Car accidents happen without warning. In the span of a few seconds, your car can be totaled, and you can be seriously injured. Your life can be flipped upside down, and you could be left dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial hardships. The good news is, you can get help by hiring a car accident lawyer at Colombo Law in Morgantown.
Our car accident lawyers specialize in helping victims who have suffered personal injuries or property damages as a result of a car accident. Through years of schooling and countless hours of hands-on experience, our car accident attorneys in Morgantown are versed in local and federal laws, the legal system, and the litigation process.
Our car accident lawyers are your personal advocate. Our job is to make sure you are treated ethically and receive maximum compensation from the responsible party and the insurance companies. When you work with our personal injury attorneys, you will feel comfortable knowing that someone is in your corner and fighting for your rights every step of the way.
Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney
The statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage suits in West Virginia is two years. Legal battles can be lengthy, and you may not be able to reach a successful outcome in your case if you try to handle it yourself.
The process of dealing with insurance adjusters and filing a lawsuit, if need be, is a difficult one that involves many small steps and takes a lot of time. When you hire a Morgantown car accident lawyer, you can relax knowing that they will take the burden of this process on their shoulders.
A car accident lawyer will handle every last detail for you, including:
- Collecting police reports
- Keeping track of medical records
- Collecting phone call recordings and CCTV footage (if available)
- Dealing with insurance adjusters
- 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, your focus should be on healing so that you can get back to work and normal life. When you hire a car accident lawyer at Colombo Law, we can take on the stress of the legal aspects of your case so you can concentrate on healing.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in West Virginia
Being involved in a car accident can lead to a number of unwanted consequences. These include permanent injuries, loss of earnings, medical bills, and more. The most common causes of car accidents that we see on a yearly basis include the following:
Distracted Driving Proves Deadly
An outstanding number of drivers throughout Morgantown still fail to pay attention to the road. Because our world is so technology-centered, the rate of distracted driving has only gone up. Common distractions that cause car accidents in West Virginia include:
- Talking or texting on a cell phone
- Eating and driving
- Using a GPS for directions
- Changing the radio or listening to the music too loud
- Personal grooming (putting on makeup, etc.)
The United States government’s website for distracted driving, distraction.gov reports that 3,477 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015. Additionally, 391,000 people were seriously injured.
Driving Under the Influence Remains an Issue
Drunk driving accidents have been well-documented in West Virginia for quite some time. Regardless of the press it attracts, drivers in Morgantown and the rest of the state still get behind the wheel after drinking. West Virginian drunk driving fatalities average about 120 per year according to the CDC. In 2016 alone, there 145 people killed in alcohol-related accidents in West Virginia according to IIHS statistics. While these numbers fluctuate on a yearly basis, the problem is still right in front of us.
Often, car accidents caused by fatigued drivers may seem like innocent mistakes. However, victims of these accidents must know that these drivers made a conscious decision to keep driving instead of pulling off of the road to rest. Fatigued driving accidents are often compared to drunk driving accidents because of the nature in which they occur. Often, fatigued drivers will swerve across lanes and run stop lights and stop signs. These accidents can cause tremendous damage and catastrophic injuries to those who are involved.
Some examples of reckless driving incidents that occur in West Virginia include tailgating, changing lanes without warning, driving too close, and weaving in and out of traffic. While there is no reason for anyone in Morgantown to engage in any of these habits, they still happen on a day to day basis. Driving recklessly and without any regard for others on the road can easily kill or seriously injure an innocent person. Not to mention, it carries a 6 point deduction off of one’s license.
Related to reckless driving, speeding is a contributing factor. Speed limits exist for a reason, and many people consciously choose not to follow them. When people choose to drive too fast, they may not have enough time to stop and avoid an accident with another motor vehicle. Because speeding drivers are traveling so fast, the accidents they cause are often very serious or fatal.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents can cause severe injuries and death to their victims. Most people who are hurt in a car accident suffer from impact injuries. Other common injuries in car accidents include cuts and abrasions from broken glass and shrapnel. In serious rollover accidents, victims can often be completely ejected from their vehicle.
The most common injuries we see stemming from car accidents in Morgantown include:
A blow to the head during a car accident can cause an injury known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI can be a mild concussion that heals on its own within a couple of weeks, or it can be severe and cause life-altering complications. Some of these complications can include loss of motor function, speech impairments, vision impairments, memory loss, concentration loss, emotional issues and more.
Neck and Back Injuries
Whiplash is the most common injury suffered in car accidents. It describes a neck injury in which the neck stretches and quickly snaps violently. Whiplash injuries can cause damage to vertebrae, ligaments, disks, and the spinal cord. When the spinal cord is affected by an accident, full or partial paralysis can occur. This can alter a person’s life forever and cause them to rely on full-time assistive care. Even when these injuries are less severe, they can still cause tremendous pain and can significantly reduce the quality of life.
The crushing impact of a car accident can break ribs and/or the sternum. This is especially common when the driver or a passenger was not restrained by a seatbelt. The severity of chest injuries from car accidents has been significantly decreased since the introduction of airbags. However, fractures and organ injuries can still occur.
Broken bones of all types are very common in car accidents. Whether it be a broken pelvic bone, femur, rib, collarbone, or arm, the human bone structure stands little chance in a car accident. Broken and fractured bones often require extensive rehabilitation, and if they are serious enough, surgeries are needed to correct them.
Believe it or not, West Virginia has the highest accidental death rate (71.5 deaths per 100,000 residents) amongst all states according to an article from USA Today. This made West Virginia the state with the most deadly accidents. Oklahoma came in second with nearly ten deaths less per 100,000 people. According to city-data.com:
- There were 10 fatal car accidents in Morgantown in 2013.
- There were 20 vehicles involved in fatal car accidents in 2013.
- There were 3 fatal accidents involving drunken persons in 2013.
- There were 27 persons involved in fatal accidents in 2013.
- There were 1,092 people killed from 2003-2012 in crashes involving a drunk driver according to the CDC.
- According to the IIHS, there were a total of 184 car accident deaths in West Virginia in 2016.
Compensation for Car Accident Injuries in West Virginia
West Virginia is an at-fault state when it comes to determining who is liable for damages after a car accident. However, in 2015 lawmakers enacted a modified comparative negligence rule that determines how much an individual can receive in compensation based on their percentage of fault.
For example, you could take a case to court and claim that the other driver was at fault for the accident. After reviewing your case, the court could rule that your damages should be worth $50,000. But, they could also rule that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident, and the other driver was 80 percent at fault. In this case, your damages would be reduced by the percentage of your fault so you would be entitled to 20 percent less money for a total of $40,000.
This comparative negligence rule applies to any individual who is at fault for 49 percent or less of an accident. However, if you are at fault for 50 percent or more of the accident, you are not eligible to receive any damages from the other driver or their insurance company.
If you are eligible to receive damages, you can seek them from your own insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, or the other driver. While it
is possible to seek reimbursement for your expenses on your own, finding a West Virginia car accident lawyer near you will make the process much easier.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Morgantown
A car accident can leave your body injured and your mind in a state of shock. While it is difficult, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember that everything will be ok. Following these tips can help you stay calm after a car accident and help you preserve your claim:
- Call 9-1-1 so emergency personnel can respond. Typically, the Morgantown PD or the West Virginia State Police will arrive at the scene.
- Make sure anyone who is injured is safe until the ambulance arrives.
- If safe, collect debris and move the damaged vehicles off the road.
- Swap contact and insurance information with any drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists involved.
- Take notes on the details of the car accident.
- Take photos of the vehicles and your injuries.
- File a claim with your insurance company.
- Contact our car accident lawyers in Morgantown.
You’ll probably experience a wide range of emotions after an accident, such as fear or anger. No matter how upset you may be, it’s important to not place blame or harass the other driver over the accident. This could affect your case and is a conversation that is much better had with the car accident lawyer who will be handling your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents in Morgantown, West Virginia
What if the accident was minor and no one was injured?
A non-injury case is often a very good candidate for a claim you can handle on your own.
Typically, to recover any significant financial compensation, you will need to be able to show that you suffered damages. Examples of damages include physical injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and accompanying emotional distress.
So unless there was substantial property damage or unusual circumstances resulting in other significant damages, there might not be a lot a lawyer can do for you in a non-injury case.
But before you assume your accident was minor, make sure you’re right about that. We have seen too many auto accident victims sign away their rights to an insurance company only to learn later that they were injured after all.
Some injuries develop slowly; symptoms aren’t always apparent right away.
Even seemingly “minor” injuries such as whiplash, lacerations, contusions, or soft tissue injuries might warrant a greater financial recovery than you think.
So what can you do to ensure you’re making the right call? See a doctor as soon as possible. Or, if you have any legal questions whatsoever, pick up the phone and call our office (or drop by the firm). We’re here to help.
What if the insurance company has already offered me a settlement?
Insurance companies like to advertise themselves as friendly and neighborly, but here’s the truth: they work for themselves. They’re a lot more interested in their wallet than yours. So when they make a settlement offer, you need to ask yourself: who will benefit from this the most?
Sometimes, insurers make relatively fair settlement offers right away. More often, however, the early settlement offers represent a much smaller amount of money than the insurance company is truly willing to pay.
Unfortunately, in most cases, once you accept an insurance company’s settlement offer after an auto accident, you can’t come back for more money later. That’s why you must be extremely careful in all your interactions with an insurer.
Don’t make the mistake of accepting an insurance settlement too soon. Even if it seems fair to you, take the time to call our office and set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. We’ll let you know if we think you might be entitled to more.
What if the insurance company has denied my claim?
The insurance company doesn’t have the final say on its legal obligations. If you were injured in a West Virginia auto accident and someone else’s carelessness is to blame, chances are good that you’re entitled to compensation under the laws of this state.
You should know that insurance companies are inundated with incoming claims, and their adjustors are constantly looking for ways to save the company money. Accordingly, adjustors sometimes deny a new claim almost automatically. They know that a certain percentage of people will simply accept the denial at face value — even if they have a legitimate claim.
Don’t fall for that trick. While some auto accident claim denials are fair and appropriate, many are not. If your claim has been denied, please call our office to talk it over.
An experienced Morgantown auto accident lawyer at Colombo Law may be able to help you fight back against an unfairly denied claim.
What if I wasn’t at fault for the accident?
Lawyers aren’t just for legal defense. In fact, as Morgantown auto accident attorneys, most of our work is on behalf of people who were not at fault for their accident.
You might assume that an insurance company will simply pay you the money you deserve. You might even believe that the insurer is required to pay exactly what you’re owed. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t always work that way.
Insurance companies are very good at finding ways to avoid paying car crash victims the money they deserve. By hiring a personal injury lawyer, you can fight back against those tactics and hold them accountable to the law.
What if I was at fault for the accident?
First, you should never assume you are entirely at fault for a car wreck. Sometimes, more than one person can share in the liability for an auto accident. And police reports aren’t always the final say in the matter.
West Virginia follows a rule of call called comparative negligence. Essentially, it means that even if you were up to 50% at fault for your accident, you can still recover for your damages.
Who determines what percentage of fault is yours? And how can you get an insurance company to offer you a fair settlement if you were partially at fault (especially in light of a police report assigning fault to you)? A lawyer may be able to help.
A good rule of thumb is this: if you suffer any significant injury in an auto accident in West Virginia, it’s worth at least having a conversation with an experienced Morgantown personal injury lawyer, regardless of who you think is at fault.
What if the car crash was a long time ago?
The statute of limitations for most auto injury claims in West Virginia is two years from the date of the injury. In other words, you have two whole years to file a claim in court.
Should you wait that long? Ideally, no. Auto accident claims take some time to prepare, and negotiations can often lead to a favorable outcome without going to court. Moreover, many insurance policies require timely notice of a claim.
But if you find yourself toward the end of a statute of limitations — or if your statute of limitations has passed but your injury did not become apparent until after the time window expired — please don’t hesitate to give our office a call right away.
What if I can’t afford a lawyer?
At Colombo Law, we do not charge attorney fees unless and until we recover compensation for our clients. If we don’t succeed, you don’t pay a thing.
We also offer a free, no-obligation consultation at the outset. It’s your chance to talk about your situation with an experienced legal professional before deciding “do I need a lawyer for an auto accident?”
It is a common myth that lawyers are unaffordable. But when it comes to auto accidents (and other personal injury claims), you really have nothing to lose. The risk of losing is all on us.
You don’t have to pay anything upfront, and if we do succeed, our attorney fee is only a portion of your recovery.
Contact the Morgantown Car Accident Attorneys at Colombo Law For a Free Case Review
The car accident lawyers at Colombo Law have years of experience helping the victims of car accidents in Morgantown. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t charge you a dime unless we win your case.
We also offer free, confidential consultations with no obligation to use our firm. If you aren’t sure if you need a car accident lawyer, there’s no harm in scheduling a consultation to find out if you have a case. All you have to do to get started is give us a call at 304-599-4229 to learn more.