Personal injury refers to an injury to one’s body, mind or emotions (as opposed to an injury to property) as a result of another person’s or entity’s negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct. For example, personal injury could be the result of a car accident caused by a distracted driver, a defectively manufactured product or a mechanical malfunction while participating in a recreational activity.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
Hundley & Johnson provides individuals who have been personally injured through the negligence of others with the best possible legal representation to recover compensation for their injuries — all at a reasonable cost.
This is a large area of law, and it is very different from criminal law, estate planning, or divorce. Some lawyers handle personal injury cases on the side, but we have made it the centerpiece of our practice.
Our team has the experience needed to tackle a wide variety of personal injury cases, including:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Defective products
- Recreational accidents
Please reach out to us as soon as possible to review whether you have a valid legal claim.
Damages Typically Sought in a Personal Injury Case
The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to make a victim “whole.” This means ensuring that he or she does not have to shoulder unnecessary costs as a result of an accident that is not their fault. To make a victim whole, we seek compensation for both financial and non-financial losses.
For example, our clients can seek compensation for the following:
- Property damages, such as car repair or replacement
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Pain and suffering (physical and emotional)
- Punitive damages, intended to punish reckless behavior and deter recurrence
Some of these damages are easier to calculate than others. For example, if you missed work for 4 months while you rehabbed an injury, then we can use your pay stubs to calculate the amount of income you lost.
However, calculating lost future income can be harder. You might be able to work but need to take a lower paying job instead, in which case we will try to estimate how much money you will lose in the future because of your injuries.
Some losses like pain and suffering are also harder to put a price tag on. If you’ve suffered a disfiguring facial scar, just how much money will make up for the pain, embarrassment, and social isolation you feel? No two people value pain and emotional injuries the same. However, our team has the experience needed to estimate what is a justifiable amount of compensation.
Punitive damages are unlike other damages. They have a specific goal—to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in reprehensible conduct. They are not available in every case, but they could be an option if the defendant deliberately tried to hurt you or was reckless in their conduct.
Factors for Recovering Compensation
Many people contact us and ask what the “average” settlement is for a personal injury. The truth is that there is no simple “average.” Instead, the amount of compensation we secure in a settlement or court award depends on the circumstances of the case:
- Establishing fault with someone other than yourself
- Proving the extent of the injury
- The dollar amount available from the at-fault party’s insurance, or in some cases, your own insurance
Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these.
Proving fault. A person or entity only pays compensation if they were negligent, and their negligence or other wrongful conduct caused your injuries. We need to prove that someone was at fault for the accident before we can legally ask them to pay compensation.
In some cases, fault is obvious. A person might have backed up into your car because they were not looking in their mirrors or over their shoulder. They might even admit to this. Or a driver could run a red light and hit a pedestrian, which is captured on surveillance video.
When fault is clear, then an insurer should quickly agree to a settlement. When fault is not clear, however, then our clients might end up going to trial, where there is a chance that they might lose the case and get nothing. So when fault isn’t clear, our clients might need to settle for less than they otherwise would.
Insurance. In most personal injury cases, the defendant’s insurance pays out compensation. Many defendants have no assets of their own, or it could be very difficult to seize them even if you won a lawsuit. In this way, insurance often acts as a cap on a personal injury claim. Under Virginia law, minimum car insurance is only $25,000 in bodily injury personal liability, up to $50,000 per accident when two or more people are injured. Someone with serious injuries could easily exhaust this amount.
At our firm, we are skilled at finding multiple defendants, which means we might be able to increase the amount of money our clients take home. If a vehicle was defective, or if a road hazard contributed to a car accident, then we could sue the entity responsible for the car or the road.
In some cases, a business might be to blame for your accident. Businesses typically carry sizable business liability policies. Suing a business defendant is often ideal, since their policies can usually cover large losses.
Common Personal Injuries
Our clients suffer injuries that range from relatively mild to life changing. We understand that even “minor” injuries can seriously inconvenience a person, often leading to lost wages and impaired relationships. Below are common types of personal injuries that may warrant a legal case.
Losing a limb by amputation is a traumatic experience. Amputation victims can be left with expensive medical bills, potential ongoing surgical procedures, pain and suffering, and lifelong disabilities.
Many amputations also have serious complications, such as infection and pain. Some might need future surgeries to repair injuries to the stump. All of this future care is expensive, and the person to blame for your amputation should have to shoulder the costs.
Amputations often result from serious accidents that crush limbs. However, even something as simple as a broken bone can lead to an amputation if it cuts off the blood supply. Sometimes, extreme swelling can lead to compartment syndrome, which also might cause irreversible injury in a limb.
Like all personal injury victims, amputees need help paying for medical care and replacing lost wages. But they can also suffer devastating emotional distress that other victims might not. At Hundley & Johnson, we will do our best to obtain fair compensation for these emotional wounds.
Some people wrongly believe that broken bones are minor. It is true, that some might heal easily on their own, but fractures carry many complications.
A broken bone can be debilitating and may require surgery or extensive rehabilitation. It can also lead to long-term discomfort or loss of mobility, especially when the bones do not heal properly. This type of malunion can require re-breaking the bone and setting it properly.
Broken bones can lead to amputations when the jagged edges shred veins and arteries. Other bones become infected, which could be catastrophic.
The elderly are in serious danger when they fracture ribs. Studies have shown that about a third of people over 65 who have fractured a rib will contract pneumonia. About 1 in 5 seniors who fracture three or more ribs will die from complications.
Fractures are common injuries in car accidents, truck accidents, and slip and falls. Victims should receive immediate medical attention.
A concussion is often caused by an impact or violent jolt to the head. Even a strong jolt to the body can cause the head to whip back and forth or side to side, and this shaking motion can lead to brain injury.
A concussion is a relatively mild traumatic brain injury. It is a misconception that something needs to penetrate the skull to cause injury. Instead, the shaking motion itself tends to disrupt the normal functioning of the brain.
A concussion can have symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, slurred speech and tinnitus. It can also cause long-term health problems. Many people with concussions need to take it slow for several months in the hopes that symptoms disappear gradually on their own. There is no known direct treatment for a concussion, but a doctor can help you manage symptoms with painkillers and other prescription drugs. In some people, concussion symptoms last for years and dramatically impair a person’s quality of life.
Concussions are often caused by slip and falls, car accidents, pedestrian injuries, and even violent assaults.
Fusion is a medical procedure that involves permanently joining vertebrae in the neck or back using a bone graft. Rods and screws are used to support the vertebrae, much like an “internal cast,” until fusion occurs.
Some accident victims need fusion after suffering injury to their spinal column. For example, one or more vertebrae could fracture, and fusion could bring some relief. Other victims might need fusion if they suffer from a narrowing of the spinal column, a condition called spinal stenosis. Though stenosis happens naturally in many people, especially as they age, an accident could accelerate the process.
Fusion is not a risk-free procedure, however. Some patients could suffer complications, including continuing pain. The back condition might continue to degenerate, or the bone fractures might not heal. Sometimes, another surgery is warranted, which also carries further complications.
Many back injuries are disabling. When the round cushion that sits between two vertebrae is damaged and puts intense strain on the spinal cord and nerve roots, a herniated disc occurs and causes severe pain to radiate throughout the body. Many people suffer a herniated disc in a car accident or in a fall.
This injury can be difficult to diagnose after an accident, but it can potentially require costly and ongoing medical procedures. Some people require surgery in order to find relief from the pain, while others could profit from more conservative treatment, such as steroid injections to deal with inflammation.
Regardless of the treatment ordered, many victims with herniated discs must stay in bed, which can lead to a dramatic loss of income. Someone who works a manual labor job will suddenly have no income coming through the door. Even white-collar workers could find it hard to sit up and focus on work for an entire day. Until the disc heals, a patient will be unable to perform many of the tasks of everyday life.
The knee is very complicated. It is also vital to a person’s mobility and ability to live a normal life. When the knee is injured, many of our clients are immobilized.
Bones, cartilage, tendons, muscles, and ligaments all join at the knee. Any torn or stretched soft tissue can lead to instability and excruciating pain. The kneecap or other bones could also break, which can require medical intervention to keep everything in place.
A knee injury can not only cause intense pain but also affect one’s mobility and functionality, causing long-term disability and health problems. Knee injuries can also sometimes be degenerative. Injury to the cartilage, for example, could lead to arthritis in the knee, which simply never improves. Many young people with degenerative knee injuries hobble around as if they are senior citizens.
Paralysis, or the loss of voluntary movement in parts of the body, is life changing for both the victim and his or her family. In addition to the physical and emotional suffering, paralysis can require significant medical and rehabilitation costs.
According to a study by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, a person who is paralyzed in their legs will incur around $519,000 in medical expenses in their first year. After that, they incur about $69,000 in medical expenses each year. The costs are much higher if someone is paralyzed in all four limbs.
There are two types of injuries that typically account for paralysis: those with spinal cord damage or those with brain damage. Unfortunately, treating paralysis is extremely difficult, though there are novel medical treatments hitting the market all the time.
Paralysis takes its toll not only on the victim but also on family members. A couple’s marriage can be completely changed when one partner is paralyzed. In some cases, the uninjured spouse might have a legal claim for loss of consortium, which covers the loss of companionship and sexual intimacy.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), an estimated 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury occur each year. The primary cause of these injuries is motor vehicle accidents, including car, truck, and motorcycles.
The spinal cord acts as a conduit for neural signals from the brain to the rest of the body. When the spinal cord is torn, nicked, stretched, or bruised, then the ability to transmit signals is disrupted. When the spinal cord is cut in two, then no signals will pass.
Injuries to the spinal cord can be one of the most incapacitating types of injury, causing everything from paralysis to limited mobility and chronic pain. Spinal cord injury can also result in long-term medical and rehabilitation costs.
Fortunately, there are new treatments that help repair the spinal cord or that allow signal transmission past the damaged part of the cord. However, none of these treatments are cheap. Someone with a spinal cord injury is looking at a lifetime of expenses trying to treat their condition and take care of themselves.
Tendons connect muscles to bones and can be found around the body. When a tendon is torn, it can often result in an extended period of pain or sometimes even permanent pain and suffering. In many cases, expensive surgical procedures and rehabilitation are necessary to heal the tendon.
Minor tears and stretches might respond well to rest, ice, compression, and elevation—the so-called RICE treatment. But more serious tendon injuries can leave a person laid up in bed for months as they await adequate healing.
One common tendon injury affects the Achilles at the back of the foot. When this is torn, a person might be unable to walk and need a wheelchair for months.
Surgery involving tendons is often less invasive than other types of surgeries. But it would be a mistake to assume that there are no risks associated with it. Some people will need multiple surgeries until a damaged tendon fully heals.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the result of a blow or violent jolt to the head. While this life-altering injury can have symptoms such as loss of consciousness, seizures, subdural hematomas, amnesia, skull fractures, dizziness, sensory loss, depression, and tinnitus, milder forms of TBI can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. A person does not have to lose consciousness to suffer a traumatic brain injury, though many victims do.
TBI victims often will incur significant medical expenses and may require ongoing rehabilitation and care, in addition to lost past and future wages. Some people with serious TBIs are rendered in a vegetative state. Others can slowly climb their way back to a normal life with massive amounts of rehabilitation. Some patients benefit from speech, behavioral, and physical therapy.
If you have suffered a TBI, then the stress it can put on the rest of your family is considerable. Many people who suffer serious TBIs need around-the-clock care, which often falls onto family members like a spouse or adult children. Properly calculating the true cost of a serious traumatic brain injury is daunting and requires an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney’s help.
Wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misdeeds of others, whether an individual, corporation or other entity. Wrongful death cases provide an important way for surviving family members to hold the person responsible for their loved one’s death legally accountable.
Oddly, Virginia law did not always allow wrongful death lawsuits. If a victim was struck and killed in a car accident, the lawsuit died with the victim. Now, family members can seek compensation for a variety of losses, such as the loss of companionship and lost future income. They can also receive money to cover the cost of funeral and burial.
It is important to realize that wrongful death lawsuits are not criminal in nature. The prosecutor does not bring the case, and you can sue a defendant even if his or her conduct does not rise to the level of a crime. For example, a person who carelessly backs up their car and strikes someone probably has not acted criminally. However, this negligence is enough to support a wrongful death lawsuit.
Don’t Overlook Emotional Distress
Personal injury clients in Virginia can also receive compensation for their emotional distress. Many bodily injuries cause intensely negative feelings which can completely change a person’s life for the worse. Many friends and family also feel the negative effects of this emotional distress.
For example, you might feel any of the following after an accident:
Some personal injuries might not be expensive to treat but are emotionally devastating. For example, someone who suffers a laceration on their face might have to live with an unsightly scar for the rest of their lives. Though the medical care only cost a few thousand dollars, and though the victim did not miss any work, she might be so embarrassed that she withdraws socially. Though no amount of money will get the victim her old face back, compensation can help blunt the pain she feels.
Proving emotional distress is complicated. Some jurors believe that victims are exaggerating their distress, so they hesitate to award any money. We can discuss strategies for documenting how you are feeling, including whether you should keep a journal or whether your therapist should offer testimony on your behalf.
How to Strengthen Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Obtaining compensation after an accident is no easy matter. Many defendants have few resources, and large businesses often go all out to deny claims or minimize the amount that they need to pay.
Serious personal injuries deserve serious compensation. But there are often many hurdles that a person needs to clear before they finally get the financial relief that they deserve.
Based on our decades of experience, we would encourage a victim to do the following:
Carefully document the accident that led to your injury. Proper documentation will depend on the accident. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, then call the police to come out to the scene and file a proper police report. Also use your phone to take pictures of all damage to the vehicles. Similarly, if you slipped and fell in a store, then you should consider getting a picture of whatever you slipped on, whether it is a puddle of water, a cable on the floor, or worn carpeting.
Identify witnesses. Personal injury cases revolve around fault. It is hard to reconstruct what happened months after the fact, and the defendant might point the finger at our client as being responsible for their own injuries. Witnesses can help testify as to what really happened. Get their names and contact information so your attorney can speak to them, if need be.
Don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster. Often, the adjuster is fishing for information they can use against you. In particular, they might try to get a victim to minimize their injuries by saying something like, “But your pain wasn’t that bad, right?” It is easy for a person who is just going along with the flow of conversation to agree to that. But the adjuster has your statements on record and will use them later.
An adjuster might also try to get you to admit fault for the accident. See the discussion on contributory negligence below for why this is so scary and something that accident victims need to avoid.
Remember also to get treated for your injuries as soon as possible. Prompt treatment really helps strengthen a case in a couple ways. For one, it fully documents that you were injured. A jury doesn’t have to rely on just your testimony that you broke your hip when they can look at an x-ray or other imaging test and see the fracture with their own eyes.
Second, prompt treatment aids in recovery. The sooner you get better, the faster you can return to work. You can also maximize your compensation if you didn’t aggravate your injuries, and following your doctor’s orders is just the way to do that.
More about Contributory Negligence
Virginia has a terrible legal doctrine called contributory negligence. It recognizes that sometimes injured victims were also negligent and contribute to their accidents.
However, contributory negligence can be a complete bar to a personal injury lawsuit. What does that mean, exactly? Brace yourself, because we lay out clear for you below:
Contributory negligence means that a victim who is only 1% responsible for the accident loses out on their ability to get any compensation for their injuries. That’s right: the person who was 99% to blame for your current pain and suffering walks away scot free and doesn’t have to pay you a single dime.
Other states used to recognize this legal doctrine but sensibly changed their policies. In some states, for example, a victim can receive compensation so long as someone else is at least 1% to blame. In other states, a victim can be up to 49% or 50% to blame and still receive compensation, though the amount they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Unfortunately, Virginia is one of the few remaining states that still bars lawsuits unless you are 100% blameless. And the legislature does not seem anxious to change the law any time soon.
For this reason, it is absolutely vital that you do not say anything that makes it sound as if you are accepting any responsibility for an accident. An insurance adjuster might make some harmless statement—“So, you didn’t look both ways before crossing the street, right?” and you might just agree because you aren’t paying attention. But that statement could cost you your lawsuit, and it is hard to walk those types of statements back. Instead, hire a lawyer who will help you prepare your version of events.
Personal Injury Case Timeline
We appreciate that many of our clients are feeling distress, especially financial distress. As medical bills continue to flood your mailbox, you might have no income coming in, especially if you are so badly injured that you cannot return to work. Many accident victims are desperate for compensation and might quickly settle with an insurer.
Unfortunately, cases take time. The good news is that it is often possible to increase the amount of compensation our clients receive if we hold out initially. Quickly agreeing to a settlement rarely works in an injured victim’s favor. Instead, the amount offered is usually much lower than what the client should receive.
Here is the general sequence of a typical personal injury claim:
First, we investigate what happened. We definitely trust our client’s memories of how they were injured, but it helps to supplement their story with other evidence. We can visit a scene of the accident, talk to witnesses, and maybe collect physical evidence. If an accident happened on the street or outside a store, there might be surveillance video we can find.
Second, we request helpful information from the other side. This could include a copy of their insurance policy, the names of any of their witnesses, or other information.
Third, we can submit a written claim to the defendant’s insurance company, laying out why the defendant is to blame and how much we request for compensation. This demand letter might start a back-and-forth negotiation process, with each side trying to reach a fair resolution to the dispute.
The timing of negotiation is key. We typically wait until our client has sufficiently healed so that we know how much to seek for compensation. There’s no reason to quickly reach a settlement only to realize that you need another $50,000 in medical care down the road. Every settlement agreement includes a waiver of future claims, meaning you release the defendant from future legal liability for the accident.
Fourth, we can participate in mediation to help each side reach an agreement. A trained mediator can help each side see the dispute in fresh ways and might offer creative resolutions.
Fifth, when negotiation breaks down, we can file a lawsuit in court. Litigation is rarely ideal and can be time-consuming, but we will do everything necessary to get fair compensation for our clients. The litigation process can take an entire year or more. Fortunately, most of our cases settle without needing to go into court.
Can You Afford an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer?
Negotiating a settlement might sound easy, and there are plenty of articles online that describe the process. However, an attorney is a definite advantage. Our lawyers can properly value your claim—lost wages, medical care, property damage, and intangible losses like pain and suffering. We also know the tricks that insurance companies use to limit their liability.
However, the cost of a lawyer is always a legitimate concern. For this reason, we are pleased to represent our clients on contingency, where we agree to forgo any upfront attorney fees, instead agreeing to take a percentage of your settlement if you win.
Also called “no win, no fee agreements,” contingency agreements are an excellent way to get a seasoned lawyer in your corner for little or no upfront cost. Our clients still have to pay certain costs related to the lawsuit, such as filing fees and mailing costs, but we can discuss how they will be billed.
With a contingency fee agreement, you get a top-flight lawyer at no risk to you. Should we lose your case, then you won’t owe us any fees at all.
Have You Found the Right Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer?
At Hundley & Johnson, we offer injured members of the public a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm. This is a risk-free chance to discuss your case in a confidential setting. Based on what we hear, we can advise you about your chances of receiving compensation, as well as any challenges that your case presents. We can also answer any questions you have.
A consultation is a great way to learn more about a lawyer and a firm. Pay attention to the following:
- How comfortable do you feel asking the lawyer questions? If you are intimidated, then you will probably be unhappy with the lawyer.
- Did the lawyer explain your case clearly? Without clear communication, a client can’t participate meaningfully in their own representation. Be sure to follow up with anything that doesn’t seem clear.
- Did you like the staff, and did they treat you with respect? If not, then the lawyer might not be concerned about client satisfaction.
- Did the lawyer explain how he or she communicates with clients? You don’t want a lawyer who is impossible to get a hold of, or one who only updates you on a case after important decisions have been made. As the client, you are in charge of the critical decisions, and you need to know how and when you can get a hold of your attorney.
Also look for certain red flags. A lawyer whose office is a mess is probably not going to keep client confidence. A lawyer with a tacky website probably is not careful in how they come across to others. These might sound like little things, but they matter.
Always trust your gut. There are many good lawyers out there, so keep checking until you find one that you click with.
Why Hundley & Johnson is the Right Firm for You
Our lawyers have tackled some of the most complex personal injury cases in Virginia. We have worked closely with doctors and accident reconstructionists to fully understand what happened to our clients and we have fought many of the largest insurers in our state.
If you need assistance with your case, please reach out to us today.