Whether you’re driving the same commute you make every day or are running a simple errand, a car accident can happen without warning. In the space of a few minutes, your car can be totaled and you can be injured. Before you know it, your life can be flipped upside down and you could be left dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial aftermath. The good news is, you can get help by hiring the West Virginia car accident lawyers at Colombo Law.

What Is a Car Accident Lawyer?

A car accident attorney is someone who specializes in helping victims who have suffered personal injuries or property damages as a result of an auto accident. Through years of schooling and countless hours of hands on experience, car accident lawyers learn everything about local and federal laws, the legal system, and the litigation process.

A car accident lawyer is your advocate. Their job is to see to it that you are treated ethically and compensated fairly by the responsible party, insurance companies, and the court. When you work with an auto accident attorney, you can rest easy knowing that someone is in your corner and fighting for your rights.

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

After an accident, you’ll probably be faced with a number of bills and expenses that feel like they just keep adding up. Not only is this stressful emotionally, but it can be even more difficult if your finances are tight. Fortunately, if you were in a car accident, you could be compensated for things like:

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

Car Insurance Laws in West Virginia

All drivers in West Virginia are required to purchase car insurance to pay for injuries and damages in the event of an accident. Minimum car insurance requirements in West Virginia are:

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

Car Wrecked Driver's Side

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage in West Virginia

In addition to their regular car insurance policy, West Virginia also requires all drivers to purchase uninsured motorist insurance (UM) to protect them if they are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. When you purchase this type of coverage, your insurance company will likely try to sell you the maximum amount of coverage possible. While it’s not a bad idea to carry the maximum coverage, the minimum UM requirements according to West Virginia law are the same as those for regular car insurance:

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

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is not currently required by West Virginia law, however it may be a good idea to consider purchasing this coverage in the event you are in an accident with someone whose policy limits are too low to cover your expenses.

Driving Safety Laws

Aside from insurance laws, there are a number of other laws designed to keep West Virginia drivers safe. In many cases, ignorance or failure to adhere to these laws is what causes car accidents.

Drunk Driving

It is illegal for anyone over 21 to operate a vehicle in West Virginia with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. For commercial drivers, this limit is lowered to .04 BAC. West Virginia also has a Zero Tolerance law, that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with a BAC of .02 or more.

Failure to adhere to these laws will bring strict penalties down on the drunk driver:

  • First time offenders can face up to 6 months in jail and anywhere from $100 to $500 fines. The driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months and they will be required to complete a safety program before it is reinstated.
  • Second time offenders can spend 6 months to 1 year in jail and face fines of $1,000 to $3,000. They could lose their license for anywhere from 1 to 10 years and be forced to have a mandatory ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. They also have to complete a safety program before getting their license back.
  • Third time offenders will spend 1 to 3 years in jail and pay fines ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. Their license may be suspended for life, or they may face a 1 year suspension followed by the installation of an ignition interlock device in their car. They also will have to take a safety program before getting their license back.

Seat Belts

Seat belt use is mandatory in all West Virginia vehicles for:
● All drivers
● All front seat passengers
● All back seat passengers under the age of 18

Those who ignore these laws and are caught will face a $25 fine.

Car Seats

Any child who is under 8 years old and is 4 feet and 9 inches tall or less, must be in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved child safety seat whenever a vehicle is in motion. For more information on finding the right seat and making sure it is properly installed, visit Safe Kids Worldwide.

Those who violate this law will face fines between $10 and $20.

Cell Phone Use and Texting

All drivers in West Virginia are prohibited from texting while driving.

Drivers in West Virginia are banned from using handheld cell phones to make calls, but can use hands-free devices. The exception to this is that drivers under 18 are not allowed to use cell phones at all, even with a hands-free device, unless they are calling 9-1-1.

Headlight Use

All West Virginia passenger vehicles are required to have 2 headlights on the front of their vehicle, one on each side. These headlights must be used from sunset to sunrise, when fog, rain, snow, or smoke affect visibility, or any other time when lighting prohibits drivers from seeing at least 500 feet ahead of them.

Unattended Vehicles

You are not allowed to leave a vehicle unattended while it is running. You must turn off the car and remove they key from the ignition if you intend to step away from your vehicle.

First time offenders will be charged with a $100 fine and repeat offenders will be fined even more heavily.

Unattended Kids and Animals

Leaving your kids or your pets unattended in your vehicle can seriously injure or kill them given the right conditions. It’s also illegal in many cities, so check with your local police force for more information.

Car Accident Victim in Ambulance

Who Pays for Damages in a West Virginia Car Accident

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 themselves. While it is possible to seek reimbursement for your expenses on your own, finding a West Virginia car accident attorney near you will make the process much easier.

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West Virginia Car Accident Statistics

Car accidents happen every day in West Virginia, with many of them occurring in rural areas. Check out the most recent statistics on West Virginia car accidents that occured in 2015:

  • In 2015, there were 246 fatal car accidents that resulted in 268 deaths
  • 91 of these were occupants of cars, 96 were occupants of SUVs or pickup trucks, 4 were 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 involved alcohol impairment
  • 99 of the vehicle occupants killed in these fatal accidents weren’t wearing a seatbelt
  • 71 percent of all fatal accidents in 2015 occured in rural areas

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

A car crash 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 do everything you can to preserve your claim:

  • Call 9-1-1 so emergency personnel can respond
  • 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 bicyclists 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 a West Virginia car accident lawyer

You’ll probably experience a wide range of emotions after an accident, such as fear or anger. Despite 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 attorney who will be handling your claim.

Should I Hire a West Virginia Car Accident Lawyer?

The short answer is: yes. 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 on your case if you try to handle it yourself.

The process of dealing with insurance adjustors 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 West Virginia car accident attorney, 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, 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, your focus should be on healing so that you can back to work and normal life. By hiring a lawyer, you can make that your first priority while they handle your case.

West Virginia Car Accident Lawyers

The attorneys at Colombo Law have years of experience helping the victims of West Virginia car accidents. We have worked with clients throughout Morgantown, including areas like:

  • Sabraton
  • West Sabraton
  • Cheat Lake
  • Brookhaven
  • Blacksville
  • Osage
  • Westover
  • Star City
  • Granville
  • Wiles Hill
  • Woodburn
  • Sunnyside
  • South Hills
  • Suncrest
  • Hopecrest
  • South Park
  • Greenmont
  • 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

At Colombo Law, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t charge you a dime unless we win your case. If we are successful, we typically charge 33.3 percent of your settlement for our services.

We also offer free, confidential consultations with no pressure or obligation to make use of our services. If you aren’t sure if you need a car accident lawyer or not, 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.