Comparative Negligence in West Virginia
Anytime a person sustains an injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, entity, or business, they should be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, recovering compensation is not always straightforward. This is particularly true if more than one party shares fault. In fact, injury cases can become incredibly complicated if the injury victim is partially responsible for causing their own injury.
However, comparative negligence laws in West Virginia do allow injury victims to recover compensation even if they are partially at fault under certain circumstances. Here, we want to discuss what comparative negligence means and how it may be applied for personal injury cases throughout the state. We do want to say that you should always speak to an attorney about your injury case before you decide to proceed forward or not to proceed forward with a claim. You may be entitled to more compensation than you think.
What is Comparative Negligence in West Virginia?
States around the country all handle comparative fault in various ways. In most situations, state laws allow individuals to recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for the incident that caused them harm. However, there are a few jurisdictions in the US that do not allow a person to recover any compensation if they are even 1% at fault for their injuries. These jurisdictions include Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC.
Most states, though, allow for individuals to recover compensation if they are partially at fault. West Virginia operates under a form of “modified comparative negligence.”
Under this state’s modified comparative negligence system, we will see that the 51% rule applies. What this means is that individuals can recover partial compensation for an incident if they are less than 51% responsible for causing their injuries. Any individual found to be 51% or more responsible for an incident will be unable to recover compensation for their injuries.
However, the total amount of compensation a person receives in these scenarios will be reduced based on their percentage of fault for the incident. For example, let us suppose that Jonathan sustains a slip and fall injury in a grocery store caused by a spill of syrup that employees knew about but did not clean up for more than two hours. What happens if Jonathan sustains a traumatic brain injury that results in $100,000 worth of medical bills and other expenses?
In this scenario, we may think that the grocery store will be on the line for covering this entire bill. However, what if there is evidence that proves Jonathan was texting and staring at his phone the entire way through the grocery store and had he not been texting, he would have likely seen the spill and been able to avoid it?
It is entirely possible in this scenario that a jury would find Jonathan partially responsible. For simplicity, let us suppose that the jury decides that Jonathan was 40% responsible for causing his own injuries because of his texting. In this situation, Jonathan will receive $60,000 instead of the full $100,000 in order to account for his 40% of the fault.
How an Attorney Can Help With West Virginia Comparative Negligence
A skilled West Virginia personal injury attorney will be able to step in and conduct a complete investigation into a case in order to properly determine fault. At-fault parties in these cases will push very hard to place some or all of the fault on the injury victim. If they can prove that an injury victim was 51% or more responsible, they will essentially be off the hook for paying compensation. An attorney for an injury victim can push back against these efforts and help obtain the compensation their client needs.