Frequently Asked Questions on West Virginia Personal Injury Law
If you have been hurt in a car or truck accident, you probably have a lot of questions about what you are supposed to do to protect your rights and proceed with a claim against the negligent driver and his or her insurance company. While a car accident is a rare event for most, insurance companies and their lawyers deal with them every day. Wilson Law does, too. Below are answers to some of the questions we hear most often from clients injured in auto accidents.
We hope these questions and answers provide you with useful information. If you need more information or want to file a claim against a careless driver, call Wilson Law at (304) 345-5508 for a free consultation or to set up a meeting, your place or ours.
Q. I got rear-ended while I was waiting to make a left turn. The insurance company says I am partly at fault and refuses to pay. They can’t do that, can they?
A. It is true that under West Virginia law, if you are considered to be 50% or more at fault in causing an accident, then you cannot collect any compensation from the other negligent party. However, so long as you are less at fault than the other party or parties, you can still get compensation, although the amount of your recovery will be reduced in proportion to the amount of blame allocated to you. However, don’t simply take the insurance company’s word for it and walk away. They may be overstating any role you had in the accident in order to get out of paying or to negotiate a lower settlement. Talk to an attorney of your own choosing to get an independent evaluation of your claim. You may be entitled to much more than you think. Most injury lawyers will evaluate your case for you for free and won’t charge any fees unless they are successful in getting a recovery for you.
Q. What if the driver who hit me was uninsured and doesn’t have any money of his own? Am I out of luck as far as getting my damages and expenses covered?
A. Despite state law requiring every driver to carry liability insurance, about one in ten of every driver on West Virginia roads is uninsured. To cope with this fact, you should carry Uninsured Motorist coverage in equal amounts to your liability policy, from the 10/20/40 minimum up to the maximum allowed UM coverage of 50/100/300. You will find that the cost of UM coverage is only a relatively small addition to your policy, and it is well worth it if you are hit by an uninsured driver. If filing a claim with your own insurance company under your UM coverage, you should still retain an attorney to represent you and make sure you get full value for your claim. Just because it is “your” insurance company, remember that they make money by keeping their payouts low and employ professional adjusters to minimize what your claim is worth.
Q. We were about to file a lawsuit against the other driver who caused my husband’s car accident, when my husband passed away. Is there any way to hold the other driver accountable for our family’s loss, as well as my husband’s pain and suffering?
A. West Virginia recognizes two types of actions which can help you find justice for your husband and your family. You are entitled to bring a wrongful death action, where you can recover compensation for your losses such as the loss of companionship and guidance of a loved one, the loss of income or services they would have provided, your own grief or sorrow, and the costs of your loved one’s care and treatment and reasonable funeral expenses. In addition, you can bring a survival action on behalf of your husband and recover the compensation he would have been entitled to had he lived, such as his own pain and suffering. These two actions can be brought together in the same lawsuit, providing you with the maximum amount of compensation and holding the other driver fully accountable for the harm that was caused.
Q. Time is running out for me to file an injury claim, and I just got called away to active duty. What can I do?
A. In most West Virginia personal injury cases, you only have two years from the date of an accident or injury to file a lawsuit, and after that your ability to pursue justice through the courts may be denied. However, the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act tolls (suspends) this “statute of limitations” while you are on active duty. In other words, the clock stops and doesn’t begin to run again until you return from active duty. Regardless, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you have been injured by another’s negligence in order to preserve the evidence and retain your rights and ability to obtain the best recovery possible.