Car accidents can be harrowing experiences. They’re filled with uncertainty and doubt, about whether you’ll be ok, what will happen to your vehicle, and will you be able to pay for all of this? Thankfully, and with the help of a Bridgeport, West Virginia car accident lawyer, you may be able to be compensated for personal injuries and property damage after your auto accident.

What is a Car Accident Lawyer?

Car accident lawyers use their knowledge to help the victims of car accidents seek compensation after they have been injured or had their property damaged in a car crash. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a Bridgeport, WV car accident, you should contact the attorneys at Colombo law to find out what your case could be worth.

What Can I Get Compensated for After a Car Crash?

A car accident can hit you hard financially. Before you know it, you could rack up thousands in doctor’s visits and vehicle repairs. Depending on the circumstances of the accident however, you may be able to receive compensation for things like:

  • Medical bills and physical injuries
  • Missed aciti ites
  • Inconvenience
  • Disfigurement
  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Property damage
  • Loss of wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Emotional anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death

West Virginia Car Insurance Requirements

Anyone who drives a regular passenger vehicle in West Virginia must carry a minimum amount of car insurance. In West Virginia, that means holding a policy for at least:

  • $25,000 in coverage for per person bodily injuries
  • $50,000 in coverage for per accident bodily injuries
  • $25,000 in coverage for property damages

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage in West Virginia

Drivers in West Virginia must also add uninsured motorist coverage (UM) to their basic auto insurance policy. This coverage is designed to protect the policyholder in the event they are in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have any insurance. While your insurance provider may offer you more coverage, the minimum amounts required by law are:

  • $25,000 UM coverage for per person bodily injury
  • $50,000 UM coverage for per accident bodily injury
  • $25,000 UM coverage for property damage

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) isn’t mandatory. Still, you may want to consider purchasing it, as it can protect you if you’re involved in a car accident with a person whose insurance policy limits aren’t high enough to cover your financial damages.

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Driving Safety Laws

Insurance laws aren’t the only driving laws West Virginia has. The following driver safety laws are also enforced and are critical in preventing car accidents.

Drunk Driving

West Virginia law states that drivers over 21 cannot operate a vehicle if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. Commercial drivers cannot operate a vehicle if their BAC is .04 or higher and drivers under  21 cannot operate a vehicle if their BAC is .02 or higher.

First time offenders will face:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines between $100 and $500
  • 6 months of license suspension
  • A mandatory safety course before license reinstatement

Second time offenders will face:

  • 6 months to 1 year in jail
  • Fines between $1,000 and $3,000
  • A mandatory safety course
  • 10 year license suspension or a 1-year suspension if they agree to use an ignition interlock system

Third time offenders will face:

  • 1 to 3 years in jail
  • Fines between $3,000 and $5,000
  • A mandatory safety course
  • Lifetime license suspension or a 1-year suspension if they agree to use an ignition interlock system

Seat Belts

The following people must always wear seat belts while in a moving vehicle:

  • All drivers
  • All front seat passengers
  • All back seat passengers under the age of 18

Violating these laws can result in $25 in fines.

Car Seats

West Virginians who are 8 years old or younger and less than 4 feet and 9 inches tall, must be seated in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved child safety seat. Check out Safe Kids Worldwide if you need help finding and installing your child’s car seat.

Violation of child safety seat laws warrants fines of $10 to $20.

Cell Phone Use and Texting

No West Virginia driver can legally text while they are operating a vehicle.

Drivers over 18 can make phone calls, but only if they use a hands-free device. Drivers under 18 can’t make any calls, unless they need to dial 9-1-1.

Headlight Use

To be legal and roadworthy, all vehicles need 2 working headlights. They must be used at all times between sunset and sunrise, and also when fog, rain, snow, or smoke are present, or when poor lighting restricts a driver’s vision to 500 feet ahead.

Unattended Vehicles

You cannot leaving a vehicle that is running unattended in West Virginia. If you step away from your car, you must make sure it is off and the key is out of the ignition to comply with state laws.

Leaving a running vehicle unattended can result in you being fined $100 for your first offense and more for each subsequent offense.

Unattended Kids and Animals

Children and animals can be hurt or killed if they are locked in a hot car. Plus, doing so can be illegal depending on where you live, so check with local police to make sure you are following your city’s regulations.

Who is Responsible for Damages After a West Virginia Car Accident

West Virginia uses an at-fault system for determining financial responsibility after a car accident. That said, it’s important to understand that a modified comparative negligence rule was put into place in 2015. This new law is used to decide how much compensation you’re entitled to after a car accident based on your percentage of fault in causing it. Here’s an example of how modified comparative negligence works:

Let’s say your case goes to trial, and you argue that the other driver caused the accident and you are entitled to $50,000 in damages. The court may review your case and find that you deserve $50,000 in damages, but that you were actually at fault for 20 percent of the accident, while the other driver was 80 percent at fault. In this situation, your damages will decreases according to your percentage of fault, so you’ll be entitled to 20 percent less damages which is, in this case, $40,000.

The modified comparative negligence ruled used in West Virginia allows you to be compensated for your damages if you are 49 percent or less at fault for the accident. But, if your fault is 50 percent or more, you will not be able to get any compensation from the other driver’s insurance provider.

If you can receive damages, the easiest way is by seeking them from either your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company. You can also seek compensation from the at-fault party themselves, but that can be difficult to accomplish without the help of a Bridgeport, WV car accident attorney.

West Virginia Car Accident Facts

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the most recent data for West Virginia car accidents comes from 2015, when:

  • There were 246 fatal car accidents resulting in 268 deaths
  • 91 of the people in these fatal accidents were the occupants of cars, 96 were in SUVs or pickups, 4 were in large trucks, 32 were on motorcycles, 19 were pedestrians, and 1 was on a bicycle
  • 59 percent of the fatal crashes in 2015 involved one vehicle and the remaining 41 percent involved multiple vehicles
  • 147 of these accidents were alcohol-related
  • Of all the occupants, 99 weren’t wearing their seatbelts
  • The vast majority, 71 percent, of fatal accidents that year were in rural areas

What Steps Should I Take After a Car Accident?

In the moment after a car accident, you need to take care of your mind and body first. Make sure you are not seriously injured and try to take deep breathes to help yourself relax. Once the initial shock of the accident has passed, take the following steps

  • Call 9-1-1 and request emergency responders
  • Check other people involved for serious injuries
  • If you can do so safely, get the damaged vehicles and any debris off the road
  • Get insurance and contact info from the other driver(s)
  • Write down where the accident happened and what you remember about it
  • Photograph all the vehicles involved as well as any injuries that may have occurred
  • Let your insurance agent know you were in an accident
  • Contact a Bridgeport, WV car accident lawyer ASAP

Chances are you’re probably going to be pretty angry if you’ve been or your car has been damaged in an accident. While it’s normal to experience these emotions, you should do your best to be honest with the investigating police officer, while being calm and respectful at all times. After you speak to the police, avoid discussing the accident with anyone until you can talk to an attorney. Talking about the accident too much to too many people could compromise your case and/or settlement.

Should I Hire a West Virginia Car Accident Lawyer or Not?

Absolutely. Car accident attorneys are your advocate. Not only can they help you fight for the largest settlement possible, but they can help file your case within West Virginia’s two-year statute of limitations.

They can also handle all of the many tasks that need to be completed in order to make your case successful, from dealing with insurance adjustors to smaller things, such as:

  • Gathering police reports
  • Collecting medical bills and records
  • Obtaining phone call records and camera footage (if available)
  • Talking to witnesses
  • Locating expert witnesses to testify in court
  • Determining if an automobile defect or recall may have contributed to your crash

Bridgeport, West Virginia Car Accident Lawyers

Our attorneys are committed to helping those in our local communities who are suffering or have suffered after a car accident. We’ve worked with multiple clients in Bridgeport, including neighborhoods like:

  • Anmoore
  • Grafton
  • Lost Creek
  • Mount Clare
  • Nutter Fort
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Interstate 79
  • Interstate 68
  • West Virginia Route 7
  • U.S. Route 19
  • U.S. Route 119
  • U.S. Route 250
  • U.S. Route 50
  • U.S. Route 48

The lawyers at Colombo Law work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us if we help you reach a successful settlement in your case.

If you’ve been in a car accident in Bridgeport, WV and aren’t sure what to do next, contact us. We’ll schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the circumstances of your accident and go over the details of your case. Call us to get started at 304-599-4229.