Most West Virginia motorists know that they can hold the motorist who struck them liable for their injuries if they get hurt in a motor vehicle accident. Sometimes no one gets hurt in the crash, yet their car is seriously damaged. For example, such an incident may occur in a parking accident.
Motorists also have options in situations like these, no matter whether their vehicles sustain minor cosmetic damages or more significant ones. Let’s delve into what those options are.
How Auto Insurance Works
As the name suggests, bodily injury insurance coverage involves someone getting hurt in a crash. Bodily injury coverage is what another motorist would tap into if you crashed into them, leaving them with injuries. They could not only use such benefits to cover their medical bills but also lost wages and, if death occurred, then also funeral costs.
Bodily injury coverage doesn’t help cover any injuries you might suffer in a crash if you were at fault. You’d instead need to have medical payments coverage for that purpose.
Like bodily injury coverage, property damage benefits only cover damage that another motorist’s vehicle incurs in a crash, provided that you were at fault for it.
Comprehensive coverage would be the type of coverage you’d tap into if you collided with an animal or your vehicle sustained non-collision damage. You’d pursue a collision coverage claim if your vehicle suffered damage in a collision with a fixed object or another car when you were responsible.
What Are West Virginia’s Mandatory Minimum Insurance Requirements?
Much like any other state, there are minimum coverage requirements that every West Virginia motorist must meet. West Virginia’s Compulsory Insurance Law requires all motorists to have:
- Bodily Injury Coverage: $25,000 per individual with a $50,000 cap per crash
- Property Damage Liability: $25,000 per crash
There are optional coverage options that West Virginians may purchase, which include:
- Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: Covers $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident total
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage: Covers up to $25,000 per incident
West Virginia motorists can choose to reject underinsured/uninsured coverage options when purchasing their insurance policy.
Can You Sue if Your Car Suffered Damage in a West Virginia Accident?
Now that you understand auto insurance basics and West Virginia coverage minimums let’s tackle the question about what benefits (if any) you can tap into when your car sustains damage in a crash, but you don’t. If someone else’s negligence led to the incident’s occurrence, then you can file a property damage claim against their insurance. However, as any Charleston, WV car accident lawyer will tell you, you’ll need to be able to prove liability to do so.
How Do You Prove Liability in a Car Crash Case?
Liability isn’t always the easiest to prove. You’ll want to take time to compile the following information as you look to do that:
- A police crash report
- Your narrative of how events unfolded
- Witness accounts of what happened
- Photographs of the vehicles involved and the crash scene
This evidence may collectively paint a picture of negligence that insurance adjusters will use in determining liability and thus how much they pay.
Some elements that you must establish in proving liability include showing that the alleged at-fault motorist:
- Had a duty to the plaintiff (to operate their vehicle safely)
- Failed to operate their vehicle reasonably (such as by engaging in reckless driving), thus breaching their duty
- Caused the injuries or damages to the vehicle
Those injuries or damages must be verifiable in some way.
Keep in mind that West Virginia subscribes to the concept of modified comparative negligence when it comes to determining liability. This liability doctrine makes it impossible for a plaintiff to recover damages following an accident if they’re deemed to be more than 50% liable for it. Therefore, the evidence must show that you were not more than half responsible for a crash that resulted in your injuries or property damage if you hope to stake a claim to the other motorist’s bodily injury or property damage benefits.
What to Know About Insurance Companies Before Filing an Insurance Claim
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Their goal is to spend as little as they can on claims. This philosophy may explain why a car accident attorney will always advise you to ensure you have built up enough evidence proving liability before filing a bodily injury or property damage claim.
If you’re looking to seek damages for a car accident that you weren’t injured in, then you’ll want to make sure that you do the following when building your case:
- Gather estimates for your anticipated car repairs.
- Save any receipts for work you’ve already had performed on your vehicle.
- Preserve any documentation showing other accident-related expenses or losses, such as time off work, alternative transportation fees, and rental car costs.
You’ll then want to turn that information over to the negligent motorist’s insurance adjuster and consider providing them with the contact information for the body shop that will be performing repairs on your vehicle.
Note that if your losses exceed the other motorist’s policy limits, then you may need to file a small claims court case to recover the difference.
What Is a Bad Faith Insurance Claim?
Insurers have a duty to claimants to:
- Thoroughly review claims
- Follow up with them within a reasonable time after their filing
- Provide feedback regarding their approval or denial of claims
- Extend benefits as warranted per policy coverage documents
It may be possible for a claimant to file a bad faith insurance claim against an insurer who fails to meet the above-referenced obligations.
Where to Turn for Help in Pursuing a Property Damage Claim
Understanding insurance as it relates to which benefits you might be eligible for and when can be challenging. Having to prove liability adds an extra layer of complexity that deters most motorists from securing the compensation that they need. Our attorneys at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, can advocate for you during this process. Reach out to us today so we can start helping you.