Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About West Virginia Personal Injury Law
In Personal Injury Claim FAQs and Answers, Part I, we answered some of the most common questions we get asked about about West Virginia personal injury claims. Below are general guidelines to 10 more common questions we frequently hear about personal injury law. Please be aware though that every injury and every personal injury case is unique. Also, West Virginia law is constantly changing. Therefore, if you have been injured in an accident or by negligence, we strongly encourage you to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal Injury Law, also known as Tort Law, enables people who have been injured by another party’s negligence to recover compensation for the injuries and losses caused by that at fault party. Such compensation, also called damages, frequently includes, among other things, past and future medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. West Virginia law recognizes and provides compensation for both physical and psychological injuries. Below are some examples of West Virginia personal injury case types:
- automobile crashes
- medical malpractice
- work-related injuries
- nursing home negligence or abuse
- commercial truck accidents
- wrongful death cases
- slip and fall accidents
What Does it Mean to Settle a Personal Injury Case?
Settling a personal injury case means that you agree to accept a lump sum of money in exchange for dropping your claim against the person who injured you. Settling a case typically involves a lot of investigation, securing evidence and negotiation. Sometimes your attorney will need to file a lawsuit and litigate your case to get you full and fair compensation. In rare circumstances, he or she may need to take your case to trial and present evidence and arguments to a jury.
Before issuing you a settlement check, the insurance company will require you to sign a document called a release. Once you sign a release your personal injury claim is terminated forever.
That means you will be barred from seeking additional compensation in the future for that specific claim. This is another important reason why it’s important to speak with an experienced accident attorney before settling your case, especially if you have suffered more than minor scrapes and bruises.
Is Negligence the Only Personal Injury Claim Available?
No, strict liability and intentional wrongs are also personal injury claims.
- Intentional wrongs, also called intentional torts, can be the basis of a West Virginia personal injury claim. However, intentional torts are rarer and sometimes involve insurance issues that make it more difficult to recover compensation. Examples of intentional wrongs are battery, if someone hits you, and false imprisonment if a store wrongfully detains you for shoplifting.
- Strict liability is an important and growing area of tort law, according to the American Bar Association. Under West Virginia law, strict liability holds designers, sellers, distributors and manufacturers strictly liable for injuries caused by their defective products. In other words, if you are injured by a defective product, you do not need to prove the manufacturer negligently created it.
What Should I do After a West Virginia Car Accident?
Call the Police
If you are involved in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or any other type of auto accident involving injury or property damage equal to or greater than $500, West Virginia law requires you to contact law enforcement. Doing so will also help protect your legal rights.
Get Other Driver’s and Witnesses’ Information
If possible to do so safely, exchange drivers’ licenses, registrations, and insurance information with the other driver(s). Try to get statements from witnesses, recorded on a smartphone app would be ideal. Most importantly, make sure you get their contact information.
Seek Medical Care
If you sustained injuries, you should also immediately seek medical care instead of putting it off. Some injuries may not become fully apparent until days and even sometimes weeks later. Additionally, although many injuries get better over time, some get worse. Also, not all doctors are qualified to diagnose brain injuries and many have little experience treating whiplashes and low back injuries. So, it’s important to see a doctor who has experience handling your kind of injuries.
Contact Your Insurance Carrier
Contact your insurance carrier and put them on notice of the claim. We also recommend that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. West Law Firm offers free consultations at 1-877-943-9378. If we don’t think you need an attorney, we will tell you so.
Part I of this article provides more details and guidance about what to do after a motor vehicle crash, including warnings about facebook.
What is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in West Virginia is insurance coverage that you purchase under your own automobile policy. Uninsured coverage provides you protection if you are injured in a car accident and the other party who is at fault does not have automobile insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you are injured in an automobile accident and the other party who is at fault does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate you for all of your damages, which may include pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and reduced earning capacity.
If I Make an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist claim on My Insurance Policy, Will My Premiums Increase?
Since such claims usually arise through no fault of your own, a claim made pursuant to your uninsured and/or underinsured coverage will not likely increase your premiums, based on our past experience. However, it’s advisable to confirm this information with your insurance carrier prior to filing a claim, especially if your damages are small. Also, if your insurance company raises your premiums, you can switch carriers.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Company Says I Can Settle the Case Without a Lawyer. Is This a Good Idea?
It depends. If the car crash only caused you minor scrapes and bruises or just property damage, then handling the case on your own may be best. However, since West Law Firm offers free consultations, it wouldn’t hurt to ask an experienced attorney for objective advice. An experienced injury lawyer can help you identify important issues that are frequently missed by non-lawyers and less experienced injury lawyers.
With over 35 years of collective experience, our injury attorneys have a bias against insurance companies and what they might tell you. We are biased because of our experience in dealing with insurance companies. Some of our lawyers have also spent many years working for insurance companies in the past. We know that no matter how nice insurance adjusters sound, they generally have one goal in mind above all others—to pay you as little as possible. That’s because corporations are in existence to make a profit from insurance premiums.
Also, when you hire a lawyer who is willing to take your case to trial, you are likely to get a better settlement than without such a lawyer. A good lawyer will seek every category of damages that applies to your case, and find ways to support those damages with evidence. The threat of trial alone adds to your bargaining power. The insurance company knows that it’s almost impossible for you to take a case to trial without a lawyer.
What if I am Injured by the Negligence of a Doctor, Hospital or other Medical Provider in West Virginia?
If you are injured by the negligence of a West Virginia physician or other health care provider, you may have what’s called a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice also involves negligence, but recent changes to West Virginia impose more limitations on malpractice claims than most other personal injury claims.
What if I am Unsatisfied with My Current Personal Injury Lawyer?
A good personal injury lawyer will be reasonably prompt in returning your calls. They will also be honest and clear with you about your options and the likely outcome of your lawsuit. They will consistently move your case forward and as quickly as possible. That said, the West Virginia civil justice system sometimes moves slower than we all would like, and your attorney can only do so much to speed things up.
If you are unhappy with your current attorney and want to change lawyers, it’s your right to do so. In most personal injury cases, the new law firm will take over your case. He or she may be obligated to pay a portion of any fee earned to the original attorney, but this should not affect the money you recover or increase your attorney’s fee.
West Virginia law strongly protects your right to choose the lawyer you prefer — because often so much rides on the work we do.
What is a Defective Products Claim?
When a person is injured by a defective product, he or she may be able to recover compensation from the manufacturer, distributor, and/or seller of the product under theories of negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. If you are injured by a defective product, keep the product and all of its parts in safe place and in the same condition it was in at the time of the injury. Do not attempt to repair the product.
The general rule for recovering under the theory of strict liability is that an injured person may recover if he or she was injured by a product that it is not reasonably safe for its intended use. There are other rules that may apply to your case.
Ask an Experienced Charleston, West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt by negligence or injured in an accident, we invite you to call West Law Firm for a Free Consultation. Our personal injury lawyers are located in Charleston, West Virginia, and we serve clients throughout the state and country. We will send an experienced injury attorney to you if it’s’ more convenient for you. Call our toll free number today at 1-877-943-9378. There’s also no fee unless and until you recover compensation.