All-Terrain Vehicle Safety is a Major Concern

As summer approaches, more and more people are taking to trails throughout West Virginia to enjoy their All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). While ATV are a source of enjoyment for many throughout the Mountain State, unauthorized and unsafe use of ATVs can lead to serious injury or death. 

If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence or recklessness of an ATV rider, the Masters Law Firm is here to help. Call our office today at 1-800-342-3106 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.

ATV Safety Concerns

The state legislature has implemented laws regarding ATV use in West Virginia. If you are going to be riding an ATV this spring and summer, be sure to know the laws and regulations regarding ATV usage. And be aware of other ATVs as well as larger vehicles that you may encounter when you are out riding.

This is especially true for West Virginia’s teenage drivers. No one may operate an ATV with a passenger under the age of eighteen, unless the operator has at a minimum a level two intermediate driver’s license or its equivalent or is eighteen years of age or older. Also, an ATV is meant to operate at speeds of 25MPH or less.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that the US. Consumer Product Safety Commission “reject the manufacture of a transitional, ‘youth model’ ATV for 14- to 16-year-olds that is capable of traveling at speeds up to 38 miles per hour.”

James Perrin, president of the AAP, went a bit further, saying that “Children are not developmentally capable of operating these heavy, complex machines. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns all parents that no child under the age of 16 should drive or ride an ATV.”

Important Safety Guidelines for ATV Riding in West Virginia

  • Wear the Proper Gear: Before you go out on the trail, make sure you put on your helmet, goggles, boots, and gloves. ATVs have a high center of gravity and they can flip over a lot easier than most people think. Dress properly, buckle up, and be prepared.
  • Inspect your ATV before Riding: It is always a good idea to look your ATV over before you go out riding. Check the tires to make sure they have proper pressure and that they are not dangerously worn. Look at all of the wires and cables to make sure they are connected and inspect the chain for links that may be worn down.
  • Do Not Ride Alone: With an activity like ATV riding, it is always better to have someone riding with you in case anything goes wrong. For example, if you were to crash your ATV, it could become a life-threatening situation, and you will want someone there with you to call for help.
  • Follow the ATV/UTV Capacity Limits: Although it is recommended to ride in groups rather than alone, this does not mean having everyone riding on the same ATV. ATVs are smaller and usually equipped for only one rider. A UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) is bigger and can accommodate two riders. Do not go over these limits by piggybacking or side riding – these are very dangerous practices that can get someone hurt.
  • Stay Sober on the Trails: It is no secret that drinking and driving is a deadly combination. The same holds true for drinking and ATV riding. Hold off on the adult beverages until after the riding is over.
  • Stay in Designated Riding Areas: Be sure to ride only on designated trails and other riding areas. Riding on the regular roads is not good for the all-terrain vehicle, but beyond that, it is not safe for you to drive alongside full-sized vehicles.
  • Be Aware of What’s in Front of You: When you are riding, keep your eyes in front of you as much as possible. This is especially true when you are coming up to a road crossing where you might encounter cars and other large vehicles, and when you are riding in poor weather conditions and/or going through rough terrain. When you encounter these conditions, avoid “look backs” to see what your buddy is doing as this can result in unforeseen collisions.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Risks: One of the primary reasons that riders get hurt is because they try to show off by doing wheelies and similar types of stunts. Don’t be one of those that takes foolish risks just to look good or see what the ATV can do, you will end up regretting it.

Injured in an ATV Accident in West Virginia? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Firm

The Masters Law Firm of Charleston West Virginia wants you to stay safe on ATVs and other 4-wheelers this spring and summer. But we also recognize that even if you follow all of the safety guidelines and best practices, you cannot control the actions of others. If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else, we are ready to go to work for you. To set up your free consultation, call us today at 1-800-342-3106 or send us an online message.

Swimming Pool Safety: Keeping your Young Swimmers Safe during the Summer

What is the best way to keep your child safe around the swimming pool this summer? Adults may feel that they have better things to do, but nothing could be more important than to make sure that a functionally able swimmer of teenage or up be watching while children are playing in or around a swimming pool. In the case of an infant or toddler, an adult should be in the pool at arms-length at all times. Even with older children, someone of adult age should be concentrating on them at all times…not checking their cell phone.

According to Time Magazine, drowning is the number two cause of death among young children – only birth defects claim more young lives. Hundreds of young children die in drowning accidents in the US each year, and children between the ages of one and four have the highest drowning rates.

If you are the owner of a swimming pool, it is very important to be proactive and take steps to make sure that those who use your pool are safe. Here are 7 swimming pool safety rules that every owner should follow:

Build a Fence Around the Pool

One of the fundamental swimming pool safety measures is to put up a fence or a similar type of barrier around the pool to ensure that kids cannot swim in it unsupervised. The best type of fence for these purposes is one in which the gate is self-closing and only opens outward. The state does not require a swimming pool fence, but many municipalities do. Check the local ordinances in your area to see if this is mandatory where you live and what the specific requirements are. It would also be a good idea to add an alarm system along with the fence to alert you if the gates to the pool are opened without your permission.

Set and Communicate Pool Safety Rules to Users

It would be a good idea to create a list of official rules for pool area conduct that kids must follow and post them in a place that is visible. Also be sure that your own kids clearly understand these rules. Among them should include:

  • Absolutely no running or roughhousing on the pool deck.
  • No electrical appliances near the pool.
  • No swimming without an adult present.
  • No toys to be ridden around the pool.
  • No dunking or holding anyone underwater.
  • No diving in the shallow parts of the pool.

Speaking of diving, this is the cause of numerous serious and fatal swimming pool accidents. For this reason, it would be a good idea to consider getting rid of your diving board (if you have one) and banning diving altogether in any area of the pool.

Teach Your Children How to Swim

Education is one of the best ways to ensure that your kids are able to swim safely. It does not make them accident proof, but it is a very valuable skill to have in order to stay safe in the water. Swimming lessons are offered year-round, and parent-child swimming lessons can start as young as when your child is one year old.

Empty Blowup/Inflatable Pools After Each Use

If you have a blowup/inflatable pool, be sure to drain it completely after the swimming session is over. Large inflatable pools have become increasingly popular because they are more affordable than inground pools, and although they do not have as hard a surface, they still pose a hazard for children who could fall in if they lean against the soft sides of it. If you do decide to leave your above-ground pool up because you will be using it again soon or for whatever other reason, then it is wise to put up a fence or barrier like you would with any permanent pool.

Have First Aid and Rescue Equipment Nearby

In spite of our best efforts, accidents do happen, and things can sometimes go wrong when a lot of kids get together for summer fun. When this happens, it is important to have a first aid kit handy in case any of the kids get hurt. You should also have a life ring, rescue tube, life hook, or something similar that is in good condition and available to rescue struggling swimmers and bring them to safety. Finally, it would be a good idea as a parent to learn CPR so that you can administer the procedure on the spot if any child ever needs it.

Keep Pool Chemicals Stored and Out of Reach of Children

Pool chemicals like chlorine help keep the swimming water free of germs that may cause disease, but these substances can also be dangerous when large quantities are ingested directly, or when they are improperly mixed. For this reason, it is very important to keep these chemicals stored and locked in an area where children do not have access to them.

Get Anti-Entrapment Drain Covers

The force of the suction from pool and spa drains has been known to trap young swimmers underwater. In fact, the drowning of a 7-year-old girl because of suction pressure prompted Congress to pass the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act back in 2007, which implemented basic safety standards for public pool and spa drains. Although residential pool owners are not subject to this law, it is still strongly recommended that you have anti-entrapment drain covers installed that are compliant with the Act.

Injured in a Swimming Pool Accident in West Virginia? Contact an Established Personal Injury Law Firm

The Masters Law Firm serving all of West Virginia wants you to have a safe and wonderful summer. The season is much too short, so enjoy it safely and to the fullest. And remember, if you ever need our services because of a swimming pool injury or any other type of injury, we are just a phone call away from anywhere in the Mountain State at (800) 342-3106.

Can Insurance Companies Follow Me after an Accident Injury?

When someone gets hurt in an accident and another party is at fault, they are entitled to compensation. And in most cases, recovering compensation will involve dealing with the responsible party’s insurer. An injured individual can handle the claim directly with the insurance company, or they can hire an attorney to handle their case.

As part of the claims process, the insurance company will investigate the accident to find out all of the facts. In some cases, this might involve hiring a private investigator to observe the claimant’s day-to-day activities. Insurance companies do this in order to verify that the claimant is telling the truth about the extent of their injuries.

It sounds creepy that an insurance company could follow you around after an accident injury, but this is not illegal as long as they do not violate your privacy. That said, it is also important to remember that the primary goal of the insurance company is to minimize the value of your claim, so they can pay out as little as possible. With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that the investigator is looking for reasons to cast doubt on the legitimacy of your claim.

What Insurance Company Private Investigators Can and Cannot Do

In general, private investigators are allowed to gather information that is within the public sphere. For example, an investigator could legally follow you while you are going to and from doctor’s appointments, running errands, going out to dinner, or going for a walk in a park. These are all areas that are in the general public, and it is not uncommon for an investigator to perform video surveillance of a claimant participating in these types of activities.

It is important to note that your online activities can also be legally uncovered by insurance investigators. What you do on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and similar platforms could be found by an investigator and used against you.

For example, if you post pictures of you and your family having a good time vacationing at Disneyworld, these photos could be used to argue that the injury didn’t really cause as much emotional distress as you claim it did.

As we talked about earlier, insurance company investigators are not allowed to do anything that violates your privacy. For example, they are generally not allowed to enter private property without permission from the owner, and they are not allowed to perform illegal activities like hacking into your cell phone or other electronic devices.

Private investigators also need to be careful not to follow a claimant too closely. Even if done in public, there is a fine line between performing legal surveillance and stalking. If you believe you are being followed or stalked, you have every right to contact the police to confront that person. After all, you never know if they are from the insurance company or they are someone who intends to do you harm.

How to Deal with Insurance Company Surveillance during an Accident Injury Claim

The fact that the insurance company might be watching you after you file an accident injury claim should not be something to get overly concerned about. As long as you are honest with them and you are not exaggerating your injuries, then you have little reason to worry. That said, the insurance company might use the information gathered by their investigators unfairly and take things out of context to try to damage your claim.

Here are some ways to prevent this from happening:

  • Follow Your Doctor’s Recommendations: Refrain from any physical activities that your doctor has told you not to participate in and wait until you have medical clearance to resume them.
  • Be Mindful of All Public Activities: Before you go out in public, think about how your activity might be interpreted by an insurance investigator. For example, you might feel like it is okay to lift a few heavy grocery bags, but if your doctor has told you not to, then it is better to have someone else get the groceries for you or have them delivered to your home.
  • Stay Off of Social Media: Comments and photos that you post on social media can be used to undermine your claim. The best advice is to stay away from social media until your claim is resolved. But if you must log on, only do so to read other people’s posts.
  • Retain Experienced Legal Representation: In addition to surveillance, there are a number of other tactics that insurance companies might use to diminish the value of an accident injury claim. To ensure that your rights are fully protected, it is highly recommended that you work with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

For accident injury claims in West Virginia, contact the Masters Law Firm for a free consultation and case assessment. We will meet with you to review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. And if we do end up taking your case, we will not charge you any attorney fees unless we recover compensation on your behalf.

To get started, message us online or call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106 to speak with a member of our legal team.

Should I Give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Company?

When someone is injured in an auto accident or suffers another type of personal injury, they will most likely be dealing with the responsible party’s insurer if they are going to file a claim for compensation. Oftentimes, the insurance company will contact the injured individual within just a couple days of the accident, before they have time to get organized and seek legal counsel.

The insurance company representative will usually be very friendly and courteous, and they will act like they are on your side. They will ask how you are doing and reassure you that everything is going to be okay. After establishing rapport, they might also ask you to give them a recorded statement about the accident.

Should you agree to the insurer’s request for a recorded statement? The short answer to this question is, “no”, or at least not until you have spoken with an experienced personal injury attorney about your case.

Asking for a recorded statement may seem like an innocuous request, and it might be if it was being requested by a neutral party, a law enforcement investigator, for example. But you must keep in mind that no matter how much they try to tell you that they are in your corner, the insurer’s primary goal is to pay out as little as possible for your claim. And as such, their interests run counter to yours.

How a Recorded Statement Can Hurt your Injury Claim

Insurance companies employ a number of different tactics in order to minimize the amount of compensation they pay out for injuries caused by their clients, and one of those is to ask for a recorded statement. Although you are not required to provide this statement if it is being requested by another party’s insurer, they might imply that you need to because it is necessary to expedite the processing of your claim.

The problem with these types of statements is that insurers often use tricky or misleading questions that are designed to get you to say something that can be used against you. Remember that insurance adjusters have a lot of experience dealing with accident injury victims, and they are very good at twisting the answers given in the statements in order to weaken your case and thus strengthen theirs.

From the insurance company’s standpoint, the end goal of the recorded statement is to get you to admit at least some fault for the accident, and to get you to minimize the extent of your injuries. They will try to get you to say things like “I might have been going a little too fast through the intersection at the time of the crash”, or “I guess I was distracted by a call that came in on my phone.”

One of the biggest challenges with giving a recorded statement is the timing of it. For example, if you talk to the insurance company about your injuries a few days after an accident, you might not know the results of tests conducted by the doctor or the results of examinations from follow-up visits.

With some accident cases, the effects of the injuries are not felt until several days later. So, if you tell the insurance company representative that your injuries are minor and then you start to feel some serious neck and lower back pain later in the week, the answers you gave in your initial statement could come back to haunt you.

Contact an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer after Being Injured in An Accident

If you have been injured in an accident and the insurance company is asking you for a recorded statement, you should at the very least decline their request until you’ve had a chance to talk to an attorney. They are in a hurry to get you on the record, because they want to settle the case as quickly as they can and for as little as possible.

Once you have retained legal counsel, your attorney will deal directly with the insurer. In addition, they will be present for any requested statement to help ensure that the insurance company representative cannot trap you with any misleading questions.

If your injury occurred in West Virginia, the Masters Law Firm is here to help. We have several decades of experience successfully representing accident injury victims, and we know how to deal with the tactics commonly used by insurance companies. To schedule a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team, call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106 or send us an online message.

Coping with the Physical and Emotional Impact of a Personal Injury

Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident, animal attack, slip and fall, or other incident, trying to adjust to the reality of a personal injury is difficult. Depending on the severity of your injury and the amount of support you have, you and your family may be in for a long road of healing and recovery.

However, you don’t have to do it alone. With a strong personal injury lawyer on your side, you can fight for the compensation you deserve after an accident. Learn more about your options now by calling the Masters Law Firm in West Virginia at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106.

Taking Care of Your Physical Health

A number of challenges come with a physical injury. Getting pain levels under control is a challenge and struggling with limited mobility may leave you feeling agitated and dependent on others. The best thing you can do is seek medical care and follow your care providers’ recommendations.

This may mean taking time off of work and resting at home to get your pain levels under control. You may also need to go to physical or occupational therapy to regain mobility and independence, particularly if you have sustained serious injuries.

If your injuries prevent you from taking care of daily tasks, you may need to seek assistance. This may be as easy as having your spouse pick up extra tasks around the house or asking a trusted family member to come by after work. However, if your care needs are more demanding, consider hiring a personal care aide to help you with medication administration, showering, food prep, and more.

Handling the Emotional Challenges of a Personal Injury

While many accident victims anticipate the physical limitations of an injury, few are prepared for the toll it takes on their mental and emotional health. Being injured is traumatizing, even if your injuries could have been worse.

For example, being in a car accident and having a broken arm is not the worst-case scenario—however, this can still cause mental anguish and trauma to a victim. Furthermore, knowing that “it could have been worse” may add even more guilt to the mental stress they are already feeling, compounding their anxiety.

Your to-do list may be long in the weeks and months after an injury, but if you are struggling to manage your emotions, counseling is a good use of your time. It is extremely common for those who are injured to need assistance when it comes to understanding their injuries, grappling with the loss of control, and the emotional fallout of an accident.

Taking this step can also be beneficial to your family. Accident victims may take out their stress and other negative emotions on their loved ones, and attending counseling allows them to shield their family members from their anger and outbursts.

The Financial Support You’ll Need to Adjust to Your Injury

Recovering from an injury and truly giving yourself the tools to get back to normal requires money—and the more serious your injuries are, the more money you’ll need. That is why it is so important to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Without proper compensation for the injuries you have suffered, you could be left footing these bills on your own. When you’re injured because of someone else’s negligence, we believe they should be responsible for making you whole.

Generally, it’s better to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Once the other party’s insurance company starts contacting you, they’re already trying to get you to accept a low settlement and waive your right to sue. Anything you say to them can be used against you, weakening your chances of getting a fair settlement.

Your attorney can look over the evidence you have, analyze your claim, and build a case that will make insurance companies take you seriously. A fair settlement should give you enough to cover your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses caused by the accident.

Turn to the Masters Law Firm for Help with Your West Virginia Personal Injury Case

The sooner you hire an attorney after your accident, the sooner they can start fighting for the compensation you deserve. Set up a consultation now by calling the Masters Law Firm at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106 or messaging us online.

Who is Liable for a Ridesharing Accident?

If you are injured in a car or pedestrian accident that is caused by a ridesharing driver, it could leave you with a pile of medical bills, lost earnings from missing work for a while, and untold amounts of pain and aggravation. As painful and frustrating as the injury itself may be, pursuing a legal claim against the responsible party can also be a difficult and confusing process. There are actually a number of different parties that could be liable, and the amount of coverage available and who you file a claim against are questions that do not have easy answers.

The first point that is important to understand is that ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft do not officially accept any responsibility for the actions of their drivers. Their position is that all they do is provide a platform (more specifically, a smartphone app) that matches passengers with drivers who can take them where they need to go. These companies will also be quick to point out that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees.

On the latter point, there are some states and cities that have tried to change the designation of ridesharing drivers to employees or banned these services altogether because of the ridesharing companies’ refusal to make this change. For example, Uber and Lyft have been embroiled in a battle with California over the designation of their drivers, and a court recently ruled that these companies were not required to reclassify their drivers as employees.

Ridesharing Driver Status and Liability

Although ridesharing companies say that they are not officially responsible for the actions of their drivers, in recent years, they have started providing insurance coverage for their drivers that kicks in under certain circumstances. So, if a ridesharing driver causes an accident, the question of whether or not the ridesharing company is liable depends on what the driver was doing at the time of the accident.

The level of coverage that the companies provide is separated into three different periods:

  • Period One: The driver’s Uber or Lyft app is turned off and he/she is considered to be off duty. If an accident occurs during this period, the injured person would most likely look to the driver’s personal auto policy for compensation.
  • Period Two: The driver’s ridesharing app is on, but he/she has not yet accepted a ride or is in transit to pick up a passenger. For accidents that occur in this period, Uber and Lyft provide liability coverage of up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident (which is slightly above West Virginia mandatory minimums), as well as $25,000 in property damage.
  • Period Three: The rideshare driver has accepted a ride and has at least one passenger in the vehicle. During this period, the ridesharing companies provide $1 million in total liability coverage for the accident.

Determining Liability for a Ridesharing Accident

The ridesharing driver and the ridesharing company are not the only ones who could be held liable for an accident. Other parties that could hold some responsibility include:

  • Other vehicle drivers that may have been involved in the crash
  • An auto repair shop that performed negligent maintenance
  • The vehicle manufacturer
  • The manufacturer or supplier of faulty vehicle parts
  • A government entity that is responsible for maintaining safe roadways

Determining liability can be a difficult and arduous process, and this is why it is always best to have an experienced attorney by your side with complicated cases like these. The process starts with a thorough examination of the pertinent facts and pieces of evidence in the case to get to the bottom of what happened and who was to blame. This may include the review of:

  • Available photos and video footage of the accident and accident scene
  • The testimony of eyewitnesses
  • The official police report
  • The damage present at the scene of the accident
  • Tread marks on the road and/or on nearby property
  • Medical reports
  • Information about faulty products that may be under recall

Injured in a Ridesharing Accident in West Virginia? Contact The Masters Law Firm for Assistance

If you or someone close to you got injured in a ridesharing accident, The Masters Law Firm is here to help. We will meet with you to assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. To get started, message us online or call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106 for a free consultation.

Tips for Avoiding Sun Glare Accidents in West Virginia

During the fall and winter months, the days get shorter and commuters are forced to deal with that annoying sun glare during morning and evening rush hours. We all know what it is like to round a corner and get hit with a blast of bright sunlight. Suddenly, we can barely see anything in front of us and all we can do is hope that we don’t run into anything while we are trying to navigate our way forward.

Sun glare is a major hazard for drivers. Bright sunlight can come up without warning, and it can sometimes persist for long stretches, especially if you happen to be traveling east or west at certain times of the day. Although a sun visor can help reduce the glare, it does not always prevent it entirely, and drivers who find themselves in this situation need to be extra cautious to avoid sun glare accidents.

Liability for Sun Glare Accidents

When someone is involved in a crash that was caused by bright sunlight obstructing their view, they might try to argue that they are not at fault because sun glare is an “act of God.” Unfortunately for them, this is not likely to be seen as a valid legal argument.

While bright sunlight is a naturally occurring event, it cannot be put into the same category as events such as earthquakes, mudslides, or animals dashing out in front of your vehicle. The latter events are not everyday occurrences, and it is impossible to predict when something like that will happen. This is not the case with sun glare.

It is common knowledge that the sun rises and sets each day, and it is not difficult to find out what time this will happen. Therefore, a reasonable person would be expected to be aware of the possibility of sun glare and be prepared to effectively deal with it.

Tips for Preventing a Sun Glare Accident in West Virginia

There are a number of things that can be done to avoid accidents caused by bright sunlight, here are some of the most important steps that can be taken:

  • Use the Right Kind of Sunglasses: You should always wear sunglasses when you know you are going to be dealing with sun glare, and polarized sunglasses are the best kind for mitigating the effects of bright sunlight.
  • Clear Off your Windshield and Dashboard before Driving: Before you begin your drive, make sure your windshield is clean and free of dirt and streaks, and make sure your dashboard is clear and free from clutter.
  • Have Functional Wiper Blades and Plenty of Washer Fluid: As winter approaches, this is a good time to check out your wiper blades and make sure they are in good working order. If they are not, it is best to get a good new pair on your vehicle before the icy and snowy weather starts to hit. Also be sure to top off your windshield washer fluid and have some extra fluid in your vehicle just in case.
  • Slow Down and Drive Carefully: When you run into bright sunlight, slow the vehicle down so you have more time to see everything in front of you. Allow plenty of space between you and other vehicles, and be very careful, especially when you are changing lanes or making a turn.
  • Make Good Use of your Sun Visors: Use your sun visors to reduce the glare as much as possible. You might also want to consider purchasing sun visor extensions that give you additional protection.
  • Stay Free of Distractions: You should always refrain from texting or other smartphone activity while driving, and when you are dealing with sun glare, do your best to eliminate other distractions as well. For example, driving in the face of bright sunlight is not the best time to be eating, drinking, or grooming. Plan to do these things before or after your drive.
  • Adjust your Route and Drive Time: This may not always be possible, but for some people, just a minor change in the time they leave for work or leave to drive home could mean not having to deal with sun glare. You might also be able to change up your route so that you do a minimal amount of east/west driving.

Injured in a Sun Glare Accident in West Virginia? Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

Even if you do everything possible to avoid a sun glare accident, you cannot control what other drivers do. If you or someone close to you suffered injury in a vehicle accident in West Virginia, contact The Masters Law Firm for a free consultation. We will meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. To get started, call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106, or send us an online message. We look forward to serving you!

Who is At Fault for a Multi Car Accident?

Most vehicle accidents involve just two cars that collide with each other, or one car that hits another person or object. But there are some accidents that involve three or more vehicles. These accidents are sometimes called “multi car pileups” or “chain reaction accidents”, and they are usually more complicated to sort out. When one accident triggers a series of subsequent crashes, there are numerous potential factors that could be the cause and determining liability can be very difficult.

When someone is involved in a multi-car accident, it is very important to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney as early as possible. Because of the complexities involved with cases like these, early action is needed to protect your legal rights and help ensure that if you suffered injuries, you are able to recover maximum compensation. Multi-vehicle crashes can trigger unique issues, such as running up against auto insurance liability limits and identifying third parties that could have played a role in the crash, and your attorney can go to work immediately to thoroughly investigate the case and explore every potential legal avenue toward obtaining a favorable outcome.

Common Reasons for Multi-Car Accidents

There are several common scenarios in which a multi-vehicle accident may occur:

  • Chain Reaction Rear-End Crashes: Perhaps the most frequent cause of a multi-car accident is a rear end crash that sets off a chain reaction of other crashes. The initial collision produces a domino effect that can involve up to a half a dozen or more cars. A chain reaction accident is most likely to happen on the highway or another road where vehicles are traveling at a higher speed. This type of accident is also fairly common during the winter when there is ice on the roads, particularly “black ice” that is hidden and catches drivers by surprise.
  • Unconscious Drivers: One of the most dangerous situations that occurs on the roadways is when a driver loses consciousness. This can happen because of drowsiness or fatigue that causes the driver to fall asleep at the wheel, or it can result from a seizure or another medical condition that triggers a blackout. An unconscious driver could crash into multiple vehicles, and this type of situation could become deadly, especially if it happens on the highway.
  • Careless/Reckless Driving: Various forms of careless or reckless driving can become the catalyst for a multi-car pileup. One common scenario is a careless lane change in which the driver does not check their blind spot and fails to notice a vehicle or motorcycle that is traveling alongside them. In other cases, a driver who is intoxicated or just inexperienced and immature might speed excessively, weave wildly in and out of lanes, tailgate the vehicle in front of them, or even attempt to evade arrest if they are being pursued by a law enforcement vehicle. All of these types of behaviors increase the likelihood of a multi-vehicle accident.
  • Semi-Truck Jackknifes: Big rig trucks have the potential to cause widespread damage if a driver loses control. An 18-wheeler could trigger a multi-vehicle accident if, for example, it jackknifes on the highway and blocks several lanes of traffic. When this happens, it would be nearly impossible for the other drivers to slow down in time to avoid colliding with the truck.

Liability for Multi-Car Accidents

Determining who was at fault for a multi-vehicle collision will always depend on the unique circumstances of each case. For example, in a rear-end chain reaction case, first driver who initiated the collision will often be looked at, but it might turn out that the driver they crashed into is at least partially responsible because they were on their phone or because they did not have functional brake lights to warn cars behind them that they were slowing down. And of course, if any of the drivers were in the process of committing a traffic violation (such as speeding, reckless driving, or drunk driving), then this driver is likely to be held liable.

If a large commercial truck initiated the crash, then there are a number of other parties that could share the blame as well. These may include the driver, the driver’s employer, the owner or lessor of the truck, the cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck, or the manufacturer of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part.

Contact an Experienced West Virginia Auto Accident Lawyer

Multi-car crashes are very complex cases, and if you or someone close to you got injured in this type of accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interest. If the accident occurred in West Virginia, contact The Masters Law Firm for a free consultation and case assessment. To get started, message us online or call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106. We look forward to serving you!

The Impact of Social Media on a Personal Injury Case

Just about everybody uses social media these days. People go on Facebook, Instagram, or their favorite platform to check in on what their family and friends are doing, read up on the latest news, and share updates about what is going on in their lives. Since the advent of social media, users have had the ability to share in depth information about themselves to those within their network.

It is always advisable to be cautious about what you post on social media as it can be seen by hundreds of people within your network. In addition, if a post goes “viral” and is shared multiple times, or even one time, there could be thousands or even tens of thousands of eyeballs on it.

This may not be that big a deal under normal circumstances, and you may not mind if the whole world reads your posts. But when you are involved in a personal injury claim, you will need to tread much more carefully. Things you say and images and videos you post on social media can be used against you in a personal injury case, and your online activity could cause you to lose out on some or all of the compensation you deserve.

How Social Media Activity Might be Used Against You

Imagine you got seriously injured in a car accident. Your neck, shoulder, and back injuries are bad, you can barely walk for a while, and you can barely lift anything up. You claim damages for your direct monetary losses – medical bills and lost earnings – and also for noneconomic losses such as physical and emotional pain-and-suffering and loss of enjoyment. You assert that your injury has resulted in several bouts of depression, and you are feeling isolated because it is much harder to move around for extended periods and you are forced to spend most of your time at home.

Your case seems pretty strong, except for one problem – your social media posts seem to contradict your claims that you are suffering and that your quality of life has been diminished. You are pictured on vacation at the beach smiling, or having drinks with your friends. Or worse, you are shown jet skiing, riding an ATV, or participating in some other type of physical activity.

We all try to put a rosy picture of our lives on social media.  Those posts often do not represent reality. Your posts smiling at the beach may not reflect that for most of the time on your vacation, you were forced to lay on a lounge chair instead of being able to body surf the waves. That picture of you on the ATV implies that you went on a grand off road excursion, when in fact, you were only able to ride on flat ground in a parking lot or on a field for only a few minutes. The photo of you on a jet ski will not show you laid up for two days after trying something that you have always wanted to try. Those drinks with friends do not show that you left early, or that you needed to have someone drive you home because you drank one too many to try to dull the pain. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and may be all the defendants, and potentially a jury, will believe. 

In addition to all of that, you generally try to have an optimistic outlook on life, and you don’t want people to worry about you. So, you post several status updates throughout your recovery reassuring those closest to you that you are feeling better and that you’re going to get through this just fine. You end up saying you are “fine” when you are not really fine.

Do you see the problem here? Do you see how your social media activity might damage your claim? This is not just theory; there are numerous actual cases dating all the way back to the early days of the internet in which a defendant used a plaintiff’s social media activity to discredit their claim.

You cannot live your life centered around a personal injury lawsuit and secluding yourself in the house all the time, as that can be a terrible way to live. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be able to participate in some activity after a period of time, even encouraged to do so by your doctor as part of your physical rehabilitation. Talk to your medical providers about what you should and should not be doing, and follow their advice. However, when you do activities like the above without the advice of your doctor or physical therapist, you risk the defendants arguing that the reason you are not totally better is because you were doing activities you should not, and made your injury worse or delayed your healing, called a “failure to mitigate” (i.e. lessen) your damages, which the law often requires plaintiffs to do.

The Myth that “It Won’t Happen to Me”

You might be thinking that everything we have said so far is good advice for most people, but it doesn’t apply to you because you are more careful than the rest. After all, you use the strictest privacy settings, so only your friends can see your posts.

This is a common myth that people often tell themselves, but in reality, this is a dangerous way of thinking. You might believe that you will be more cautious than others and that your privacy settings will protect you, but you must remember that insurance companies and other well-funded defendants have professional investigators who are tech savvy and have the ability to uncover online information that is not easy for most people to get a hold of.

Investigators have ways of getting into your network through friends or friends of friends or other means, and this could leave you exposed in ways you may not even realize. For example, what if one of your friends tags you in one of those vacation photos and an investigator happens to be in your friend’s network of friends, or your friend has all of his posts set to allow public viewing?

You thought you had all the angles covered, but somehow, they were able to find potentially damaging and often misleading photos of you. What’s worse is now that they have found a couple of photos, they decide use this as a basis to try to subpoena the rest of your social media posts to see what else they can uncover, including your private messages on Facebook Messenger or other platforms.

How Should I Handle Social Media During a Personal Injury Case?

Ideally, you should stop posting on social media after an injury and tell your friends and family not to post about you or your accident.  You may even want to suspend your accounts as soon possible after the accident or event that caused your injury. Without any accounts or activity, there is nothing for the other side to discover.

If you cannot unplug completely from social media, limit your activity to reading other people’s posts, never comment on anything, and ask all of your family and friends not to tag you in any of their photos, comment on any of your accounts, or post anything about you. And above everything else, listen to the advice of your attorney and follow his/her instructions closely on all relevant matters while you are in the middle of a personal injury claim. Second, be completely truthful about what you can and cannot do when you make your claims. Be truthful with your lawyer, and truthful with the defendants. People do not expect an injured person to lay in bed and never get up again. You are entitled to fair compensation for your injuries, whatever they turn out to be. Having nothing to hide is always the best offense and defense.

The Basics of Personal Injury Law

When someone gets injured because of the negligent or reckless actions of another party, they may be eligible to file a civil claim for monetary damages. This is often referred to as “personal injury” or “tort” law. Personal injury laws allow an injured party to seek compensation in order to be “made whole” for the losses that they have suffered.

Some of the most common instances in which a personal injury claim could be filed include:

  • Accidents: Most personal injury claims are filed because of accidents that occur due to someone acting in a negligent or careless manner. These may include auto accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, some workplace accidents, premises liability accidents (e.g., slips and falls), medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, wrongful death, and many others.
  • Defective or Dangerous Products: When a consumer suffers harm through regular use of a product, they may be able to file a personal injury claim under the legal theory known as “product liability”. A product liability claim can be filed against the manufacturer, distributor, other parties within the product’s supply chain.
  • Intentional Acts: Intentional harm happens when someone willfully and intentionally causes a personal injury. Examples may include fraud and other intentional acts.
  • Defamation: If someone’s false statements cause harm to another person’s reputation, they may be able to file a defamation of character lawsuit.

What Types of Damages Can I Receive from a Personal Injury Claim?

You can pursue compensatory damages for all losses you have sustained from your injury, both economic and noneconomic:

  • Economic Damages: These are direct monetary losses that the injured party suffers. Examples include hospitalization costs, doctor visits, costs for surgeries and other types of treatment, costs for ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage.
  • Noneconomic Damages: These are losses that are real but intangible and more difficult to assign a dollar figure. Examples include the physical and emotional pain and suffering the victim has to endure, the inability to participate in activities they once enjoyed, and the effects of having to live with a permanent injury.

In more limited cases in which the actions of the party responsible for the injury go beyond standard negligence, punitive damages may also be awarded as punishment to the wrongdoer. Punitive damages may be appropriate in cases when the responsible party acted willfully, maliciously, or with gross negligence.

How Does a Personal Injury Claim Work?

Every case is different, and there are always unique circumstances that will determine how a claim might play out. In most accident injury cases, for example, the injured person will be dealing with the at fault party’s insurer. They might choose to handle the claim alone, or they could hire a personal injury lawyer. Without a lawyer, it will be up to the injured person to work out a settlement directly with the insurance company or other representatives for the defendant.

Although an injured person may think they can save money in attorney fees by handling a claim on their own, they may often be disappointed by the settlement offer they receive. The goal of the defendants and their insurance companies is to pay out as little as possible for the claim, and without legal representation, the other side will have far less incentive to give you a reasonable offer.

When an injured person is represented by an attorney, they have a legal professional in their corner who will put together the strongest possible case on their behalf. They will also have someone to present their case to the defendant’s representatives during negotiations. And if the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, an experienced attorney will be ready and able to take the case to trial.

Just how big a difference does it make to have legal representation in a personal injury case?

As we mentioned earlier, every case is different, but according to a survey of the readers of Nolo, a well-known online legal directory, the average compensation for those with legal representation was $77,600, while the average compensation for those without legal representation was $17,600. In addition, 91% of those in the survey who had an attorney received a payout, while only 51% of those without an attorney received one.

Whether you are represented by an attorney or not, most of the time, personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. In the Nolo survey, just 4% of the cases went to trial, which is pretty typical. In general, it is in everyone’s best interests to settle without litigation, but when you are represented by an attorney with proven trial experience, the other side is usually more motivated to make a reasonable settlement offer because there is a credible threat that you are willing to litigate the case if they don’t.

Contact Our Seasoned West Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or someone close to you got injured because of the negligence, recklessness, or willful acts of another party, The Masters Law Firm is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106 for a free consultation and case assessment.