Car accidents in Virginia have been on the rise since 2020, according to the state’s DMV. The year 2022 saw 122,434 crashes, injuring almost 60,00 people and killing 1,005. In the aftermath of a traumatic car crash, you need to know Virginia’s car accident laws to legally defend yourself.
Reading about Virginia car accident laws can help you:
- Understand what’s covered by your auto insurance policy
- Determine liability (i.e., who’s at-fault for causing your accident)
- Learn what economic damages you may qualify for
Understanding how these laws relate to your case can help you maximize your settlement during the claims process. Even if you have insurance, consulting a Virginia car accident attorney for free is always a smart move.
How to Report a Car Accident in Virginia
When reporting a car accident in Virginia, always pull over and stop to avoid further damage, when possible. This ensures you stay safe while allowing other vehicles to pass.
If you or others in the accident suffer any injuries, call 9-1-1 for medical assistance. You should also call if it’s unsafe to drive one or more vehicles after your accident, or if someone fled the scene of the accident.
Those fleeing the scene of an accident involving injury or death are violating Code of Virginia § 46.2-894 and may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the crash.
Section 46.2-894 also states that the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash must report the accident when:
- Any person is injured or killed
- A vehicle or other property sustains damage
You must report the following to Virginia State Police or local law enforcement after your accident:
- Your name
- Vehicle registration number
- Driver’s license number
Virginia also requires that you must also share this information with:
- Drivers and/or occupants of any other vehicles involved in the crash
- The owner or custodian of any damaged property
- Anyone else injured at the scene who remains conscious
IMPORTANT – If you don’t report, you may be criminally liable under Virginia car accident laws.
It’s also helpful to get:
- Names and contact information for any witnesses who saw your crash
- Descriptions and photos of each damaged vehicle
- Photos and descriptions of the area where the crash occurred
PRO TIP – Know the special considerations for wrecks involving drivers with disabilities, autonomous vehicles, or commercial vehicles. An attorney experienced in Virginia car accident laws can tell you what important laws apply to your claim.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Virginia
Was your accident just a simple fender-bender? Even if you feel fine immediately after, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor. It’s the best way to make sure you don’t have any hidden injuries like whiplash that could develop later. Finally, you’ll have valuable evidence you’ll need to provide when making a potential claim for compensation.
Never agree to forget about the accident and then drive away. You may have bodily injuries or auto damage you won’t notice until after you leave the scene. Worse, you may find out that the other driver filed a lawsuit against you. Failing to take the proper steps required by Virginia car accident laws could cost you more in the long run!
What Not to Say After a Car Crash
Keep the conversation brief and cordial. To avoid incriminating yourself, say as little as possible when exchanging information, especially:
- “I’m sorry.”
- “It was my fault.”
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “Wow, I didn’t even see you!”
- “I think that…”
- “I’m fine!”
- “I’ll warn people to avoid this car wreck mess on social media.”
- “Let’s settle this ourselves without reporting it.”
- “Sure, you can record this conversation.”
- “This is my official statement.”
Is Virginia a No-Fault State?
No, Virginia is an at-fault state, meaning whoever causes the accident must pay for the resulting damages. According to Code of Virginia § 38.2-117, you can sue the responsible driver(s) in court or file a claim with the liable party’s insurer.
Even though Virginia is an at-fault state, you are not required to purchase auto liability insurance for your vehicle. If uninsured, however, you are required to pay the Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee to the DMV along with your registration according to Code of Virginia § 46.2-710.
Driving without insurance is incredibly risky under Virginia’s at-fault laws. If you’re found liable for a crash without insurance, you may face disastrous legal and financial consequences from a lawsuit.
Virginia Car Insurance Laws
Let’s look at the insurance requirements outlined in Code of Virginia §46.2-472 if you choose to insure your vehicle.
If you choose to insure your car, your policy must include these three kinds of coverage:
- Bodily injury liability insurance. This covers claims and cases you are responsible for under state law. If someone else is driving your car, this coverage also applies to those injury accidents. It includes non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) and economic damages, like lost wages.
- Property damage liability insurance. This covers property damage claims from accidents you are liable for, or another person driving your car at the time of the crash. Examples might include the other person’s vehicle repair costs or replacing destroyed sports equipment in that car’s trunk.
- Uninsured motorist insurance. If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver, this policy covers your bodily injury and property damage costs. It also covers damages after a hit-and-run accident. And if the at-fault driver’s liability limits aren’t high enough to cover your damages, UI/UM insurance also kicks in.
Your liability coverage must meet these minimum amounts:
- $30,000 for one person’s injury or death
- $60,000 for injury or death claims involving two or more people
- $20,000 for property damage
IMPORTANT – If you’re involved in a hit-and-run and the responsible driver can’t be identified, you must pay $200 in property damage before UI/UM insurance takes effect.
FYI – Get the full details on choosing auto insurance from the State Corporation Commission’s Auto Insurance Consumer Guide.
If you refuse to insure your vehicle, then you must pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee per year. This doesn’t cover you, by the way – it just allows you to drive at your own risk.
Additional Coverage Options
You can also choose other coverage options or plans, including:
- Collision insurance pays for your repair costs if your vehicle flips over or collides with “most objects,” including another vehicle. It applies no matter who’s responsible.
- Comprehensive insurance covers vehicle damages not caused by collisions, regardless of who’s at-fault. Examples include floods or fires, falling objects, broken glass, vandalism, and theft.
- IMPORTANT – This coverage even pays for repair and replacement if your pet chews the upholstery.
- Medical expense insurance pays for all “reasonable and necessary” medical and funeral expenses related to an injury accident. Also known as MedPay, this policy also covers medical costs if you’re struck while walking or another person dies while driving your vehicle.
- IMPORTANT – Typically, this coverage only reimburses for expenses incurred within three years after the accident.
- Loss of income benefits insurance kicks in when your income is reduced or lost as a result of an accident. This policy pays up to $100/week for no more than 12 months for you and your loved ones riding in your car. Additional laws are described in Code of Virginia § 38.2-2201.
- Transportation expenses insurance. Can’t drive your car for more than 24 hours and need to rent one? This should cover those car rental costs. If someone steals your vehicle, the coverage kicks in 48 hours after you report it to the police.
Virginia Contributory Negligence Laws
The insurance adjuster assigned to your case determines who is negligent or at-fault. When a driver’s negligence causes an accident, that driver is considered at-fault. They or their insurer may be required to pay your medical bills, lost wages and other compensation.
In some accidents, every driver involved carries some amount of responsibility. Virginia car accident law uses a pure contributory negligence system. This means if you have any responsibility at all, you aren’t eligible for money damages. Don’t assume you don’t qualify. Contact a Virginia-based auto accident injury lawyer.
Types of Damages in Virginia Car Accident Law
Virginia car accident laws may entitle you to different types of compensation after your crash. An attorney can tell you exactly which damages you may qualify for, based on your injury and accident type.
Economic damages are any money you lost as a direct result of your car accident, such as:
- Auto repairs and maintenance costs
- Unpaid time off in the form of lost wages or other job-related income
- Loss of use of property
These damages also include bodily injury payouts for things like:
- Existing and future hospital bills
- Wages lost because of your accident
- Lab fees
IMPORTANT – MedPay coverage may provide some compensation for medical bills from your car accident, regardless of fault.
Non-economic damages are auto accident losses you cannot provide receipts for or easily measure, including:
- Damage to your reputation
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
- Loss of “consortium” (i.e., affection, companionship, comfort, or sexual intimacy)
It’s almost impossible to get money for non-economic damages without an attorney. That’s why you should always speak with a Virginia auto accident lawyer to maximize any compensation you’re owed.
Virginia Statute of Limitations
There’s a deadline or statute of limitations for filing any injury claim, including car accidents. Virginia car accident laws actually list three different statutes of limitations, depending on the type of claim you file.
PRO TIP – Always file your claim before the statute of limitations ends! If you miss this crucial filing deadline, then you have no way to claim any compensation afterwards.
For Injury in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Code of Virginia section 8.01-243 requires injury cases to be brought within two years of the accident date.
For Vehicle and Property Damage by a Motor Vehicle
The same code states that you have five years to file a property damage claim related to your auto accident.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death
Virginia car accident laws have a slightly different filing deadline for accidents that involve fatalities. Code of Virginia section 8.01-244 starts the two-year statute of limitations on the day the victim dies, which may not be the same day as the traffic accident.
LegalASAP Can Connect You With a Trusted Virginia Auto Accident Lawyer
Every incident is different. Expert counsel can help you navigate the legal process and get the maximum settlement you deserve. Since Virginia auto accident attorneys work on contingency, working with an experienced lawyer is more affordable than you think.
PRO TIP – Learn more about how contingency works.
LegalASAP can connect you with an auto accident attorney who’s quite familiar with Virginia car accident laws and available to review your case. The process is free until after you win a cash settlement. Click below if you’re ready to connect with a local attorney who can help you right away.
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.