Do I Need a Lawyer for Auto Accidents in WV? Maybe Not.
When to (and NOT) Hire an Auto Accident Lawyer in WV?
If you were in a car wreck that someone else caused, you may be entitled to full and fair compensation to cover your losses and damages. Retaining the services of a West Virginia car accident attorney is often the best and most effective way to ensure you receive this compensation.
However, the circumstances of every accident are different and there are certain car accident cases where it’s not necessary to hire a West Virginia car accident lawyer.
When NOT to Hire a Lawyer
If any of the following statements apply to you, you do not need to hire a lawyer in the aftermath of a car accident.
You Weren’t Really Hurt
Some accidents do not result in any injuries, which is of course the best-case scenario for a car crash. You may just be shaken up or have minor injuries that resolve on your own in a day or two, like bruising or a sore neck. Some accidents result in damage to your motor vehicle or other personal belongings, but no physical injury occurs.
If you only sustained very minor injuries that do not require medical treatment or you weren’t injured at all, you will generally not need to hire a car accident lawyer. If you need compensation for damage to your vehicle or personal belongings, you can usually work with insurance companies directly to get that covered.
Additionally, if you were minorly injured and decide to file a car accident claim, you can often handle this by yourself as well. A lawyer’s expertise in this instance will usually not be necessary, and paying the lawyer’s fees may actually end up leaving you with less in the settlement than you would have won on your own.
Unless you have an injury that warrants the attention of a medical professional, you most likely do not need to hire an auto accident lawyer serving West Virginia.
You Don’t Want to Be Paid For Your Losses
If the damage from the car crash is minor, maybe you’d rather not deal with the hassle of filing a lawsuit or dealing with insurance companies even if the crash was someone else’s fault. In that case, if there are no injuries and all involved motor vehicles are still safely driveable, you can simply drive away and continue your day.
Sometimes accidents are honest mistakes, and no one would benefit significantly from pursuing any kind of subsequent action. In that case, you can simply shake it off and move on.
You Are Savvy About Insurance
Obtaining car insurance coverage is generally pretty straightforward – you can even sign up online in minutes. However, few people actually know how to use their insurance coverage to their biggest advantage, and fewer still understand how different types of insurance coordinate coverage. Health insurance and car insurance policies are often both involved in car accidents that result in injuries, and the matter is further complicated by state jurisdictions that apply varying laws to insurance policies.
However, if you know how to use your insurance, fully understand what the provisions of your insurance contract mean, and are familiar with how state jurisdictional laws impact your insurance coverage, you may be able to handle your own insurance and personal injury claims, even if your injuries are significant.
Many injury claims are resolved without litigation, so if you are confident in your knowledge of the matter you are certainly entitled to make the case on your own behalf. A personal injury attorney may be unnecessary if you feel that you can handle the case on your own and advocate for your own compensation.
You Have Plenty of Free Time to Pursue Your Claim
Even if you were significantly injured in a car accident, you can still pursue a personal injury claim without the assistance of a lawyer if you have lots of time and energy to devote to your case.
For instance, if you are bedridden as a result of your injuries and cannot work, you can easily occupy your mind with a personal injury case. However, keep in mind that you may be required to put in multiple hours of work per week for anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the complexity of your case.
Most of the work needed to build and pursue a successful personal injury case does not require any kind of specialized knowledge or qualifications – it’s not rocket science. Through simple research and study, you could learn all the steps in the personal injury claim process and understand enough to successfully represent yourself. Many of the required tasks are things like making phone calls, finding and obtaining pertinent documents, following up with people who are involved in the case, and liaising with insurance companies.
For some people, handling these details and learning the process of a personal injury claim provides closure for the accident as well as a purpose to occupy their mind during recovery. A personal injury lawyer would likely handle the case more expertly and more efficiently, but that’s not to say that you couldn’t be successful in representing yourself.
The Accident Was Your Fault
If the accident was entirely your fault and other people suffered injuries and damage, you won’t need a personal injury attorney – you’ll need a defense attorney. If you have insurance, your insurance company will generally provide a defense attorney for you.
Often insurance companies have close relationships with defense attorneys or may even have some on their payroll. The services of the defense attorney will be free of charge as a benefit of your car insurance policy. But, your insurer may raise your rates as a consequence of causing an accident.
However, West Virginia follows comparative negligence law which essentially allows for damages to be split among the parties involved in proportion to their fault in the accident. So for instance, if the court deemed you 50% responsible for the accident and total damages were assessed at $100,000, you would still be eligible to receive $50,000 in damages. If the accident occurred in West Virginia and you were not 100% at fault, you may want to hire a personal injury lawyer since comparative negligence cases can be trickier to navigate.
Further complicating matters, neighboring Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia follow a different law called contributory negligence, which states that if you were even slightly responsible for your own injuries, you cannot recover compensation from anyone else.
So, if the accident was 100% your fault or 0% your fault, you likely don’t need to hire an attorney. However, if it’s anywhere in the middle gray area, hiring an attorney may be beneficial for you since those cases can be quite complex.
Steps to Take After an Accident
Even the most minor accident tends to be a stressful event that could leave you flustered and not thinking clearly. Plus, many people aren’t sure what to do in the aftermath of an accident. Here’s a simple checklist to follow in any accident scenario, especially if you think you might want to file a personal injury claim.
- Assess yourself and your passengers for injuries and administer first aid if necessary.
- If the accident happened in the middle of a freeway or in another type of unsafe area, move the vehicles to the shoulder if you are able to. Otherwise, leave the scene of the crash as it is to document it.
- Call 911 to report the accident if there were any injuries or if either of the vehicles is no longer drivable. If it was a minor accident, you can call the non-emergency police number to file an accident report – a police officer may not come to the scene for a minor accident.
- Exchange contact, insurance, and driver’s license information with the other driver. Do not admit fault or converse with them unnecessarily.
- Photograph the scene of the crash, damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you sustained if you are able to.
- Ask any witnesses who are nearby for their names and contact information.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you think your injuries are mild, it’s always a good idea to be evaluated by a medical professional, and it can help your case later if you decide to file one. Obviously, if you have been seriously injured and are immediately transported to the hospital, you can handle the other steps later once you have recovered, or have your attorney do it for you.
- Contact one of our attorneys at Kaufman & McPherson as soon as possible.
Our Law Firm is Here to Help
While it may not always be necessary to hire a personal injury lawyer after a car accident, you are much more likely to recover compensation that covers all of your damages if you do retain the services of an attorney, unless you meet any of the criteria listed above.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in West Virginia recently, contact us at Kaufman & McPherson today for a free case evaluation and no-cost legal advice.