Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accident fatalities have been increasing in recent years. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 107 deaths among motorcyclists on Virginia roads in 2017, a 50% increase from 2016, and the highest number of motorcycle-related fatalities in a decade.

Nationally, motorcycle-related fatalities were down 3% in 2017, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Still, the 5,172 deaths in 2017 was almost double the amount of fatalities recorded in any year during the 1990s, when the figures ranged from 2,000 to 3,000 annually.

Many experts believe that the disturbing upward trend in motorcycle fatalities is closely related to the growing problem of distracted driving. In Virginia, for example, distracted-driving related fatalities rose by almost 20% in 2017 alone.

Distracted Driving is Becoming an Epidemic

Distractions have always been a part of driving. Since automobiles were invented, motorists have had to deal with various distractions on the road, such as passengers talking to them, eating and drinking, putting on makeup, reading billboard ads, etc. When car phones came out a few decades ago, this presented another hazard which eventually had to be addressed. Today, a large number of states have laws that prohibit talking on cell phones while driving, unless the phone is in “hands free” mode. Virginia has still not adopted this type of law, although it has been proposed in the last couple legislative sessions.

The advent of smartphones in the late 2000s has taken the problem of distracted driving to a new and dangerous level. Today, smartphones are used for all types of electronic activity, and most commonly sending and receiving text messages. 

Most people agree that texting while driving is a bad idea. In fact, in various surveys, approximately 90% of respondents rate this practice as “unacceptable”. But in these same surveys, around one-third of those who say that texting while driving is unacceptable admit to having engaged in this practice.

Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving are especially common among teens and other inexperienced drivers. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction is a key factor in almost 60% of crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19.

Motorcycle Accidents and Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road, but for motorcyclists, the hazards are even more pronounced. Bikers do not have a steel cage to protect them when they are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, and statistically, they are 28 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident than occupants of motor vehicles.

Because motorcycles have a smaller profile, they are more difficult to see than other vehicles. And although the “Start Seeing Motorcycles” public awareness campaigns have been around for decades, many motorists are still not giving motorcyclists the respect they deserve. When you add in the fact that a sizable percentage of motorists send and receive texts while driving (even though they know it is wrong and your legal), it is not hard to see why motorcyclists seem to be in greater danger these days.

Staying Safe During the Summer Driving Season

With school out and summer vacation in full swing, expect far more traffic on the roadways in the coming months. And with the increased risks of distracted driving and motorcycle accidents, it is important for everyone on the road to take proactive steps to stay safe.

For motorists, the task is simple; put your cell phone away when you are behind the wheel. It is not worth risking your life to read and respond to the latest text. In addition, speak with your teens about the dangers of distracted driving, and if necessary, put controls in place to keep them from engaging in this behavior.

For motorcyclists, make yourself visible by wearing bright or reflective clothing, keep your lights on even when you are riding during the day, and be on the lookout for signs of distracted driving, such as a vehicle that is weaving in and out of their lane or crossing the center line on a divided road.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Virginia? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Even if you employ all the best safety practices, preventable accidents can still happen because of the negligent or reckless actions of another driver. If you were injured in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you deserve to be compensated. Before accepting any settlement offer from an insurance company, it is important to speak with a skilled Virginia auto accident lawyer, so you fully understand your legal rights and options.

Call Olmstead & Olmstead today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your free consultation. You may also message us through our online contact form or visit our office in Manassas, VA at your convenience. 

I was Injured in a Motorcycle Accident: Do I Need to Retain an Attorney?

There has been a sharp increase in motorcycle accidents both nationally and in Virginia in recent years. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 5172 individuals were killed in motorcycle accidents in the U.S. in 2017, more than double the number that were killed in 1997 (just two decades earlier). In Virginia alone, there were 107 motorcycle deaths and 2017, which was a 50% increase from 2016, and the highest number recorded in a decade.

The growing number of motorcycle accidents (and serious injuries and fatalities that result from them) in recent years is due largely to the problem of distracted driving. More and more drivers are participating in dangerous activities such as texting while driving when they are behind the wheel. When their focus is completely on their phone and not on the road where it should be, it is more difficult for drivers to see motorcyclists who are riding near them.

When someone gets hurt in a motorcycle crash, one of the first questions they often ask is whether or not they need to obtain legal counsel. A lawyer does take a percentage of any settlement obtained as their legal fee, so it is fair to ask if it would be worth it to retain an attorney after being injured in a motorcycle accident. The answer to this question depends largely on the specific circumstances of each case.

For example, if your injuries were fairly minor, the facts of the case are not in dispute, and you were given a settlement offer by the insurance company that you are happy with, you might not need to get an attorney involved. In a case like this, you may just want to take the settlement and put the whole incident behind you.

If, on the other hand, your injuries are moderate to severe and there are complications in the case such as more than two parties that were involved in the accident and disagreements over who was at-fault, you may not know the extent of your injuries yet, and a thorough investigation may be required to determine exactly what happened. In this type of situation, you cannot count on the insurance company to conduct a fair investigation.

It is important to remember that insurance adjusters, although they may be friendly with you and assure you that you will be “taken care of”, are not looking out for your best interests. They work for the insurance company, and the goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible for the accident injury claim, which of course is at odds with your goal of obtaining full and fair compensation for your injuries.

How an Attorney can Help in a Motorcycle Accident Injury Case

By retaining the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer after being hurt in a motorcycle crash, you gain an advocate who is working to protect your interests. A lawyer who has practiced for several years has an in-depth understanding of the law, and they will know the common tactics insurance companies typically use to diminish the value of a claim or deny it all together.

This is especially important in a state like Virginia, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering compensation if they are found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident.  This is a high bar to clear, and you can be sure that the insurance company will use this against you by trying to get you to admit at least partial fault for the accident. Your lawyer will provide strong legal guidance to help ensure that you do not say or do anything that could jeopardize your right to recover compensation.

An attorney can help you in several other ways as well, such as:

  • Properly valuing your claim: If you have never been injured in a motor vehicle accident before, you might not be familiar with the types of compensation you may be entitled to.  This may include compensation not only for economic losses such as medical costs and lost wages, but also for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life.
  • Dealing directly with your insurer: Dealing with the insurance adjuster can be very stressful, especially when you are also trying to recover from an injury. Your lawyer will be able to negotiate directly with your insurance adjuster and handle all the other complex legal tasks, so you can focus on getting recovered and getting your life back on track.
  • Preparing for the possibility of litigation: When you retain an attorney, they will be ready to take the case to trial if the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith. Oftentimes, just the potential for costly and protracted litigation is enough to compel the other side to make a reasonable settlement offer.

Speak with a Seasoned Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident in Virginia, it usually makes sense to at least speak with an attorney to review your case. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we can provide a free consultation and case assessment, so you will be fully advised of your legal rights and options and be able to make the most informed decision on whether or not you want to retain legal counsel. To schedule your free consultation, call us today at 703-361-1555. You may also message us through our web contact form or visit our office in Manassas, VA at your convenience.

Three Commonly Missed Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

America’s nursing homes are in crisis. According to an ABC News report from the early 2000s, elder abuse occurs at one out of every three nursing homes in the United States. Since that report first came out, things have gotten far worse. Aging demographics and longer life expectancies have greatly increased the need for long-term care among America’s seniors, and at the same time, there has been consolidation in the nursing home industry, and those facilities that remain have experienced major staffing shortages.

Today, it is believed that as many as five million seniors are abused each year, and nearly one out of every four nursing facility residents has experienced physical abuse at least once while living in a nursing home. Sadly, these are most likely conservative estimates.

The vast majority of elder abuse cases never get reported at all, and it is easy to understand why. Seniors living in nursing homes depend on their caregivers for everything. Most of them fear that if they report something, they may not be believed – in which case, nothing would likely be done about it. This would mean remaining under the care of the same abuser, and the fear that there would be retribution for trying to report the wrongdoer’s behavior.

Most Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse

There are many ways seniors are abused in nursing homes, and this happens in varying degrees of severity. Nursing home abuse can be divided into five general categories:

Neglect

One of the most common ways elderly individuals are abused at nursing facilities is through general negligence. Whether intentional or unintentional, many nursing homes fail to provide for the basic needs of their residents. Much of this is the result of severe staffing shortages and lack of proper oversight. Oftentimes, nursing home residents are left unattended for long periods of time, and workers fail to ensure that they receive enough food and water, fail to regularly bathe residents, fail to keep their rooms cleaned, and fail to attend to other specific needs they have.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is causing intentional bodily injury or trauma to a nursing home resident through acts such as slapping, hitting, punching, striking, kicking, pushing, shoving, grabbing, and unreasonable restraint. Physical abuse is usually perpetrated by nursing facility staff, although sometimes, the perpetrator may be another resident or in rare instances, a family member.  Nursing home residents who are physically abused can end up with severe and life-threatening injuries that often require immediate medical attention.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the use of words or carrying out of actions that are meant to cause fear, distress, or psychological trauma to a nursing facility resident. Examples include name calling, insults, threats, isolating residents from other residents or their family, and similar acts.  Emotional abuse can cause long-term psychological damage to a resident.

Sexual Abuse

As hard as it is to imagine, sexual abuse happens more often in America’ nursing homes than most people want to believe. This may include acts such as unwanted feeling, touching, groping, all the up to full sexual assault. As with other forms of abuse, the perpetrators are most often staff members, though they could also be other residents. Those with cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia are the most likely targets for this type of abuse, because perpetrators believe that individuals with these conditions are the least likely to report the abuse.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse includes any attempt to manipulate or exploit a resident in order to gain control over their finances. This usually happens when a staff member befriends a resident and tries to gain their trust in order to obtain access to their finances. Financial abuse may also be perpetrated by another resident or family member.

Commonly Missed Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Because residents are not likely to report nursing home abuse, it is important for those closest to them to look for signs that this might be occurring. Here are three signs of nursing home abuse that are often overlooked:

  • Slick-Talking Caregivers: If your loved one has scars, bruises, sprains, and more serious physical issues and there is no explanation for these, this is a serious red flag. In addition to that, if the caregiver or staff member is not giving you a straight answer or deflecting your question, this is definitely a cause for concern. Many abusers are very good at covering up what they are doing by sounding friendly and giving slick explanations. If the explanations the staff members are giving you do not add up, then this situation may warrant further investigation.
  • Confusion or Disorientation: If your loved one is confused and disoriented when you come to visit, this could be a sign of physical exhaustion due to the abuse they are receiving. This could also be the sign of other health issues, however. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to look at other factors as well to see if this is a sign of abuse.
  • Ambivalence or Withdrawal: If a loved one is being abused, you may start to see emotional changes such as becoming isolated or withdrawn from other facility residents. While this could be a sign of abuse, but it could also be a sign that they are just not happy with their living conditions. Again, you need to look at what else is happening to help determine if abuse may be occurring.

Protecting Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse

Protection of Residents of Nursing Home Facilities under Virginia Law

Under Virginia law, various regulations exist to protect the residents of nursing homes. Nursing homes are defined as any facility that is licensed with the main function of providing nursing and other health care services to residents, including facilities that are called “convalescent homes,” skilled nursing facilities, skilled care facilities, extended care facilities, intermediate care facilities, and nursing or nursing care facilities.

There are clear definitions of neglect and abuse under the law. Neglect is the “failure to provide timely and consistent services, treatment, or care to a resident” that is required to maintain the “health, safety, or comfort” of the resident. The definition of abuse includes causing an injury or unreasonably confining, punishing, or intimidating a resident in a manner that causes pain, harm, or mental turmoil. In this definition of abuse, “verbal, sexual, physical, or mental” forms of abuse are included.

Further, the state requires that the rights of residents are protected while they stay in these facilities. Under the law, the patient must be treated with “consideration, respect, and full recognition of their dignity and individuality.”

Violation of Rights

A complaint can be filed with the Virginia Department of Health if a resident is the victim of neglect or abuse or if you believe that someone you love may be a victim of nursing home abuse. The Office of Licensure and Certification of the Virginia Department of Health (OLC) will investigate this complaint. Such complaints can be made in writing or verbally and can remain anonymous.

In case the investigation determines a deficiency in the facility, the management will need to submit a detailed plan for rectifying the problem. If the plan is approved, the facility administrator will be required to implement and oversee the plan to make sure that the problem is completely resolved.

Further to holding the facility responsible through filing a complaint with the Department of Health, a victim can hold the individual or facility responsible by suing them under personal injury law. Doing so can help the victim receive financial awards to help with any expenses related to neglect or abuse, which can include additional medical costs.

Do you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse in Virginia? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you believe that your aging loved one is being subjected to abuse in a Virginia nursing home, it is important to take immediate action. You can report nursing home abuse to the Adult Protective Services (APS) division of the Virginia Department of Social Services by calling 1-888-832-3858. It is also a good idea to contact a seasoned nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we are outraged by the treatment many of our seniors are receiving in nursing homes today. We are committed to obtaining justice for those who are experiencing abuse, and we work closely with our clients to help ensure that those responsible for this type of conduct are held fully accountable. Call our office today at 703-361-1555 or message us through our web contact form to schedule a free consultation.

How are Damages Calculated in Accident Cases?

When an individual suffers moderate to severe injuries from an accident, it can be a life-altering experience. High medical bills combined with time missed from work can create a financial hardship for victims and their families, and the physical and emotional pain an injury causes can put additional strain on the household. When an injury results from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, victims deserve to be compensated. The legal term for this is called “damages”.

Compensatory damages in personal injury cases can be divided into two general categories; economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

These are losses incurred by the injured party that are quantifiable. Such as:

  • Property Damage: In most accident cases, there is some property damage that accompanies the injuries. The most common example is with an auto accident case in which the vehicle the injured party was driving is damaged.
  • Medical Costs: Various types of medical expenses may be incurred depending on the type and extent of the injuries. For more severe injuries, there may be hospitalization costs, cost for surgeries and/or various other medical treatments, rehabilitation costs, and costs for ongoing medical care (when there is a debilitating injury).
  • Lost Wages: When someone suffers an injury, they may have to miss work for medical appointments, and depending on the type of work they do, they may be out of work for a while during their recovery period.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: When someone suffers a debilitating injury, they may not be able to return to their previous job. And in the most serious cases, they may not be able to participate in any type of gainful activity at all.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: In the case of an accident that results in a fatality, the victim’s family should be compensated for funeral and burial costs.

Non-Economic Damages

These are intangible losses that are more difficult to quantify because they have to do with the impact the injury has on the victim’s life, and the life of their loved ones. Non-economic damages may include:

  • Physical Pain and Suffering: A serious injury can cause extreme physical pain, and oftentimes, the victim must endure this pain for an extended period of time. If the victim suffers a long-term debilitating injury, the pain and suffering may be permanent.
  • Psychological Distress: Having to adjust to life after a severe injury can be very hard on someone emotionally. Uncertainty about the future, wondering how long the injury will last, how long they will be in pain, when they can return to work (if ever), and similar worries can cause an enormous amount of stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: Some injuries deprive the victim of their ability to participate in physical activities they once enjoyed; such as running, hiking, biking, swimming, and other hobbies or recreational pursuits.
  • Loss of Consortium: This relates to the losses suffered by someone close to the victim, such as loss of the ability to maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse.  Loss of consortium damages are sometimes awarded directly to the loved one who is affected.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases when the actions of the party responsible for the accident were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from engaging in similar behaviors. To be awarded punitive damages, it must be shown that the responsible party acted with willful and wanton conduct or actual malice toward the victim.  Punitive damages in Virginia are capped at $350,000.

Pursuing Damages in Virginia Accident Cases

Recovering compensation for injuries suffered after an accident in Virginia can be very difficult because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident.

This is a very high bar to clear, and even being found 1% at-fault can be a barrier to obtaining the just compensation you deserve. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to work with a skilled personal injury attorney who understands Virginia law and has a proven ability to successfully pursue damages on behalf of injury victims in these types of cases.

Injured in an Accident in Virginia? Call the Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyers at Olmstead & Olmstead

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it is important to act immediately to protect your legal right to recover compensation. Call Olmstead & Olmstead today at 703-361-1555 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.

Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement

When an individual suffers an injury from an accident or another event and someone else was at fault, they deserve to be compensated. Unfortunately, obtaining full and fair compensation is much easier said than done. In most cases, the party that was responsible for your injuries is not going to willingly write you a check for full damages. In fact, you will most likely not even be dealing directly with the other party. Instead, you will be dealing with their insurance company.

Shortly after an accident, those involved are typically contacted by the adjuster for the other party’s insurer, or in some cases, you might be dealing with your own insurer (such as when the other party was uninsured). You might be offered a settlement by the adjuster early on in the process, but it will probably be for much lower than what your case is worth. To secure just compensation for your injuries, it will most often require a negotiation.

Negotiating a full and fair settlement with an insurance adjuster can be a challenging process.  You can choose to deal with the adjuster on your own, or you can retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to negotiate a settlement for you. If you decide to deal with the insurance company on your own, the process could take as little as a few days or up to several months or more, depending on several factors.

For example, if it is a fairly straightforward car accident case where another driver was clearly negligent in colliding with your vehicle and your injuries are relatively minor, you might decide to take the insurer’s settlement offer and move on with your life. If, on the other hand, your injuries are more extensive, there is some question about liability, and there are other complicating factors, you can expect the negotiations to go on for a while.

If you do have moderate to severe injuries, you definitely do not want to accept an insurance company’s initial offer. The main reason being that it is nearly impossible to know just a few days after an accident how extensive your injuries are. You will need to wait until you have all of that information before you can determine how much compensation you should be entitled to. 

After you have declined the insurer’s first offer and received a medical report regarding your injuries, you can prepare a demand letter with a counter offer that more accurately reflects what your claim is worth. When determining the full extent of the losses you have suffered, be sure to factor in both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are those that are quantifiable, such as property damage, medical costs (both present and future), time missed from work, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic damages are intangibles that are more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium.

After you submit your demand letter with a counter offer, the insurer will either accept the offer or send a counter of their own. In most cases, there will be some back and forth activity before a final settlement is agreed upon, if you are able to get them to agree to a fair settlement at all.

During the process, the insurance company may use various tactics to diminish the value of your claim or deny your claim altogether. For example, if an accident involving injuries occurs in Virginia, an injured party can be barred from recovering compensation if they are found to be even 1% at-fault for the accident. There is no doubt that an insurer will try to use the state’s defendant-friendly legal standard to their advantage to avoid responsibility for the negligent actions of their client.

How an Attorney can Help Negotiate a Full and Fair Settlement

As mentioned earlier, negotiating with the insurance adjuster can be a difficult process, especially in a state that is so favorable to defendants in personal injury cases. This is why it is recommended that those who are injured in an accident strongly consider retaining skilled legal counsel.

A seasoned personal injury lawyer can handle the entire negotiation process for you. They will deal directly with the insurance adjuster, leveraging their extensive experience to help you obtain full and fair compensation.

Some of the specific ways a lawyer can help you during negotiations include:

  • Advising you on whether or not the insurance company is presenting a fair offer;
  • Properly valuing your claim based on a thorough investigation of the facts and evidence of the case;
  • Using their negotiation skills to strongly argue for the amount you deserve;
  • Helping you fight an insurance claim denial;
  • Calling on expert witnesses when necessary to help substantiate your claim;
  • Providing the insurance adjuster with a credible threat of a lawsuit if they do not negotiate in good faith.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident in Virginia, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call our office today at 571-620-5923 or send us a message through our online contact form.

Tactics used by Insurance Companies during an Injury Case

When someone is injured because of the negligent actions or omissions of another party, it is very rare for the party that caused the injury to take full responsibility and write a check to cover all the damages. In most cases, the injured party does not deal with the responsible party at all. Instead, they must deal with the other party’s insurer, and more specifically, the insurance adjuster assigned to handle the case.

It may seem like an obvious statement, but insurance companies are in business to make a profit. As such, the interests of the adjuster are not aligned with your best interests. The adjuster represents the insurer, and their goal is to pay out as little as possible to settle the claim. Although an adjuster may be friendly and polite, it is important to understand that this is usually a tactic designed to put you at ease and give you the impression that they are going to help you. Always keep in mind that their end goal is to devalue the claim or deny the claim altogether.

Insurance adjusters are professionals who process claims for a living. They are trained negotiators, and they have a wide range of tactics and approaches they may use to accomplish their end goals. Here are some of the tactics used by insurance companies during an injury case:

Contacting the Injured Party Shortly after the Accident

One of the first things an insurance adjuster may do after an accident is call up the injured party to express sympathy, empathy, and regret for what happened. They will typically ask how you are doing and reassure you that you will be “taken care of”. The goal of the initial call is to establish rapport with the injured party and try to earn their trust. In the days following an accident, an injured party may not have had time to get organized, determine the full extent of their injuries, or get in touch with a lawyer. During this time, the adjuster hopes to convince them that an attorney won’t be needed and that they will receive a fair settlement. They may even say something like, “you are free to hire an attorney, but whether you do or not, it won’t have any bearing on the amount of compensation you receive.”

Asking the Injured Party for an Official Statement and Medical Release

Another reason that insurance adjusters contact injured parties shortly after an accident is to obtain a written or recorded statement, and to obtain a medical release. They may tell you that they need a statement from you and a medical release to process your claim. This sounds like a reasonable request, but it is full of potential pitfalls. The statement they obtain from you may be used against you later on to devalue or deny your claim. They might also say they need a medical release to verify your injuries, which also sounds reasonable. However, by giving them a release, you may be authorizing them to obtain access to your entire medical history. This could be used to find information on previous accidents and injuries and/or preexisting conditions that they can use to question the legitimacy of your current claim.

Making a Quick Settlement Offer

After someone is injured in an accident, they typically have medical bills piling up along with tight finances from missing time from work. Adjusters know that under these conditions, many injured parties are motivated to get a settlement check as soon as possible. An adjuster may seek to capitalize on this situation by giving you an offer to settle and close out the claim. In most cases, an early settlement offer will be for far less than a claim is really worth. Before accepting this type of offer, injured parties should speak with an experienced attorney who can thoroughly assess the case and properly value the claim.

Delaying the Claim

Each state has statutes of limitations for various types of legal actions. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of the injury or the date the injury becomes known. After the statute of limitations expires, an injured party forfeits their right to file a lawsuit for damages. Insurers may seek to use this to their advantage by employing delay tactics. For example, if you refuse their settlement offer and/or submit a counter offer, they may “go dark” and stop communicating with you for several months in hopes of running out the clock. If an insurance company has stopped communicating with you regarding an injury claim, it is important to get an attorney involved right away.

Denying Fault for the Injury

Insurers may use statements you have made and any other information they can find to claim that their client was not at-fault for your injury, or at the very least, that you were partially at-fault. In Virginia, this could cost you the right to obtain compensation because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, if a plaintiff is found to have “contributed” in any way to their injury, they may be barred from recovering damages. This is another reason it is essential to have skilled legal counsel by your side as early in the process as possible to aggressively pursue full and fair compensation for your injuries.

Contact an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you don’t have to face the daunting task of recovery on your own. Before talking with an insurance company and their trained representatives, contact our experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys. Our experienced staff will help prepare you for what is to come and we will negotiate on your behalf to make sure you receive a fair settlement. Contact us today at (703) 361-1555 or leave us a message on our website contact form.

The Role of an Expert Witness in an Injury Case

When someone is pursing a personal injury case, there are a lot of factors that play into the success of the case and the ability to obtain full and fair compensation. The facts and evidence of the case should be well-documented. There should be a detailed report of what happened, photographs, video footage (if available), and any other available evidence that will help establish your claim. If there are any individuals who witnessed the event that led to your injury, their testimony can be very helpful in substantiating the case. Another key factor in the success of many cases is the role expert witnesses play.

What is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is not to be confused with an eyewitness. Expert witnesses almost never witnessed the actual event. Rather, they are professionals in various fields who are brought in to assist the plaintiff’s legal team and/or to take the witness stand and provide expert testimony to the jury. There are two general types of expert witnesses that are used in personal injury cases:

  • Consulting Experts: These are professionals who work behind the scenes providing guidance and support to the legal team. They may assist in various tasks such as reviewing documents, advising the attorney and staff, and helping with the plaintiff’s legal strategy. If the consulting expert does not testify, the other side may never know that they were used in the case. If, on the other hand, it is decided later on that they should testify, they can be converted to a testifying expert, which would require compliance with disclosure rules.
  • Testifying Experts: A testifying expert is one who is listed as a witness who intends to testify in court. They do not always end up taking the stand, depending on how the case goes, but they must be ready to do so. In addition to being a highly reputable specialist in their chosen field of study, a testifying expert must also have strong communication skills and extensive experience testifying in similar cases.

Types of Expert Witnesses

There are several types of expert witnesses that can play a major role in a personal injury case, these include:

  • Physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Rehabilitation Specialists
  • Pain Management Specialists
  • Medical Examiners
  • Dentists
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Accident Reconstruction Specialists
  • Forensic Evidence Specialists
  • Phone Records Specialists
  • Manufacturing Experts
  • Life Care Planners
  • Financial Professionals

How an Expert Witness can Play a Key Role in the Success of your Case

There are several ways in which an expert witness can give a plaintiff a higher chance of winning the case. Here are some key areas in which the role of an expert witness can be pivotal:

  1. They can provide credible, unbiased testimony

An expert witness is someone who is highly respected in their industry/field of specialty. Their opinion is backed by years (or in most cases decades) of professional experience and an impeccable reputation for adhering to high ethical standards. Though testifying experts are paid for their time to appear in court, they are there to provide an objective opinion based solely on the facts and evidence of the case.

  1. They can provide proper perspective and make complex subjects understandable

One of the most important roles a testifying expert has is to clearly communicate to the jury on subjects that are highly complicated and difficult to understand. An expert witness can break down the facts and evidence of the case, explain why certain items (which relate to their area of expertise) are important, and help give the jury the right perspective as they evaluate these factors.

  1. They can help show the extent of your injuries

Individuals who have been injured due to the negligence or reckless actions of another party typically experience far more than just the financial loss from incurring high medical bills and missing work. There are physical, mental, and psychological costs as well; such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life, just to name a few. Expert witnesses can clearly explain to the jury not only the economic costs of your injury, but the non-economic costs as well.

  1. They can provide leverage that could lead to an earlier settlement

Having reputable experts on your team not only give you a far better chance to prevail at trial, they also make it more likely that the other side will try to settle. When the defense sees that you have various expert witnesses that are ready to testify, they may decide that it is far less costly to forego litigation and enter into settlement negotiations.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, contact the experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead. Our attorneys have established relationships with experienced and skilled Expert Witnesses, that will provide the support needed for your damages claim. Contact our office at (703) 361-1555 or our online contact form.

Spinal Cord Injuries: What you Need to Know

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can be very frightening for victims and their families. When you lose the ability to control a certain area of your body, you suddenly find yourself dependent on others for various functions you once took for granted. Symptoms that often accompany this condition include numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the affected areas.

What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?

There are a lot of reasons spinal cord injuries occur, and oftentimes, these injuries are preventable. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Auto Accidents
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Gunshot Wounds
  • Diving Injuries
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Being Struck by Falling Objects
  • Medical and Surgical Errors
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Sports Injuries

What you Need to Know About Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can be life-altering in many ways. If you or someone close to you has suffered an SCI, there are some things you should know that will help you adjust to the condition:

  1. Spinal Cord Injuries Have Varying Degrees of Severity

SCIs range widely in severity, and the good news is that many victims are able to make a full recovery over time. The severity of a spinal cord injury is commonly referred to as its “completeness.” Complete SCI indicates a total loss of feeling and motor function in the affected area(s). Incomplete SCI means there is partial feeling and motor function, and individuals can have varying degrees of incompleteness depending on the specific injury.

  1. A Range of Treatments May be Necessary

Treatment for spinal cord injuries are determined on a case-by-case basis. Medication may be prescribed for the most minor cases. More severe cases may require traction to stabilize the spine, bring it into proper alignment, or both. For the most severe cases, surgery may be required to remove bone fragments, foreign objects, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae that may be compressing against the spine. After the initial treatments, rehabilitation and/or ongoing care may be required.

  1. Recovery Takes Time

Moderate to severe SCI sufferers typically face a long road to recovery. During the recovery process, the body needs time to rest and repair the damaged tissue. Follow your doctor’s orders, and do not expect to do too much too soon. In addition, if physical therapy is prescribed, be sure to follow through on all the exercises you are given. This will keep your muscles stronger, making the later phases of your recovery go much more smoothly.

  1. Your Home May Require Modifications

If you suffered a moderate to severe spinal cord injury, it is possible that you will be going home in a wheelchair. This might require modifications to your home to make it easier to get around inside. For example, you may need to rearrange the furniture to allow for wider openings for your wheelchair to get through. You might also need to have a stairlift installed. If it looks like your injuries are long-term and you are going to be in a wheelchair for the foreseeable future, you might need to consider permanent home modifications, such as widening doorways and hallways. If this is not possible, you might need to look for a more suitable place to live.

  1. You May Need Special Equipment for your Vehicle

Just like with your home, you might need to make some modifications to your vehicle if you are in a wheelchair. Some vehicles can have specialized equipment installed to make it more accessible for disabled individuals. If this is not possible, you might need to look at purchasing a new vehicle.

  1. You May Become More Dependent Upon Loved Ones

This is a change that is almost as much psychological as physical. Those who suffer spinal cord injuries often have to depend on others in the household to function day-to-day. This can change the family dynamic in many ways. For example, children who were used to depending on you for various things may have a hard time adjusting to the fact that you are now dependent on them. It is a good idea to prepare for these types of changes by taking some time to discuss them with everyone who will be affected by them.

  1. If the Injury Was Caused by Another Party, You May be Entitled to Compensation

While no amount of money can restore you to your previous condition after a serious injury, compensation may be available to help you and your family adjust more smoothly. Compensatory damages available for spinal cord injuries may include compensation for hospital bills, medical treatment, rehabilitations costs, ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium. In extreme cases in which the actions of the responsible party were especially egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish their wrongdoing and deter them and others from engaging in similarly egregious behavior in the future.

If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, it is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney, so you fully understand your legal rights and options. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we understand that SCIs can be life-changing, and we fight hard to ensure that those who suffer these types of injuries receive the full and fair compensation they need and deserve.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate attorneys, call our office today at 703-361-1555 or send us a message through our online contact form.

Slip & Fall accidents – What is the Liability of a Retail Store?

Each year, thousands of individuals are injured in slip and fall accidents. These accidents can occur almost anywhere, and many of them are minor. Some slips, trips, and falls can result in serious and catastrophic injuries, however. These include:

  • Head Injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Fractures/Broken Bones
  • Soft Tissue Injuries

Slip and Fall Accidents in Retail Stores

Slip and fall accidents are especially common in retail stores, where dangerous conditions can result in a customer falling and getting injured. When this occurs, there is a possibility that the store may be held liable for the injury.

Slip and fall injuries can happen in retail stores for a number of reasons, some of the most common include:

  • Wet and Slippery Floors: This is one of the leading causes of slips, trips and falls in retail stores. Floors can become wet and slippery because of a substance that spills, a floor that was recently mopped, or other reasons. When a wet or slippery floor is not clearly marked, it can present a hazard for customers.
  • Uneven Surfaces/Torn Carpeting: Some stores have uneven surfaces (either inside or outside) that can become a tripping hazard. Torn carpeting is another common flooring issue that can lead to customers tripping and falling.
  • Poor Lighting: Some areas of the store may be poorly lit because a light is out or broken. This makes it difficult for patrons to see various slipping and tripping hazards, such as merchandize or debris that is on the floor.

The Store’s Duty to Keep the Premises Safe

A customer who enters a retail store is considered an “invitee”. As such, the store has a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the customer safe. When a slip and fall accident happens at a retail store, the store could be held liable if you can show that they created an unsafe condition, such as a slippery floor. The store may also be responsible for conditions they did not create if they were aware of the condition (or should have been aware of it) and did not take reasonable steps to address it. For example, if one of their lighting fixtures was broken two weeks prior and they did not take steps to fix it and/or warn customers of the problem, they might be liable for a slip and fall injury that occurs because of it.

There is one major hurdle a customer needs to overcome in proving that the store was at fault for a slip and fall accident. You need to show that the hazard that caused the accident was not “open and obvious” to a reasonable person. For example, if you were walking down an aisle that was well-lit and noticed a slippery substance that had spilled from the shelf and walked right through it, the store may argue that you should have seen the spill and walked around it.

Pursuing a Premises Liability Case against a Retail Store in Virginia

When someone is seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, the issue of who is at-fault is central in determining whether or not the injured party is entitled to damages. Virginia applies the legal standard known as “contributory negligence”, meaning that if an injury victim is found to have “contributed” at all to the accident, they can be barred from recovering compensation. This is a very difficult standard to overcome for plaintiffs in a personal injury case, and you can be almost certain that the store’s central defense will be to try to pin at least part of the blame on you.

With that in mind, the keys to winning a premises liability case in Virginia are evidence, preparation, and presentation. You need to have as much evidence as possible to prove your claim; such as detailed notes about the incident, photos of the hazardous condition that led to the accident, testimony of witnesses who saw what happened, medical documentation of your injuries, and anything else that would help your case.

You will also need to be able to prepare your case and present it in a way that will show that the store is fully responsible for damages. These types of cases can be complex and difficult to pursue on your own. If you believe you may have a premises liability claim against a store in Virginia, one of the first steps you should take is to get in touch with a seasoned premises liability lawyer.

Speak with the Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead

At Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have extensive experience representing clients injured in slip and fall accidents in Virginia. We have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we have a successful track record recovering compensation for clients in even the most complex cases. If you or someone close to you was injured in a slip and fall accident, call our office today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your initial consultation. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

5 Things You Should Do Immediately After a Car Accident

Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if you are seriously injured. A collision with another vehicle or object puts you in a startled state, with countless thoughts simultaneously running through your head. When this occurs, it is important to remain as calm as possible and take some immediate steps to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene, and to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Here are five things you should do right after being involved in a car accident:

  1. Do NOT Leave the Scene

Never leave the scene of an accident, even if it is just a fender-bender. In Virginia, fleeing the scene of an accident can result in fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges. If there is an injury or fatality and/or if damage from the accident exceeds $1,000, you could be charged with a felony. Remain at the scene and put your hazard lights on. If your car can be driven, move it off to the side or shoulder and out of oncoming traffic.

  1. Call for Medical Help

The first priority after a car accident is to make sure that anyone who may have been hurt (including yourself) receives prompt medical attention. It is important to note that not all injuries are noticeable right away. You may feel okay right after the collision, but the impact of being jolted abruptly can cause injuries to the head, neck, spine, and other parts of the body. There is also the possibility of internal injuries, which can be life-threatening if they are not treated quickly. As soon as you can after the crash, call 911 and ask for medical help. The 911 operator can also send the police to the scene.

  1. Document the Incident

When the police arrive, tell them what you know about the incident. Do not speculate, guess, or assume anything, just stick to the facts. If they ask if you are hurt and you are not entirely certain, tell them you are “not sure”. Most importantly, do NOT admit any fault for the accident. Plan to follow up as soon as convenient to review the police report and ensure that it is accurate.

In addition to speaking with the police, retain your own personal records of the auto accident. Write down what happened in as much detail as possible while it is fresh in your mind. Also, take several photos of the accident scene (from as many angles as possible) to provide visual documentation. And if you have a dashboard video camera, be sure to capture footage of the event going back to several minutes before the collision.

  1. Exchange Information

Do your best to stay calm and courteous when dealing with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Exchange all the necessary information, such as their name, address, phone number, the name of their insurance company, and their policy number. Also take note of the make and model of the vehicle and the vehicle license plate number. As mentioned in the previous point, do NOT admit fault to the other party and do not apologize for anything. Just obtain the required information and move on.

  1. Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses

While you are still at the scene of the accident, speak to any witnesses that may have seen what happened. Ask them what they saw and note their responses in detail. Memories fade over time, so it is important to document what these witnesses say while everyone is still at the scene if possible. Also, don’t forget to obtain the contact information from witnesses that will help corroborate the facts of the case.

Speak with an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you are seriously injured in an auto accident and it is the fault of another party, you may be entitled to compensation. When this is the case, you might be contacted by the insurer for the at-fault party within a few days after the accident. The insurance adjuster may also ask to record your conversation and/or ask for a recorded statement. They may even imply that this is necessary to move the process forward.

It is important to know that you are NOT under any obligation to provide statements to the other party’s insurer, and it is not in your best interests to do so. This is especially true in Virginia because of their “contributory” negligence standard. Under contributory negligence, if an accident victim is found to be even 1% at-fault, they may be barred from recovering compensation. Before you speak to any insurance adjuster, contact a seasoned car accident lawyer, so you fully understand your rights and options.

At Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have several years of experience representing clients who have been seriously injured in an auto accident. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve.

Call our office today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your initial consultation. You may also send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.