Auto Accidents

Auto accidents in Virginia result in two different types of legal claims.

  1. First-Party Claims – Contract Liability
  2. Third-Party Claims – Tort Liability

First-party liability refers to an agreement or contract that a person has with another person or an insurance company.  For example, if you are injured in an auto accident, you may have a first-party claim against your own auto insurance company or health insurance company to pay for some of the damage arising from the accident.

Third-party liability is a claim arising not from a contract, but through the operation of law.  For example, if you are rear-ended, the person who hit you may be liable to pay for your damage, but there is no contract between you.  Instead, you have a claim based on negligence against the other driver.  This crash created a right that had not previously existed.

The following are some common types of first-party liability claims that result from auto accidents.

  1. Medical Payments Coverage
  2. Collision Coverage
  3. Health Insurance

Medical payments coverage is a type of coverage that many Virginia auto insurance policies carry.  It pays for medical bills necessary and related to an accident, regardless of who is at fault, up to a limited amount.  It is like a miniature health insurance policy in your auto insurance that is triggered by a car accident.

Collision coverage is a type of coverage that many Virginia auto insurance policies carry.  It pays for property damage related to a car accident regardless of who is at fault, minus a deductible.  If collision coverage is used and another person caused the accident, a deductible paid should be reimbursed.

Health insurance is not specifically related to auto accidents, but injuries caused by auto accidents are generally covered by health insurance if the injured party has health insurance.

In Virginia, if you are in an auto accident and are injured, you are permitted to utilize medical payments coverage, health insurance, and you may also make a separate claim against a negligent driver.  You can use all of these sources of coverage at the same time.

The following are the most common type of third-party liability claims related to auto accidents.

  1. Tort – Personal Injury
  2. Tort – Property Damage

Personal injury claims in auto accidents are based on negligence, or fault.  Generally, you have two years from the date of the injury to settle a personal injury claim.  The claim is against the person who was negligent, not their insurance company, although the insurance company will negotiate on behalf of the negligent party and defend any lawsuit that is filed.

Property damage claims in auto accidents are also based on negligence.  Generally, you have 5 years from the date of the accident to settle the claim or file a lawsuit.  Property damage claims may be settled separately from personal injury claims.  Like personal injury claims, property damage claims are against the negligent person, not their insurance company, but the insurance company may act on behalf of the negligent insured person.

In Virginia, there is a hybrid claim that can arise in an auto accident case, namely, an uninsured motorist claim.  Uninsured motorists claims occur when the negligent driver is uninsured.  In such a case, the victim may have a contract claim against his own insurance company based on the negligence of the uninsured driver, but only after a judgment is rendered against the negligent, uninsured driver.

Like other auto accident claims, the insurance company may settle the case before any lawsuit is filed, if they believe it is in their interest.  If a lawsuit is filed against the negligent, uninsured driver, the victim’s insurance company may defend the action in the name of the negligent driver.  Uninsured motorist claims occur frequently in auto accidents.

Stephen Terpak is a Virginia Personal Injury and Traffic Lawyer. Offices located at 7540 Little River Tnpk, Suite A, Annandale, VA 22003

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