There is often confusion about no-fault insurance and whether that approach is allowed in West Virginia. Since the presence of these laws can limit options for accident victims, it is important that you understand their effects. This is an explanation of no-fault insurance and how claims are handled in West Virginia.
What is No-Fault Insurance?
No-fault insurance refers to the right to sue. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you do not have to establish fault to receive compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. Your insurance carrier is required to cover them when you make a claim through your personal injury protection. It basically limits compensation to your own insurance carrier and eliminates the chance to sue the other driver in most cases. This intends to remove minor claims from consideration and reduce litigation.
Damages Caps for No-Fault States
Most states have a minimum amount of damages you need to incur before you are allowed to pursue the other insurance company. There are also caps on damages. Most no-fault states cap damages at about $250,000. If you meet the minimum requirements to pursue the other driver, it is not a decision to take lightly. You never want take this course of action in a no-fault state unless you can establish you are not at fault.
In New York, for example, you must sustain over $50,000 in economic losses to pursue a legal claim against the driver. If you require additional damages, you may pursue the other driver’s insurance policy. But that means proving that driver’s liability. This can be worth it in some cases; drunk driving or rear end accidents are clear on liability and likely worth pursuing.
But if there is a dispute over who ran the red light and conflicting witness testimony, you are in for a long fight. There is also risk because you may spend immense amounts of time pursuing damages and getting nothing back for the effort.
A majority of states embrace fault or tort liability rather than take a no-fault approach. In this scenario, accident victims can pursue the opposing insurance company for damages even if their injuries are relatively minor. The driver who caused the accident remains liable for the injuries and if their insurance company fails to make a reasonable offer, you have the option to sue them.
There are 12 no-fault states including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah. West Virginia is not on this list and is a tort liability state.
If you experience an accident while driving in these states, you will be affected by the no-fault statutes. It is a good idea to hire a personal injury attorney local to the area of your accident so you have a skilled professional on your side as you navigate the limitations imposed by those laws.
Your Claim Handling
Since West Virginia is a tort liability state, we pursue the other driver’s insurance company. If you carry personal injury protection, we will likely file a claim with them too as that assures compensation for medical bills and lost wages quicker than waiting for a settlement.
When you visit Johnstone & Gabhart, we review the fact scenario of the accident and advise you of your options. If you agree to hire us, we alert both your insurance company and the carrier for the other drivers that we represent you.
Settlement negotiations do not begin until you finished recovering. If your injuries are serious and require treatment beyond the two-year statute of limitations, we may file a lawsuit to preserve your claim. That does not stop negotiations if they appear to be productive. If settlement negotiations do not work, we will enter mediation or arbitration to attempt resolution. Claims that remain unresolved go to trial and jury verdict.
West Virginia offers accident victims many options when it comes to being compensated for accident injuries. The best way to assure your claim is taken seriously and you receive a good settlement is to hire a personal injury attorney. Allow the 50 years of combined experience at Johnstone & Gabhart help you. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.