Car accidents occur frequently in West Virginia, and many of them involve property damage, injuries, or both. Sometimes car accidents are deadly; in 2019, there were 247 fatal car crashes in West Virginia, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
If you are involved in a car accident, you’ll need to file an insurance claim. While this process may sound simple, it’s something that most people find confusing and frustrating. Unfortunately, insurance providers don’t always take claims seriously or offer fair compensation for the injuries and property damage that occur.
At Prim Law, we’re dedicated to helping accident victims get the fair compensation they deserve. If you’re concerned about your claim, contact our team in Hurricane, West Virginia. We can discuss your case and help you understand your legal options. Call 304-201-2425 or contact us online.
How Soon Does a Car Accident Claim Need To Be Initiated?
If you have been involved in a car accident that included injuries to any person or damage to any vehicle (or property), you can file a claim. In fact, you must file a claim with your insurance provider or at the very least notify them of the incident. Most insurers request notification as soon as possible. You shouldn’t wait longer than a few days to contact your provider.
Depending on the results of your car accident insurance claim, you may consider filing a lawsuit against the liable party or parties. Like many states, West Virginia has a statute of limitations on lawsuits related to vehicle accidents.
Under West Virginia law, the injured party must initiate a lawsuit for injuries or property damage within two years of the accident date. If you intend to file a wrongful death suit, the two-year statute of limitations “starts” on the victim’s death date, even if it’s after the date of the accident. Going through the claims process as quickly as possible allows you enough time to consider filing a lawsuit and to organize your case if necessary.
Do I Have To Pay For Repairs After An Insurance Claim?
If your insurance provider (or the liable party’s insurer) approves your claim and provides money to repair your vehicle, do you have to follow through and repair your car? The answer depends on your situation.
If you want to keep “full” insurance coverage on your car, you’ll need to get it repaired. If you have a loan on your car, chances are the lender will require you to have comprehensive insurance coverage, so you’ll need to use the insurance money to pay for repairs.
If you own your car outright, you have more flexibility. Without a lender requiring you to carry full coverage, you could decide to downgrade your insurance protection and avoid paying for repairs.
What Information Do You Need To Start A Claim?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, you can start your claim by calling your insurance provider. Many insurers let you use a mobile app to create and submit your claim. You should include as much information as possible:
- Description of the circumstances and events surrounding the accident
- Description and license plate numbers of other vehicles involved in the accident
- Pictures of property damage and/or injuries
- Medical bills relating to the diagnosis/treatment of injuries
- Insurance details for all other involved parties
- Witness statements (and contact information, if possible)
You will probably need to fill out and return your insurer’s “proof of claim” form. You’ll also need to provide a copy of the police report. In West Virginia, the police are only required to file reports on accidents that include injuries or over $1,000 of property damage. You can get a copy of the report through the mail or at the police station closest to the scene of the crash.
When Should You File A Car Accident Lawsuit?
Every car accident claim is different, but sometimes liable parties’ insurance providers don’t offer adequate settlements. For example, an insurance company’s settlement amount may cover the cost of “totaling” your car but not compensate you for lost wages or medical bills from your injuries.
If you aren’t compensated fairly after a car accident, you can file a lawsuit against the liable party(ies). West Virginia has comparative fault laws, which means that a percentage of fault is assigned to everyone involved in the accident. Comparative fault percentages can affect the amount of compensation you can receive. A West Virginia personal injury attorney can help you understand our state’s fault laws and inform you of all your legal options.
What Can You Sue For After A Car Accident?
In West Virginia, you can sue for many different types of economic damages:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Cost of household services that you can’t perform any longer
- Reduced income/earning capacity
You can also sue for non-economic damages:
- Loss of enjoyment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (loss of physical affection/sexual ability)
In some cases, a court may impose punitive damages on the liable party if their actions were particularly dangerous or reckless.
How Much Compensation Can You Get?
Depending on the outcome of your lawsuit, you may be awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, or both. The amount of economic damages is based on the actual or expected costs of medical bills and lost wages/earning capacity, and there isn’t a limit on these types of damages.
The court decides the amount of non-economic damages, but there are limits in West Virginia. State law generally caps non-economic damages at $250,000. In some rare cases, however, victims with catastrophic injuries may be able to get up to $500,000 in damages.
How Long Do Car Accident Cases Typically Last?
Every case is different, but you should expect a lawsuit to take several months at least. Once you file the suit, it takes time to go through the interrogations, information requests, depositions, and other data-gathering tasks of the discovery phase. After that, there may be a mediation phase or a trial, which can take several months to over a year. If there’s an appeal, it could take even longer to get to the final result.
Do You Need To Hire An Attorney To File A Car Accident Lawsuit?
You don’t need to hire an attorney to handle a car accident claim or lawsuit, but doing so may help the process to go faster and ensure best results. Many insurance providers would rather settle claims quickly than deal with a lawsuit, and a lawyer can help you negotiate a fair amount of compensation.
Get Expert Advice About Your Car Accident Claim
Car accidents can cause serious injuries and damage to your vehicle. Even minor collisions can be time-consuming and frustrating to deal with, especially if it’s not clear how to file a claim. Sometimes a settlement doesn’t provide adequate compensation, so you may need to consider pursuing a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, schedule a consultation with us at Prim Law. Our team of personal injury attorneys has helped many West Virginia families understand the claims process and get fair compensation for their injuries, medical bills, and lost wages.