February 16, 2021

What Evidence Do You Need to Prove Adultery in Virginia

20-40% of marriages end because of adultery in the United States. According to a study released in 2018 by the Institute for Family Studies, 20% of married men and 13% of married women have admitted to having intercourse with someone besides their spouse.

While adultery may not be as common as media and popular culture makes it out to be, it is still devastating if you find out your spouse is seeing someone else behind your back. In Virginia, adultery is a “fault” grounds for divorce and can be used to start your divorce proceedings immediately.

Before you start driving to the courthouse, it is important to have evidence before beginning your divorce proceedings. Virginia requires a lot of evidence for adultery, and your case for adultery may not be successful if you do not have the evidence the court requires.

If you believe your spouse is cheating on you, make sure to be prepared before filing for divorce.

How Adultery is Defined in Virginia

Every state has their laws and definitions of adultery. In Virginia, adultery is defined by the law as “Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery.”

Under this law, adultery is considered a Class 4 misdemeanor, making it a criminal act. While most spouses accused of adultery do not receive criminal charges during divorce proceedings, this still shows how seriously adultery is taken in Virginia courts.

While adultery is a serious charge, it also requires serious evidence to use as the basis for your divorce. The state requires “clear and convincing” evidence to grant a divorce under these grounds. This means you need substantial proof that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person.

What Evidence Do You Need?

While adultery is a serious charge, it also requires serious evidence to use as the basis for your divorce. The state requires “clear and convincing” evidence to grant a divorce under these grounds.

On top of this, the accused spouse can invoke their Fifth Amendment right and refuse to give any self-incriminating evidence to the court. This means you need substantial proof that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person.

The key is to prove that the spouse did act on their infidelity and did not just plan it. While you can use as much incriminating evidence as you want, only a few can serve as the backbone of your divorce case.

  • Confession: One form of proof is a confession from the spouse that committed adultery. If you have a voice message, text, or email from them admitting to the infidelity, this can form the core of your argument.
  • Corroboration: Virginia requires corroboration of evidence in a divorce proceeding. This means you need a piece of evidence or testimony from a source outside the marriage. Most people resort to a private investigator to gather testimony and photographic evidence.
  • Incriminating messages: Access to emails or text messages between your spouse and the other person can only strengthen your argument. While talking about a romantic dinner or planning to visit a hotel are not evidence that anything happened, they can back up the more definitive pieces of evidence.

These are common examples of evidence used in adultery divorce cases. It is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney before building your case and gathering evidence. This attorney can help you gather the best evidence for your case and build the strongest argument possible.

Common Defense for Adultery Charges

No matter how strong your evidence is, it is important to note that the accused spouse can defend adultery accusations in a few ways. There are in fact 4 ways the accused spouse can defend themselves in court when accused of adultery.

  • Condonation: If a spouse finds out about the adultery and decides to continue the relationship, that’s condonation. Essentially, if you find out that your spouse has cheated and decide to stay with them, you cannot use adultery as grounds for divorce.
  • Connivance/Procurement: One defense is if the “innocent” spouse encourages and facilitates the affair. So, if you intentionally planned or encouraged the infidelity, then adultery cannot be used in your divorce case.
  • Recrimination: If both spouses are cheating, and the accused can prove it, then your adultery argument can be thrown out. Of course, the other spouse has the same challenges as you to prove adultery, so this defense is equally difficult to use.
  • Time-barred: Adultery has a 5-year statute of limitations in Virginia. So, if the infidelity occurred more than 5 years ago, you cannot use it as the basis for a divorce.

It is important to consider every side of your specific situation and take note if your spouse could use these defenses against you.

Defend Yourself with Experience

As you have seen, adultery is not only a serious offense under Virginia law, but it also requires plenty of clear and decisive evidence to prove in a divorce case. Worst of all, the accused spouse has many avenues to use to defend themselves from the accusation, which can ruin your case in an instant.

Because the proceedings can be so sensitive, it is important to have an experienced family attorney on your side. They can use their expertise to create a case based on your specific situation, advising you on what evidence to gather and what steps to take to give yourself a fighting chance in court.

If you are looking for an accomplished and knowledgeable family law attorney, look no further than Cravens and Noll.

Our family law attorneys care about your family getting the compensation and safety it deserves and will work with you to reach the best possible outcome. They can call on decades of experience to offer you the best legal defense.

Schedule a consultation to begin building your divorce case.

February 2, 2021

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy In Virginia

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy in Virginia?

For many, bankruptcy can seem like their last option to save them from mounting debt. If you decide to begin the process of filing for bankruptcy, you may not want to spend money or just want to try to save money. Therefore, you might consider not hiring a bankruptcy lawyer to represent you in court.

While you may think it is cost-effective to not hire an attorney in the short-term, you will pay way more in the long term if anything goes wrong during the filing process. Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process that requires many steps and knowledge to properly navigate. Any wrong step can throw out your case or lead to an unfavorable outcome.  Worse yet, if you do not know the laws, you could put your property at risk.

Before you decide to go in alone, it’s important to understand what it takes to file for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Can You Legally File for Bankruptcy Yourself?

The short answer is yes.

There is nothing legally keeping you from filing for bankruptcy and representing yourself in court. This is called Pro Se, or “filing on your own”.

It is possible to represent yourself, but it requires a lot of time, knowledge, and management skills to successfully pull off.

What Can Go Wrong When Filing for Bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy is a time consuming and complex process that requires a lot of paperwork and time management skills. Many things can go wrong along the way, and you need to have a clear idea of how every step works and what’s required of you.

Because of this complexity, filing either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 requires specific knowledge, paperwork and information and deal in different types of asset management. It can be a lot to handle if your sole focus isn’t on the case.

Here’s what can go wrong:

  • File for the wrong chapter: The most common bankruptcy chapters are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Both types come with different requirements and solve specific problems with your debt. That’s why it’s important to fully understand your situation so you file for the correct chapter.
  • Fail to file all of the required documents: In order to properly file for bankruptcy, you have to complete many lengthy forms from different sources. There’s the federal packet which you’ll find anywhere, along with your local forms provided by the court. If any document is not turned in, your case will be dismissed.
  • Fail to file on time: Even if you do complete all of the required documents, you still need to turn them in to the proper parties at the specific due time. If you fail to do so, your case can be dismissed.
  • Failing to protect property: Part of filing for bankruptcy is taking advantage of property exemptions. Yet, it’s very easy to forget some properties or fail to list the proper exemption. This puts you at risk for losing your valuable property if left unprotected.
  • Failing to take required courses: An important step in filing for bankruptcy is taking the required credit counseling courses from approved providers. If you fail to take the proper financial management course, or don’t file the right certificate, then your case can quickly be dismissed.
  • Fail to properly defend against motions for adversary actions: While most Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases go fairly smoothly if done properly, there’s always the chance that something can go wrong. One of your creditors can challenge whether a debt can be discharged, or the bankruptcy trustee can accuse you of committing fraud. If any of your documents or court motions are filled out improperly, you risk losing your case.

The Benefits of a Bankruptcy Attorney

Bankruptcy cases are complicated no matter what chapter you file for the amount of assets and debts you have. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney before taking the first step.  At Cravens & Noll, we do not charge a fee for the initial consultation. A skilled and experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you:

  • Find the right bankruptcy chapter for your situation
  • Keep track of the documents and financial information you need to file
  • Direct you to the right courses and certifications
  • Create a repayment plan that’s within your best interests and appeases the court
  • Defend you in court in case a creditor, trustee, or judge tries to push back
  • Ensure from the outset that you will receive a discharge and relief from your debt

Consult Richmond’s Finest Bankruptcy Attorneys

When you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, make sure to call the bankruptcy attorneys at Cravens and Noll.  Your initial consultation is at no cost.  There really is no reason not to take some time to see how we can help you.

Our Richmond based law firm has decades of in-court experience in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. We work with you throughout the entire process, defending your best interests and ensure you get back on your feet with a fresh financial start and use your time to focus on other important things in your life.

Schedule a consultation to start taking control of your financial situation.

January 5, 2021

What You Need to Do to File for Bankruptcy

For many people in debt, it can feel like they have nowhere left to turn. After amounting various debts, like late mortgage payments or mounting credit card debt, it can seem impossible to get out of that hole.

One option is to declare bankruptcy. Despite many people filing for bankruptcy, the term and process still has a scary connotation behind it.

Bankruptcy is designed to give debtors a second chance to rebuild their finances with as little stress as possible.

Still, the process of declaring bankruptcy still has some secrecy behind it, and is not without consequences.

In this post, we’ll look at exactly what happens and what you need for when you declare bankruptcy.

Understanding Bankruptcy in Virginia

Before you file for bankruptcy in Virginia, it’s important to understand exactly what it is and how it affects you.

Bankruptcy is a legal process that works to help you pay off your debts. This can be through reduced monthly payments, restructuring your finances or, in rare cases, eliminating your debt.

You can either file on your own, or hire a bankruptcy attorney to help you navigate through the proceedings. With an attorney on your side, they can help you determine what type of bankruptcy you should file under.

Going Through the Filing Process

Before you can officially declare bankruptcy, there are a few steps you need to take. The first one is prior to contacting a lawyer, the others are with the assistance of a lawyer.

1.   Gather Your Complete Financial Records

Before working with anyone, it’s important to have a full understanding of your financial situation. You have to compile your total debts, assets, expenses and income.

You’ll not only have a grasp on your own finances, but this will help your advisors and the court to understand your situation.

2.   Meet with a Bankruptcy Counselor

In the U.S, anyone filing for bankruptcy is required to attend bankruptcy counseling at least 180 days before filing. At Cravens & Noll, after you meet with our bankruptcy attorney, we will refer you to the credit counseling company that you can complete the court required course.

This shows that you have done everything to try and avoid bankruptcy. The counselor must be approved by the U.S. Courts, and these classes can usually be done online or over the phone.

Once you’ve received your certification,  We will obtain the certificate to file along with your other bankruptcy paperwork.

3.   File Your Bankruptcy Petition

It’s time to actually file for bankruptcy. At this point, it’s highly recommended that you hire an attorney.

While not required, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help your case by explaining various laws, the judicial process and legal representation in the court. We work along side our clients to ensure every step of the process is handled professionally and correctly.

4.   Meeting of Creditors / Trustee Hearing

Once your bankruptcy petition is accepted by the court, you’ll be assigned a court trustee. The trustee then sets up a meeting between yourself, your bankruptcy lawyer and the creditors.

It is rare that creditors show up at this meeting, rather it is primarily for the trustee to ask you questions and have you swear under oath that all of the information in your bankruptcy paperwork is correct and true.

It’s important that when you do decide to file, you follow the proper steps. If you fail to do so, it could affect the outcome of your case.

Meet With Our Experienced Bankruptcy Attorneys

Now that you understand how to file for bankruptcy, it’s time to get your affairs in order. Before starting this process, it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side. With a lawyer in your corner, they’ll be able to answer any of your questions, help you get on the right track and represent you in court. The bankruptcy attorneys at Cravens & Noll have years of experience in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.

Contact us today to set up an initial meeting, and begin your journey towards freedom from debt.

December 16, 2020

Who Is Liable in a Nursing Home Injury or Abuse Case in Virginia

Deciding how to best care for your elderly loved ones is not an easy choice. You want to make sure you can find a nursing home or assisted living facility you can trust to take care of an important member of your family. 

You expect the nurses and employees to treat your elderly family with respect and the utmost of care. They also need to maintain their health by giving them their proper medication and responding to medical emergencies. The most common issues with patients who are improperly cared for are bed sores, cuts or bruises, dehydration, urinary tract infections and weight loss. 

When a staff member of the facility fails to do their job, your loved one could be injured, or worse, lose their life. In this case, you will want to hold the assisted living facility accountable. But, it can be daunting to know everything you need to build a strong case.

In this blog post, we’ll go over how to determine who is liable in a nursing home abuse case in the state of Virginia. 

What Counts as Negligence or Abuse?

When you and your loved ones sign up to join a nursing home, that facility is contractually agreeing to offer proper care and medical attention. These services are their “duty of care” and include:

  • Food & Water
  • Shelter
  • Hygiene
  • Medical care
  • Therapy
  • Physical activity
  • Repositioning movement for the bedridden

Our elderly are entitled to reasonable care from nursing home facilities and caretakers. If these basic needs are not met, or a patient is directly abused, then the facility and staff needs to be held accountable.

The difficulty comes from determining specifically what is “reasonable care,” as it changes from case to case. Every patient has different needs that need to be established and clearly defined. Therefore, each case involves defining reasonable care for the victim, and then determining who is responsible for that lack of care. 

While you may have to define your specific case’s version of “reasonable care,” there are some common examples of neglect or abuse within nursing homes.

  • Poorly training staff
  • Failure to perform proper staff background checks
  • Inadequate security
  • Failure to provide basic necessities, like food, water, clean living facilities 
  • Failure to properly administer medication
  • Failure to protect from health and safety hazards
  • Intentional abuse or neglect from staff
  • Failure to properly change diapers and bedding
  • Falure to properly document, follow and treat ulcers or bed sores. 

How to Determine Liability

If evidence or proof exists that your elderly loved one has suffered an injury or death due to negligence, it’s important to know who caused it. This is to say, you need to determine if the problem is with the facility, an individual at the facility, or a third party. 

The nursing home would be responsible if the abuse was caused by their negligence, like in the examples given above. These stem from systemic issues, making the facility at fault. 

Even if an individual employee is perpetuating the abuse, the fault still generally rests on the facility. The nursing home should be training their employees and keeping tabs on them to keep horrible accidents and intentional harm from happening to their patients

Sometimes, the abuse can come from third parties outside of the facility’s control. Let’s say a patient suffers an injury from falling off a wheelchair. While someone’s first assumption might be to blame the nursing home, the issue could be with the wheelchair manufacturer. The fault could also be put on a contractor who improperly built the walkway.

It’s important to understand who could be at fault for the neglect and abuse your loved ones may suffer. By knowing who or what is responsible, you can make a stronger case in court. 

What Are the Next Steps?

If you suspect in any way that your elderly loved ones have suffered abuse at an assisted living facility, you should first call your local Adult Protective Services office. These social workers help to protect elderly adults by conducting investigations and finding evidence for the suspected abuse. Call the Richmond office at (804) 646-7405 to report elder abuse or neglect. 

After you’ve spoken with APS, it’s important to call a lawyer ASAP. The experienced attorneys at Cravens and Noll understand how heartbreaking it is to see your elderly loved ones mistreated. That’s why we will work with you during every step of the case, from the APS investigation to creating your case, all the way to defending your family in court. We have 35 years of experience and have recovered millions of dollars for our clients and their victimized family members. If you want to even the playing field, call Cravens & Noll.

Contact us to hold negligent nursing homes accountable and get your family the compensation they deserve.

November 7, 2020

What Happens If I Declare Bankruptcy

The simple answer to this question is that most or all of your debts are cleared when you declare bankruptcy. Of course, this also depends on the particular chapter that you file under. Regardless, bankruptcy is what happens when the debts you owe outweigh the amount of money you make in order to pay those debts.

Oftentimes, bankruptcy is the final resort for people who are looking for a fresh start to their finances and a way to clean their slate of dischargeable debts.

In this blog post, we’ll go over all the basics you should know when it comes to filing for bankruptcy.

When to File for Bankruptcy

There are few telltale signs that indicate it may be time to consider filing for bankruptcy. While there tends to be a negative connotation associated with bankruptcy, it can offer more advantages for those in serious revolving debt than not.

If you are experiencing the following, consult with a qualified bankruptcy lawyer at Cravens & Noll to discuss your filing options:

  • Your wages are being garnished
  • You’re using credit cards to pay for everything
  • You’re using your retirement account to pay for bills

If any of these are happening to you, and you find that you are in what seems to be an unending cycle of debt piling on top of debt, it may be time to declare bankruptcy.

When you successfully file, whether it’s Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, a court-mandated automatic stay is put on your account which prevents creditors from trying to collect on your debts. This means they can’t garnish wages, take money from your bank account or try to take any of your other assets.

Chapter 7

Known as the liquidation chapter, this chapter is common for people who are in very severe debt with limited income. Only in very rare cases does bankruptcy take your state’s nonexempt assets and sells them off to pay creditors. In fact, in almost all Chapter 7 cases you will be able to keep all of your property.

To be eligible for this chapter, you must make under your state’s household income level or go through a “means test” to determine that you don’t have enough disposable income to repay the debts.

Once successfully filed, a filer will be cleared of their dischargeable debts within 3-5 months from the start date of filing. When a debtor files under this chapter, a bankruptcy note on their credit report will remain there for 10 years.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13, referred to as wage earner’s plan, is for the filers who are making a consistent income but still have a large amount of unsecured and/or secured debt. This filing is usually a 3-5 year repayment plan and, once completed, will clear the debtor of most or all of their debt. When a debtor successfully files under this chapter, there is a court-approved repayment plan that your attorney creates for you. In that plan, the debtor makes regular payments to a bankruptcy trustee who then distributes the funds to the appropriate creditors/lenders. You can modify the loans that you have outstanding debts on per your repayment plan in this chapter.

Because you are still making payments on your loans when you file under this chapter, the bankruptcy note on your credit report will remain there for 7 years as opposed to Chapter 7’s 10 years.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Bankruptcy Filings

The primary reason to file for bankruptcy is that it gives debtors a fresh start to begin rebuilding their finances. More times than not, bankruptcy is a last resort for people dealing with a revolving door of debt. A bankruptcy filing also prohibits creditors from attempting to collect during the filing process, relieving debtors of that additional stress.

The disadvantages that come with a bankruptcy filing are usually due to how it affects a filer’s credit score. Regardless of if you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, there will be a note on your credit report, making it a bit more difficult to receive loans.

On the positive side, the process of filing, whether it’s Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, gives you a chance to rebuild your score and, oftentimes, requires a credit counseling/financial literacy course to help debtors become more aware of how to properly handle their finances.

Bankruptcy Attorneys at Cravens & Noll

The first step in any process of a bankruptcy filing is to get connected to a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Speaking first with a lawyer will help clear up which chapter you are best suited to file under, what property you can keep (which often is all of your property), which assets are protected by your state and which is the best repayment plan (if you file under Chapter 13) for you.

The lawyers at Cravens & Noll P.C. have hundreds of cases and can help you understand the benefits and risks of filing for any chapter of bankruptcy.

Are you thinking about filing for bankruptcy? Get in touch with us today to handle your financial needs.


October 6, 2020

What Should Be Included in a Divorce Settlement

Getting a divorce can be a long and difficult process. Emotions are high as you end what you thought would last forever.

One of the most contested yet important parts of a divorce is writing up the divorce settlement agreement. This process involves sitting down with your ex-spouse and determining how you both will split your assets.

Reaching an agreement can be stressful, especially if the other party is uncooperative or you go in without a plan.

You may not fully understand what should be included in the agreement.

While there are plenty of assets that need to be split between a divorced couple, there are some common items that every agreement should include.

This post will help to dispel any general questions or concerns you might have about creating a divorce settlement agreement.

How A Divorce Attorney Can Help You

A lawyer argues for your best interests. These agreements can be made before or after you officially separate, but it’s recommended that you complete the agreements.

This helps the divorce process go smoothly, helping you avoid any extra lawyer fees or complications in court.

It’s recommended that you hire a family law attorney to advise you during the agreement proceedings. Your attorney will fight for your rights and help both you and your spouse reach a compromise on certain points.

How Does a Divorce Settlement Work?

When you and your spouse decide to separate, you both need to determine who gets what assets and, if with children,  how you both plan to support them.

The point of a divorce settlement agreement is to put these plans in writing to make them legally binding.

Every marriage is different, meaning your separation isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. While there are common elements of each divorce settlement, like splitting assets and determining child support, you should consider what you both want, specifically.

Begin By Gathering Necessary Documentation

You should gather as much documentation or information as it relates to salaries over the past several years, values of investments, amounts of debt, and values of real estate, and tax returns.  You do not have to have every document before meeting with an attorney, but it is helpful to begin the drafting of a divorce agreement if you have this information.

Be as Detailed as Possible in Your Agreement

When starting your divorce agreement, it’s important to include as much relevant information as possible.

This information helps the court to understand the conditions of your marriage and separation.

While you should consult with an attorney to make sure you don’t leave anything out, here are some standard pieces of information to include:

  • Date of your marriage
  • Date of your separation
  • Why you’re getting divorced
  • If you have any, the names and ages of your children
  • Your current living arrangements and addresses

Find and Divide Your Assets

This is when tensions begin to rise in a divorce proceeding. It’s important to fairly divide the assets between each spouse. These assets include any properties or debts shared by the spouses.

This can include cars or houses, along with their respective loans and payments. This is where having an attorney comes in handy.

They will:

  • Protect your best interests during these proceedings
  • Help you both figure out all of your assets
  • Help you accurately divide them.

As you both figure out how to split your shared assets, it’s important to compromise on certain items and stay steadfast on others.

Deciding Child Custody

Child custody is probably the most contested agreement in any divorce.

Deciding child custody and creating a parenting plan are emotionally charged discussions between two spouses. You both love your children and want what’s best for them.

Be sure to figure out the plan that’s best for them, not yourselves.

You can choose between one parent having sole and physical custody, joint legal custody with one parent have primary custody, shared legal and physical custody, and split custody

Sole custody:

  • One parent is the physical custodian and decision maker, while the other is given reasonable access to the child for visitation

Joint Legal Custody:  

  • Both parents have equal say for important decisions, one parent has physical custody and the other parent has visitation.

Shared Custody:

  • Both parents share equally say for important decisions, and both parents have significant time with the child/children.
  • Does not have to be 50/50, it can be that one parent has weekends during school and equal time during the summer.  The custodial time can vary depending on the parent’s schedules and the best interest of the children.
  • If both parents can work reasonably well together, this is often times the best for the children.

Split custody:

  • Is fairly rare
  • It involves one parent being responsible for one child, while the other is responsible for another child.
  • This plan is usually only used in special circumstances, like if there are many children or if the child is old enough to make their own decisions.

Agreeing on Child and Spousal Support in Virginia

When determining how much should be paid towards child support, the amount is based on what state you’re in.

Virginia has a calculator to determine how much child support one may have to pay depending on incomes, health insurance and daycare costs.

Spousal support is much more difficult to determine. This is often times the most difficult issue to negotiate and settle in a divorce agreement.

While you cannot keep a child from receiving support, you can waive your spousal support, also known as alimony.

Double Check Everything In The Settlement

Before you turn in your divorce settlement, make sure you double check everything in the document.

Make sure all of your spelling and grammar is correct and that both you and your spouse agree on the terms.

This is one of the most important steps of the divorce process. Once the agreement is legally binding, it is what the legal system will refer to when issues with your separation are brought forward.

Divorce Agreement Attorney

Deciding your divorce settlement agreement can be stressful and time-consuming. That’s why you need an attorney you can trust to fight for your best interests.

The divorce attorneys at Cravens and Noll have years of experience in handling all parts of a separation case.

Contact us to schedule a consultation so we can help you during this difficult moment in your life.

September 25, 2020

What To Know About Spinal Cord Injuries in Virginia

Spinal cord injuries are among the most devastating of accident injuries. A spinal injury happens when an injury occurs in the spinal cord, such that the nerves can no longer effectively communicate between the brain and the body.

Physicians spend years studying the anatomy of injuries associated with the spinal cord. The spine is incredibly complex and can cause hundreds of physical ailments. Even minor injuries to the spinal cord can leave life-long consequences, from numbness or pain to paralysis.

If you or a loved one is dealing with a spinal injury caused by the negligence of another person, business, or other entity, connect with a Richmond personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Victims of major spinal injuries often feel isolated. Few people understand their struggle.  Fortunately, there are many medical facilities and spinal cord injury attorneys who have experience in these cases. They can help with the struggles you may be facing now, and help you get the money you need to pay for the expensive and specialized care you require.

Top Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

The causes of spinal cord injuries (SCI) can come in nearly any form and it’s important to recognize the potential causes of these injuries.

Statistics compiled by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center show 38.4% of spinal injuries are caused by vehicle and pedestrian accidents. Another 30.5% of all cases are caused by slip and falls. Acts of violence, primarily from gunshot wounds, cause 13.5% of spinal injuries. Sports account for 8.9% of these injuries. However your spine was injured, the consequences can seem overwhelming and life-altering. For many, their life and that of their families will never be the same.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Note that no two injuries are the same. The location of the injury and the severity of the damage determines your diagnosis and your prognosis for recovery.

It’s important to remain hopeful. With a proper diagnosis, there are patients who beat the odds and have greater recoveries than doctors expected. For others, even with the best care in the world, the injuries are unrecoverable and paralysis permanent.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) categorizes the degree of severity of spinal injuries into two categories:

Incomplete injury

  • Some sensation and movement are possible below the injury

Complete injury

  • Motor control and sensation are almost completely lost

Additionally, the NIH places spinal cord injuries into the categories of tetraplegia or paraplegia.


  • Tetraplegia used to be known as “quadriplegia”.
  • It is defined as any person who has a spinal injury from the T1 in the upper back up to the C1 vertebra in the neck.
  • Individuals who have suffered these injuries lose function, sensation, or movement in the legs, pelvis, upper chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck and/or head area.


  • Paraplegia is defined as an individual who has suffered a loss of sensation, movement, or function in the lower part of the body.
  • This can be in the chest, stomach, hips, legs, and/or feet.
  • The injury occurs between the T2 and S5 vertebrae.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are many physical symptoms of minor spinal cord injuries that should not be ignored.

Not all injuries develop immediately after impact and diagnosing these injuries can be complicated.

Previous damage to the tissue surrounding the spinal structure will slowly apply pressure to the spinal cord.

As a result, spinal structure tears might not show up on the first day and often take some time to develop.

Physicians advise any individual who has had a significant injury to the back to see a doctor as soon as possible. An experienced physician can review your symptoms, run tests, and ask questions to diagnose the specific condition.

Here are some symptoms of spinal cord injuries:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bowel control difficulty
  • Partial or complete loss of bladder control
  • Twisted back or neck
  • Excessive back pain
  • Extreme pressure in the head, neck or back
  • Trouble walking
  • Balance issues
  • Numbness or strange sensations in the feet or toes
  • Numbness or unusual sensations in the hands or fingers

Compensation in SCI Cases in Virginia

When another party is found negligent for your injuries in an accident in Virginia, you could receive a substantial monetary award. Recovery time for these injuries is often measured in years, not days or weeks.

Unfortunately, many of these injuries carry life-altering, permanent disabilities.

Your injury compensation may include payment for rehabilitation, assistive devices like motorized wheelchairs, ongoing medical care, and even home modifications for stairlifts or access ramps.

This is but one of the reasons to speak with an experienced attorney who has dealt with multiple spinal structure injuries, and the range of treatments and providers this care requires.

The goal of the legal system is to restore your life to a pre-accident condition through monetary compensation as much as possible. A judgment award can’t make you walk again, but can help you pay for the ongoing care and treatment you will require throughout your life.

Get Help For Your Injury

If you or your loved one has been injured, it is always important to see a physician as soon as possible. This is especially true for spinal cord injury scenarios.

If the insurance company investigates your case and sees you were not treated by a physician soon after the incident occurred, they may try to argue your injuries are not that serious, or were caused after the accident and are unrelated to the crash.

When choosing your personal injury lawyer, it is important to work with a team of attorneys who have many years of knowledge and experience working with spinal cord injury victims.

The Virginia law firm of Cravens & Noll, P.C. has successfully represented victims of spinal injuries for 34 years and are ready to confidently help you get the justice you deserve, and the medical care you need.

Get in touch today to schedule a consultation to discuss your legal options and how we can help you.

September 18, 2020

What Are The Stages of Separation in Divorce

No fault divorce requires that you are separated from your spouse for at least a year. (This can be as little as six months if you have a signed agreement in place and no minor children together.

During this stage in the divorce, your marriage may feel like it’s in limbo. You may feel confused on what is or is not allowed between you and your spouse or between yourself and the dating scene.

In some Virginia courts, legal separation doesn’t mean you have to live under two separate roofs. So long as you have been abiding by standards of “in-home” separation, it may count depending on the circumstances (having children together, for instance, makes it very difficult to prove you are separate under the same roof). To do so, there should be physical separation (i.e. two separate rooms or two separate houses) and an intention to divorce.

Practically speaking, this looks like you and your spouse not interacting at all as spouses. You don’t cook for each other. You don’t do the other spouse’s laundry. You don’t maintain joint bank account.

This gives you a silver lining to the separation period. The feelings of limbo can give you a slow transition that will help you and your spouse work through the emotional stages of separation.

Like many losses in life, the loss of a relationship requires a healthy amount of grieving before you can emotionally move on.

The widely recognized 5 stages of grief come from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying.” While everyone processes grief in their own way, psychologists recognize that most people go through their own order and timeline of the same 5 stages.

Denial: Struggling to Accept Finality

In the denial stage of separation, you may struggle with accepting that divorce is really happening. This is an okay feeling to experience at this stage. It’s part of making peace with your inner optimist.

The part that can be problematic is when you try to rationalize the failings of your relationship that led to divorce to start with.

Moving on from this stage involves feeling certain of your decision. You’ll be ready for the next stage when you’re sure that the relationship is better off ending.

Anger: Struggling to Accept Peace

The next emotional stage to separation in divorce comes off the heels of accepting that this is really happening to you and your spouse. If you successfully processed your denial, you will naturally feel anger at your spouse’s or your own failings.

While these may feel like toxic thoughts, it may be a necessary stage for you to go through. Grappling with accepting peace instead of anger may lead into pursuing temporary feelings of peace. That’s where bargaining comes in.

Bargaining: Struggling to Accept True Justice

Bargaining is an attempt to find temporary relief for the uncomfortable feelings of separation. You may try to find ways to get back with your spouse. Perhaps you may be tempted to bargain away some of your rights to your children, your principles or your happiness.

Bargaining feelings are normal. If you can recall how you processed your feelings in stage one, it may help you in this stage. You can remind yourself of the finality of your divorce decision.

This stage poses a unique threat to your divorce. In Virginia, the separation period must be marked by an intention to divorce.

If you are faltering in your intention to divorce, you may threaten your rights or agree to compromises that aren’t in your best interests.

Depression: Struggling with Feeling Trapped

This stage of separation in divorce can be the result of the stage before it. If you’ve realized that you can’t bargain your way out of the situation, you may feel trapped. It’s correct, none of the easy ways to bargain your way out of the situation will help. But this feeling may make you feel depressed.

While it may be normal to feel depressed, if it begins to hurt your quality of life or you have feelings of suicide, get help. Separation and divorce can be difficult, and it’s okay to feel the weight of your decision, but severe depression and suicidal thoughts are dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

When you’ve processed your feelings of depression, you should be ready to accept the emotional freedom that comes with your decision to divorce.

Acceptance: Hope for Your Post-Divorce Future

Very few people skip the previous 4 stages of separation and jump to the stage of acceptance. It takes time to process how you feel through each of the 4 previous stages of separation.

The payoff, however, is worth it.

The acceptance stage is the strongest stage for you in your separation from your spouse. You can protect yourself from feeling down on your luck, feeling vindictive or being too willing to bargain your way into a bad post-divorce arrangement.

From the expertise of a team of divorce lawyers serving the Richmond, Chesterfield and Harrisonburg areas of Virginia, this is the ideal stage to approach your divorce proceedings from. It helps us help you get the best arrangement for you and your family after your divorce.

If you have any additional questions about divorce in Virginia, check out our other articles on our website or give us a call.

September 8, 2020

Limitations In Filing Personal Injury Claims Against the Government

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a person or business’s negligence, then you have the option to sue for damages. The same holds true if your injury involves the government.

While the rules are strict, the federal government, most states, and most local governments allow citizens to sue them for various enumerated reasons. There are restrictions involved, and not every government body follows the same rules. Cravens & Noll can aide you in working through the rules to achieve maximum compensation.

In this post, we’ll list some of the common rules and procedures for filing personal injury claims against the government.

Everywhere is Different

Federal and state governments in the United States are technically unable to be sued thanks to Sovereign Immunity. This doctrine states that a government body cannot be sued unless they give consent. 

Luckily, the federal government provided this consent by passing the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in 1946. Most states, including Virginia, have also passed their own versions of the Tort Claims Act to allow private parties to sue the government. 

Cities and counties within a state are afforded even less immunity and are not included in the state Tort Claims Act. These smaller government bodies have to pass their own legislation in order to be sued. Most cities and towns in the United States may be successfully sued.

What Does The FTCA Do?

The FTCA dictates that the federal government can be held accountable for personal injuries sustained on government property or caused by employees of the government. 

For example, a postal service van runs into your car, or you sustain an injury from a slip and fall at an unemployment office. In these cases, you might have reasonable cause to sue the federal government for damages due to negligence. 

The FTCA also dictates how much a claimant may recover from a personal injury case. The FTCA regulations do not apply to the Virginia Tort Claims Act (VTCA), since it has its own set of limitations. 

Regulations For Suing the Government

Federal Government

The FTCA lists many limitations and exceptions for bringing a claim against the government. Since there are so many, it’s impossible to list them all in this article. For now, there are a few common rules we can list:

  • The FTCA allows federal employees to be sued; however, often private contractors hired by the federal government enjoy the same immunity of the government.
  • The negligence must have occurred within the scope of the defendant’s job.
  • Only negligence claims are covered by the FTCA, while intentional misconduct claims only apply to certain federal law enforcement officers.
  • The claim must be based on and allowed by the state law where the accident happened.

Steps to File a Claim Per the FTCA

Once you believe that your personal injury case is compensable by the FTCA, there are a few steps and procedures you must follow.

  • You must file a claim with the federal agency that caused your accident.
  • You must file your claim within two years of the exact day of the accident.
  • You must include specific claims for money damages and the essential and qualifying facts about the accident for the federal agency to conduct an investigation

Once filed, the federal agency has six months to respond to your claim. They can either deny your claim, which can lead to a court case, or admit your claim, therefore admitting fault. In the latter case, the agency will usually make an exception to pay your damages. You may decide to accept or reject that offer.

If the agency denies your claim, you then have six months to file a lawsuit against them. It’s best to file this as soon as possible. 

It’s important to note that you don’t have to file a lawsuit until the federal agency responds to your initial claim. You have the option to file the lawsuit before their response so long as it is six months after you have provided proper and adequate notice of your claim.

Virginia State Government 

Under the VTCA, there are similar rules to the FTCA, but the limitations are different.

  • You have one year to file your claim against a specific state agency.
  • These claims must also include specific information about the monetary damages and details of the accident.
  • If your claim is against the state of Virginia, you must file your claim with the Director of the Division of Risk Management or the Attorney General.
  • If you have a claim against one of the nine transportation districts in Virginia, you must file the claim with the chairman of the commission of the transportation district where your accident and injury took place.

The VTCA also specifies that a plaintiff can only receive damages up to $100,000, while the FTCA’s limit is much higher at $1 million.

Personal Injury Lawyers On Your Side

Deciding to sue a government body can be complicated and stressful. Just like a normal personal injury case, you are entitled to damages due to someone else’s negligence. That fact doesn’t change just because a government agency is involved.

Before filing your claim, speak with our lawyers at Cravens and Noll. Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will help you navigate through the FTCA and VTCA to ensure your case is legitimate from the get-go. If the case goes to court, we’ll be more than ready to defend your rights and get you the damages payout you need to be made whole. If you have been seriously injured, you need Cravens & Noll. We successfully sue the government frequently. Our experience and our passion will guide you to success!

September 1, 2020

Pedestrian Injuries From Driver Recklessness

According to the CDC, 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2017. That translates to one death every 88 minutes in the United States.

Pedestrian injuries and deaths from traffic accidents are unfortunately all too common. More often than not, they’re caused by reckless drivers putting other lives in danger, either by drinking, speeding, driving recklessly, inattentively or using a cell instead of operating their vehicle.. 

If you have been injured or know someone who was killed or seriously injured due to reckless driving, you are entitled to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. In this blog, we’ll go over what causes these accidents and what pedestrians can do to hold reckless drivers accountable.

What Counts as Reckless Driving in Virginia?

The definition of reckless driving is fairly universal and self-explanatory. In Virginia law, reckless driving is defined as someone who drives their vehicle “on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.”

Within this definition, reckless is defined as “a careless disregard by the driver of a motor vehicle for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb or property.”

This definition begs the question, what specifically counts as reckless driving? 

There are some fairly common examples:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Failing to follow traffic laws and signs
  • Ignoring weather conditions 

What Are The Costs For The Driver?

If a driver causes an accident while doing any of these actions, they may be considered a reckless driver and can be charged as such. 

Reckless driving is a class one misdemeanor and can lead to many penalties. Legally, these include a $2,500 fine, suspended license, and in extreme cases, jail time. Monetarily, reckless driving can cause an increase in your automobile insurance and loss of a job due to a conviction.

The charges can get more severe depending on the circumstances of the accident. If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they’ll also be charged with a DUI. If the driver left the scene without exchanging information, then they could be charged with hit and run.

If the accident leads to a victim’s death, the driver could be charged with vehicular or involuntary manslaughter. This charge is only applied in extreme cases, where the driver’s recklessness goes beyond simple negligence, or there was a fatality or serious injury involved. 

What Are The Costs For The Pedestrian? 

While a reckless driver does face consequences after causing an accident or death, the damages towards the pedestrian can be worse and longer lasting. 

There are the physical damages that a victim faces from being hit by a car. These can range from bruises and scratches, and escalate to broken bones or lost limbs. Worst all, a reckless driver can cause someone to lose their life.

Beyond the physical damages, there are economic damages that a victim of reckless driving can sustain. These include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Physical therapy treatment
  • Medical accessories like crutches or wheelchairs 
  • Job loss due to injuries
  • Replacement or repair of personal property
  • Future medical expenses and lost wages

Both physical and economic damages can lead to emotional damages, such as:

  • The pain and suffering caused by the accident
  • Loss of personal interactions due to injuries
  • Loss of a limb or a sense, like hearing or sight
  • Inability to perform simple tasks in your day-to-day life

How Do I Hold A Reckless Driver Accountable?

If you’ve suffered any of the damages listed here, or want to discuss the effects a reckless driving accident has had on your life, you need to speak with an experienced attorney.

The attorneys at Cravens and Noll are well-versed in personal injury law, specifically in reckless driving accidents. Our lawyers will work with you to make sure you receive the compensation you need and deserve after a horrible accident. 

Let us be your guide. We have a proven track record of success at trial and pretrial settlement negotiation. If your case is worth a million dollars, we are the lawyers to call.

Call or email us to schedule a consultation today.

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