Driving on any roadway comes with a set of risks for which all drivers must assume responsibility. One of these assumed risks is colliding with a driver that has limited insurance or no insurance at all. Though the proceedings following a collision with an uninsured motorist may seem questionable at first, mandatory insurance coverage typically covers these situations. Each state sets their own standards for minimum insurance coverage that address circumstances like these.
West Virginia’s Insurance Requirements
West Virginia’s minimum required insurance coverage must provide the following coverages:
- $20,000 in physical injuries per person
- $40,000 in maximum coverage for physical injuries/claims pertaining to the all passengers
- $10,000 in property damages
Driving Without Proper Coverage
Penalties for not meeting the state’s insurance requirements can result in fines or suspension of the driver’s license. The exact consequences depends on how long the driver has been uninsured and whether they’ve neglected to purchase adequate insurance in the past. For example, a first-time offender could receive between $200 and $5,000 in fines, up to 30 days in license suspension, and potential revocation of their vehicle’s registration.
Drivers that give false information to the DMV about their insurance coverage results even harsher, mandatory punishment. This includes a 90-day license suspension, up to $1,000 in fines, and up to one year in jail. Falsely reporting insurance information and refusing to obtain proper coverage are serious consequences.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a form of liability insurance that protects drivers when they encounter other drivers without adequate coverage. In no-fault states, this form of insurance is mandatory because each driver pays for their own damages. Fault-based states do not always require liability insurance. West Virginia does not require their drivers to purchase liability insurance, but they must submit a refusal to their insurance company in writing to be exempt. When drivers do purchase UM insurance, it must reflect the same coverage limits as their base insurance.
Comparative Negligence Law
West Virginia is a fault-based state that practices comparative negligence law in addressing their car accidents. This means that each party must take responsibility for their own fault in an accident. A court-designated percentage designates the amount of fault each party is responsible for. Though fault percentages are not typically associated with out-of-court proceedings, the general proportion of damage that one driver contributes to an accident over another does play a role in whether they can file a claim.
Two types of comparative fault-based systems exist: modified and pure. Pure comparative fault allows all parties to pursue legal action against another involved driver, no matter their fault percentage. West Virginia follows a modified comparative fault system. This means that a driver must be responsible for less than 50% of the damages caused by the accident to file a personal injury claim. So, while the state does assign unique percentage ratings to each driver, it still divides them into a clear plaintiff and defendant grouping.
Can I File a Lawsuit?
Any qualified driver can file against an uninsured motorist if they reside in a fault-based state. A personal injury claim is a legal motion that you can bring to court – it does not rely solely on the other driver’s insurance. However, it is important to remember that uninsured drivers typically don’t buy insurance because it is too expensive, meaning they probably have limited assets in terms of paying you out in a lawsuit.
A state’s statute of limitations dictates how much time a plaintiff has to file a personal injury lawsuit within their local small claims court. In West Virginia, this time period is two years. After this timeframe, the defendant can request a motion to dismiss the case. Courts often honor these motions because they also honor their statute of limitations.
Car accidents involving uninsured/underinsured drivers are variable in how they conclude. It is best to work with your own car insurance company or a local attorney to determine the best course of action.