West Virginia Attorneys Advise on State Personal Injury Laws
What you need to know if you’re a victim of negligence in West Virginia
Personal injury is the area of the law that protects innocent victims of harm caused by the careless, reckless or deliberate actions of other people. The basic premise of personal injury law is that wrongdoers must “make the victim whole again” by paying sufficient compensation for economic losses and less tangible losses, loosely termed “pain and suffering.” Of course, there are many elements of a personal injury case that the plaintiff must prove with convincing evidence, and the defendant is entitled to rebut the allegations. This makes the process of obtaining fair compensation more complicated than it probably should be and nearly impossible if you don’t have skilled, aggressive legal representation. Fortunately, you can trust Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban to fight tirelessly on your behalf. Our attorneys have more than 200 years of combined legal experience helping clients like you.
West Virginia negligence laws can limit your recovery
Most personal injury cases focus on three elements:
- Negligence — The defendant had a duty to act with care, but instead was careless.
- Causation — The defendant’s carelessness caused an accident.
- Damages — The accident harmed the plaintiff physically, emotionally and financially.
If the plaintiff proves all of these elements, the defendant is liable and must pay compensation.
West Virginia’s approach to negligence is similar to that of many other states. The plaintiff first must establish that a duty of care existed. This can be a general duty to drive safely, which applies to all motorists on public roadways, or it can be a duty of professional care, which a doctor owes to a patient. In either case, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s actions violated that particular duty.
West Virginia also has a comparative negligence law. This law recognizes that accidents are not always simple and that there are situations where the plaintiff might also have violated a duty of care. If the plaintiff is also at fault, the law requires the court to compare the parties’ negligence and allocate fault by assigning a percentage of responsibility to each party. Under West Virginia’s law, there are three possibilities:
- Plaintiff is mostly to blame — If the court assigns 51 percent of the fault or more to the plaintiff, the plaintiff cannot recover any compensation from the defendant.
- Plaintiff shares up to half of the blame — The plaintiff can recover damages, but the reward must be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s share of the blame. For example, a plaintiff who suffered $100,000 in damages but was 20 percent at fault can recover 80 percent of the damages, or $80,000.
- Defendant is entirely at fault — Since the plaintiff shares none of the blame for the accident, the court will not reduce the plaintiff’s recovery. From our example above, the plaintiff would receive a judgment for the full amount of $100,000.
West Virginia’s civil statute of limitations
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit within which a claimant can bring a lawsuit. After the statutory period expires, the plaintiff generally loses his rights to sue forever, unless a very specific exception to the law applies. Statutes of limitations serve the cause of justice by forcing the plaintiff to bring an action in a timely manner before witnesses and evidence disappear. In West Virginia, the statute of limitations allows two years for a claim arising from a personal injury, medical malpractice, products liability, or wrongful death to be brought.
Damages rules in West Virginia
The legal term for the harm a plaintiff has suffered is damages, and there are two distinct categories:
- Economic damages — Also known as special damages, these are tangible losses such as your medical bills (present and future), lost earnings (present and future), and property losses.
- Noneconomic damages — Also called general damages, these are less tangible losses that are more difficult to put a price tag on, such as your physical pain, mental suffering, and loss of quality of life.
West Virginia puts caps on noneconomic damages in some personal injury cases, as follows:
- $500,000 in actions against the government
- $250,000 in most medical malpractice cases
- $500,000 in medical malpractice cases where the plaintiff suffered a catastrophic injury
As your legal representative, our task is to recover the greatest damage award possible through a settlement or a trial.
How to file a personal injury claim in West Virginia
You can file a lawsuit in the court of the county where the injury event occurred or where the defendant resides. You do this by drafting a complaint that recites what happened and asks the court to order payment of a certain amount in damages. You then must arrange for someone to serve the defendant with the complaint and a summons.
The law does not require you to hire an attorney to represent you in your injury claim, but it’s generally a much better idea that trying to represent yourself. The defendant will have professional counsel focused on one objective: to limit the amount you recover. Shouldn’t you have a professional on your side? Our attorneys fight aggressively to maximize the amount you recover, so you can focus on regaining your health while we work to secure fair compensation.
Schedule a free consultation with a dedicated West Virginia personal injury lawyer in your area
Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban helps West Virginians who have suffered serious personal injuries. Our passionate advocates represent you throughout every stage of your injury case. Call us today at (888) 351-1038 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. You pay nothing until your case is resolved and you receive compensation.