Monthly Archives: June 2008

Traffic Fatalities Down 20 Percent in West Virginia

From the Charleston Daily Mail today:

Good news for West Virginia: traffic fatalities are down 20 percent since last year.

Those numbers reflect a national trend for the first half of 2008 as highway deaths declined in 35 of 37 states that provided data to USA Today and the Governors Highway Safety Association.

According to the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, there have been 162 traffic fatalities in the state this year. Last year, there were 210 by July, and 430 by the end of the year. That represented a jump from 2006, when the agency tallied 370 highway deaths.

Of course, the reason could be that gas prices are so high, the same idiots that end up driving recklessly and killing innocent people can’t afford gas because they don’t have a job. Insurance companies know that there is a direct correlation between the age/condition of a car and the driver’s tendency to be a negligent or reckless driver. Beware of beat-up old cars (or beat-up new cars for that matter). Their drivers are more likely than others to maim or kill you.

You can read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

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I was involved in a car accident in West Virginia – The other driver’s insurance said I don’t need a lawyer – Is this true?

Some insurance companies will send letters to people involved in car or truck accidents telling the injured person that they do not need an attorney.

Since 1995, for example, Allstate has been sending a letter entitled “Do I need an Attorney?” which makes the following claims, among others:

1. Claims are settled faster when a lawyer is not involved;
2. Lawyers charge a percentage of recovery and if you settle directly with Allstate you get to keep the entire amount;
3. Injury victims can hire a lawyer later if they don’t like the settlement offer;
The letter includes many other statements that are misleading, half-true, or not true at all.

Other insurance companies also try to convince injured people not to hire their own lawyer.
Here is the plain truth–Allstate, and the other insurance companies who send these types of letters, do not care anything at all about you or whether you receive a fair settlement.

In fact, the insurance company’s own statistics prove that its costs the insurance industry an average of $9000 more per claim when the injured person has a lawyer.

The reason the insurance companies try to convince people not to hire an experienced lawyer is because they know they can settle the case more cheaply if the injured person doesn’t have a lawyer.

The truth is that you should always at least consult with an attorney before settling a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Personally, I never charge anything for meeting with a client and answering any questions they may have about their case. Other good personal injury lawyers in West Virginia offer the same benefit.

For example, a West Virginia car accident lawyer can help you figure out:

1. The reasonable value of your case;
2. Why delay may be a good thing (or a bad thing);
3. How to get your medical bills and treatment taken care of;
4. How to recoup any lost wages;
5. How long the case will take.

And many other topics. Or any other questions you may have about your case.

The insurance companies won’t answer these questions. Or at least they won’t give you straight and truthful answers.

If you have been involved in a serious car or truck accident in West Virginiia, and the insurance company is trying to convince you not to hire a lawyer, you should know right away that they are trying to trick you into settling your case for pennies on the dollar.
And once you know the insurance company is trying to do this, you know you can’t trust a thing they tell you after that.

I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident, Can I Sue The Driver?

This is a common question for many car accident victims. The answer, in West Virginia anyways, is yes – if the driver was negligent. The driver of the car owes a duty to any passengers in the vehicle, a duty not to drive negligently or recklessly. If the driver breaches that duty and ends up crashing the vehicle, either in a single vehicle accident or with another car, then he or she is liable to any passengers, as well as occupants of the other vehicle. This means that the driver’s insurance will be liable for any personal injuries sustained up to the policy limits.

There are other issue however, that need to be examined thoroughly by a West Virginia car accident attorney, such as: are there any other insurance polices that could provide coverage, such as the passenger’s vehicle insurance or underinsured driver’s coverage? Another concern is that if there have been several people injured, there may be insufficient coverage for all of the injured persons. Each situation must be examined individually and will bring unique issues, all of which should be quickly addressed by a West Virginia car accident lawyer.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Expert Testimony in Car Accident and Injury Cases Bring Increasingly Difficult Issues

As detailed in the National Law Journal, expert testimony is extremely important in personal injury cases, be they car accident cases or any other type of injury claim, and the situation is only deteriorating. Defense lawyers love to have car accident victims see an “independent” physician for an IME – an independent medical examination. Many times, these “IME doctors” work almost exclusively for defense lawyers. Essentially they get paid to testify that the injured person is not really injured at all, or less injured than they are claiming.

Meanwhile, the situation isn’t much better for the injured person with their own treating physician. In West Virginia, many treating physicians hold their patients captive. That is, they refuse to give an opinion on their diagnosis, or whether they have reached MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement – i.e., the point at which you can commence a personal injury lawsuit because you know what your damages are), unless they are paid cash up-front.

Just this past week, I had an orthopedic surgeon in southern West Virginia tell their patient (and my client) that he would not give an opinion regarding the diagnosis unless I (the lawyer) paid him $1,000 up-front. Even given that this is unethical on the doctor’s behalf, the lawyer or client is forced to pay. If you don’t when it comes time for the doctor to be deposed by the insurance company’s lawyer, he will make the patient pay – his testimony will be much less favorable to the patient than it could have been had he been paid the money. The end result is that the insurance companies have an advantage and continuously fight to maintain it.

This makes it even that much more important to have a car accident lawyer who is aggressive and refuses to take no for an answer.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.