If you live in West Virginia and you have a personal injury claim, it is important to be aware of the state laws that affect the process for resolving your claim and getting compensation. Below is an overview of the major West Virginia laws that impact personal injury cases.
All states have a "statute of limitations" for personal injury cases -- a time frame during which you must file your personal injury lawsuit in the state's civil court system. In West Virginia, the time limit is two (2) years. The time limit begins to run from the date of your accident.
What happens if you have not filed your lawsuit when the two-year window closes? Unfortunately, your case probably will be time-barred, which means that you will be unable to recover for your injuries via the court system. That is why it is so important to make sure that, if you are going to sue, you file a complaint to protect your rights within 2 years of the date of your injury. See Time Limits to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit for more information.
What do you do if you need to sue the government because a state employee or agency caused your injury? Although some states have special rules that apply to government claims, West Virginia does not. You simply need to make sure you file your lawsuit within the two years, although providing a basic notice of claim directly to the government before that might still be a good idea. To determine whether you should do that, you will need to consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in West Virginia and is experienced in personal injury cases.
If your injury claim involves a local municipality (a town, city, or county, for example) double-check with that municipality to make sure there are not special procedures for getting compensation for your injuries.
Some plaintiffs are partly responsible for the accidents in which they were involved. If this has happened to you, you probably will still be able to recover some compensation for your injuries. West Virginia follows the comparative negligence rule, meaning that unless you and the other driver were equally at fault (50-50), or you were more at fault, you can still recover some damages. The overall award you get simply will be adjusted by your percentage of fault. If there is more than one defendant, fault will be apportioned among all of the drivers involved.
For example, if your damages total $60,000, and the jury determines that you were 10% at fault, the award would be reduced by $6,000, for a total of $54,000. However, if you were 60% at fault, you likely would not recover anything at all from other at-fault parties, under West Virginia's shared fault rules.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In West Virginia however, a specific statute (W. Va. Code § 19-20-13) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning no matter the circumstances, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
"Any owner or keeper of any dog who permits such dog to run at large shall be liable for any damages inflicted upon the person or property of another by such dog while so running at large."
Another possible factor affecting what you can recover is damage caps imposed in West Virginia. In wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, the limit on non-economic damages (the amount the jury can award for your pain and suffering and similar losses) is $500,000. "Catastrophic injury" refers to cases where someone's injuries are "permanent and substantial."
In all other routine accident cases, the limit is $250,000 for non-economic damages. You may still be able to be compensated for medical expenses and lost wages, but pain and suffering awards can be a significant component of injury cases, and these limits may reduce the potential amount of that recovery.