Answers to Personal Injury Lawsuit FAQs
Below are general answers to some of the questions we often hear from individuals with personal injury claims. We have also included some important issues that accident victims need to be aware of in order to protect their rights. That said, every personal injury case is unique and has different facts.
Exceptions to the Rules
Also, almost every rule has an exception, including the legal rules discussed below. Therefore, we strongly urge you to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney if you’ve been injured in an accident or because of someone else’s negligence, especially if your injuries are substantial enough to require medical care.
Do I have a Personal Injury Case?
To have a personal injury case under West Virginia law, you generally must have been injured by the negligence or other misconduct of a another person, corporation, government, or entity. Negligence is when an individual fails to use reasonable care and someone gets injured or dies as a result. The negligent party, and usually their insurance carrier, is then responsible for the injured party’s losses.
Who Will Pay My Personal Injury Claim?
Technically, the person or entity, known as a defendant, who negligently injured you is responsible for paying for your injuries and other losses. In reality though, insurance companies or self-insured corporations pay almost all personal injury claims.
How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
The general rule in West Virginia is that you should recover enough money from the defendant or defendant’s insurer to make you whole; in other words, enough compensation to put you in as good of position as you were before the accident or injury. This is called compensatory damages.
Some common compensatory damages include:
Past, Present and Future:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of consortium and household services
- Property Damage
If you were injured by the defendant and can prove he acted with actual malice against you or that he or she acted with a conscious disregard, reckless and outrageous indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others, then you may also be able to recover punitive damages in West Virginia above and beyond compensatory damages.
Punitive damages are available to help make help keep West Virginian safe by deterring and preventing future conduct. Often times, the best way to motivate a big corporation to do the right thing is to threaten their pocket book. Commercial truck accidents are sometimes caused by big trucking companies that break the law to increase profits and thus sometimes warrant punitive damages.
Fully and fairly and accurately determining how much your case is worth is one of the most important jobs of a personal injury lawyer. Choosing the right personal injury lawyer can significantly affect how much compensation you recover. Click here for more details about punitive and compensatory damages in West Virginia.
How Much Will it Cost to Hire a West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer?
Personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis. This generally means you pay no fee unless you recover compensation. Then the fee will be an agreed upon percentage of the compensation recovered for you. Be careful, though, because some personal injury law firms will charge you “case costs” even if they lose your case. With West Law Firm, you will never be responsible for any fee or cost unless you recover compensation first. For more information, we would be happy to go over our contracts with you.
Do I need a Personal Injury Lawyer or Should I Represent Myself?
This question cannot be answered without knowing more about your case. West Law Firm offers free consultations, so if you think you may have a case, please give us a call to discuss. Our mission is to only accept cases when we believe the client will be better off with our help. Sometimes, clients are better off to pursue personal injury cases on their own, especially when their injuries are minor.
Even then, it’s still best to get a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer to make sure all of your legal and medical issues are addressed. For example, almost half of all whiplash injuries cause long term problems, even though they appear minor at first. The same applies to low back injuries.
For Serious Personal Injuries: If you sustained serious or long term injury because of another, speaking with an experienced accident attorney is especially important because, among other things, accurately assessing the value of your case will likely involve complex legal and financial issues. For example, determining the value of your future economic losses and medical needs is especially challenging. Your lawyer may even need to work with various economic and medical experts to prove the full value of your case.
Should I Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company About My Accident?
No! At least not until you consult with an experienced lawyer first to determine if you need a personal injury lawyer. If you were recently injured in a car accident, the other driver’s insurance carrier will likely ask you to sign documents and give a recorded statement. The adjuster might say something like, “We just want to record you for accuracy purposes.” “We need you to sign this document so we can get your medical records to verify your claim.”
Signing any of these documents or giving a recorded statement before you retain an attorney will impact your legal rights and probably make it more difficult for you to recover full and fair compensation for your personal injury case.
Your rights and duties: You have no duty to speak with the other side’s insurance adjuster, and you certainly aren’t obligated to sign their legal documents that serve their interests — not yours! Also, don’t give a recorded statement without talking to an attorney first. When in doubt, call us or another experienced injury lawyer for help. Our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378.
Should I Talk About My Accident on Facebook or with Friends?
Under West Virginia law, whatever you say on facebook or to friends can be used against you. The other side’s lawyer has what is called Subpoena Power. This means their lawyer can force your friends and some family members to testify under oath about your case and what you said to them. These lawyers can also subpoena your facebook feed, photos and other facebook account information. Even though you may only publish honest, innocent posts and pictures, defense lawyers may be able to use them against you to suggest you’re not as injured as you really are, for example.
At West Law Firm, we offer our clients very specific advice about how to use social media safely and who they should and should not talk with about their case. Destruction of evidence is another important legal issue in West Virginia that is best discussed with an attorney.
How Long will My Personal Injury Claim Take?
The answer to this question like most questions is it depends. This is another question that’s best answered in a free consultation. However, some general guidelines are the defendant’s insurance company will likely want to settle your case as soon as possible for as little money as possible. That way they can get you to sign a release, which terminates your rights forever. So, if you need more medical treatment or miss more work, they won’t have to pay for those additional losses.
At West Law Firm, we have a successful track record of prosecuting our clients’ cases quickly and efficiently. This is because we have a complete team of experienced personal injury lawyers and paralegals with decades and decades of combined experience.
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in West Virginia?
A civil lawsuit must be filed within a specific period of time after an accident, injury, or dispute has occurred. Otherwise, the lawsuit will be dismissed and the injured party will have lost his or her rights to recover forever. This time limit is called the statute of limitations and may be different for different types of cases and claims.
For example, at the time of this writing, car accident lawsuits have a two year statute of limitations in West Virginia. Claims for injuries resulting from medical negligence, commonly known as medical malpractice, has a different set of rules governing how long you can file a claim as do other types of personal injury claims like intentional torts.
See WV Code Chapter 55, Article 2, or speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer for details.
What if I was partly to blame for the accident?
Under West Virginia law, you can still recover compensation if you were 50% or less at fault. However, the amount you can recover will be reduced proportional to how much you were at fault. If you were more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover compensation. When fault is in dispute, it’s especially important to have an experienced injury attorney on your side who will work hard to prove you were not at fault and/or that the other party or parties were more at fault.
Will I have to go to trial?
About 95% of personal injury lawsuits settle before trial. That said, choosing personal injury lawyers who have trial experience and are capable and willing to successfully try your case is important to get a fair settlement. Having experienced trial lawyers on your side will also make it less likely that you have to go to trial. An insurance company is more likely to take their chances with a jury trial when going up against a lawyer not experienced in personal injury law or one who doesn’t have a proven track record.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer or Can any Lawyer Handle My Case?
Most good attorneys limit their practice to one or two areas of law so they can gain the focused skills and experience needed to get their clients the best possible results. West Law Firm only handles personal injury cases and our lawyers have decades of combined experience handling personal injury claims and lawsuits. Whatever kind of case you have, choosing a lawyer with a proven track record in that area of law will help ensure you get the results you deserve.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is a legal term generally when someone didn’t act reasonably under the circumstances; that is, when somebody needlessly endangers others and as a result, somebody gets hurt. For example, negligence may include when someone decides to drive over the speed limit, which causes them to lose control of their vehicle and crash into you.
Negligence or wrongdoing is not always necessary, however, to bring a claim. For example, if you are injured by a product, the manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor(s) may be strictly liable for your injuries regardless of whether they were negligent. As you can see, personal injury law is a complex field that covers many areas of life.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Whenever the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another, then a duly appointed, personal representative of the deceased person can bring an action for wrongful death. A settlement may be reached or a jury may award damages (compensation) to the surviving spouse and children, including adopted and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents, and any other persons who were financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of his or her death. Under West Virginia law, compensation may be awarded for the following: (1) Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace; (2) compensation for reasonably expected loss of income of the decedent and services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; (3) expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent; and (4) reasonable funeral expenses. W. Va. Code § 55-7-6.
Can I pursue a personal injury lawsuit against my employer if I was injured at work?
The short is answer to this question is in limited circumstances you may be able to file an injury claim against your employer if you were injured at work. However, your rights depend on a number of factors such as the cause and extent of your injuries and whether your employer maintained workers’ compensation insurance.
The general rule in West Virginia is that workers’ compensation is the only remedy available for workers injured on the job. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that may allow you to recover additional compensation from your employer, including from what is called a deliberate intent claim.
The other driver’s insurance company is offering me a settlement for my car accident. Should I take it?
We strongly advise you to speak with an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney first. We cannot count the people who have told us they regretted settling their personal injury case before speaking with a lawyer. Injuries caused by auto accidents or negligence are frequently permanent and may require medical care years later, for example. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows this and can help you properly evaluate your case.
An insurance company may only offer you a minimal amount of money in exchange for you signing an agreement called a release. Once you sign a release you can never go back and ask for more money if you later discover that you need additional medical treatment. If you contact us and we don’t think we can do better for you, we will let you know.
Get a Free Consultation with an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
We hope the above help answer some of your general questions about personal injury law. We also hope this article helps draw your attention to some important issues that are involved in most personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured because of another party, we invite you to call us for a Free Consultation to get get more details about your rights and options. Call us toll free today at 1-877-943-9378.