Car accidents often happen without warning. One moment you’re driving along, minding your own business, and the next your car is damaged and you could be suffering from serious injuries.

You can’t plan for these types of things, but you can educate yourself on how to handle them when they do happen. One of the most important things to remember when you’re in a car accident is: you’re not alone. The Buckhannon, West Virginia car accident lawyers at Colombo Law are here to walk you through this difficult time and help you begin the process of getting the compensation you deserve.

Car Accident Lawyers Helping People in Buckhannon

A car accident attorney’s job is to be your advocate, whether you’re just starting to deal with the insurance company, are trying to settle your case, or are in the midst of a legal battle. You hire a car accident lawyer to make sure you’re treated fairly in court and compensated in a way that will make up for the damages you’ve suffered. Working with a Buckhannon, WV car accident attorney lets you relax knowing that someone is fighting on behalf of your best interests.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Get After a Car Accident in Buckhannon?

When you’re in a car accident, you may not know how you’re going to be able to handle all of the expenses that keep piling up The good news is, you may not have to. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you could get compensation for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Physical injuries
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning ability
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional trauma
  • Loss of companionship
  • Wrongful death

Car Insurance Minimums in West Virginia

West Virginia requires all drivers to carry a certain amount of car insurance. While you can carry higher limits, the minimums required by the state are:

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

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage Laws in West Virginia

On top of the regular car insurance policy limits that are required, West Virginia drivers must also buy uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This type of insurance protects the policyholder if they get into an accident with an uninsured driver.

When you buy uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company may try to offer you the maximum limits. You should consider purchasing these just to protect yourself, but the minimum amounts for UM coverage required by law are as follows:

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

As far as underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) goes, West Virginia drivers are not required to carry it. It is a good idea however, so that your finances will be handled if you’re in a car accident with a driver with low policy limits.

Who Pays for Damages in a West Virginia Car Accident

West Virginia is an at-fault state, but it also employs a modified comparative negligence rule when it comes to determining who is responsible for the personal injury and property damages expenses incurred after an accident. This rule dictates that the damages you can receive should be based on how much of the accident was your fault. For instance:

You could go to court after an accident and claim the accident was the other party’s fault and that they owe you $50,000 in damages. They court may agree that you are entitled to that amount of money but, after reviewing the details of your case, they may find that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident. In this example, the damages you were awarded would be reduced by 20 percent to reflect your fault, so you’d only receive $40,000.

Under this rule, you can receive compensation from the other party’s unserer, as long as you are 49 percent or less at fault. Unfortunately, if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, you can’t get any compensation from the other party.

After a car accident, most people choose to seek damages either from their own insurance provider or the other party’s. You can try to go after the individual or entity who caused your accident themselves, but doing so would be extraordinarily difficult, especially without an experienced Buckhannon, WV car accident lawyer.

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Driving Safety Laws

Insurance laws aren’t the only driving laws West Virginia enforces. The ones mentioned below are also enforced and are crucial to preventing unnecessary car accidents.

Drunk Driving

West Virginia laws prevent drivers over 21 from operating a vehicle if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. Commercial drivers must have less than .04 BAC to drive and those younger than 21 must have less than .02 BAC to drive.

First time offenders of West Virginia’s drunk driving laws 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

Seat belt use in West Virginia is required for:

  • 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

Whenever a vehicle is in motion, children who are 8 years old or younger and less than 4 feet and 9 inches tall, have to sit in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved child safety seat. Check out Safe Kids Worldwide for more information on selecting the right seat and installing it correctly.

Violating these laws can result in $10 to $20 in fines.

Cell Phone Use and Texting

No West Virginia driver is legally allowed to send or write text messages while they are operating a vehicle.

Drivers over 18 are can use hands-free devices to make calls but can’t use handheld cell phones to make calls. Additionally, no driver under age 18 can make a call while driving, unless it is to 9-1-1.

Headlight Use

All West Virginia vehicles need 2 working headlights, one on each side of the front of the vehicle, to be driven legally. Headlights must be used from sunset to sunrise, when fog, rain, snow, or smoke affect visibility, or when poor lighting keeps them from seeing 500 feet ahead at any given time.

Unattended Vehicles

Leaving a vehicle unattended while it is on and running is illegal in West Virginia. If you want to leave your car unattended, you have to turn it off and remove the key from the ignition.

Violating these laws can result in $100 in fines for first time offenders and much higher fines for repeat offenders.

Unattended Kids and Animals

You can hurt or kill a child or animal if you leave them unattended in a vehicle, especially on a hot day. Doing so is illegal in many places in West Virginia, so check with your local police to make sure you are following your city’s laws.

West Virginia Car Accident Facts

Car accidents are fairly common in our state, with many of them occurring on rural roads. Here are some interesting facts about West Virginia Car Accidents in 2015:

  • In 2015, there were 246 fatal car accidents and 268 deaths
  • 91 of the people killed in these crashes were occupants of cars, 96 the occupants of SUVs or pickup trucks, 4 the occupants of large trucks, 32 were motorcyclists, 19 were pedestrians, and 1 was a bicyclist
  • 59 percent of these crashes involved one vehicle and 41 percent involved multiple vehicles
  • 147 of the fatal accidents in 2015 were caused by alcohol impairment
  • 99 of the people killed weren’t wearing a seatbelt
  • 71 percent of all fatal accidents in 2015 were in rural areas

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

A car crash can leave your body and mind in shock. You must do your best to stay calm during this time, as it will help you handle the situation better. Following these tips to make the first few moments after a car accident easier:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Check everyone and yourself for injuries
  • Move debris and damaged vehicles to the shoulder of the road
  • Swap contact and insurance information with the other parties
  • Write down the details about the accident
  • Get photos of the vehicles and your injuries
  • Start a claim with your insurance company
  • Contact a Buchannon, West Virginia car accident lawyer

You may be afraid or angry after your car accident. No matter how upset you are, keep your feelings to yourself and wait to discuss your opinions about the accident with your attorney. If you don’t, you could say something to the other driver or the police that you don’t mean, and that could harm your case.

Should I Hire a Buckhannon Car Accident Lawyer?

If you’re not sure whether you should hire a Buckhannon, WV car accident lawyer or not, you need to consider that the statute of limitations for this kind of case in West Virginia is only two years. That may seem like long enough to handle your case yourself, but in the legal world cases like this can last months or years. It is much safer to let an attorney handle your case so it can be started within the statute of limitations.

Additionally, a Buckhannon car accident attorney can do all the little things you may not have time to, like:

  • Collecting police reports
  • Keeping track of medical records
  • Collecting phone call recordings and CCTV footage (if available)
  • Dealing with insurance adjustors
  • Talking to witnesses
  • Finding expert witnesses to testify in court
  • Assessing whether an automobile defect or recall may have caused your accident

After a car accident, you need to focus your time and energy toward getting better, not on handling a legal battle yourself. If you hire a lawyer, you can make healing your first priority while they handle your case theirs.

Car Accident Lawyers in Buckhannon, West Virginia

The attorneys at Colombo Law have decades of experience helping the car accident victims throughout the Buckhannon area, including in places like:

  • Ritchie
  • City Center
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Sand Run
  • Swamp Run
  • Hodgesville
  • Lorentz
  • Tennerton
  • French Creek
  • Rock Cave
  • Tallmansville
  • Deanville
  • Reger
  • 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

Our services are free to you up until the moment we win a successful settlement on your behalf. Even our consultations are free, and carry no obligation to work with us. If you were in a car accident in Buckhannon, WV, you have nothing to lose by contacting the attorneys at Colombo Law to find out what your case could be worth.