What if I Don’t Have Insurance? Can I File An Injury Claim?
The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2015, about 10 percent of West Virginia’s drivers did not carry auto insurance. Are you one of them? If so, can you file a car accident claim seeking compensation for injuries, damages and losses if you don’t have auto insurance yourself? This is a complex question with nuanced answers.
What Are the Rules in West Virginia?
West Virginia’s laws require all motorists to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. Not having this minimum coverage may result in penalties that often include fines. West Virginia has a tort system and that means that the driver who is found to be at fault for the accident can be sued for damages such as vehicle damage, medical costs, lost earnings and pain and suffering. Under the law, drivers are required to carry the following minimum insurance coverage:
┬À $20,000 bodily injury per person per accident
┬À $10,000 in property damage liability
┬À $20,000/$40,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury
┬À $10,000 uninsured motorist property damage
West Virginia is a “Fault State”
When it comes to traditional liability insurance coverage, the at-fault driver is financially responsible for the injuries and damages to the other motorist. In no-fault states, the insurance company of each party will pay for damages incurred by its policyholder. This means the insurer will pay for damages irrespective of whose fault the accident was. However, in a “fault state” like West Virginia, drivers have certain options to recover damages if they are injured in a car accident. They may file a claim with their own auto insurance company. They may file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Or they may file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
When You Don’t Have Insurance Coverage
If you are injured in a West Virginia car accident and have no insurance, but the other driver caused the crash, you can simply file a claim with his or her insurance company just like someone with insurance would do. That’s not to say you won’t face penalties and fines for failing to have auto insurance. But, you will still be able to file a claim seeking damages. However, what complicates matters in most cases is that disputes arise with regard to who is at fault for the accident.
What this means is that the blame may not be clear or both motorists may share responsibility for causing the crash. In such cases, you will need the advice of an experienced West Virginia car accident lawyer who can help you obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve. It takes a knowledgeable attorney to negotiate with insurance companies, prove fault, and obtain a fair settlement.
Proving Fault in a Car Accident
There are many ways in which you can prove that the other driver was at fault for the car accident. The police report is one important piece of evidence, which may help you in this regard. This is especially true in cases where the police have been able to determine fault for the crash. For example, if the police report clearly states that the other driver was under the influence of alcohol and states that individual’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC, then you may have what you need to prove fault.
If you were involved in a rear-end crash and the other driver hit you from behind, it is almost always deemed to be the other driver’s fault. This is because traffic laws require drivers to leave enough room in front so there is sufficient time to stop even when you need to do so suddenly. Distracted driving is often a factor in rear-end collisions. If the driver was talking on the cell phone or texting at the time of the crash, then it is likely that he or she will be deemed at fault.
Traffic laws or the rules of the road can also help you prove fault in car accident cases. In any crash scenario, it is important to look into whether any rules of the road were violated. Did the motorist run a red light or stop sign? Did he or she fail to yield the right of way? Did they make an unsafe left turn or U-turn? Did the motorist make an unsafe lane change? These are all questions that must be asked. In addition to these violations, reckless or careless behavior should also be taken into account. Was the driver speeding or operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner?
If it can be proven that the car accident was the other driver’s fault, then you can file a car accident claim against that motorist’s insurance company seeking compensation for your losses, even if you don’t have insurance coverage. However, if the other driver is also uninsured, then you won’t be able to file a claim. The only exception may be if another party such as a third motorist or a governmental entity is involved and if they caused or contributed to the incident in some manner.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
In complex car accident cases, the likelihood of you receiving any compensation may depend heavily on the caliber of the lawyer you’ve hired to represent you. It is important that you retain the services of an experienced West Virginia car accident lawyer who has handled cases similar to yours and can stand up and fight on your behalf against insurance companies.
Typically, car accident victims are able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, rehabilitation costs and pain and suffering. Your lack of insurance coverage may limit some of the compensation you are able to receive. However, as a victim without insurance coverage you should still be able to receive most of the compensation to which you are entitled.
Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.