West Virginia Auto Accident Laws

a bicycler sitting on the ground before a car following a pedestrian accident
Key Takeaways
  • West Virginia has mandatory auto insurance requirements.
  • West Virginia is an at-fault state, meaning the party who causes an accident is responsible for any damages. 
  • You must report motor vehicle accidents to the DMV and the police under certain circumstances.
  • More than one party may be liable for a car accident.
  • You can collect from the other party or parties if you are less than 51 percent responsible for your accident.

West Virginia auto accident laws dictate what you must do after an accident. They also determine if you can collect compensation—and how much. While the at-fault driver’s insurance company is liable for paying damages, be careful of certain actions that may reduce the compensation recoverable.

It’s essential to hire an experienced West Virginia car accident lawyer soon after your crash. They can fight for you when insurance companies try to falsely blame you for the accident or offer a quick, low-amount settlement in the hopes you accept. If an offered settlement won’t cover your damages, a skilled attorney will seek additional compensation in court.

Is West Virginia a No-Fault State?

West Virginia is an at-fault state, meaning the party at fault for the accident must pay for any damages that result. Thus, the responsible party’s insurance company typically is the first source of compensation for a car accident. It is unlikely that another driver will take immediate responsibility for your crash, so you’ll likely need to go through settlement negotiations or court proceedings to prove the other driver’s liability and collect damages.

You also may collect from your insurance company if the other driver’s policy doesn’t cover your damages. Sometimes, the total you can collect through insurance isn’t enough to cover your damages. When this happens, you can file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your remaining economic and non-economic harm.

West Virginia Car Insurance Requirements

In West Virginia, you must insure all registered vehicles and always carry proof of insurance in your vehicles. If you cancel your insurance without obtaining a replacement policy, you must return your license plate to the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

The state also imposes mandatory automobile insurance limits, including the following:

  • Liability insurance of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage of at least $25,000
  • Uninsured motorist liability of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist property damage of at least $25,000

While drivers are not obliged to purchase additional insurance, the state does require insurers to offer the following additional coverage:

  • Uninsured motorist maximum bodily injury of $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist maximum property damage of $50,000
  • Underinsured motorist minimum bodily injury of $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident
  • Underinsured motorist minimum property damage of $25,000

There are penalties for failing to carry the proper insurance, including fines and suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and vehicle registration. 

Comparative Negligence Laws in West Virginia

West Virginia recognizes that more than one party may share responsibility for a crash. Under the state’s modified comparative negligence rule, you can file a claim if you were less than 51 percent responsible for your car accident. Your share of fault reduces the amount you can recover. For example, if an accident caused you $100,000 in damages and you were 25 percent at fault, you can collect up to $75,000. 

The comparative negligence rule is one of the reasons it is critical to have an experienced West Virginia auto accident lawyer handle your case. Insurance companies will fight to prove that you were 51 percent or more responsible to avoid paying your damages. An experienced attorney knows how to investigate your case properly and argue persuasively that the other driver bore most of the responsibility, even if you were partly liable for your accident.

How Long Do You Have To Report an Accident in WV?

If your crash caused an injury, death, or total property damage that appears to total more than $1,000, you must report your accident immediately. Under West Virginia Code §17C-4-6, you should notify a local police department if your accident happened in a municipality. Otherwise, report it to the appropriate county sheriff or the nearest West Virginia State Police office. 

West Virginia law also requires that passengers report accidents immediately if the driver is physically unable to do so. A 911 call serves as your notice to the police.

Failure to report your accident can result in serious consequences, including the suspension of your driver’s license. If you are convicted, you also could face additional penalties, such as fines or jail time. 

You also must report your accident to the DMV if it results in an injury, death, or more than $500 in property damage. Notify your insurance company immediately, even if you were not at fault for the accident. 

Retain a skilled attorney and notify the other party’s insurance company of your intent to file a claim. Never agree to talk to the other insurance company without your attorney present. They may try to twist your words to blame you for the accident.

When Should You File a Car Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Even if the other party’s insurance company offers a fair settlement, and your insurance covers some costs, it may not be enough to cover all your damages. In a crash in which you suffered severe injuries, your damages may exceed the policy limits of those involved in the accident.

You can file a personal injury lawsuit to collect damages not covered by insurance, including in accidents involving uninsured motorists. Some of the damages you can seek in your lawsuit include:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • The cost of modifying your home or vehicle to accommodate your injuries
  • Home nursing or aide care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral expenses if your loved one died in a car accident

You must file a car accident lawsuit within the two-year West Virginia statute of limitations, or you may lose your chance to pursue compensation. Your time limit starts running on your accident date. If you are suing for the wrongful death of a loved one, the two-year limit starts running on the date of their passing.

Car accident cases can be complex. They may devolve into finger-pointing as insurance companies try to pin blame on the other driver. They may involve parties other than drivers, such as a local government in a bus accident or a car manufacturer in the case of a defective part. Your best course of action is to partner with an experienced law firm so your attorney can focus on fighting for fair compensation while you focus on healing.

Get Help From an Experienced West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

Our founding partner, Bobby Warner, and our other award-winning attorneys at Warner Law Offices, PLLC, have over 20 years of experience helping accident victims. We have a proven record of success and are proud of client reviews attesting to our aggressive client advocacy, professionalism, and ability to get results. Our West Virginia auto accident lawyers have experience in complex cases, including hit-and-runs and those involving uninsured or underinsured motorists.

We represent clients from across West Virginia from our Charleston office. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay us unless we win compensation. 

If you have questions about West Virginia auto accident laws or need help after an accident, call us today at (304) 345-6789 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.

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Attorney Bobby Warner
Content Reviewed by:
Bobby Warner

Bobby has received many accolades throughout the years from both his peers in the legal community, as well as the media. The National Trial Lawyers association named Bobby a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and he has been selected as a Member of the Nation’s Top One Percent. Additionally, he has been named a Best Attorneys of America by Rue Ratings, which also named Warner Law Offices to its Best Law Firms of America.