Category Archives: FAQ’s

What is the law on texting and driving in West Virginia?

As of right now, unlike other states, texting and driving is not illegal in West Virginia.  However, for drivers under the age of 18, cell phone use while driving is illegal, which includes texting.  There is legislation currently under consideration in WV which would make texting and driving a traffic infraction.  However, it has not yet been adopted, partially because it also criminalizes texting while parked in traffic.  There was recently an article in the Charleston Gazette on the legislation, which included some of the following information:

As drafted, texting while driving would be a primary offense — meaning that police officers could pull over drivers for texting, without observing any other traffic violations. However, there would be no court costs or driver’s license points assessed for a conviction.

Under the bill, drivers who pull over to the side of the road to read or send text messages would not be in violation of the law.

However, as currently drafted, drivers could be cited for texting while on a roadway, even if they were stuck in a traffic backup, and their vehicles were not moving.

Both nationally and in West Virginia, texting and driving is a substantial cause of serious injury and death in car wrecks.  Essentially, texting and driving is driving while distracted.  The federal government actually has a website which informs people about the dangers of distracted driving.  It contains some of the following information:

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:

  • 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
  • Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
  • The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:

  • In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
  • The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
  • The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
  • Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
  • An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.

The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) is a nationally representative survey specifically focused toward documenting events and conditions leading up to crashes.

  • NMVCCS captures distraction as an associated factor to the crash and/or as the critical reason that made the crash imminent. Driver distraction was coded as the critical reason in 18 percent of the crashes. Data describing the specifics of the distraction — for example adjusting the radio or eating — are included in this data set.

Another method for collecting pre-crash data is through naturalistic driving studies, in which vehicles are equipped with cameras and data recording equipment.

  • During NHTSA’s 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, driver involvement in secondary tasks contributed to more than 22 percent of all crashes and near-crashes recorded during the study period.

Data Sources

The following NHTSA data sources were used in the research:

  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
  • National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)
  • National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS)
  • The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study
  • National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) of Driver Electronic Use
  • Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS)

Please understand that although texting and driving is not yet a traffic infraction in West Virginia, it is punishable through civil liability in a personal injury lawsuit.  One of the first things we do as WV car wreck attorneys is to subpoena cell phone information for drivers who may have been using cell phones at the time of the car accident.  In close liability situations this can seal the deal.  In other situations, it helps ensure that our clients cannot be threatened with potential liability issues at trial.

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“Small” personal injury cases in West Virginia

Many of the West Virginia personal injury cases which we handle could be described as “small” cases.  Cases where there were no catastrophic injuries.  There is a medium-trauma car accident, resulting in painful, but not immediately devastating injuries.  Sometimes people may think they are fine and uninjured at first, only to end up in the emergency room that evening with numbness, swelling, dizziness, or pain.  These are the types of cases where the insurance adjustors will contact those who have been injured in a car accident, and will try to devalue the person’s claim.

The insurance adjustors are trained to take actions which will directly result in the injury victim getting less from the insurance policy.  They will ask misleading questions which will be recorded and documented.  The result will be an answer or statement which was misunderstood and which severely limits the injured person’s ability to collect a fair settlement.  They may ask, “looking back, is there anything you could have done differently to avoid the accident”.  They will ask about injuries, and try to place limitations on the claim before the treating doctor has even made a diagnosis.  This is a practice which thrives on ignorance.  The best way to avoid it is through legal representation.

However, this brings up something else that the insurance adjustors do.  They manipulate the injury victims.  From day one, they make a point of telling the injury victims that they should not call a lawyer.  That all they will be doing is giving up a percentage of their settlement.  That their settlement will end up getting delayed.

This is pure manipulation and deceit.  Lawyers have to abide by a code of strict ethical regulations.  They cannot lie to you.  They have to  look out for your best interests.  Insurance adjustors are quite the opposite.  You have no ability to get their licenses revoked or suspended.  You are not even allowed to sue them for lying to you and misleading you.  They have an incentive to cause you to settle for less.  They have an incentive to keep you away from a personal injury lawyer.  Almost all West Virginia personal injury lawyers will meet with you for a free consultation about your circumstances.  If the one you called does not, then call someone else.  Personal injury lawyers are not the bad guys.  They help people, and at no up-front cost to the client.  Only if you agree to hire a lawyer, and sign an attorney client agreement to that effect, does a percentage get taken from your settlement.  And in that case, the lawyer has almost always provided or enabled a larger settlement than the insurance company was ever going to offer you before you had the ability to file a lawsuit.   Lawyers are also familiar with what the fair value of one’s case is.  They are trained in providing supporting documentation and proof, as well as in professionally presenting that information to the insurance company, and ultimately to a judge or jury.

In the end, in most cases, even though your legal fee is paid by a standard percentage of your settlement, you have taken that into consideration before accepting the settlement.  An ethical personal injury lawyer will never force a client into accepting a settlement.  If the client is not happy with his or her portion of the ultimate settlement proceeds, they always have the choice to proceed with the case towards jury trial.

So when the insurance company tries to manipulate you or someone you know over a personal injury claim, you need only take one step: call a West Virginia personal injury attorney (obviously it should be a personal injury attorney with a good reputation and a good track record).  We will meet with you for free.  There will only be a cost if you decide that you want us to take over your case.  Regardless of what the adjustor said, there’s no obligation, fee, or trick when you call a personal injury attorney because you have questions or need help.  A case is only “small” when the insurance company tricks you into believing that your injury is not worth a fair value.  Get a second opinion.

– John H. Bryan, a West Virginia personal injury attorney who helps people in “small” personal injury cases everyday.

Personal Injury 101 For Clients – Part III

1. What will the insurance company for the person, persons or company who caused my injury do about my claim?

After the insurance company has been notified about the claim, a file is established on you and your case. An insurance clams adjuster is assigned to your file by a claims manager or claims supervisor. The supervisor may assign different adjusters to your case as it progresses.

The insurance claims adjuster responsible for your file will maintain contact with your lawyer. The adjuster will also perform an independent investigation of your claim to ascertain the following:

a. Who is at fault in your case.

b. Whether or not you bear any fault for your own injuries. This is also referred to as comparative negligence or contributory negligence.

c. Potential witnesses in the case.

d. The location of the scene of the accident.

e. The contents of police reports, Department of Motor Vehicle reports, and any other investigative reports that have been filed in the case.

After the initial investigation, the claims adjuster will request medical reports and any other reports dealing with your injuries. The adjuster will also review documents about your time lost from work. Most importantly, the insurance claims adjuster will want to receive accurate records of your medical bills, prescription bills, hospital bills, therapy bills, and any other actual expenses incurred as a result of your injury. That is why it is very important for you to maintain an accurate account of your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses which result from your injury.

2. How does the insurance company put a value on my case?

This question is quite complicated. First, the claims supervisor or claims manager will provide that a certain amount be “set aside” as a potential value of your case. This figure is usually called “reserves.” Such reserves are the outside value that the company has established on your claim. The reserves may change as the case progresses. In serious cases, such reserves may equal what are called policy limits. Policy limits are the outside limit amounts of liability established in the insurance policy of the person or persons who caused your injury.

During the preparation stages of your case, the insurance company will keep track of your medical bills, lost wages, any permanency regarding your injury, and other factors. The company will also take into consideration the quality of evidence against their insured, the quality of your witnesses and their witnesses, extent of liability on your part, and other important considerations such as previous injuries.

If you had a previous injury in the same area of your body, the insurance carrier will want to see medical records pertaining to that injury. During the course of your claim, your attorney will be notified by the insurance company about the important factors that are being considered in your particular case.

3. Should I communicate with or contact the insurance company for the person who caused my injuries?

Absolutely not! Under no circumstances should you contact the insurance company once you have retained an attorney. If you contact the other person’s insurance company, for any reason, you could ruin your entire case with one question or one statement.

Secondly, because you are now represented by a lawyer, the insurance company, in most states, is absolutely prohibited from having any personal contact with you for any reason.

4. Can I contact my own insurance company?

If you have health insurance, medical payments insurance, automobile uninsurance or underinsurance coverage, there may be occasions when it is appropriate for you to contact your own company. However, you should always ask your lawyer whether or not such contact is appropriate. Never contact an insurance company without first obtaining approval from your attorney.

5. Will the insurance company for the person who caused my injuries dispute my claim?

If liability and responsibility are well-established in your case — that is, if fault clearly rests with the insurance company’s insured (the person or persons who caused your injury), they will try very hard to settle your claim. Insurance companies usually dispute the following types of claims:

a. Claim in which the fault rests with someone other than their insured. This could mean you or someone else involved in the incident who may have caused your injuries rather than the person who is insured by the insurance company.

b. Claims in which the insurance company and its representatives do not believe that you are injured, or that you were injured as badly as you claim. For this reason, documentation of medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses are extremely important to establish credibility and the existence of your injury.

c. Cases in which you or your witnesses have lied, exaggerated, or fabricated the nature and extent of your injury or how the incident occurred.

6. What can I do to convince the insurance company that my claim is valid?

As stated above, the most important thing you can do is to recover as quickly as possible from your injury. Insurance company personnel tend to believe those people who actively try to recover from their injuries. That is why you must cooperate with your doctor, physical therapist and other personnel who are trying to help you improve from your injury.

Secondly, insurance companies believe those people who can document their injuries through medical bills, credible medical reports and accurate lost wage information that is neither exaggerated nor subject to dispute and interpretation.

Thirdly, insurance companies usually settle cases easier with those clients who have been in active contact and cooperation with their attorney.

In summary, it is important for you to try to get better, keep an accurate record of your expenses, and cooperate with your lawyer and his or her staff.


Personal Injury 101 For Clients – Part II

1. How will my lawyer handle my case?

After initial meetings with you, your lawyer will investigate your claim. This usually requires a review of some or all of the following:

a. Witness statements.

b. Police reports.

c. A possible visit to the scene of the incident.

d. A review of appropriate statutory law (laws enacted by your legislature).

e. A review of appropriate case law (laws made by judges who interpret statutory law).

f. A review of all medical reports.

g. A review of all medical bills.

h. The possible hiring of an investigator to investigate the details of the incident.

Your lawyer will also contact the insurance company for the person, persons, or company who caused your injuries. After the initial investigation and contact with the insurance company, your lawyer will maintain contact with you to make sure of the following:

a. That you are following the advice of your physicians and other medical practitioners.

b. That you are doing your best to improve from your injury.

c. That you are providing your lawyer with copies of all medical bills and other expenses related to the incident.

d. That you are providing records of loss of income from your job.

e. That you are keeping track of potential witnesses in your case.

Medical records will be obtained through the use of authorization forms as discussed below. Your lawyer will review those medical reports as they come in from your doctor and will keep abreast of the applicable law relating to your case.

2. How can I help my lawyer with my case?

The most important thing for you to do is to provide documentation of your medical bills, expenses and loss of income from your employment. The following is a list of things that will also help your lawyer with your claim.

a. Return all phone calls promptly to your lawyer.

b. Read all correspondence from your lawyer.

c. Keep all appointments with medical facilities.

d. Maintain a file and record of medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses associated with the injury.

e. Keep a list of witnesses who may testify about your injuries or about the incident.

f. Take photographs as instructed by your attorney and maintain copies and negatives of such pictures.

g. Notify your attorney immediately of any change of address, telephone numbers, marital status, change of employment or drastic change in your physical condition.

h. Answer all questions posed by your attorney truthfully and candidly.

i. Sign all forms requested by your attorney.

3. Why do I have to sign so many forms?

Doctors, hospitals, employers, and other establishments will not release personal information about you without signed written authorizations. It is against the law, in most instances, to release information about a person, to anyone, including your lawyer, without formal documentation. Therefore, your lawyer will ask you to sign such authorization forms which will allow him or her to retrieve important information about you.

4. How will my lawyer be paid and what is a contingent fee agreement?

In almost all personal injury cases, your attorney will be paid by keeping a percentage or portion of the final settlement or court award resulting from your injury. The percentage will be discussed with you and will be the subject of what is called a contingent fee agreement. The law requires, for your protection and that of your lawyer, a written contract which specifies the fee he or she will charge so there will be no misunderstanding about how much your case will cost. Most contingent fee agreements provide that you do not have to pay your lawyer for his or her services unless, and until, the case is settled or is resolved by a court verdict in your favor. The agreement will provide that your lawyer will work diligently on your case in exchange for the percentage or portion outlined in the agreement. As discussed below, however, you will be responsible for actual out-of-pocket costs, in addition to the attorneys’ fees, even if the case is not settled or won.

5. What other costs will there be in addition to the attorneys’ fees?

The fee for your attorney is based upon his or her work, time, effort and expertise. The lawyer’s fee also encompasses certain office overhead such as secretarial time, rent, files, and other built-in costs. However, there are also additional out-of-pocket expenses which are incurred specifically as a result of your case. Some of these expenses include the following:

a. Fees that doctors and hospitals charge for medical reports. Such reports may cost anywhere from a few dollars for simple copies to $100 or more for reports that have to be written or prepared specifically by your doctor.

b. Photocopy charges. Insurance companies require significant numbers of copies of medical bills, medical reports, police reports, witness statements, and lost income information. Your law firm has to pay for these photocopies and you will usually be charged a certain amount for each page of copy.

c. Long distance telephone calls. If long distance telephone calls are required, you will probably have to reimburse your attorney for the actual cost of each call.

d. Costs of photographs. Photographs are extremely important in personal injury cases and if your attorney incurs expense in having photos obtained or enlarged, you will be responsible for such costs.

e. Reports of experts. Reports from experts other than physicians may be required in your case and, if so, you will have to pay the costs that such experts charge for their reports.

f. Litigation costs. If your case has to proceed to suit or litigation, there will be costs incurred as a result of the filing of such a lawsuit.

6. Are the attorneys’ disbursements and costs also contingent and if not, do they have to be paid in advance?

The costs and disbursements outlined above in question 5 are your responsibility even if there is no recovery in your case. In other words, although your attorney’s fee is contingent upon a settlement or successful court award, the actual out-of-pocket costs are not contingent upon successful recovery. Your attorney may require you to assist in such costs as they are incurred. Therefore, you may be requested to pay some of the out-of-pocket costs in advance of settlement as the case progresses. The reason for this is that it is not economically feasible for law firms to “finance” personal injury cases. For this reason, the law provides that out-of-pocket expenses are the responsibility of the client even if the case does not settle.


Personal Injury 101 For Clients – Part I

 

1. What is the most important thing for me to do after my injury?

 

The most important thing for you to do, quite simply, is to recover from your injury. The law requires injured people to “mitigate their damages.” In other words, the law requires you to do that which is necessary to improve your physical condition and recover from your injury.

 

For you this may mean some, or all, of the following steps:

 

a. Do not miss appointments with your doctor. Stay in touch with your doctor and be certain to maintain your appointments. If you have to cancel, notify the doctor with as much notice as possible. The words “no show” on a doctor’s record sheet can be used against you at the time of settlement or trial.

 

b. Attend physical therapy sessions as prescribed. Your physician or hospital may prescribe therapy to facilitate recovery from your injury. Such a procedure is often helpful in many types of injuries including strains, sprains and other so-called “soft tissue” injuries. If physical therapy is prescribed, be sure to keep your appointments and participate actively in the process. Again, if you have to cancel an appointment, be sure to call, but try to avoid cancellation as much as possible.

 

c. Do what your doctor tells you to do. If your physician prescribes certain medications, therapy exercises, or limitations on activities, be sure to follow your doctor’s orders. Failure to follow your doctor’s advice can be used against you when it comes time to settle your case, or can be used against you in court if your claim proceeds to litigation.

 

d. Follow your doctor’s advice with respect to work and leisure activities. If your physician advises you to rest, stay home from work, or avoid certain activities, it is important that you follow such advice. If you resist your doctor’s advice and do activities that have been limited, it will not only prevent a speedy recovery, but could also affect the legal aspects of your case. Even though staying out of work may have an impact financially, it is important that you follow such advice so that your recovery will be enhanced. Your attorney will attempt to recover lost earnings.

 

2. How do I pay my medical bills?

 

Your lawyer will discuss the payment of your medical bills in detail with you. In summary, your medical bills may be paid by one of the following methods:

 

a. Your own health insurance from your employment benefits package.

b. Your own health insurance that you may have paid for personally.

c. Health insurance obtained by your spouse for your benefit or by your parents if you are under age and living with such parents.

d. Medical payments insurance coverage from your own automobile policy if you were driving your automobile and were involved in an automobile collision.

e. Medical payments insurance coverage from the person you were riding with if you were a passenger in an automobile that has automobile insurance coverage.

f. Your own personal funds if you were not insured and are able to pay medical bills as they are incurred.

g. Workers’ compensation insurance if your injury occurred while you were working on the job and the injury occurred as a result of your employment.

h. The liability insurance coverage for the person, persons or company who caused your injuries. Such insurance coverage will most likely be paid at the time of settlement rather than during the period that you incur such medical bills.

i. Other possible sources.

 

Depending on the nature of your case, your medical bills may be covered by any of the above possibilities. If there is no insurance coverage, your bills will be saved by you and your lawyer, and will be paid at a later date when and if your case settles.

 

3. Will the doctors, hospitals and other medical facilities wait for payment if I am unable to pay my bills as they are incurred?

 

In most cases where there is no immediate method to pay medical bills as they are incurred, many doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities will wait to be paid for their services when the case is finally resolved by way of settlement or verdict in court. It is important to let medical providers know early in the process if you have no insurance or financial means to pay medical bills as they are incurred.

 

4. How does my lawyer make sure that the doctors and medical facilities will got paid?

 

Most lawyers have a policy of withholding money from the settlement or court verdict to pay doctors and medical facilities. Many doctors and medical facilities require that the patient/client sign a form (usually called a subrogation or lien form) which allows the attorney to withhold enough money to pay medical bills directly from the insurance settlement proceeds.

 

5. Why won’t the insurance company for the person or company who caused my injuries automatically pay my medical bills as they occur?

 

Most insurance companies for the tortfeasor (the person, persons or company who caused your injuries) will not automatically pay medical bills as they occur. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that they do not want to spend a substantial amount of money for medical bills and then be faced with an unreasonable or excessive demand at the time of final settlement. In other words, they do not want to expend a substantial sum of money on medical bills and then be faced with the chance of defending a lawsuit. Secondly, most insurance companies want to conclude or settle the claim with one sum of money. Therefore, most liability insurance companies will wait for the letter of demand from your attorney and then try to conclude the case all at once with one payment.

 

6. How do I keep track of all my bills?

 

One of the most important things for you to do is to keep an accurate record of your medical bills. This is how you do it:

 

a. Ask for a medical bill each time you see a doctor or facility.

 

Maintain a record of your visits and make sure that you obtain a medical bill for each visit to your doctor, hospital, physical therapist or medical facility.

 

b. Save all prescription bills.

 

Be sure to save copies of your prescriptions and drugstore charges for medicine that you purchase as a result of your injury.

 

c. Keep a separate chart with dates, amounts of medical bills, and purchases of medication.

 

Maintain a separate record which has the date of the medical service or purchase of medication, the amount charged, and how the bill was paid (by insurance, your own personal funds, etc.). This requirement is very important because it will be your actual record of medical bills incurred as a result of your injury.

 

d. Be sure that your lawyer receives a copy of each medical bill, prescription bill, or other bill related to your injury.

 

It is important for your lawyer to receive copies of all your medical bills as well as a copy of your medical bill summary when your case is ready for settlement. Even though your lawyer may receive copies of bills directly from the medical facilities, a double-check process will assure that your claim settles for the maximum value. If your lawyer does not have a record of all your medical bills, your case may be settled for much less than its actual value.

 

e. Keep a record of medical bills even if they are processed through a health insurance carrier.

 

Even if your medical bills are paid by a health insurance company or your employer, you must still maintain copies for yourself and be sure to get copies to your lawyer.


What is my West Virginia auto accident injury claim worth?

What is my West Virginia car accident injury case worth?  This is a great question, and indeed almost every West Virginia car accident case client has asked me this question.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  Obviously, money is not everything, but the purpose of our civil justice system is to compensate people for the wrongs of others, and the only manner of compensation which can be achieved is through money.  One of the most difficult aspects of handling West Virginia personal injury actions, including car accident cases, is to discuss, and agree on, a settlement value.

The basis for a settlement is simple.  Assuming your attorney can prove the other party is at fault, what does an insurance adjustor believe  your attorney can convince six West Virginians, sitting as jurors, that your claim is worth?  Of course there’s a whole lot more to it, but everything else is merely a weight on either side of the scales of justice – either weighing for, or against, the value of your case.  This forms the basis over which your case can be negotiated and settled.  If no settlement is possible, then you have to actually ask those six individuals to give you what you are arguing you deserve.  Of course, juries are made up of individuals, which means that different juries could come up with different values, which means that the value of your case is unpredictable.

Some things we can predict.  More often than not, the value of a case will increase over time.  In almost every case, the value of a settlement offered the day before trial is going to be greater, if not much greater, than the value of a case settled before a lawsuit is filed.  But there are many factors that could weigh the scale in either direction (i.e., sway, or potentially sway, jurors in favor of either side’s arguments):

The arguments usually consist of disagreements over the severity of injuries, as described by you, other witnesses, and your medical records, and over the causal connection between the accident and the injuries incurred and complained of.  Another factor is the persuasiveness and credibility of the testifying witnesses.  Yet another factor in consideration is – what venue in West Virginia would the case be brought in (i.e., what county).  For instance, in the coalfields of McDowell County, jurors are notorious for giving large verdicts.  But, in Greenbrier County or Monroe County, although they also are in southern West Virginia, jurors are notoriously conservative, and thus have a record of handing out smaller verdicts.

It helps to understand how insurance companies determine the value of a West Virginia car accident injury case:

Many insurance companies we deal with in West Virginia injury cases use computer software called Colossus, which is reportedly used by more than half of American insurance claims adjustors.  The enter data received from your lawyer, including medical records and the amount of any lost wages.  The program then considers the severity and location of the accident.  It will even consider whether a lawsuit will have to be brought in Greenbrier County, or McDowell County, or Mercer County, or Raleigh County, West Virginia.

The program gives value to certain injuries, and awards more value to permanency of injuries.  Higher value is given to objective injuries, such as broken bones, or herniated discs.  Lesser value is given to subjective injuries, such as complaints of chronic pain or headaches.  Value could also be added or removed due to other factors, such as whether the injured person went to the hospital immediately after the accident, or whether there were preexisting injuries, or injuries which have occurred after the accident.

Also considered will be who the accident attorney is responsible for the case. The insurance adjustors know which attorneys settle cases without proceeding towards trial, or even filing a lawsuit.  Even more important, it will be up to your attorney to take your case from a number generated by computer software to a realistic view of human compassion and needs.  Your accident attorney has to communicate your everyday pain and suffering to the jury.  This is a very subjective task.  One attorney may not do well at it, but another may do extremely well.  The resulting compensation which juries award for that pain and suffering will be the result.  I believe that the more effective your accident attorney is at trial and persuasion, the more compensation you will receive.

Example Values of Specific Injuries (According to a recent national Jury Verdict Research analysis):

Foot Injuries: the overall median award was $98,583.  Multiple fractures to the same foot increase the median to $144,000.  11% of these injuries were from motorcycle cases.  Another 28% of these injuries were from car and truck accidents.

Leg Injuries: the overall median award was $141,847.  However, there are many types of leg injuries and fractures, some of which command remarkably higher verdicts, such as a femur fracture, which holds a median award of $482,273 – with the highest recorded verdict being $4,000,000.  Multiple fractures in the leg carry a mean and median verdict of $596,618 and $192,762, respectively.

Rotator Cuff Injuries: the overall median award was $72,667.  These typically occur in side-impact car collisions.  

Knee Injuries: the overall median award was $34,550 – which does seem a little low.

Vertebrae Fractures: the overall median award was $112,537. 66% of these cases were from car accidents, which are the leading cause of spinal injuries.  The overall award for multiple vertebrae fractures increases to $207,000.

Hip Fractures: the overall median award was $175,000, and the overall mean award was $435,581.

Overall, the value of your case can only be determined with respect to your individual injuries and circumstances.  Also at play is the amount of insurance available to compensate you  for your injuries.  In many, many cases, there is not enough insurance.  Sometimes alternate sources of insurance or liability can be found.  For this reason, among many other important reasons, it is very important to consult with an experienced West Virginia car accident injury lawyer about your particular case – and preferably one who has a reputation for going to trial often and winning.  As I have said before, almost every car accident attorney offers a free consultation.  And if they don’t, then call someone else.

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

Do I really need a lawyer for my personal injury case?

I saw this article on MSN Money, and it provides some good information for a very common question:

Insurance companies, by their own admission, try to settle injury claims as quickly and as economically as possible. They have little interest in protracting litigation because it costs them money. When you’ve been in an accident and sustained damages or injuries, the insurance company of the person at fault will likely contact you and offer to settle the claim immediately or in a very short time.
The complex language of insurance policies and the hardball tactics used by some claims adjusters can often leave you feeling that you’re not getting all to which you are entitled. And, if you’ve been injured in an accident, there may come a time when you conclude you need more ammunition to fight your cause — in other words, a lawyer. Here’s how to decide if hiring a personal injury lawyer makes sense for you.

Insurance companies focus on dollars, not victims

If an insurance company offers you a dollar amount, what should you do? Steve Meckler, a personal injury lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, says that if you’ve been seriously injured (broken bone, internal injuries or worse), never take the first offer. “It’s unlikely the company will ever provide you with their best offer first,” he says.

The insurance company may say it’s offering you a fair settlement, but “why would they be fair to you, a person they don’t represent?” Meckler asks. “Insurance companies are in the business of making a profit. The company doesn’t arm their claims adjusters with a shield of justice and righteousness.”
“Everything in life is negotiable,” says John Kovacs, another Ohio lawyer who handles personal injury cases. “The insurance company wants to see how serious you are. The first-line claims adjuster is not going to give you the limit of what he’s allowed to give. (Companies) don’t hand out gold stars for that sort of behavior.”

Moreover, you need to understand the litigation process to make a good decision about whether to take an insurance company’s offer.

When not to hire a lawyer

After an accident, you may want to seek legal advice, but you may not necessarily have to rush to retain an attorney. You probably don’t need to retain counsel when the accident was a simple fender bender and you weren’t injured. “Just settle the case for property damage, get your medical bills paid, if you have any, and let it go,” Kovacs says.
Seeking legal advice under those conditions is a waste of your time, both Kovacs and Meckler say, even if there are minor injuries.

When to find counsel

There are cases in which hiring an attorney may be the next logical step. If there’s a dispute about who’s at fault in the accident, Kovacs recommends that you at least have an initial visit with an attorney. And if you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, go seek legal counsel. Kovacs points out that serious injuries are not always evident right away, so even if you receive emergency care, you should have a follow-up visit with your regular doctor.

“Insurance companies have investigators, house counsel and millions of dollars. And you, as an injured person, are already starting behind the eight ball because (an experienced claims) adjuster has dealt with 100 cases like yours already,” says Kovacs.

If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you should always retain counsel, probably as soon as you can after the accident. Many uninsured motorists don’t want to pay, and you may have only a limited time to sue one of these drivers. Some insurance policies have language that state that if you wish to arbitrate with an uninsured motorist, you and the uninsured must reach an agreement within 60 days after the day of the accident. Kovacs recommends that you make sure the attorney you hire understands insurance law and policy language.

Two questions to ask before hiring a lawyer are:

“What settlement will I be happy with?”
“Am I going to do better or worse with an attorney?”

The first question is easy to answer; the second is much harder. “There’s no way to tell if you’ll do better or worse,” Meckler says. The case’s jurisdiction (where your case is based), your individual circumstances, and your willingness to settle are all factors that make the outcome of a case tough to predict.

What to know about the process

Another factor that can make the litigation process difficult is your own inexperience with legal processes. “Most claimants ask for either too much or too little,” Meckler says. “People just don’t know the process, and they don’t know the value of cases.” Result: Getting a resolution is tougher.
Kovacs advises that, before hiring a lawyer, find out how many personal injury cases a lawyer has handled. “Don’t be shy (about asking),” he says.

Claimants also don’t often know to seek and document all medical treatment right away after an accident. If you don’t and your injuries are still with you six months later, claims of long-term injury are hard to prove. You need a doctor’s documentation to back you up.

A third: the lawyer’s cut of the settlement

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis and don’t charge a fee for an initial consultation. However, expect to give up — at the very least — 25% of your settlement to your attorney.

Most lawyers take one-third of the settlement agreement, but if you go to trial, expect your attorney’s cut to reach 40%. Some lawyers even take as much as 50% of the settlement after a trial.
In rare cases, lawyers will charge an hourly rate. The fees attorneys can take may seem exorbitant, but they are within the limits of law. Most states have authorized personal injury lawyers to take up to 40% of a settlement they negotiate.

How long until I get my money?

Many severe auto accident cases that Meckler handles last about nine months; but that includes only injury-recovery time and arbitration, not the trial process. The injury-recovery process is the most time-consuming — but most important — lasting six months on average. “There’s no reason the (settlement) can’t be resolved within 90 days after that, unless you have to file a lawsuit,” Meckler says.

Let’s say you decide to sue. It may be 13 months after the accident before you see a realistic settlement. If you go to trial, “Lord help us all,” says Kovacs. Trial reduces final disposition to a snail’s pace.

In medium-sized jurisdictions with populations of around 250,000, it may take 2½ years before a trial is completed. In larger cities, such as Cleveland, New York, or Miami, a verdict issued three or four years from the date of the accident is common.