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Many car accidents are not as simple as one driver being 100% at fault for the crash. The average crash could involve the shared fault of two or more drivers, as well as third parties such as employers or vehicle owners. You are not alone if you believe you were partly at fault for your car accident. West Virginia has a law in place specifically for these situations: the modified comparative fault law.
Comparative fault, also called comparative negligence, refers to an injured party’s (plaintiff’s) partial fault for an accident or injury. In comparative negligence states, partial fault on the plaintiff’s part will not bar him or her from financial recovery. This is in contrast to contributory negligence states, in which any amount of fault by the plaintiff will eliminate the opportunity to obtain compensation. Comparative fault states use either pure or modified comparative fault laws. West Virginia uses a modified comparative fault law.
West Virginia Code 55-7-13A states that the courts will express the degree to which a plaintiff caused his or her personal injury as a percentage out of 100. In a civil tort claim, the courts will predicate the plaintiff’s financial recovery upon the liability of each person involved in the claim. The courts will analyze the comparative fault of the plaintiff, the defendant and any nonparties involved in the accident. The courts will then allocate a percentage of fault to each person.
If the courts allocate a percentage of fault to the plaintiff, the defendant will have to pay the plaintiff an equivalent amount less in financial compensation. If, for example, you were 25% at fault for causing your car accident, you would recover $75,000 of a $100,000 total award due to the comparative negligence rule. The amount of your portion of negligence will determine how much money you receive for your damages.
The modified aspect of West Virginia’s comparative negligence law caps a plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation at 50%. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff could be any percentage responsible – even 99% – and still recover some compensation for his or her damages. In West Virginia, however, if you are 50% or more at fault, you will lose all right to recover. Your fault cannot equal or exceed the combined negligence of all other parties to qualify for compensation.
If you were partly at fault for your auto accident, do not assume you have lost the right to file a claim to compensation. The law in West Virginia may still enable you to recover at least a partial settlement or verdict award. It is worth speaking to a West Virginia car accident lawyer to find out if you have grounds for compensation after a collision. In the meantime, take certain steps to avoid diminishing your right to recover financially.
A comparative negligence defense from the defendant could reduce your compensatory award. It is up to you to protect your rights by hiring a lawyer to represent you during an insurance claim or injury lawsuit. A lawyer can use evidence and special legal techniques to prove that other parties were more than 50% responsible for your accident. Arguments from your lawyer could minimize your percentage of fault to maximize your compensatory award in West Virginia.