AUTO ACCIDENT LAWSUIT PROCESS IN WEST VIRGINIA
If you or a loved one has recently been in a car accident in West Virginia, you may be wondering whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit and what that process would look like if you decide to go for it.
Of course, each accident is different so there is no definitive answer for how long the process will take, but the general sequence of events is the same for every case. To give you an idea of what to expect, we’ll lay out the process as a timeline and explain each step.
Immediately After the Crash
If you are seriously injured in the crash, you will likely be transported immediately to the hospital in an ambulance. If you are not seriously injured and are able to do so, take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to your vehicle and any visible injuries or other property damage. Call 911 to report the crash, and collect the other driver’s contact information and auto insurance information, as well as the contact information of any witnesses who saw the crash.
As soon as you have finished up at the scene of the accident, get medical attention right away. Do this even if your injuries are minor or if you haven’t noticed any injuries yet – adrenaline can often mask the pain of injuries in the aftermath of a crash. Having a record of being evaluated by a medical professional and officially documenting your injuries will be useful if you decide to pursue a personal injury case later on.
Read More: WV Car Wreck Guide to a Smoother Outcome
First Few Weeks After the Accident
If no police officers responded to the scene of the crash, call them within a few days to file a police accident report. Having this document can be very useful in your personal injury case. Additionally, you will need to report the accident to your car insurance company, or file a car accident claim through the other driver’s insurance company.
The insurance adjuster will be in touch soon after the accident is reported, and they give you a settlement offer if applicable in the situation. An insurance adjuster’s main goal is to get you to settle for as small an amount of money as possible, and a personal injury case will often result in a much higher settlement. Do not make a statement or accept a settlement unless you have carefully considered all of your options.
If you are even slightly considering filing a personal injury claim, contact one of our car accident attorneys at Kaufman & McPherson as soon as possible after the crash. We will provide a free case evaluation to help you decide whether you have a case and whether it’s worth your time to pursue it.
Having a West Virginia car accident lawyer on your side will make the whole settlement process less daunting, as your lawyer can liaise with insurance companies on your behalf and help guide you through the process, setting you up for a successful case.
However, even if you don’t want to file a case right away, it’s still a good idea to hold on to any medical records and receipts pertaining to the accident. This is because the statute of limitations for car accident cases in West Virginia is two years, which means that you can change your mind and decide to file a claim up to two years from the date of the accident.
- If you did not immediately notice your injuries after a crash, you have two years from the date of discovery of the injuries to file a claim.
- If a loved one died as a result of a car accident in a wrongful death scenario, you have two years from the date of the person’s death to file a claim.
First Six Months After the Accident
If you do decide to settle with the insurance company, your case can be closed within a few weeks. However, if you decide to file a personal injury claim, the process will take significantly longer. Each side will file documents regarding the car crash, beginning with the claimant (you) who files an initial complaint, which is followed by the defendant who files a counterclaim or a motion to dismiss the case.
Next, the case enters the discovery phase, which can include interrogations, depositions, requests for more information, and so forth. Settlement negotiations will be ongoing during this time as new information comes to light.
Depending on the situation, your attorney may recommend an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to try to settle your case before taking it to a trial. Settling through ADR is often faster and costs less than going to trial, but it has a lower chance of resulting in a sufficient settlement amount.
Read More: What are ADRs? (To Dept. of Labor)
If your case ends up going to trial, the process can take several months or even more than a year, depending on the complexity of the case. Both sides will present evidence like eye witness interviews and testimony as well as police reports and medical records.
Six Months After the Crash and Beyond
If the court gives you a positive verdict, a settlement check will be mailed to your attorney, who will then pass along the money to you, less their fees. If the defendant decides to appeal the verdict, be prepared to wait up to another two years to receive your check as the case is processed through the appeal court.
As you can see, the timeline for a car accident lawsuit can vary dramatically depending on how you decide to handle it and whether there is an appeal of the verdict. If you have been in an accident and are considering filing a claim, contact us today for a more personalized estimate of how long your case might take.
West Virginia Car Accident FAQs
Now that we’ve covered the timeline of car accident personal injury cases, let’s look at some other frequently asked questions regarding motor vehicle accidents.
Do I need to report a car accident in West Virginia?
Yes, unless the car crash is extremely minor. Specifically, you must report the accident if anyone is injured or has died, or if it caused more than $500 worth of property damage. It’s always a good idea to report any car accident to the police so that there is an official accident report document on file, as this can be useful if you later decide to file a lawsuit.
Am I required to have car insurance?
Yes, it’s required by law to have car insurance to drive in West Virginia. Your policy must carry the following minimums:
- $25,000 for one crash that results in one injury
- $50,000 for one crash that results in multiple injuries
- $25,000 for property damage
Drivers who do not have adequate insurance can face suspension of their driver’s license, suspension of their vehicle registration, and even criminal penalties.
What is the average car accident settlement in West Virginia?
The majority of car accident settlements in West Virginia are between $20,000 and $50,000, although they can be more or less. However, the exact amount will of course depend on the damages caused by the accident and various other criteria. Damages can include things like medical bills, rehabilitation or therapy costs, lost wages, lost earning ability, car repairs or replacement, disability or disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, end-of-life costs (if a loved one was killed in a car crash), and so forth.
There is no exact formula to determine how much you will win in a settlement, but one of our Kaufman & McPherson attorneys will be more than happy to provide a more accurate estimate for your exact situation.
How long do I have to file a car accident lawsuit in West Virginia?
As we briefly mentioned above, the statute of limitations for West Virginia car accident lawsuits is two years. This means that you can file a claim up to two years after the date of the accident. However, the sooner after the accident you file a claim, the better your chance of success. If you do not initially notice any injuries but they become apparent sometime after the accident, you have two years from the date that you discovered the injuries to file a case.
If a loved one dies as a result of a car accident, you have two years from the date of their death to file a wrongful death lawsuit (which may not be the same as the date of the accident if they succumbed to their injuries at a later date).
Free Case Evaluation and Legal Advice
Our experienced West Virginia personal injury attorneys are here to help you after a crash. We offer a free case evaluation and legal advice regarding your specific situation – we know that the process can be hard to navigate and dealing with insurance companies can be daunting. Additionally, we work on a contingency basis so you won’t pay a dime unless we win your case. Let us focus on winning you a fair settlement while you focus on recovering mentally and physically.