How Does the WV Comparative Fault Standard Impact Car Accident Cases?

One of the first considerations taken into account when a personal injury attorney is evaluating a car accident case for a potential claim is fault. In West Virginia (WV), this step is very crucial, as the state adopted a modified comparative fault standard in 2015. In some WV comparative fault cases, there is clear evidence as to which driver caused the crash. One popular example is an accident where one car rear-ended another. This circumstance generally presents a strong case that the driver who collided with the vehicle in front of him caused the accident by failing to maintain a safe driving distance.

Applying the WV Comparative Fault Standard in Difficult Cases

In many other car crash cases in WV, fault is not so clearly established. This is especially true in cases involving several parties that may have played some part in causing a crash. For example, in the scenario mentioned above, the driver in the front car may also be at fault if he stopped suddenly while reaching into the floorboard to retrieve his cell phone. Moreover, the current WV comparative fault law also considers fault of non-parties, further complicating car crash cases.

If there was more than one cause of a crash, a lawsuit will involve assigning a percentage of fault to each. In these cases, the legal concept of comparative negligence, or WV comparative fault, is applicable. It is particularly important in these types of cases to work with a WV personal injury attorney with deep experience in car crash cases and WV law.

Key Aspects of the WV Comparative Fault Law

The current WV comparative fault law follows the 51% bar rule. This means that a plaintiff who shared a portion of fault may still be eligible for compensatory damages if the plaintiff’s fault is lesser than the combined fault of all other parties and non-parties responsible for the accident. In such a case, the amount recoverable by the injured plaintiff will be reduced in proportion to the degree of fault assigned to him or her. For instance, if a plaintiff is found 40% at fault and the defendant is 60% at fault, the plaintiff may still recover 60% of the total amount of damages. However, if the plaintiff is found to be at fault by 51% or more, he is ineligible to recover under WV law.

The Burden of Establishing Who Is at Fault

The process of determining fault in car accidents is not easy. Thus, in any WV comparative fault case, the expertise of personal injury attorneys is necessary to clearly assess the situation, to determine whether an individual has a claim worth pursuing, and to assess the likely success of the claim. Accident attorneys rigorously evaluate the facts surrounding a particular case and advocate on behalf of their clients for the lowest percentage of fault to be assigned to their client. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement regarding fault, the issue would likely go to court before a judge or a jury, who would then make a fault determination.

Our WV Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help!

Located in Charleston, WV, the team of attorneys at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC represents clients in numerous personal injury matters, including car accident cases. Please feel free to contact us today at 304-346-5500 to schedule a consultation to evaluate your case under the WV comparative fault law.