI if the police pull you over and there is an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. It is important to understand Virginia’s open container law and how it can relate to more serious charges.
Understanding Virginia’s Open Container Law
The open container law has two sections. The first section makes it unlawful to consume alcohol on a public highway—a broad definition that includes most roads. The second provision creates a rebuttable presumption that the driver was the one who consumed the alcohol under these conditions:
- An open container is found in the passenger area of the vehicle.
- Part of the alcohol is not in the container.
- The driver is displaying reasonable characteristics, such as slurred speech, conduct, or odor, which suggests alcohol had been consumed.
The passenger area basically covers the entire interiority of the vehicle because it includes the driver’s seat, unlocked glove compartment, and the areas where passengers sit. It does not include the trunk.
Violation of the Open Container Law in Virginia
Violation of the open container law is a separate offense that you could be charged with in addition to driving under the influence (DUI). Only drivers can violate this law, not passengers. It is a Class 4 misdemeanor, and the penalty is generally a fine. In addition, you will have a permanent criminal record if you are convicted of this. Passengers may be charged with another offense, such as drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place—also a Class 4 misdemeanor.
If you were charged with having an open container in your vehicle, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help raise all of your possible defenses. This could result in the charges being reduced or dismissed. To learn about our experience representing clients facing this and other criminal charges, and how we can help you, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What are grandparent visitation rights in Virginia?
In many families, grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. When the parents of the grandchildren divorce, the rights of grandparents playing a role in their grandchildren’s lives can change. While ideally the parents would work out visitation rights cooperatively, in some cases this does not happen. The negative feelings and anger the parents feel against each other can lead to custody disputes and denying grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Virginia?
Grandparents do potentially have the right to visitation time with their grandchildren. While there is no statute that grants visitation rights specifically to grandparents, Virginia law allows the court to grant visitation to parents and “persons of legitimate interest.” Parties who fall into this category include:
- Former stepparents
- Blood relatives
- Family members
In deciding a request for visitation, the judge will examine the child’s emotional and physical needs and the best interests of the child. The judge will also consider how the visitation will affect the parents’ relationship with their child. If both parents object to the visitation, the grandparents may need to prove actual harm to their grandchildren if no visitation is granted—which can be difficult to show. If only one parent is objecting to the visitation, the grandparents will only need to meet the best interests of the child standard, which can often lead to court-ordered visitation.
There are two situations where a grandparent will lose the right to visitation. If parental rights are terminated, the grandparents may also lose their visitation rights. Similarly, the grandparents will not continue to have rights if the grandchild is legally adopted.
If you are a grandparent and need to obtain visitation with your grandchildren, an experienced family law attorney can help you with your request to see your grandchildren. To learn about your legal options and how we can help, fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Should I report my auto accident to my own insurance company if I was not at fault?
In Virginia, the negligent driver who caused your auto crash is liable for fully compensating you for your losses, and you should file a claim with his insurance company. However, this does not mean that you should not report your accident to your own insurance company. By notifying your insurance company, you are preserving your rights to obtain additional sources of compensation if you need it.
Why Reporting Your Wreck to Your Insurance Company Is Important
Many people are under the misconception that they do not have to report their wreck to their auto insurance company if they plan to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company or that doing so will increase their insurance rates. Reporting an accident is different than filing a claim. You are simply notifying the insurance company of what happened. Here are reasons why you should do so:
- Your insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, and it most likely requires you to notify them of any accidents.
- Promptly informing the company of your wreck is a requirement for filing a claim under the policy. You preserve your right to take this step if you later discover that you need to do so.
Why You May Want to File a Claim Under Your Own Insurance Policy
Even if you were not the at-fault driver, you may want to file a claim under your own policy. Here are some types of coverage that you may need to use:
- Collision. Getting your vehicle repaired quickly will most likely be a priority. If there are disputes with the negligent driver’s insurance company about your claim, which is often the case, you may want to use your collision insurance coverage, if you purchased it, to get your vehicle repaired quickly. You may also need to use your own insurance coverage to pay for car rental or towing costs.
- Uninsured motorist coverage. In Virginia, you are required to purchase at least $20,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as part of the minimum auto liability insurance you must have to drive a vehicle. If the other driver had no insurance, you would need to file a claim under this coverage.
- Underinsured motorist coverage. If the negligent driver had the minimum amount of liability coverage of $25,000 for injuries to one person or $50,000 for injuries to more than one person per accident, this may be insufficient to fully compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You can file a claim under your own underinsured motorist coverage for the amount that you are owed not covered by the other driver’s insurance policy.
Filing a claim for compensation following a car accident can be complicated, and there are many decisions that you will need to make during the settlement process. Let our experienced car accident attorneys take over the burden of pursuing your claim and fighting for the compensation that you deserve. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
Can I file a dram shop or social host claim against the business or person who served alcohol to the drunk driver who caused my accident?
If a drunk driver caused you to suffer injuries in a drunk driving accident, you can file a civil lawsuit against him for compensation for your injuries. In many states, you can also file an action against other parties who served the intoxicated person alcohol. Do you have a right to pursue these claims in Virginia?
Dram Shop and Social Host Laws in Virginia
A dram shop law allows a victim of a drunk driving wreck to pursue a claim against the bar, restaurant, or retail business that sold alcohol to the driver when they knew, or should have known, that the person was intoxicated. Many state laws allow accident victims to pursue these claims. Unfortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that these civil claims cannot be filed against a vendor of alcohol in our state.
Social host laws permit claims against social hosts who serve alcohol to intoxicated persons at parties, their homes, or other locations who then drive and cause an accident. As with dram shop laws, these claims are not permitted in Virginia. However, a social host who provides alcohol to a minor under 21 years of age can face criminal charges for doing so.
Who Is Liable for Compensating You in a Drunk Driving Accident?
While it is harsh that Virginia does not allow accident victims to sue those that serve alcohol when they should not, the drunk driver who caused your accident is fully responsible for your injuries if you can prove that his intoxication caused your wreck. Drinking after driving can impair driving in many ways that can lead to a driver to cause a wreck including:
- Reduced vision
- Slowed reaction times
- Inability to properly judge distances
- Impaired judgment, which can lead drivers to engage in reckless driving behaviors
You could suffer catastrophic injuries in a drunk driving accident, such as traumatic brain injury, internal organ damage, burns, and paralysis, which could require you to be off work for long periods of time or cause permanent disability. You can hold the drunk driver accountable for compensating you for your medical bills, lost wages, and more—with the help of an experienced car accident attorney. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation to learn about your legal options and how our experienced legal team will fight for the settlement that you deserve.
How can I obtain a protective order if I am the victim of abuse?
In Virginia, you can obtain an immediate protective order to protect you against acts of domestic abuse, which is defined as family abuse if the person abusing you is a family or household member. Under the law, domestic abuse can include acts of violence, force, or threats that put you in fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. If you are a victim of abuse and need to obtain a restraining order, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you get the immediate help that you need to stop the abuse, remove the abuser from your home, and prevent him from contacting you.
What Types of Protective Orders Are Available in Virginia?
There are three types of protective orders that you can obtain in Virginia, and they are all civil court orders. They include the following:
- Emergency Protective Order. An emergency protective order is an immediate order that is issued without a court hearing and can be obtained any day or night, even when the court is closed. It expires at the end of the third day after it was issued.
- Preliminary Protective Order. A preliminary protective order is the first step in obtaining a permanent protective order and can be issued if you suffered recent abuse or are in imminent danger of family abuse. The order is effective for 15 days but can be extended for up to six months.
- Permanent Protective Order. A permanent protective order will only be granted after a full hearing where both you and the abuser are present and testify as to what occurred. These orders can protect you for up to two years.
How Do You Obtain a Protective Order?
It is always best to retain an experienced family law attorney to obtain a protective order so that it is done properly, you obtain the full protections that you need, and you obtain it as fast as possible. However, it can be useful in understanding the basic steps in obtaining a protective order:
- File a petition. You can obtain the forms at the court where you live or download the forms through the Virginia Judicial System website. If you are in immediate danger and the court is closed, you may be able to obtain an emergency protective order by going to your police department. There is no filing fee to file this petition.
- Filling out the form. If you are completing the form yourself, you should understand that you are the “Petitioner” and your abuser is the “Respondent.” You should describe recent incidents of violence and use descriptive language to describe what was done to you. Sign the petition in front of the clerk.
- Bring ID and abuser information. You will need to bring your driver’s license or other type of identification as well as a photo, home and work address, and other information about the abuser.
- Review of order. Once you have filed the petition, the clerk will take it to the judge. He may have questions for you when he reviews it and decides whether to issue an order. A hearing will be scheduled before you can obtain a permanent protective order.
- Serve the papers. If the judge signs your order, you will need to arrange to serve the abuser with the order and any notice of hearing. Often, you can arrange to pay the sheriff or police to serve him.
- Hearing. A hearing will most likely be scheduled in your case if you are asking for more than an emergency order. This hearing could be scheduled within 15 days after you file your petition. You will be required to attend this hearing, and it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you at this hearing. Other court hearings may be scheduled as necessary.
If you need a protective order to stop family abuse, contact our office immediately for assistance in obtaining it. Call our office to schedule your free consultation and be sure to let us know that you need immediate help.
Will homeowners insurance cover my premises liability accident claim?
Not all premises liability accidents occur at restaurants, malls, grocery stores, or other business property. In some cases, a person can suffer long-term injuries in a slip and fall or other premises liability accident at someone’s home. If you suffered injuries at a private residence, you may be able to file a claim with the person’s homeowners insurance company to obtain compensation for your injuries.
What Are Common Causes of Premises Liability Claims at Private Residences?
In order to hold a homeowner responsible for compensating you for your injuries, you must prove that he was negligent. To prove this, you must show that an unsafe condition existed on the property that he knew or should have known about and that he failed to correct the problem or warn you of the danger. Common causes of slip and fall accidents at a residence include:
- Water or other spills
- Cracked or worn flooring
- Torn or frayed carpeting
- Flooring that is not level
- Leaking roof
- Stairways with shallow steps, defective handrails, or no handrails
- Sidewalks with cracks or holes
- Sidewalks that are slippery due to snow and ice
Not all claims against a homeowner arise out of a slip and fall accident. A few other types of claims that can be paid by homeowners insurance include:
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Negligent supervision of a child claims against a homeowner when a child is injured at his home
Types of Homeowners Insurance Coverage
If the property owner was negligent in causing your injuries, you will need to determine whether the owner purchased homeowners insurance coverage. Slip and fall and other premises liability accidents are generally covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy. You may be entitled to compensation under the following coverages that are typically offered in these policies:
- Liability coverage. Liability coverage will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering up to the insurance policy limits if the homeowner was negligent in causing your injury.
- Medical coverage. This is no-fault medical coverage, which is also known as med pay. It can pay some of your medical bills regardless of the homeowner’s fault in covering your injuries. In most cases, medical coverage is often much less than liability coverage, such as in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.
If you suffered an injury in a premises liability accident at a residence, you need the assistance of an experienced premises liability attorney to file your claim and negotiate your settlement. Learn about your legal options and our years of experience in handling these cases by starting an online chat to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.