A Quick Guide to West Virginia Car Accident Laws

Navigate WV car accident laws confidently. Our guide offers essential knowledge on insurance, negligence laws, and legal rights post-accident.
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    Senior Driver with Whiplash Injury after Car Accident

    WV Car Accident Laws

    Car accidents are traumatic no matter the severity and can leave victims suffering physically, emotionally, and financially in the aftermath. It’s important to be familiar with West Virginia car accident laws and know your rights, especially if the wreck was someone else’s fault and you are owed compensation. 

    With an experienced local car accident lawyer on your side, you can rest assured that you will receive the best possible settlement to help you move on with your life as normally as possible after an accident.

    What To Do After a Car Accident

    There are certain things you are required to do by law after an accident, as well as steps you can take to help ensure the success of your imminent car accident personal injury claim. First of all, remain calm and remain at the scene – if you leave, it can turn the accident into a hit-and-run and potentially result in consequences like jail time and fines for you, even if the accident wasn’t entirely your fault. It can also make proving your claim more difficult by allowing the other party to give the investigating officer a one-sided and self-serving description of the accident.

    1) Get to Safety

    Move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic if you can and assess the situation for safety, moving away from any hazards immediately. If any other people involved in the crash are hurt or unresponsive or if any of the vehicles are on fire, call 911 immediately.

    2) Exchange Information

    Next, exchange pertinent information with all other parties involved. Get names and contact information, insurance policy information, driver’s license numbers, and the make, model, and license plate numbers of the vehicles if possible. If there are any witnesses still nearby, take down their names and contact information as well. If you are able, take pictures of the scene of the accident, the damage to all the vehicles involved, and any visible injuries you’ve sustained. 

    3) Seek Medical Attention

    Get medical attention if necessary. Even if you don’t think you are injured, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional after a crash as adrenaline can mask injuries. Plus, having an official record of your injuries can help your case if you decide to file one.

    4) File Accident Report

    If the police come to the scene of the accident, be sure that they file an accident crash report. If not, call the non-emergency number soon after the crash to file a report. It’s always a good idea to call the police after any kind of collision, even if you think the other driver’s fault is clear so that evidence is maintained.

    5) Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys

    Do not make any statements that could be construed as admissions of guilt or talk to any insurance companies right away. Instead, contact our law office and we’ll guide you through the next steps of dealing with insurance companies and filing a personal injury claim if it’s warranted. There is no charge for that discussion, and if your claim is one you can properly handle on your own, we will let you know that.

    west virginia capitol building in charleston

    West Virginia Car Accident Reporting Laws

    According to West Virginia state code, the driver of any vehicle involved in a car accident that has resulted in injury or death or that has caused apparent property damages of $1,000 or more is required to use the quickest means available to notify the local police department, the county sheriff’s office, or the nearest state police office, depending on where the crash happened. 

    The easiest way to reach the appropriate law enforcement office is to call 911 and let them direct your call and send help if necessary. It’s also the driver’s responsibility to document that they were properly insured at the time of the accident. If you fail to take these reporting steps after an accident, your driving privileges can be suspended or even revoked entirely.

    Accessing Your Accident Report

    To access your accident report, you will need to purchase it by mail or in person at the law enforcement office closest to where your accident happened. In order to send the correct report, law enforcement offices will need the date and location of the accident and the names of any drivers and/or pedestrians involved. 

    If you choose to have us handle the claim for you, we will take care of collecting the report, along with the other relevant evidence.

    West Virginia Auto Insurance Laws

    In the state of West Virginia, all motor vehicles must be registered and insured in order to be legally driven. Insurance policies must include;

    1. at least $25,000 in liability coverage for the bodily injury or death of one person caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle, 
    2. at least $50,000 in liability coverage for total bodily injury or death in an accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle, 
    3. and at least $25,000 in liability coverage for property damage per accident that is caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle.

    Liability coverage is what pays the bills that result from a crash: medical bills, property damage bills, and any other costs incurred by anyone involved in an accident that you caused, up to the limits of your coverage. 

    Once the coverage limits are reached, you are responsible for paying the remaining damages out of pocket. Higher limits mean higher premiums, but they can protect your assets in the event of a very serious car accident that’s caused by you. 

    Activating Liability Coverage

    Your liability coverage will also be activated if a family member causes a crash while driving your car, if you’ve given someone else permission to use it and they cause a crash, or (generally but not always) if you cause an accident while driving a rental car. 

    However, your liability insurance does not cover your own injuries or vehicle damage in the event of an accident that was your fault – you’ll need additional coverage for that.

    Driving Without a Car Insurance

    If you choose to drive without car insurance and you get caught, the first offense is punishable by a license suspension of 30 days and your vehicle registration will be suspended until proof of insurance can be provided and reinstatement fees are paid. 

    For any other infractions within five years of the first one, your license will be suspended for 90 days and your registration will be suspended until proof of insurance is provided and reinstatement fees are paid. Plus, you will be on the hook for a potentially massive bill if you cause an accident while you aren’t insured.

    West Virginia Comparative Negligence Laws

    West Virginia follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that even if you are found to be partially (but not more than 50%) responsible for the accident by the jury in your car accident case, you can still receive compensation but it will be reduced by your share of negligence. 

    For instance, if the total damages in your case were deemed to be $10,000 and you were found to be 20% responsible, you would receive $8,000 in compensation. If you are more than 50% responsible, you cannot receive any compensation in court.

    Determining Fault

    Of course, there’s no empirical way to determine fault in a car accident scenario, so often your liability share will come down to your ability to persuade the judge and jury that you were not at fault – something our attorneys are trained and experienced to do, but that the average person may not be able to do successfully. A projection of your share of the liability as it might be determined by the court will also be considered by car insurance claims adjusters who evaluate your case.

    There are some limits on damage awards available under the law, such as medical malpractice non-economic damages caps, and a bar on punitive damages in lawsuits against the government. As an injured party, you must prove that another driver was at fault for the accident in order for any damages to be awarded, and must navigate the various bans and limitations on awards.

    Road in rural West Virginia

    West Virginia Wrongful Death Laws

    If a loved one has been killed in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, you can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf if you are named by the court to be the deceased person’s executor or the administrator of their estate. Since the death was accidental, it can’t be prosecuted as murder, but you can still hold the at-fault driver responsible. 

    To file a successful wrongful death lawsuit, you would need to allege and prove that the individual died, that it was caused by a wrongful act (such as negligence while driving on the part of the at-fault driver), and that the deceased person would have been entitled to sue for damages if they had survived the accident.

    Claimants in wrongful death cases can recover many different types of damages, including:

    • Sorrow
    • Mental anguish
    • Loss of companionship
    • Reasonably expected loss of income, services, care, assistance provided by the deceased person, expenses for their medical care and hospitalization, reasonable funeral expenses
    • Punitive damages if the death was the result of reckless or malicious conduct (drunk driving, for example).

    What are Modified Comparative Negligence Rules?

    Modified comparative negligence rules also apply to wrongful death cases. So, for instance, if the deceased person was found to have been negligent in the operation of a vehicle, they could be found partially responsible for their death even if it was ultimately caused by a drunk driver crashing into them head-on. 

    Damages recovered by the executor would be reduced by the percentage of fault determined to lie with the deceased person, and if the person was found to be more than 50% responsible, no compensation would be awarded to their estate.

    West Virginia Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases

    The statute of limitations on both car accident cases and wrongful death cases is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the accident or from the date of wrongful death to file a lawsuit, according to state law. 

    There are some rare exceptions that extend the limitation periods. However, it’s always best to give yourself as much time as possible by obtaining representation as soon as possible after a crash or wrongful death. The insurance company begins building its defenses as soon as an incident occurs, and you should give your attorneys a chance to do the same thing.

    kevin kaufman reviewing a case with a client

    Why Choose Kaufman & McPherson?

    At the law firm Kaufman & McPherson, PLLC, our West Virginia car accident attorneys have decades of experience handling all different types of car wreck cases. We aren’t afraid to take on anyone in court, whether it’s government agencies, insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, commercial trucking operations, or other drivers. 

    All of our car accident cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that you pay nothing unless we win the case for you. We also offer free case evaluations and legal advice, so if you or a loved one has been in a car accident recently, give us a call today!

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    About the Editor

    Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    A 1977 Bridgeport High School graduate, received multiple scholarships including a National Merit Scholarship. He went on to earn a BS in Business Administration, an MBA, and a law degree from West Virginia University.

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    About the Author

    Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    Kevin S. Kaufman is a 1977 graduate of Bridgeport High School, where he received a National Merit Scholarship, a Consolidated Natural Gas Company full scholarship, and a West Virginia Achievement scholarship. Mr. Kaufman completed his education at West Virginia University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, an MBA, and his law degree.

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