Car accidents account for millions of injuries across the United States every year. In West Virginia, we are no strangers to deadly crashes. In almost every wreck, at least one party is at fault. If you or someone you love was injured in a wreck and believe that another party’s recklessness, disregard for the law, or negligence caused the collision, a West Virginia car accident lawyer can help you determine if you have grounds to seek compensation.
In 2016, drivers in West Virginia traveled millions of miles all over the state. While many of those trips ended positively, there were a number that did not. That year, there were 250 fatal vehicle collisions, which resulted in 269 deaths. The majority of those occupants were in passenger vehicles; however, fatalities did occur in wrecks involving large trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles.
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we have experience handling a wide variety of common car crash cases including drunk driving collisions, single-vehicle and multicar pileups, head-on and rear-end collisions, speeding accidents, weather-related and road hazard wrecks, and distracting driving wrecks. Our committed legal team can help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve for medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering costs, and more.
Common Causes of Auto Accidents
In the United States and in West Virginia, a significant portion of all car accidents happen due to negligence. When a driver gets behind the wheel, they have a legal duty to drive responsibly and not cause harm to anyone else. When that duty is neglected due to carelessness, reckless acts, or negligence, the court system may deem that driver as negligent. By examining the common causes of crashes, we can learn how to avoid dangerous collisions. Here are just a few of the most common causes:
- Drunk Driving. In 2016, 24 percent of the drivers who died in car wrecks in West Virginiahad a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Driving while impaired is 100 percent preventable and should be avoided at all costs. A person with a BAC higher than 0.08 percent will experience loss of judgment, difficulty steering and maintaining speed, a slowed reaction time, difficulty processing information and reasoning, difficulty braking efficiently, and may be unable to focus on driving altogether.
- Speeding. Speeding is a significant factor in many of West Virginia’s traffic accidents. When a person speeds, they are less likely to be able to stop in time in the event of an emergency. In inclement weather, they may lose control of their vehicle. Sharp turns in unknown areas can also be problematic for speeders.
- Distracted Driving. Whether a driver is distracted by a text on their cell phone or their social media feed, their dashboard GPS, a snack they’re enjoying, a dropped item, or a conversation occurring inside the vehicle, distractions cost lives. Crashes caused by distracted drivers claimed 3,450 lives in 2016. Partaking in multiple tasks behind the wheel limits a driver’s ability to focus solely on the road in front of them. This is especially dangerous at high speeds on interstates.
- Disregarding Traffic Laws. When a driver fails to obey the rules of the road, fails to follow the correct right-of-way laws, follows another vehicle too closely, or drives too fast for weather conditions, etc., accidents can happen. Traffic laws exist for a reason and ignoring them is illegal and can cost innocent people their lives.
- Driver Inexperience. Inexperienced drivers are not always familiar with how to avoid a potential collision or may be unfamiliar with West Virginia roads. Newer drivers should approach getting behind the wheel with extra caution. New drivers are also more susceptible to becoming distracted behind the wheel. It’s important for teenagers to learn the best practices while driving and become aware of the dangers associated with distractions, drinking, and speeding.
- Driving While Drowsy. While it may not seem like a big deal, driving while overly tired or fatigued is just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There’s no doubting the fact that humans make more mistakes when overtired. Truck drivers in particular, who are often on the road for incredibly long stretches, need to be aware of how they’re feeling and how long they’ve been traveling, so they can stop when they need to rest.
If you or a loved one has been in a crash caused by one or more of the factors above, legal compensation may be available to you. This money can help a family move forward as well as protect future potential victims from being injured in the same way. When a driver acts negligently behind the wheel, sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to ensure they never make that mistake again.
Injuries Related to Car Wrecks
Auto collisions are a leading cause of injuries in the United States. Millions of individuals sustain visible and invisible injuries every year after being in a crash. While injuries can vary from person to person and from wreck to wreck, there are some injuries that are fairly common. Let’s take a look at the physical injuries a person could sustain in and after a crash.
Physical injuries vary in a crash depending on the position of the vehicle, how the vehicle was hit, and whether or not the occupants were wearing seatbelts. No matter how minor, it’s a good idea to seek medical treatment following an accident. Some injuries tend to present themselves days, weeks, or even months after the initial incident. The most common physical injuries people deal with after a crash include the following:
- Whiplash. This occurs when the jolt of an accident causes the neck to move back and forth rapidly, which causes pain and injury to the tendons and muscles in the neck. Symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, loss and range of motion, and dizziness. Whiplash typically takes a few days to manifest; however, it can be longer. Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury.
- Broken Bones. The blunt force of a wreck can cause fractures. While any bone could be broken in a crash, the most common are the extremities, like the arms, hands, legs, and feet. If you have a broken bone, you may be experiencing swelling, bruising, redness, loss of function, or severe pain. While some fractures can be set in a cast and expected to heal after a certain period of time, others may require surgery.
- Concussion. A concussion occurs when severe force causes the brain to shift in the skull. It can happen even if a person’s head doesn’t make direct contact with something. Signs and symptoms include headaches, pressure, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. It is imperative to seek medical treatment if you think you have a concussion. If left untreated, difficulty with focus, memory, and concentration could become permanent.
- Lacerations and Contusions. While less severe, it’s common for a car wreck victim to sustain a number of cuts and bruises. While these often heal on their own and require little treatment, it’s still important to be looked at by a doctor because the visible markings could be hiding more severe injuries.
- Burn injuries are most common with motorcycle crash victims because of the likelihood of the skin coming in contact with pavement and causing road rash. Anytime fire is involved, however, burns can occur. While mild burns can be treated fairly easily, they can be incredibly painful. More severe burns can take months to heal and may require skin grafts.
While many physical injuries are visible, dealing with the aftermath of the wreck and the resulting emotional trauma is often all internalized. There are common emotional reactions to an accident. These are caused by the release and withdraw of adrenaline. Those emotions often include anxiety, fear, and depression. Over time, however, those emotions often fade.
If you find that you’re still experiencing psychological trauma related to your collision, you can seek guidance from a mental health professional. You may want to consider it if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Social isolation
- Changes in eating patterns
- Extreme alertness
- Overwhelming fear
- Panic attacks
Dealing With Recovery
Everyone recovers differently after an auto accident. Some people may have an easier time than others. If you’ve sustained serious physical injuries, it will likely take time to feel like yourself again. If you’re coping with the emotional trauma, it can also take a while to feel like you’ve found your normal. In order to have a positive recovery, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations and avoid returning to work too soon.
We understand how expensive it can be to recover from a car accident. Our attorneys are prepared to investigate your case to determine how much compensation you’re owed, so your financial burdens are taken care of.
Steps to Take After a Crash in West Virginia
If you are involved in a car wreck, the first step is to prioritize the safety of yourself as well as any fellow passengers. Get safely off the road and call 911 immediately. Ensure everyone gets the medical care they need. When it’s safe to do so—and only when it’s safe to do so—proceed with the following steps:
- File a police report. In the state of West Virginia, drivers involved in a wreck resulting in more than $1,000 of property damage, injury, or death must immediately contact law enforcement. If the accident takes place within a city, local police can be called. If the crash occurs anywhere else, call the office of the county sheriff or the nearest West Virginia State Police office. The police report can be presented to your insurance company to aid in determining liability.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s). You’ll want to get the insurance and contact information from the other drivers involved. Your insurance company will need this info. Keep the conversation simple and to the point. Do your best to not let your emotions get the best of you and do not attempt to talk about fault during this period. Anything you say can be held against you later if your claim goes to court. Remember to never apologize.
- Speak to any witnesses who saw the accident. If someone else saw the crash happen, ask for their account of the collision and if they’re comfortable giving you their contact information. Witnesses can be integral to a strong testimony if your case is presented before a judge.
- Contact your insurance company. Report the crash to your insurance company, but don’t agree to any premature settlements—especially if you feel you were not at fault for the accident. You and your family deserve a full and fair settlement offer. If the offer you receive doesn’t seem accurate or fair, you do not have to accept it. You have every right to contact a lawyer regarding your other options before signing anything.
- Don’t speak with the other driver’s auto insurance company before consulting a personal injury attorney. You should not give medical authorization to the opposing insurance company or discuss your medical condition with one of their representatives. Instead, your first step should be to call a trusted West Virginia car accident lawyer from our firm. They could use what you say against you to lessen your settlement or reduce their client’s liability percentage.
We suggest that you talk to us before contacting any insurance companies. Your insurance provider may not give you the settlement that you can collect when you have a skilled Charleston lawyer on your side. We can assist you in working toward the highest settlement offer possible.
Determining Liability After Your Accident
West Virginia requires auto wreck victims to prove the other driver was at fault before compensation is awarded for incurred damages. Under the modified comparative negligence law, injured parties can obtain financial awards if the opposing party’s fault is greater. A lawyer can help you determine fault with a thorough investigation and seek compensation.
It’s important to remember there is a statute of limitations in place. This sets a time limit on how long you have to bring a lawsuit to court. According to West Virginia Code section 55-2-12, you have two years from the date of the accident to file the claim. If that date is not met, anything filed after is likely to be thrown out.
Find the Road to Recovery With Our Attorneys
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, we know what it takes to obtain damages above a typical insurance settlement. If you need compensation to cover your medical expenses, missed work time, and/or emotional damages, we can help. Our goal is to serve your best interests. We are also prepared to help if you’ve wrongfully lost a loved one.
We operate on a contingency fee basis, which means that you won’t have to pay a dime until we obtain compensation for you. We serve injured victims and their families in Charleston and throughout the entire state. Contact us to set up a free case evaluation with a West Virginia car accident lawyer at our firm. With our help, recovery is in your future.