If you get injured or suffer property damage in a car accident in West Virginia, you will need to file an insurance claim to receive financial coverage for your bills and expenses. One commonly used method to determine fault for a car accident is examining the damage to the vehicles involved. In many cases, experts can analyze car accident damage and use it to accurately reconstruct what happened.
Is West Virginia a Fault or No-Fault State?
West Virginia is a fault auto insurance state, meaning the driver or party at fault for causing the car accident is who must pay for related property damage and medical bills. In no-fault states, fault is not looked at to determine liability (financial responsibility for the accident) unless someone suffered a severe injury; with minor crash claims, both drivers seek coverage from their own insurance companies, regardless of fault. In West Virginia, however, fault must be determined before a claim is filed.
How Is Property Damage Used in Fault Determinations?
Vehicle damage can indicate how a car accident occurred. Based on the location, type and severity of the damage to either vehicle, crash reconstruction experts can piece together how the collision must have happened. For example, if there is damage to the front of one vehicle and the rear of the other, it is clear that a rear-end collision took place. Experts and investigators can analyze property damage to reconstruct what happened, including crash details such as:
- The directions that both vehicles were traveling
- The speeds of both vehicles
- Where each car was positioned on the road
- Whether the vehicle’s safety devices deployed (such as an airbag)
- Which driver might have been in the wrong place
However, the clues to liability found in property damage may not always be accurate. Damage or skid marks on a motor vehicle may show where the two cars collided but not who was responsible for the crash. In the rear-end collision example, it is often assumed that the rear driver is to blame for following too closely, not paying attention or not hitting the brakes. Yet there are cases where the front driver is at fault. Property damage alone may not tell the full story.
What Other Evidence Is Used to Determine Fault?
While examining the damage to the vehicles involved in a car accident can provide important information, it is not a foolproof method for determining fault. The extent of the damage does not always explain who was at fault. For example, fault could be shared between both drivers or external factors may have contributed, such as bad weather or poor road conditions.
Investigators often will not rely on property damage alone to determine fault. They will combine this physical evidence with other pieces of information to paint an accurate picture of what might have happened. This can include skid marks on the road, vehicle debris at the crash scene, accident photographs or footage, eyewitness statements, and a police report. Investigators will look at all of this evidence and data collectively to understand the mechanics of the crash.
Gathering Evidence After a Car Accident
If you get involved in a car accident in West Virginia, you can support your injury claim by gathering evidence yourself while still at the scene of the crash, if possible. This may include taking pictures of the accident and getting the names of any eyewitnesses. If you speak to law enforcement officers at the scene, do not admit fault. This could automatically bar you from making a financial recovery, even if you were not responsible for the accident.
When you are ready, after you have received medical care for any injuries, contact a West Virginia car accident attorney for a professional crash investigation. A lawyer can help you collect further evidence to prove that the other driver is at fault for your accident. This can include hiring accident reconstruction experts to analyze the property damage to both motor vehicles.