The Mountain State’s rugged Appalachian terrain contributes to around 992 car accident injuries every year. A recent study also showed a 12% rise in West Virginia fatalities in 2021 compared to 2020. If you’re a part of these accident statistics, it’s important to know West Virginia car accident laws when filing your claim.
All West Virginia drivers owe each other the duty to maintain safety on the road. Whether you suffered a minor sideswipe or a devastating rollover accident, there’s a process everyone in a crash must follow. You need an auto accident attorney to coach you through every step, because your decisions influence your final settlement amount.
Read on for some key details about insurance requirements, your deadline to file your claim, and the state’s fault-based system of comparative negligence.
What to Do at the Scene of a Crash in West Virginia
All drivers in a crash involving bodily injury or death must stop at the scene and render aid, according to WV Code § 17C-4-1. If anyone requires emergency medical treatment, call 911 as soon as possible and wait for the authorities to arrive. Anyone who flees the scene may be charged with a hit and run and judged accordingly.
However, the driver may leave the scene of the crash “as may reasonably be necessary” for the purpose of rendering assistance to any person injured in the crash.
Even crashes involving vehicle damage require drivers to stop at the scene, according to WV Code § 17C-4-2. If able, both drivers must pull their cars over to the side of the road so traffic can freely cross.
- Name and telephone number
- Make, model, and year of vehicle
- Last four digits of their vehicle identification number
- Proof of insurance
Make sure to keep the conversation cordial between you and the other driver and avoid using incriminating language. Taking pictures of the crash and gathering eyewitness accounts will also help your attorney build your case.
How to Report a Car Accident in West Virginia
West Virginia car accident law WV Code § 17C-4-6 requires drivers to immediately call the police for the following reasons:
- Crashes involving bodily injury or death
- Accidents causing total property damage to an apparent extent of $1,000 or more
The law enforcement officer shall make a report of the accident within 24 hours of the crash according to WV Code § 17C-4-7. The police will handle distributing the report to the drivers, attorneys, and insurance companies involved in the crash.
If you are physically incapable of reporting the crash, another party involved will be in charge of reporting the incident. Failure to notify the police may result in the suspension of your license or permit.
Is West Virginia a No-Fault State?
No, West Virginia is an at-fault state regarding compensation for car accident losses. The driver responsible for an accident is liable for injuries, non-economic losses, and vehicle damage caused by the crash.
Some states like Florida follow no-fault insurance laws, meaning both parties receive compensation for their losses from their insurers, regardless of fault. This coverage comes from the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance mandated by their state.
This makes presenting your case to a West Virginia auto accident attorney crucial to your claim. Your settlement amount is wholly dependent on how you establish fault, so work with your attorney to maximize your settlement.
Comparative Negligence Laws in West Virginia
Following WV Code § 55-7-13C, West Virginia uses a modified comparative negligence rule. This law says you can recover damages in a car-accident lawsuit even if you were partially at-fault for what happened.
However, your settlement payment from the defendant will be reduced according to your share of negligence. So, if a jury determines that your losses total $200,000 and you were 40% at-fault for the accident, your settlement payment from the plaintiff will be reduced to $120,000.
It is important to note that you cannot be more than 50% at-fault and still receive compensation for your losses.
Common Injuries After a Car Accident
Injuries after a car accident may not be immediately apparent. It is wise to see a doctor if you’re unsure about your health after a collision.
Common injuries after a West Virginia car accident include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Bone fractures
- Back injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
Further injuries may develop over time, so monitor your medical bills so they can be accounted for in your settlement.
Types of Damages in West Virginia Car Accidents
There are three types of damages to consider after you’ve been injured in a car accident in West Virginia: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
- Economic damages are the measurable losses you have suffered as a result of your injuries or damage to property, such as medical expenses, rehab, vehicle repair costs, and lost wages.
- Non-economic damages refer to the non-measurable costs of an accident, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, and loss of consortium.
- Note there is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in lawsuits against the government in West Virginia.
- Punitive damages are designed to punish an at-fault party for actions that are particularly egregious, wanton or reckless. They are rarely awarded in car accident cases but they are allowed in West Virginia.
- Note: punitive damages cannot be awarded in this state in lawsuits against the government.
West Virginia Car Accident Insurance Laws
West Virginia car accident law requires all registered motor vehicles to be covered by a minimum liability policy. Any vehicle owner who fails to comply may see their driver’s license suspended for 30 days. If they are found a second time to not have insurance, the penalty rises to a 90-day suspension.
Liability coverage pays for medical bills, property damage bills, and costs of other people who were hurt from an accident you caused. You need your own insurance policy for your losses from crashes you cause.
At a minimum, West Virginia car accident law requires drivers to carry a policy that includes:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle
- $50,000 liability coverage for total bodily injury or death liability in an accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle
- $25,000 liability coverage for property damage per accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle
- West Virginia also requires that a car insurance policy include uninsured motorist coverage
Additional Insurance Coverage Options
Since liability coverage doesn’t apply to your own losses in West Virginia car accident law, you’ll need additional coverage. Collision or comprehensive coverage is optional and can pay for repairs or replacement of your vehicle after a car accident.
Comprehensive coverage pays for car damage caused by all other sources of harm besides accidents. Things like fires, theft, or floods are covered by this insurance.
West Virginia Car Accident Statute of Limitations
West Virginia’s statute of limitations is a deadline that sets a time limit on bringing a lawsuit to court.
IMPORTANT: The statute of limitations law does not apply to car insurance claims. Make your claim promptly, as in within a week.
WV Code § 55-2-12 gives you two years to file in West Virginia’s civil court system. If you are looking for a settlement payment for personal injury or property damage, find a lawyer and file as soon as possible. The two-year “clock” starts running on the date of your car accident.
If your car accident resulted in wrongful death, WV Code § 55-7-6 is relevant to you. This law also sets a two-year statute of limitations deadline for a wrongful death claim. If you don’t file within two years, your case will be dismissed.
Find a West Virginia Auto Accident Lawyer with LegalASAP
Car accidents are complicated and require an expert’s attention to avoid messing up your claim. One misstep in your paperwork and problems may show up in the future. Not only will an attorney clear up the complex legal process for you, but you may receive a higher settlement than if you agreed to the insurance company’s first offer.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.