You always hope you’ll never have to be involved in a car accident. While the vast majority of car accidents are simple fender-benders, some can result in serious property damage, life-threatening injuries, and even death. While no amount of money can truly make up for a loss like this, hiring a Weston, WV car accident lawyer to help you seek compensation from the at-fault party can help you move on financially.
What is a Car Accident Lawyer?
A car accident lawyer is someone who specializes in helping car accident victims who have suffered personal injury and property damage receive compensation for their expenses. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, you should consult with a Weston, WV car accident attorney to find out if you have a case.
What Can I Get Compensated for After a Car Crash?
Car accidents often result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical costs and other bills. If you’re injured, you may have to take time off work, which can make it even harder to find a way to pay for things. Thankfully, with the help of the car accident lawyers at Colombo Law, you may be able to be compensated by the at-fault party for things like:
- Doctor’s visits, surgeries, or medical equipment
- Injuries or disfigurement
- Missed activities
- Vehicle repair costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning ability
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
- Wrongful death
Car Insurance Requirements in West Virginia
Anyone driving a passenger vehicle in West Virginia has to obtain and be able to show proof of car insurance in order to be able to drive. Minimum amounts of car insurance required by law are:
- $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 Requirements in West Virginia
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is not required under West Virginia law. That said, you may want to consider whether this kind of policy is right for you, given that it will help you be compensated if you are in a car accident with a driver whose policy limits are not high enough to pay you for all your expenses.
West Virginia does require drivers to purchase uninsured motorists coverage (UM) however, in addition to their regular auto insurance policy. This insurance protects you if you’re in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have any insurance at all and must be purchased in the minimum amounts of:
- $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
Driving Safety Laws
In addition to insurance laws, there are also others laws meant to keep West Virginia drivers safe. In many cases, it is the ignorance of or failure to adhere to these laws that causes car accidents.
No one over 21 can operate a vehicle in West Virginia if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. Commercial drivers can’t drive if they have .04 BAC or greater and the Zero Tolerance law says drivers under the age of 21 cannot driver with a BAC of .02 or greater.
Failure to adhere to these laws will bring strict penalties down on the drunk driver:
- First time offenders can be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail and fines ranging from $100 to $500. Their license will be suspended for 6 months and they will be required to take a safety program before they can have it reinstated.
- Second time offenders can be sentenced to 6 months to 1 year in jail and fines ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. They could lose their license for 10 years or lose it for 1 year and be required to have a mandatory ignition interlock system installed in their car. They also have to complete a safety program before getting their license back.
- Third time offenders can spend between 1 and 3 years in jail and pay fines between $3,000 to $5,000. Their license could be suspended for life, or they could face a 1 year suspension and be forced to have an ignition interlock device placed in their car. They also will have to take a safety program before getting their license back.
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 violate these laws will face a $25 fine.
Any child under 8 years old and less than 4 feet and 9 inches tall, must sit in a child safety seat that is approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) whenever a vehicle is in motion. For more information on how to find the right seat and make sure it is properly installed, visit Safe Kids Worldwide.
Those who violate this law will pay fines between $10 and $20.
Cell Phone Use and Texting
It is illegal for any driver in West Virginia to text while driving.
Drivers in West Virginia are also not allowed to use handheld cell phones to make calls, but are allowed to use hands-free devices to make calls. The only exception is that drivers who are 18 or younger are not allowed to make calls while driving at all unless they are calling 9-1-1.
All West Virginia passenger vehicles must have 2 working headlights on the front of their vehicle, one on each side of the car. These headlights have to be used from sunset to sunrise, when fog, rain, snow, or smoke affect visibility, or any other time when poor lighting keeps drivers from seeing at least 500 feet ahead.
It is illegal leave a vehicle unattended while it is running in West Virginia. You must turn off the car and remove the key if you intend to leave your vehicle.
First time offenders will face a $100 fine and repeat offenders will be fined even more.
Unattended Kids and Animals
Leaving your kids or your pets unattended in your vehicle can hurt or even kill them in certain conditions. It’s also illegal in many places, so check with your local law enforcement for more information.
Who is Responsible for Damages After a West Virginia Car Accident
West Virginia is an at-fault state. In most at-fault states, the person who caused the accident is responsible for expenses. In West Virginia however, a modified comparative negligence rule is used to determine the total amount of damages you can receive based on how much of a role you played in the accident. It can be tricky to understand, so here’s an example:
Let’s say your case goes to trial, and you claim you’re entitled to $50,000 in damages because the other driver caused the accident. The court may rule that you do deserve $50,000 in damages, but that the other driver was only 80 percent at fault, while you were 20 percent at fault. In this situation, your damages will be decrease according to your percentage of 20 percent fault, so you’ll only be entitled to $40,000.
This modified comparative negligence rule allows you to be compensated for your damages if your fault is 49 percent or less. If your fault is 50 percent or more, you won’t get any compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
If you can receive damages, the easiest way to get them is from your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company. You can also seek compensation from the at-fault party directly, but that can be a tricky process without a Weston, WV car accident attorney.
Car Accident Facts for West Virginia
The most recent data for West Virginia car accidents comes from 2015 when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that there were:
- 246 fatal car accidents
- 268 deaths
- 91 occupants of cars killed, 96 occupants of SUVs or pickups killed, 4 occupants of large trucks killed, 32 motorcyclists killed, 19 pedestrians killed, and 1 bicyclist killed
- 59 percent of fatal crashes that involved one vehicle and 41 percent that involved multiple vehicles
- 147 alcohol-related fatal accidents
- 99 people who weren’t wearing their seatbelts killed
- 71 percent of fatal accidents that occurred on rural roads
What to Do After a Car Accident
The first order of business after a car accident is to remain calm and check yourself for injuries. If you are hurt, call an ambulance right away. If you are not severely injured, you should get out of your vehicle and:
- Call 9-1-1 (if you have not already done so)
- Check to see if others are injured
- Get the damaged vehicles and crash debris off the road
- Exchange insurance and contact info with 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
- Call the Weston car accident lawyers at Colombo Law
No matter how angry you are after an accident, it’s important not to accuse anyone of anything. Doing so can reflect poorly on yourself and jeopardize your case. Instead, keep your opinions to yourself until you can talk to an attorney. Be honest when you speak to the investigating officer, and do your best to be calm and respectful at all times.
Should I Hire a West Virginia Car Accident Lawyer or Not?
Yes. A car accident attorney’s job is to be your advocate. Not only will they help you fight for a fair settlement, but they can do their best to help you file your case within West Virginia’s two-year statute of limitations.
A Weston, WV car accident attorney will also handle the many small tasks that come after you’re in a car accident, like:
- Talking to insurance adjustors/companies
- Collecting police reports
- Gathering medical records
- Searching through phone call records and camera footage (if available)
- Talking to witnesses
- Finding expert witnesses to testify in court
- Determining if an automobile defect or recall played a role in your crash
Weston, West Virginia Car Accident Lawyers
Our attorneys are committed to helping those in our communities who have been the victims of a car accident. We’ve worked with multiple clients in Westone, including neighborhoods like:
- Jackson Mill
- City Center
- Jane Lew
- Ben Dale
- 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 Weston car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us for our services if you successfully settle or win your case.
If you’ve been in a car accident in Weston, WV and aren’t sure what to do next, contact us. We’ll schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your accident and go over your potential case. Call us to speak to a car accident lawyer near you, at 304-599-4229.