The consequences of a personal injury can be significant. From medical expenses and lost income to pain and suffering, the financial and emotional toll can make it difficult to take care of yourself and your family and live life as you once did.
The good news for accident victims is that they may be able to recover compensation for these damages. The bad news is that knowing whether or not you have a case – that is, if you have the right to personal injury compensation – is not so simple.
Filing a personal injury claim requires knowledge of the law in West Virginia. Recovering fair compensation involves a multitude of activities, including investigating negligence, collecting evidence, calculating damages, negotiating with insurance companies, and (if necessary), arguing the case in court.
Given these challenges, it is in your best interest to speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact Colombo Law today, or keep reading for an overview of when you may be entitled to compensation for an injury or accident.
The Accident Was Not Your Fault
Personal injury cases are built on the principle of negligence. What constitutes negligence can vary depending on the circumstances, but generally speaking it means acting in a careless or irresponsible way. In some cases, a negligent act may be malicious.
If you were the individual acting negligently and you caused the accident, then you will not be able to recover compensation. However, under West Virginia’s comparative negligence rule, you are not barred from recovery so long as your proportion of fault is less than 50 percent.
For another party to be considered negligent – and therefore responsible for your damages – they must have owed you a duty of care and then breached that duty.
The At-Fault Party Owed You a Duty
In some shape or form, we all owe each other a duty of care. For example, while driving on the road, we each have a duty to drive in a responsible, safe manner.
But there are many other types of duty to consider. These include:
- Trucking companies have a duty to maintain their fleet, hire qualified drivers, and follow hours of service regulations.
- Property owners have a duty to keep their premises safe for lawful visitors.
- Medical providers have a responsibility to care for their patients to the best of their abilities.
- Nursing home administrators and staff have a duty to look after the health and well-being of their residents.
All of these duties bring with them responsibilities to avoid harming others.
The At-Fault Party Breached That Duty
Unfortunately, these and other parties sometimes neglect their duties to others. Legally, this is known as a breach.
Common examples of a breach of duty in personal injury claims include:
- A trucking company forces its drivers to stay on the road longer than allowed, causing an accident when the driver falls asleep, leading to a truck accident claim.
- A property owner neglects to fix a broken step, causing an injury and leading to a premises liability claim.
- An obstetrician carelessly mishandles a birth, leading to a birth-related injury claim.
- A nursing home employee fails to keep residents hydrated and nourished, causing an avoidable death and resulting in a nursing home abuse claim.
Ultimately, your attorney must clearly show that a duty existed and that this duty was breached. While such an argument establishes negligence, it does not necessarily mean you are entitled to compensation. That depends on the consequences of the negligence.
You Suffered Injury Due to Negligence
The next line of direct causation your lawyer must show is that your injuries were caused by the other party’s negligence.
For example, investigation of a birth injury may reveal that a nurse gave you the wrong medication at some point during labor and delivery. If medical experts testify that the administration of the incorrect medication caused your child’s injury, this establishes a direct connection between the negligence and the injury.
You Sustained Damages as a Result of the Injury
The final piece of determining if you have the right to compensation is proving that you sustained damages. Damages refer to economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. In some cases where negligence is severe or malicious, you may also be able to recover punitive damages.
If you sustained very minor injuries that did not result in medical bills or any serious emotional trauma, you will generally not be entitled to recover compensation. On the other hand, if you can prove negligence, that you suffered injuries, and that you sustained damages as a result of those injuries, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
There is one final element to whether or not you have the right to compensation, and that is time. In West Virginia, you generally have two years from the date of injury to recover compensation for a personal injury. This is called the statute of limitations. If you attempt to file a claim after this time has elapsed, your case will likely be dismissed.
That is why you should begin your claim sooner rather than later. You only have one chance to recover the compensation you need and deserve. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations does not wait.
At Colombo Law, we are here to help. We have over 20 years of experience representing injured accident victims, and we are dedicated to fighting for the maximum amount of compensation you and your loved ones deserve.
Please call us today at (304) 599-4229 for a free case review. Our personal injury attorneys serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.