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How a Criminal Record Can Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

If you have a past criminal conviction, it does not preclude you from the right to receive fair compensation for damages you sustained due to another’s negligence. Your previous criminal record may not come out at all during your personal injury lawsuit. The opposing counsel can only reference your past directly if it is pertinent to the case at hand. For instance, a DUI conviction from 15 years ago is unlikely to be relevant if you have sustained injuries from a premises liability accident.

In case you have a prior conviction for any other offenses, the other side cannot ask any questions or discuss it in court. A judge or jury can only take into account the circumstances of the present case when deciding whether to award compensation for a car crash, and they cannot hold your previous driving record against you.

However, if you are on the witness stand giving your testimony, your past may be brought up in court. In such cases, the plaintiff’s past becomes more relevant as it may affect whether they are trustworthy as a witness. A skilled lawyer will do everything they can to keep your prior record out of court, but there are no assurances. A criminal record can damage you in some significant ways if it does come up during your case proceedings.

Perception and Credibility

The main threat a prior criminal record poses to your case is how it can make you look. This could be problematic if a jury is deciding your case. People often view criminal records of any type in an unflattering manner, and the defendant will use this to their benefit if they can.

The other side does reserve the right to consider your trustworthiness if you testify on your own behalf, and at this time, they may pull up previous criminal convictions and attempt to use them against you.

What to Do About It

It could be in your best interest for your trial to be heard by a judge instead of a jury. In general, a judge will be better able to remain dispassionate and make a decision based solely on the merits of the case. The emotional appeals from a skilled attorney on the other side could sway a jury.

Simply informing everyone about your criminal record right at the outset can also help you defend yourself. This does not allow the other side the possibility of “surprising” you with it later and can make the entire incident appear much less significant.

Impeachment

“Impeaching the witness” means catching a witness in a lie in the context of the courtroom. An attorney from the opposing side could use your criminal record to entrap you.

For example, you might think that your traffic ticket is not significant in a slip-and-fall case. Therefore, you may not suspect anything when an attorney questions you if you ever speed. However, if you testify that you do not speed and the attorney produces a speeding ticket, they have just caught you in a lie, and anything you say now is bound to be suspect.

What to Do About It

It is important to be mindful of the things that the opposing side could use against you. Your attorney can ensure that you do not miss something; and reviewing arrest records and conducting a background check on yourself can help anticipate everything that your adversaries will find about you.

Being forthright and honest about your past is an effective way to nip any problems in the bud. An experienced attorney can help you go over your testimony to prevent entrapment. In some cases, it may be possible to erase certain criminal convictions before going to trial. Don’t let a criminal record prevent you from seeking your rightful compensation for a personal injury.

Inform your Lawyer of your Criminal Record

It is vital to inform your attorney of any past criminal convictions at the beginning of your case when pursuing a personal injury claim. If your attorney is aware of any previous criminal convictions on your record, they can take pre-emptive steps to prevent it from being used against you by the other side.

Individuals who were convicted of a crime several years ago and have served out their sentences should not be further penalized as they have already served whatever penalties that the law deems suitable.

Therefore, you have the same legal rights as any other individual in matters not related to your conviction, which includes the right to seek and collect compensatory damages if you are injured due to the recklessness of others. A qualified lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected.

Strong Legal Support from a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have sustained injuries in an accident, you must not assume that your past criminal convictions will affect the personal injury claim outcome. A seasoned attorney can help assess your case and review your criminal record to develop the best legal strategy for favorable results.

At the law offices of Olmstead and Olmstead, competent personal injury lawyers will evaluate your case in the light of Virginia’s civil and criminal records to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free initial consultation, call today at (703) 361-1555.

 

Putting a Price on Human Life – What is a Wrongful Death Suit Worth in Virginia?

We all know that no amount of money can be placed on a human life. Death is final and irreversible, and nothing can bring back a loved one who lost their life because of the negligence or reckless actions of another person or party. No amount of money can ease the grief and heartbreak losing someone who was close to you.

All that being said, in the realm of personal injury and wrongful death claims, the best that can be done to right the wrong of the untimely death of a loved one is to provide financial compensation. But how much is a person’s life worth according to the law? The answer to that question is complex at best, and it depends on numerous factors. 

One thing that is nearly certain is that the insurance company for the party responsible for a wrongful death will do everything they can to pay out as little as possible. They will look for ways to diminish the value of the claim or even deny it all together. Or if there is overwhelming evidence that their client is clearly at fault, they may come to you early on with a lowball settlement offer, hoping you will want to take the quick money and put this tragic incident behind you.

If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s wrongdoing, it is important for you to fully understand your rights. Before dealing with the insurer for the responsible party, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to fully assess your case and review your legal options. This way, you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.

What is a Wrongful Death Case Worth in Virginia?

While there is no set dollar amount that applies to all wrongful death cases and no attorney can guarantee that they will recover a certain amount, there are damages that are available in most cases to family members and the decedent’s estate that provide compensation for various types of losses:

  • Economic Damages: These are actual monetary losses that were incurred because of your loved one’s death. Examples include medical expenses related to the decedent’s final illness or injury, lost wages (including wages the decedent might reasonably have been expected to earn had they had lived), and funeral and burial costs.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These are intangible losses that are more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. Examples include sorrow and emotional distress, and loss of care, companionship, guidance, and comfort.
  • Punitive Damages: In rarer cases in which a wrongful death was the result of willful and wanton negligence on the part of the person or party responsible, punitive damages may be awarded to “punish” the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from similarly egregious actions in the future.

In Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000. Virginia also caps the total for the all damages in a medical malpractice case at $2 million. Even if actual losses far exceed this amount, the award will be reduced by the court to the $2 million cap.

Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?

State law allows only “statutory beneficiaries” to file wrongful death claims, which would include immediate family members and dependents. Those are allowed to bring a claim include:

  • Surviving spouses;
  • Surviving children and grandchildren;
  • Surviving parents and siblings;
  • Dependent relatives who shared the same household as the decedent;
  • Surviving family members who are heirs to the decedent’s estate under Virginia’s intestacy laws.

The right of family members and dependents to file a wrongful death lawsuit follows a specific order. The first group with the right to file are surviving spouses, children and grandchildren. If there are no survivors in the first group, surviving parents, siblings, or dependents may file. If there are no survivors in the second group, then the right goes to the next heir under the state’s intestacy laws.

It is important to note that Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. If a surviving loved one does not bring a wrongful death claim within two years of the decedent’s death, the case will most likely be thrown out of court.

Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer

Putting a price on human life is a fool’s errand. And while nothing can replace the loss of someone who was close to you, financial compensation can help cushion the blow and allow you to more easily adjust to life without your lost loved one. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we are here to help provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. We work closely with our clients, and we fight hard to obtain the full and fair compensation our clients need and deserve. To schedule your free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, call us today at 703-361-1555. You may also message us through our online contact form or visit our Manassas, VA office in person 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.

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.