No matter how careful of a driver you may be, there is always some risk of being hurt in a car accident because of negligent motorists on the road with you. Each year, thousands of West Virginians are injured in motor vehicle accidents – and hundreds die in fatal crashes.
If you have been hurt in a collision, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. Through this type of lawsuit, you can recover financial compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, emotional distress, and other losses. In most cases, an accident claim will be resolved through a settlement.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we work hard to help our clients get maximum compensation for their injuries. We exclusively represent accident victims, using our decades of combined experience in West Virginia personal injury law. To learn more, reach out today to schedule a free consultation with a WV accident attorney.
How Much Can You Get From a Car Accident Settlement?
One of the first questions that many injury victims have is how much their case is worth. The value of any given car accident case may vary considerably, based on several factors. This includes:
- Whether the insurance company accepts liability;
- If the injury victim was partially at fault (comparative negligence);
- The limits of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance;
- The nature of the injuries; and
- The severity of the injuries.
For example, if a person suffers a spinal cord injury in a car accident and is paralyzed as a result, the value of their case will probably be higher than a person who suffered relatively minor bruises and scrapes. However, if the negligent party carried only the minimum insurance required by WV law, then the person who was paralyzed in an accident may ultimately recover a smaller amount than a person with less serious injuries.
Because each case is unique, there is not an average car accident settlement in West Virginia. Instead, the value of your case will be determined by many different factors – including the skill of your lawyer.
The best way to get a top-dollar car accident settlement is by working with an experienced West Virginia car accident attorney. They will examine every aspect of your case to bring in all potentially liable parties and to ensure that you get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
There are three possible types of damages in a WV personal injury claim. First, economic damages compensate an injured victim for their direct financial losses. Economic damages may include things such as property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical bills, and future medical treatment.
Second, non-economic damages compensate an accident victim for their intangible losses. These losses can be harder to prove but are no less “real” than economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional trauma, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Third, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where a defendant acted intentionally or recklessly. Because most personal injury cases involve negligence – rather than intentional or reckless conduct – they are often not available in car accident cases. There are situations – such as drunk driving accidents – where punitive damages may be awarded. In West Virginia, punitive damages are capped at the greater of four times compensatory damages or $500,000.
A seasoned WV car accident attorney will use their knowledge of the law and experience handling similar cases to put together a demand for fair compensation. They will work with you to ensure that you get the money that you need to move forward with your life after a motor vehicle accident.
How Long Does the Insurance Company Have to Settle the Case?
In West Virginia, car insurance companies must respond to an accident claim within a “reasonable” amount of time. There is no specific settlement timeline. Instead, the claim will move forward until both sides can come to an agreement – or the case goes to trial.
The settlement process begins with a demand letter, sent by your personal injury lawyer to the insurer. This letter will set out the facts of the case, explain why the insured is liable, and make a demand for financial compensation. Most insurance companies will respond to this letter within 30 days, often by making a counteroffer.
Over the coming weeks and months, the parties will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement. In many situations, the claim can be resolved without filing a lawsuit. However, it may be necessary to file a WV accident lawsuit to preserve your rights and continue the negotiations.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean that your case will go to trial. Instead, it is a way to discover more information about the case and continue working towards a settlement.
Many car accident claims are resolved in just a few months, with the injury victim getting a settlement check within 6 months of the accident. However, if the insurance company contests liability or the extent of your injuries, it may take longer. If your case goes to trial, it could take a year or more to achieve a settlement.
Working with a team of experienced personal injury attorneys can improve the likelihood of getting a fair settlement quickly. When you have skilled legal representation, insurance companies know that you are willing and able to take the case to a jury – and get a verdict in your favor. For this reason, insurance companies are more likely to offer you a fair settlement when you work with a West Virginia law firm with a track record of success.
What to Know Before Settling a Claim
After a car accident, you may be approached by an insurance adjuster. They may ask you to give a statement or ask you to sign paperwork. They may even offer you a settlement and tell you that they accept full responsibility for the claim.
Before giving a statement or signing anything, it is important to talk to a WV personal injury attorney. They will protect your rights, and make sure that you understand exactly what you are doing before you settle your car accident claim. They will also explain what you need to know before settling a claim.
First, car accident settlements are final. When you sign a settlement agreement, you are releasing all parties from further liability for claims. If you sign an agreement without fully understanding what you are giving up, it could impact your rights in the future.
Second, an initial settlement offer from the insurance company will almost never represent the full value of your claim. Before you sign a settlement agreement, you should understand the damages available in a car accident claim – and how much your case is worth. The settlement should take all of your losses into consideration, including the need for future medical care.
Third, the insurance company is in business to make money. They aren’t doing you a favor by offering you a quick settlement – they are trying to get rid of the claim for as little money as possible. Be wary of the insurance company’s motivations when they offer you a settlement when you don’t have legal representation, even if they tell you it’s for full value.
Fourth, before you settle a claim, you should know that you have options. You are not required to settle your claim. You can work with an attorney to negotiate a fair settlement, or even take the case to trial to ask a jury to find it in your favor. No matter what the insurance adjuster may imply, you don’t simply have to accept their settlement offer.
How a West Virginia Accident Attorney Can Help
When you are in a motor vehicle accident in West Virginia, you may be overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. In this situation, it may seem like the easiest thing to do is to just take a settlement offer from the insurance company. Unfortunately, this often results in you getting a much lower settlement than you would if you hired an experienced car accident attorney.
During a free initial consultation, your lawyer will listen to your story and give you a ballpark estimate of the value of your claim. If you decide to hire the law firm, they will get to work right away to investigate the case. This may include interviewing witnesses, obtaining an accident report and medical records, and reviewing photos and videos of the accident scene.
One of the most important things that your lawyer will do is determine who may be at fault for your accident. In some cases, it is relatively straightforward: the at-fault driver is the only party that can be sued for your losses. In other situations, it may be possible to bring in other responsible parties – like the manufacturer of a defective car part, for example, or a city that did not adequately maintain the road where the crash occurred. By bringing in all potentially responsible parties, your personal injury lawyer will increase the likelihood of you getting full compensation.
Once they have completed their investigation and researched West Virginia accident law, your attorney will move forward with a claim for compensation. They will take over all communication with the insurance carrier on your behalf, which can ease the stress of dealing with constant calls and letters from the adjuster.
At this point, your lawyer will aggressively negotiate with the insurance company. They will take your full losses into consideration so that you get the money that you need to recover. With their guidance, you can resolve your personal injury lawsuit for the highest possible value.
When it comes down to it, the insurance company isn’t on your side. By working with an experienced auto accident attorney, you can achieve justice while getting maximum compensation for your injuries.
Reach Out Today for Experienced Legal Counsel
Being in a car accident can be devastating – emotionally, physically, and financially. Our law firm is dedicated to helping accident victims get the money that they need to move forward with their lives. We will stand by your side throughout the process, helping you get maximum compensation for your auto accident claim.
Based in Charleston, Johnstone & Gabhart is well-equipped to advocate for injury victims throughout West Virginia. We handle all personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a West Virginia auto accident lawyer, give our law office a call at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.
Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit to Settle My Car Accident Claim?
No. In some cases, your case may be resolved quickly, without the need to file a lawsuit. However, if the negotiations drag on, it may be necessary to file a legal claim to comply with West Virginia’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean that your case will go to trial. Instead, it is a way to preserve your rights and gather additional evidence to support your case. Reach out to Johnstone & Gabhart today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with a member of our legal team.
How Do Insurance Companies Calculate the Value of a Car Accident Claim?
While each insurance company is different, most use a software program to determine how much money they should offer in a WV car accident settlement. Typically, these programs determine non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) based on the amount of economic damages (such as the cost of a rental car, medical bills, etc). Because this software was designed for insurance companies – not for accident victims – it usually comes up with a settlement number that is far below the actual value of a claim.
If you try to negotiate a better settlement on your own, the insurance adjuster probably won’t take you seriously. The personal injury lawyers of Johnstone & Gabhart will use their substantial experience handling similar cases to help you get maximum compensation. Contact our law offices today for a free consultation with a WV car accident lawyer.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement Check for a WV Car Accident?
It depends. Some car accident claims are resolved very quickly, and you might have a check in hand in a matter of just a few months. More complex cases – and particularly those that go to trial – may take far longer to settle. If the insurance company is fighting any aspect of your case, it may take a year or longer to receive a settlement check.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we know that our clients experience considerable financial stress after a car accident. We work hard to help you get the highest level of compensation as quickly as possible. Give our law firm a call today for a free consultation.