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Obligations After A Car Accident In West Virginia

In West Virginia, certain things are required of people when they are involved in a car accident, or they could be found liable for the damages and injuries caused by an accident.

What To Do After A Car Accident?

The first thing you should do after a car accident is to stop and make sure everyone is okay and pull to the shoulder, if possible, so you are not blocking traffic. Additionally, it would help if you took pictures of any damage and the accident scene, protecting you if others try to exaggerate or lie about what happened. Those involved in an accident must report it to the police, especially if insurance claims will be made, as insurance providers often ask for the police report before dispersing payment.

West Virginia law requires people to report a car accident if there were injuries or if the property damage was at least $1,000 worth of damages. The law also requires West Virginia drivers to report an accident to the DMV if either of the following takes place:

  • Death or injury occurs, including when pedestrians are victims
  • More than $500 worth of property damage, including the at-fault party’s vehicle, results from the accident

Minimum Coverage Requirements

Under West Virginia law, there are minimum insurance requirements that mandate drivers to have at least the following coverage amounts before driving:

  • $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries
  • $25,000 for property damage
  • $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for uninsured or underinsured motorist injuries
  • $25,000 for uninsured or underinsured motorist property damage

Failing to meet the above requirements results in penalties such as license suspension for 30 days and may require reinstatement fees once the period is over.

Statute Of Limitations

West Virginia has a two-year deadline for filing a car accident claim in the state’s civil court system. This statute of limitations means that if a car accident occurs and those involved do not bring a case within two years of the accident, it is unlikely that someone can bring a lawsuit against the at-fault individual. As a result, it is essential to find a competent attorney soon after an accident so that the advocate can evaluate the case and help decide what steps to take.

Damages For Car Accidents In West Virginia

Criminal Penalties

In West Virginia, individuals may face criminal offenses if they fail to stay at the crime scene. For example, if someone leaves the scene of a crime that causes property damage but does not cause physical injury to another person, the guilty party could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the crash involved serious bodily injury or death, the guilty party could face a felony offense, resulting in up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws place liability on private social hosts, bars, hotels, and other commercial establishments that serve alcohol to patrons who then drive and cause injuries to others. For a third party to succeed in a claim for personal injuries or property damage against a commercial establishment violated some law regarding serving alcohol. For example, if a bar sells alcohol to a minor and the minor injures someone in a car accident while alcohol is in their system on their drive home from the bar, the establishment may be liable for a portion of the damages and injuries.

Civil Penalties

Car Insurance

Generally, your car insurance company will cover the damages up to the insurance coverage. For example, if your car insurance is $50,000 per accident and the accident causes $75,000 worth of damage, the car insurance will pay the $50,000 and may defend the case to reduce the damage claim.

Personal Liability

If the damage caused goes over the insurance coverage or the guilty party does not have any insurance, the guilty party likely will be liable for the remaining damages unless the court attributes fault to someone else. For example, if, like above, the total damage was $75,000 and the insurance only paid $50,000 toward the damage, the guilty party may be personally liable for the remaining $25,000. Therefore, it is vital that after a car accident that results in damage, the person involved should consider reaching out to an experienced attorney to review the facts of the case and develop a sound strategy moving forward.

Comparative Negligence

Under West Virginia law, comparative negligence means that if both parties contributed to the car accident, the court would allocate fault between them. For example, suppose someone causes an accident, and the court finds them 40% liable for the accident. In that case, they will likely only be responsible for 40% of the damages resulting from the accident. Therefore, if the total damages were $10,000, the damages to be paid would only be $4,000 instead of $10,000.

A judge or jury is the fact finder determining the level of liability for each party involved. They will review the facts of the case and listen to each individual’s side before deciding who is liable and for how much of the damages they will be responsible.

Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney In West Virginia

After an accident, both parties may consider hiring a personal injury attorney to protect their interests. For the individual who caused the accident, the insurance will usually send a letter that they are defending the case, but it may still be worthwhile to contact an attorney to review the facts of the case and determine if a personal attorney will be necessary because an insurance company will only protect the driver’s interests if they align with the companies. On the other hand, the party who is suing for damages should contact an attorney immediately so that the level of damages can be properly determined and the suit can be filed as soon as possible so as not to miss the statute of limitations. The attorneys at Salango Law, PLLC are highly experienced personal injury attorneys who will be able to protect your interests. To contact one of our experienced attorneys, call us at (304) 342-0512 or reach out online.