how do insurance companies determine fault

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault in West Virginia Car Accidents?

If you’ve ever been in a fender-bender or collision in West Virginia, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. Beyond just dealing with injuries, damaged vehicles, and doctor appointments, there’s also the question of who’s at fault.

The police may make an initial call on the scene. But ultimately, insurance companies dig deeper in their investigation to officially assign fault and percentage of blame between drivers.

Most folks don’t realize insurance adjusters use specific guidelines to determine fault. And if you’re deemed even partially at fault, it reduces any injury claim payout you might receive.

So, how exactly does the fault determination process work following West Virginia auto accidents? What contributing factors and findings can influence who insurance carriers deem the responsible party?

West Virginia Courts Apply Modified Comparative Fault

West Virginia’s modified comparative fault rules state a negligent claimant can recover injury compensation up to a certain point.

Specifically, so long as the injured driver’s negligence is no greater than 50%, they can file a lawsuit against the other motorist to recoup damages like medical bills and lost income.

But if the injured party’s percentage exceeds 50%, they lose the right to collect anything for their losses or pain and suffering.

Police Investigate Fault at the Accident Scene

The fault assessment process starts immediately after the collision occurs. Police dispatched to the accident scene play a crucial early role.

Officers meticulously document critical evidence like:

  • Property damage and points of impact.
  • Injuries suffered by the drivers or passengers.
  • Skid marks and debris suggesting speeds and reactions.
  • Road conditions and visibility at the time.

They also take statements from the two drivers and witnesses about what happened. All this evidence gets compiled into a formal crash report that captures the officer’s determination of fault and violation citations.

Insurance Companies Review Police Reports

The officers’ report provides the foundation for auto insurance companies to start separate liability investigations. Insurers obtain police documents and other evidence like:

  • Medical reports documenting the injuries.
  • Statements from all independent eyewitnesses.
  • Photographs taken at the scene.

Evaluators carefully analyze all these materials using West Virginia’s modified comparative negligence precedents and statutes. These rules guide interpreting the facts to decide each driver’s relative liability.

The insurance company then makes its own official decision on proportional responsibility. If they agree with the police’s ruling, they base any payouts on the assigned percentages.

But insurers can also dispute the police fault determination if the supplied evidence appears contradictory or incomplete. When this happens, things get more complicated.

State Laws and Precedents Steer Liability Determinations

The West Virginia laws that guide official fault decisions after wrecks include:

Comparative Negligence Statutes

As mentioned earlier, these intricate laws define proportional liability rules, damages based on fault levels, and other mandates unique to West Virginia.

Case Law Precedents

By researching previous crash disputes deliberated in West Virginia civil courts, insurers can see how judges ruled in similar situations. These past verdicts often provide direction or precedence when deciding current fault disagreements.

Vehicle Code and Traffic Laws

Insurers review the state’s vehicle, traffic, and insurance regulations to help determine if any driver violated established safety or operation rules. These statutory breaches can heavily influence fault assessments.

Drivers Must File a Claim with an At-Fault Insurer

If you get hurt in a West Virginia collision and don’t cause over 50% of the harm, you can file an injury liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. However, successfully recovering damages hinges on properly completing some key steps.

The process typically involves:

  • Reporting your damages and medical needs to the insurer quickly.
  • Supplying all required claim paperwork like accident details, medical reports, and wage loss forms.
  • Responding promptly to any questions or document requests from the adjuster.
  • Negotiating reasonable settlement offers for your documented losses.

Without air-tight, evidence-backed demand packages, insurers often deny maximum payouts. It then gets tough to dispute their fault determination ruling.

Even if you supply impeccable paperwork, the insurer may still balk at paying fair damages because they disagree on proportional fault. When complete denials or lowball offers happen, contacting a personal injury attorney becomes necessary.

Our Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You Maximize Compensation

While complex, accurately assigning fault in a car accident doesn’t need to be intimidating or frustrating. An experienced local personal injury law firm can make the process much smoother.

Rather than battling insurance denial or delays yourself, your attorney handles issues like:

  • Challenging unfair fault determinations by insurers.
  • Consulting accident reconstruction specialists to prove who was at fault in the accident.
  • Skillfully negotiating for fair medical and financial damage payouts.

With an attorney fighting for proper fault adjustments and compensation, you can focus on healing from your injuries. If necessary, seasoned litigators fearlessly take insurers to court over disputed liability and settlement rulings.

Don’t wait to call an attorney after an insurance company denies responsibility- the statute of limitations rules limit how long victims have to act against insurers.

Contact Miley Legal for a free case evaluation and legal plan. With compassion and tenacity, we fight for the justice and damages you rightly deserve.

Author Bio

Tim Miley is the Founder of Miley Legal Accident Injury Lawyers, a West Virginia personal injury law firm he formed in 2006. With more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, and other personal injury matters.

Tim received his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University and is a member of the West Virginia State Bar and the Harrison County Bar Association. He has helped his clients win more than $10 million in personal injury verdicts and settlements and has further served the people of West Virginia by filling legislative roles in the state’s government since 2004.

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