Driving is one of the most common ways that people get around in West Virginia, and is typically faster and more convenient than walking, biking, or taking public transportation. But driving is also dangerous, causing numerous crashes that result in fatal and serious injuries each year. If you or loved one has been in a serious wreck, your ability to earn a living, provide for yourself, and return to life as normal may be seriously disrupted. In order to help you recover the compensation award that you deserve, you need a skilled car accident attorney on your side.
The West Virginia car accident lawyers at The Masters Law Firm can provide you with the support and legal guidance you need when your life has been dramatically altered by a car accident. We have several decades of experience representing clients who have been injured in auto accidents, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex cases. We are not intimidated by well-funded adversaries such as large insurance companies, and we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and dedication to help ensure that our clients receive maximum compensation for their injuries.
Car Accident Damages – How a Car Crash May Change Your Life
While some crashes are minor and don’t result in any significant or long-term harm to those involved, others are much more serious. If you’re involved in a crash that happens at high speeds, is a head-on or rollover accident, involves a commercial vehicle or tractor-trailer, or happens when you are not wearing your seatbelt, the chances of your injuries being serious are higher. The damages associated with a serious accident like this include:
Catastrophic injuries. A serious car accident can result in catastrophic injuries, which may be painful, expensive to treat, and impairing for many months, years, or even life. Common catastrophic injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, amputation injuries, and fracture injuries.
Medical bills. Until you are seriously injured, it can be hard to fully grasp how expensive medical treatment can be. Staying in the hospital, undergoing surgeries, taking medications, participating in physical therapy and rehabilitation, and more can total in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, a cost that can be burdensome even if you have health insurance. (Even with health insurance, you may have a large deductible. What’s more, your insurer may deny certain procedures and treatment types.)
Lost wages. Being seriously injured in a car accident often means suffering disabilities that are short-term, long-term, or permanent. This, in turn, means being unable to work for days, weeks, or months and suffering lost wages and benefits as a result.
Property damage costs. If you are in a car accident and are injured, chances are that your vehicle has been damaged or totaled as well. You can seek compensation for the full value of any property damage expenses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.
Pain, suffering, and emotional anguish. Until you’re the one who is injured, it can be easy to forget that a car accident often results in a number of noneconomic losses, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Those who are involved in crashes often suffer from the development of psychological conditions, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well.
Who Pays for Damages After a Crash?
One of the primary jobs of our law firm is to determine who’s liable for your crash and therefore against whom you will file your claim for damages. West Virginia is an at-fault car insurance state, which means that those who cause the accident must pay for the damages that result.
Our lawyers can help you prove that your car accident would not have occurred but for the negligence of the at-fault driver. Examples of negligence that can lead to wrecks include drinking while driving, driving while distracted, speeding, failing to yield, driving aggressively, and more.
We’ll work hard to prove fault. This means that as soon as you hire our law firm, we will open an investigation into your accident. We will talk to any witnesses, review the police report, travel to and photograph the accident scene, review vehicle damages and injuries, and, if necessary, hire experts to reconstruct the crash and determine what happened. After we have determined fault and have the data to prove it, we will issue a demand letter against the at-fault party’s insurer.
It is important to note that approximately 10% of drivers in West Virginia do not have auto insurance, and many more do not have enough insurance to cover the losses sustained by someone who is injured in a car accident. This is why all vehicle owners in West Virginia are required to carry uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage with minimum liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. If you are injured by a driver who is uninsured or does not have sufficient coverage, the coverage you have through the (UM/UIM) portion of your policy will be used to help compensate you for your losses.
West Virginia Shared Fault Laws and Statute of Limitations
The goal is to settle your claim through negotiations without the need for litigation. This is typically the most cost-effective way to recover a settlement, as well as the least stressful option. However, an insurer may deny a claim or may fail to offer a settlement that’s fair. When this is the case, filing a lawsuit may be the next best option.
If you do pursue litigation, there are two important rules that you need to know.
First is the shared fault rule in West Virginia, also known as modified comparative negligence. Under this rule, a party who contributes to an accident and suffers injuries can still seek recovery from the other party so long as the injured party’s degree of fault was not greater than 50%. If the injured party did contribute to the accident, then their recoverable damages award will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
The second rule is the statute of limitations, which governs the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Per the law, adults have two years from the date of the accident to bring forth a lawsuit for damages. If you wait longer than two years to file a suit, you will most likely have your case thrown out of court. There are other deadlines for those under the age of eighteen when injured, but you need advice from an attorney to make that determination.
How to Build a Strong Car Accident Case
Collect Evidence from the Accident Scene
The more evidence you can obtain at the scene of the accident that proves someone else was at fault, the stronger your case will be. If you are able, take photos from different angles showing how the collision occurred, and if you happen to have a dashboard camera, be sure to capture and save any video of the crash.
Get Immediate Medical Help
If you sustained injuries from the crash, you need to establish a causal connection between the two by seeing a medical professional as soon as you can. Even if you do not feel hurt or you think your injuries are minor, get medical attention anyway, because the full extent of some injuries are not felt until several days or longer after the accident. If you delay seeking treatment, you will not only put your health at risk; you could also give the insurance company a reason to doubt whether your injuries were caused by the accident at all.
Do Not Provide a Statement to the Other Party’s Insurer
You need to be very careful what you say to others about the accident. Never apologize or in any way admit fault for the crash, and do not provide any recorded statement to the insurance company for the other side. They do not need you to go on the record, and the only reason they would request this is so they can use your words against you later on. If they ask for a recorded statement, tell them you would like to speak to your lawyer first.
Stay Off of Social Media
Insurance company investigators are known for combing through social media accounts looking for posts or comments that might show that an accident injury claimant is lying or exaggerating the extent of their injuries. Even seemingly innocuous posts can be twisted and taken out of context in order to undermine your claim. The best thing to do when you are involved in an auto accident claim is to stop using social media altogether until the claim is settled.
Retain Experienced Legal Counsel as Soon as Possible
If your injuries are minor and the circumstances of the accident are fairly straightforward, then you might be okay to deal with the insurance company on your own. But if you sustained moderate to severe injuries and/or there are other complications such as a question over who was at fault, then not only should you retain an attorney, you should do so right away.
The Masters Law Firm Is Here to Help
At The Masters Law Firm, our West Virginia car accident lawyers understand that being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if the injuries suffered are particularly severe. If you have been injured and need help navigating the claims process, we can help. We offer free consultations and we always work on a contingency fee basis. To learn more about how we can help you, please call our law firm directly at 304-342-3106 or toll free at 1-800-342-3106, visit our Charleston office in person, or send us an online message. We are ready to go to work for you!