According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 280 fatal car accidents in West Virginia in 2021. With vast rural areas, icy winter conditions and winding roads, the risk of a crash is prevalent in the Mountain State. 

In West Virginia, comparative negligence is a legal principle used to determine how much each party is at fault for an accident. Unlike some states that follow a “contributory negligence” rule, where even a small amount of fault can prevent a person from receiving any compensation, West Virginia employs a more lenient “modified comparative negligence” system. Under this rule, an individual can still recover damages even if partially at fault, as long as their share of the blame is less than 50%. However, the compensation received will be reduced in proportion to the degree of fault. 

Key Legal Terms to Know: Definitions and Concepts

Understanding the jargon used in legal discussions about car accidents can make a significant difference in how one approaches a situation. One term often heard is “liability,” which refers to the responsibility one party holds for the accident. Another term is “damages,” which are the financial costs incurred due to the accident, such as medical bills and car repairs. “Plaintiff” and “defendant” are also commonly used; the plaintiff is the person bringing the lawsuit, while the defendant is the one being sued. “Settlement” refers to an agreement reached between parties to resolve the case without going to trial. Lastly, “negligence” is a term used to describe a failure to exercise reasonable care, leading to an accident. 

West Virginia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rule: An Overview

In West Virginia, the legal system employs a “modified comparative negligence” rule when it comes to car accidents. Unlike “pure comparative negligence,” where a person can recover damages regardless of their level of fault, the modified rule has a cutoff. Specifically, if an individual is found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident, recovery of damages becomes impossible. On the other hand, if one’s fault is less than 50%, compensation is still possible but will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to them. For example, if someone is 30% at fault and has $10,000 in damages, the most recoverable would be $7,000. 

How Fault is Determined: A Step-by-Step Guide

Determining fault in a car accident involves a series of steps, often initiated by law enforcement and insurance companies. First, a police report is usually filed at the scene of the accident. Officers will document details, speak to witnesses, and sometimes issue citations, all of which can be factors in establishing fault. Next, insurance adjusters come into play. These professionals review the police report, inspect vehicle damage, and may even recreate the accident scene to assess fault percentages. In some instances, traffic camera footage or eyewitness accounts can also be used to corroborate the findings. Multiple parties can share fault, which is where the concept of comparative negligence comes into play. 

Role of Insurance Companies in Assessing Fault

Insurance companies play a significant role in the aftermath of a car accident, particularly in determining who is at fault. Once a claim is filed, an insurance adjuster is assigned to investigate the incident. The adjuster reviews the police report, examines photos of the accident scene, and assesses the damage to the vehicles involved. Interviews with the parties and witnesses may also be conducted to gather additional information. Based on these findings, the insurance company assigns a percentage of fault to each party. The insurance company’s assessment may not always align with a court’s judgment if the case goes to trial. Nonetheless, the insurance company’s determination often influences the amount of compensation one can expect to receive, adjusted for their degree of fault as per the modified comparative negligence rule in West Virginia.

Impact of Comparative Negligence on Compensation

In West Virginia, the concept of comparative negligence has a direct impact on the amount of compensation one can receive after a car accident. Under the modified comparative negligence rule, the number of damages a person is eligible to recover is reduced by their percentage of fault. For instance, if someone has $20,000 in damages but is found to be 25% at fault, the maximum amount recovered would be $15,000. A person is found to be 50% or more at fault, and is not eligible to receive any compensation.

Common Misconceptions About Comparative Negligence

When it comes to comparative negligence in West Virginia, several misconceptions often cloud people’s understanding. One common myth is if a person is any percent at fault, they cannot receive compensation. If the individual is less than 50% at fault, they can still recover damages, albeit reduced by their fault percentage. Another misconception the police report will be the final word on who is at fault. While the report is influential, insurance companies conduct their own investigations and may arrive at different conclusions. Some mistakenly believe passengers cannot be at fault. In certain situations, a passenger’s actions, such as distracting the driver, could contribute to the accident. 

Gathering Evidence to Support a Claim: Tips and Strategies

Collecting evidence is a vital step in supporting a claim after a car accident, especially when it comes to establishing fault under West Virginia’s modified comparative negligence rule. Photographs can be particularly helpful; taking pictures of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and any injuries can provide compelling visual evidence. Witnesses can also offer valuable perspectives; gathering their contact information for later use can be beneficial. Additionally, keeping a detailed record of medical visits and expenses can help in quantifying damages. Some people also find it useful to jot down a firsthand account of the accident while memories are still fresh. 

Understanding the Complexities of Comparative Negligence in West Virginia

Car Accident Attorney

Understanding the complexities of comparative negligence in West Virginia can be a challenging task. The state’s modified comparative negligence rule introduces various factors affecting both fault determination and compensation. From the role of insurance companies to the impact of evidence, each element plays a part in shaping the outcome of a car accident claim. Misconceptions about the rule often lead to confusion, making it important to separate fact from fiction. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of how comparative negligence works in West Virginia, individuals can better prepare for the legal and financial implications of a car accident. This knowledge can serve as a valuable resource in making informed decisions during a challenging time.

If you have been involved in a car accident, please contact Manchin Injury Law Group online, or call our office at (304) 317-7786.

Attorney Timothy Manchin established the Manchin Injury Law Group in 2011 after his law partner of more than 25 years became a West Virginia circuit court judge. His focus is on helping individual clients and entire families victimized by negligent acts.

  • Taylor Downs was easy to talk to (I do not speak the legal language well!) and was very upfront and honest about the entire process of my case. He kept me updated as the case progressed, and answered my relentless questions. The end result was a favorable settlement that I’m not sure could have been any better with anyone else. In short, go see Taylor if you have a case. Don’t be intimidated to go seek his help, he won’t blow your brains out with “legal speak”.


  • Being referred to Taylor was the best thing I could have asked for. Taylor and staff are very easy to talk to. I would highly recommend them to anyone.


  • If I ever have to go through it again I would definetly call Taylor right away. The group was so helpful through my situation and handled everything that needed to be done. They made a stressful situation a stress free situation. With Taylor you dont have to worry about one thing. Definietly would recomend to anyone.

    - TAYLOR G.

  • Efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly.


  • Taylor and Tim helped make a difficult moment in life, a little more bearable. Easy to communicate with and informative. I will absolutely recommend them to everyone.


  • Manchin Injury Law Group, Took care of me when I got into a car accident while I was pregnant. Very scary moment for a first time mom but thankfully Manchin Injury Law Group had my back and treated me great. They made me feel as if I was part of their family. My son is now 7 Months Old and very happy and healthy. I’m very thankful for them for helping me through everything and getting me what we deserved. I 100% would recommend them to anyone. If I ever have an accident again they will be my number 1 phone call!


  • The support given helped me to feel like I was included in my personal injury case every step of the way. I was informed about the entire process throughout. It was amazing how quick the turn around time was and I would definitely recommend Attorney Timothy J. Manchin to anyone!


  • Taylor and Kelly worked hard on my case so I didn’t have to. Thanks guys!


  • Excellent experience dealing with Manchin Injury Law. They were very responsive, professional and easy to talk to. I did my homework before I hired a lawyer after my accident and I am so glad I found Manchin Injury Law Group. If you are injured, give them a call!


  • Taylor and Tim helped make a difficult moment in life, a little more bearable. Easy to communicate with and informative. I will absolutely recommend them to everyone.


  • Kelly and Taylor did all the hard work so that I didn’t have to. They both cared about my circumstance and got me a nice settlement. Taylor knows what he is doing and I felt comfortable with my case in his hands.


  • Great lawyers. They helped me with a West Virginia case.


  • Such a great experience with Taylor and this firm. Thankful for their diligence and their work on our case. Thank you to all!


  • Had a easy and smooth experience with a great attorney so when you go there make sure you ask for Taylor.


  • My experience at the Manchin Injury Law Group was extremely positive, and I would recommend them to anyone who needs a compassionate and experienced lawyer on their side.


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