West Virginia Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident that occurred as a result of another’s negligent conduct, you may hire a West Virginia car accident lawyer and seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, we believe that every driver has the responsibility and duty to pay attention to the road and to the other vehicles in his or her proximity. If a driver crashed into your vehicle, you may seek compensation for your injuries and other expenses. Call (304) 720-6700 and schedule a free legal consultation today.
What to Do After a Car Accident in West Virginia
Many car accidents involve screeching tires, the point of impact, and the moment your vehicle comes to a rest. Adrenaline sets in, and you may feel numb or in shock. If you know what to do immediately after a car accident, you can confidently take control of the situation and protect your rights on the scene. As West Virginia personal injury lawyers, we recommend taking these steps if you experience a car accident in our state:
- Stay at the scene
- Call the police
- Provide an accurate record, sticking with the facts
- Take pictures of the scene
- Exchange information
- Report the accident to your insurance
- Seek medical attention
Take these steps after every car accident in the Mountain State. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our West Virginia car accident lawyers will help you navigate the complexities of handling a car accident as soon as you hire us to represent you.
Time Limit for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in West Virginia
All states impose deadlines to limit the amount of time that may pass before a plaintiff files a civil claim. The legal term for these deadlines is statute of limitations. Statute of limitations exist to keep claims fair between both parties – mainly for the sake of defendants. Without a deadline to file, a claimant could potentially wait decades before filing a claim, almost ensuring important evidence the defendant may be able to use in his or her defense would be gone or forgotten.
Imposing a strict deadline encourages plaintiffs to come forward with their claims and requests as soon as possible. If you’re filing a car accident lawsuit in West Virginia, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of your injuries and/or property damage (West Virginia Code Section 55-2-12). In general, you have two years from the date of your car accident or the date you discover your injuries to bring your claim. West Virginia Code gives claimants two years to file personal injury and property damage claims, as well as two years from the date of death for wrongful death claims.
Some claimants discover their accident injuries after the date of the crash, due to adrenaline masking the pain or delayed symptoms. Delayed symptoms are common in head, neck, and back injuries. The clock will start ticking on the date of discovery, or on the date by which the claimant reasonably should have discovered the injuries. As soon as you realize the crash injured you, start thinking about your right to file a lawsuit.
Exceptions to the Rule
The West Virginia courts have the power to interpret statutes differently as needed. The courts may grant exceptions to standard statutes of limitations in certain circumstances. The courts can “toll,” or extend, the deadline’s start date in special situations, including when a plaintiff does not realize his or her injuries until later. The most common reasons the courts will grant time limit exceptions are for disabled plaintiffs and plaintiffs who are minors.
If a plaintiff has a physical or mental disability that interferes with the ability to file in a timely manner, the courts may toll the statute of limitations. The same is true if the plaintiff is bankrupt – the courts may extend the deadline until such a time as the claimant can afford to file. If the car accident victim (or surviving loved one in a wrongful death suit) is a minor child under the age of 18, the West Virginia courts may extend the deadline until the child turns 18. Discuss your case with a West Virginia car accident attorney to understand your specific deadline.
What Happens If You Miss Your Deadline?
Car accident victims must not miss their time limits for filing lawsuits in West Virginia. The courts are strict when it comes to statutes of limitations and generally will not agree to hear a claim that comes after its deadline has passed. No matter how powerful your evidence or severe your damages, missing your deadline will almost always mean losing your right to seek restitution. Act fast if you believe you have grounds to file a lawsuit – contact a West Virginia car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
West Virginia Auto Insurance Laws
Like all states, it’s illegal to drive in West Virginia without auto insurance. The state imposes minimum required amounts of insurance coverage for all who operate motor vehicles. Driving without at least minimum coverage could result in traffic citations, fines, and the loss of your driving privilege until you remedy the situation. The following are the minimum amounts of coverage all drivers in West Virginia must carry to abide by the law:
- $20,000 in bodily injury coverage per person
- $40,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident
- $10,000 in property damage coverage per accident
- $20,000 in uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage per person
- $40,000 in UIM coverage per accident
Your auto insurance policy will cover the costs of medical expenses and property damage repairs relating to a car accident, up to the maximum amount on your policy. You may or may not have to pay a deductible depending on the terms of your policy. The minimum coverage amounts will cover other parties’ damages if you are at fault for an accident. You can carry more than the minimum coverage required if desired, as well as purchase optional types of insurance coverage to pay for your own car accident damages.
Navigating West Virginia’s insurance laws after an auto accident can be difficult. Whether this is your first time filing a crash claim or you’ve done it before, you could benefit from an attorney’s counsel. The West Virginia car accident lawyers at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC know how to negotiate for maximum settlements with car insurance companies. We can take care of your claim and communications with insurance adjusters, preventing agents from taking advantage of you.
Compensation for West Virginia Car Accident Victims
Car accident victims in West Virginia may have to deal with debilitating personal injuries, steep medical bills, and thousands in lost wages from missed time at work. The compensation victims may get from insurance settlements or personal injury cases can help them reclaim their lives. One of the most common questions potential clients ask our West Virginia car accident attorneys is, “how much is my claim worth?” Here’s a look at the compensation you and your families might have the power to recover with our assistance:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages and capacity to earn
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Punitive damages
As a rule of thumb, the more serious your injuries and losses, the more your case will be worth. Each case is unique. You can get an idea of the value of your claim during a free consultation with Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. We will listen to your story, assess your damages, and help you calculate an estimate of what we believe your case is worth. Don’t let an insurance claim adjuster convince you to settle for less than you deserve. Work with a lawyer to maximize car accident compensation.
Proving Fault for a Car Accident in West Virginia
One of the first matters to settle after a car accident in West Virginia is fault. West Virginia is a fault car insurance state, meaning the at-fault party is liable for damages. This rule makes it necessary to assign fault before filing a claim with the correct party’s insurance company. Yet attorneys and insurance companies alike encourage drivers not to admit fault for a crash, but to call 911 and wait for police to determine fault instead. Crash victims, therefore, bear the burden to prove the other party’s fault for the accident.
Call the Police
West Virginia law requires drivers involved in car accidents to immediately notify the police if the crashes cause injuries, deaths, or at least $1,000 in property damage. Once you check yourself and others for injuries and move to a safe place, call 911 and report the collision. Wait on the scene until police and paramedics arrive. Give your side of the story to the reporting officer, sticking to the facts of the case only. Write down your police report number, so you can obtain a copy of the report later.
A police officer’s written report will state the officer’s opinion about who or what caused the accident. The report will show if one of the drivers received a traffic citation for a rule violation, such as texting and driving. The officer might state plainly how a driver broke a rule or allude to a driver’s negligent behavior without plainly stating that he or she caused the crash. Getting a police report can provide strong evidence against the other driver.
Report the Crash to the At-Fault Party’s Insurer
It is generally the insurance company’s job to determine fault for an auto accident. Before the company can conduct its investigation, it must know about the crash. It’s your duty to call the at-fault driver’s insurance company and report the crash as soon as you can after the collision. Waiting too long to report the incident could give the insurer the right to deny your claim – even if someone else was at fault. It’s crucial that you do not admit fault for the accident when reporting to the insurance company or when speaking to police.
The police and insurance company might be the parties ultimately responsible for proving fault, but it’s in your best interests to build your case on your own as much as possible. Do this by collecting data, information, and evidence about your crash right from the beginning. While still at the scene of the accident, take photographs and get the names and contact information of other drivers and eyewitnesses. Get the other driver’s insurance information. Write down your perceptions of the crash while the crash is still fresh in your mind. The more information you gather, the stronger your case against the at-fault driver will be.
Hire Expert Witnesses
One of the perks of retaining a West Virginia car accident attorney to represent your auto accident case is access to experts to act as your key witnesses. Medical experts and other subject-matter experts can give their professional opinions and statements about who or what caused your accident. A vehicle damage expert, for example, might be able to show a judge or jury the direction from which the other drive struck your vehicle, the speed, whether or not the driver braked, etc. Hiring the right people to testify on your behalf can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim.
Work with an Attorney
Take the burden of proof off your shoulders by hiring an experienced West Virginia attorney. The lawyers at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC have years of experience proving clients’ claims and securing the results they need. We know the best practices when it comes to proving someone else’s fault for a car accident. Let us help you and your family during this tough time.
How Much Will a Car Accident Lawyer Cost?
The cost of hiring a lawyer can discourage many crash victims from getting the help and representation they need. Unfortunately, this leads to insurance companies taking advantage of accident victims and offering much less than cases are worth. It’s a harmful misconception that retaining a private attorney for a car accident claim is too expensive or a waste of money. Most personal injury lawyers – ours included – take personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis. This means clients only pay if the lawyer wins the case and will never pay for your West Virginia car accident lawyer out of pocket.
West Virginia Car Accident Statistics
If you regularly drive in West Virginia, keep these car accident statistics in mind. Data on state car crashes help personal injury attorneys prove certain facts in a case. Statistics may also help you reduce your risk of injury on the roadways.
Fatality Rates: National vs. West Virginia (2006-2015)
These statistics illustrate the overall picture of car accidents in the state of West Virginia:
- In 2015, 268 people lost their lives in traffic Since 2006 (when the state recorded 410 deaths), the number of fatalities has consistently fallen. As an overall trend, the state is making progress National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Of all passenger vehicle fatalities that year, 99 individuals were unrestrained compared to 72 who used restraining systems (NHTSA). Across the country, more than half of those who died in 2014 were unrestrained. Seat belts cut instances of injury and death in half, making them an important safe driving practice (CDC). A state seatbelt survey from 2015 indicates that 89% of drivers and front seat occupants use seatbelts – a significant rise over previous years.
- Of the 268 fatal crashes recorded in 2015, 71 (or 26%) involved alcohol impairment (NHTSA).
- The majority of fatal crashes in the state in 2015 involved roadway departures (191), single vehicles (160), and rollovers (88) (NHTSA).
With little current information on injuries, contributing factors, and geographical concentrations, drivers must look to the news and state resources to improve road safety on an ongoing basis.
To gain a clearer picture of the accidents, drivers can dial 511 at any time or look at the state’s incident reporting system.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
In West Virginia and across the country, injuries and fatalities often connect back to the same set of contributing factors. Speeding, texting and driving, or drunk driving increases the risk for reckless driving behaviors and the possibility for accidents. Other causes include:
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to stop at stop sign
- Driver fatigue
- Running red lights
- Road defects
- Vehicle improperly maintained
- Dangerous weather and driving conditions
- Inexperienced and/or unlicensed drivers
In addition to these driver error-related causes, drivers must watch for wildlife crossing the road (particularly in the early morning and at night). If the incident involved a semi or commercial truck please see our West Virginia Truck Accident Lawyer page.
Every incident reported in your local area and at the state level offers insights into why accidents happen in West Virginia. You may start to notice that the majority of incidents involve human error. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our West Virginia car accident attorneys represent individuals who suffer preventable injuries in these accidents. Safe drivers do not deserve to suffer at the hands of careless and reckless drivers.
Should I Get an Attorney After a Car Accident in West Virginia?
Unless you have a background in law, you should hire an attorney to represent your West Virginia car accident case if you suffered serious injuries (more than $1,000 in medical bills). A lawyer has the knowledge, experience, and resources to give your case its greatest chance of not only succeeding but of achieving the best results possible. Here are six ways an attorney can assist you after an auto accident. He or she can:
- Help you with injury care
- Preserve and collect key data
- Meet your filing deadline
- Deal with bad faith insurance companies
- Win more for serious injuries
- Hold negligent parties accountable
Working with a West Virginia car accident attorney comes with many perks besides financial gains. Your lawyer can become your ally and confidant when dealing with serious injuries and legal matters.
Free Consultation with a West Virginia Car Accident Lawyer
At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our car accident attorneys offer a complimentary case evaluation at which you can discuss your case and ask questions. We are a plaintiff’s rights law firm, dedicated to helping our clients pursue the compensation they deserve. You may seek compensation for your injuries and expenses, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, property damage, and more. While the great majority of cases are successfully negotiated out of court, if the insurance company or other liable party does not offer a fair and reasonable settlement, we will not hesitate to take the case to trial. There are no legal fees unless we win your case. To schedule your complimentary case evaluation, contact Tiano O’Dell, PLLC today.