If a car accident either injures or kills someone or causes more than $1,000 in damage, you must report it right away to police, according to West Virginia law. An accident that injures or kills someone and causes more than $500 in damage must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles as well. If you are unsure about the amount of damage, err on the safe side and report it.
West Virginia is one of the top 10 most dangerous states for car accidents, with more than 300 people killed on our roads in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Statute of Limitations Is Two Years
If you were injured in an accident caused by another driver (or any other party, such as debris that caused an accident), it’s also very important to know the West Virginia statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time an injured person has to bring a legal case for damages. In our state, it’s two years from the date of the accident. If more than two years have gone by, the court will refuse to hear your case, because the statute of limitations has been exceeded.
While the span is established by the courts, there are many practical reasons to bring a suit against at-fault parties in a car accident as quickly as possible after the accident occurs. Determining fault depends on evidence about how and why the accident happened. A driver must be found at fault, or negligent, for causing an accident if you are to recover damages for your injuries.
Evidence can be gathered from many different sources, including the police reports filed after the accident, how and where injuries occurred, eyewitness testimony, and forensic analysis of the accident scene. The latter includes where and how damage to the vehicles occurred and any damage at the scene, such as skid marks.
Eyewitness testimony and other types of analysis of the scene may become impossible to obtain the more time passes. People’s memories can become unreliable. Injuries may heal. Vehicles are repaired. The scene usually returns to the way it was before the accident.
What If I’m Injured in a Car Accident?
Several states have what is termed “no-fault” insurance, meaning that any damages from a car accident, such as medical bills and car repair, are paid by the injured person’s insurance, no matter who is at fault.
That is not true in West Virginia, however. We are a “fault” state. To establish that another driver was at fault, there can’t just be another driver or person involved. They have to be negligent in their driving duties, and the negligence has to be the cause of the accident.
All drivers, for example, need to be aware of West Virginia traffic and driving laws and follow them. They need to drive safely for existing road conditions. If they haven’t driven lawfully and safely, they may be negligent and responsible for the accident.
A driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was high, for instance, may show poor driving judgment and fail to follow the law. If they ignored signs at an intersection and struck a vehicle lawfully entering the intersection, for instance, they can be judged negligent.
But if you ignored a stop sign, drive into an intersection, and are hit, you may be judged responsible or partly responsible, even if you are injured and the driver had a high BAC, if the BAC was not directly responsible for the accident. (A charged with driving under the influence can occur if the BAC is 0.08 or above, but that does not automatically mean the driver is responsible for causing an accident. The law looks at causation.)
If another party is negligent, you can bring a suit for compensation for damages, including medical bills, lost wages from work, costs for repairing your car, loss of earnings, lost wages, and emotional distress. If you are partly responsible, any damages are reduced by the corresponding percentage, according to West Virginia’s modified comparative negligence rule. In other words, if you are awarded $100,000, but are 30% responsible, you will receive 30% less than $100,000, or $70,000.
If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in West Virginia
A car accident can cause pain and have significant impact on your work and family life. It’s important to get in touch with a seasoned West Virginia car accident lawyer soon, so that we may advise you of your rights, investigate the accident if necessary, and prepare your case.
Johnstone & Gabhart always offers offer free initial consultations. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.