Category Archives: Injuries

“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.

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Whiplash injuries are common in auto accidents

Many people who survive a car accident experience whiplash. Unfortunately, there are many challenges with this type of personal injury which prevents many patients from getting the help they need. One of the biggest challenges is that many people falsely assume that whiplash is not a serious or somehow not a “real” injury. Even patients with whiplash sometimes forgo medical treatment, assuming their injury is not serious. Of course, this causes some insurance providers to downplay the seriousness of whiplash as an injury. The truth is that whiplash is a serious injury causing much pain.

The other challenge with whiplash is that the medical community knows very little about this type of injury. Although it is a very type of injury, research has yielded few clues about it. Since research about the injury is scanty, some doctors have a hard time diagnosing the injury and treating it. Whiplash causes a wide range of symptoms and usually does not appear visibly on x-rays, making it hard to quantify and diagnose.

What is known about whiplash is that it affects the neck area and seems to be caused by a sudden trauma to that area. Slip and fall accidents, car accidents, sport injuries, and assault are the most common causes of whiplash, although this injury can occur from a long list of causes. Each person seems to react to whiplash differently and it is even difficult to provide a recovery timetable. Some patients recover quickly while others remain afflicted for an extended period of time. Some patients experience symptoms at once while others develop symptoms gradually. Symptoms can include:

* Neck pain or swelling (can extend to the jaw area)
* Spasms of the neck, back, or other muscles of the body
* Dizziness and nausea
* Stiffness in the neck or difficult moving the neck
* Headaches
* Shooting pain in the neck, head, arm, or shoulder areas
* Tingling or sensations of numbness in the extremities or limbs
* Irritability and Unsteadiness
* Fatigue
* Ringing sensation in the ears
* Pain in the general facial area

Whiplash is hard to quantify and hard to predict. Some patients respond well to pain treatment and a brace for the neck (to prevent further neck trauma). Others require long-term treatment or must turn to alternative treatments – which are not covered by medical insurance – for relief. Most patients must miss at least some work and therefore lose some income.

Automobile Accident Statistics and Injury Prevention

Between the years of 2000 and 2005 there were over 6 million auto accidents in the United States. In each of those years approximately 2.9 million people were injured and over 42,000 people were killed. About 115 people are killed every day in vehicle crashes in the United States. In 2007 there were approximately 300 million people in the United States. Of the people killed in automobile accidents in 2007 approximately 20% were passengers. In 2007 approximately 5,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Also, in 2007 approximately 4,600 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. There were 255 million vehicles registered and approximately 200 million licensed drivers.

The motorists advocacy group AAA reports that accidents cost $162 billion each year. The cost of auto accidents to each American is more than $1,000 a year. Also, according to AAA car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 years of age cost society more than 34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in the year 2006. 15-18 year old drivers were involved in 974,000 crashes that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541. According to the Center for Disease Control motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group.

So, what can be done to protect motorists from injury and death caused by motor vehicle accidents? The answers to this question are as follows:

  1. Don’t’ drink and drive. Don’t ride in a car when the driver has been drinking.
  2. Require your teenagers to enroll in driver safety programs.
  3. Drive large vehicles. Full sized passenger cars weighing over 4000 pounds have a lower injury and fatality rates.
  4. Lower your speed. Speed kills.
  5. Practice defensive driving.
  6. Stricter enforcement of traffic laws.
  7. Make drivers who cause accidents criminally and civilly responsible.
  8. Lower the center of gravity on Vans, SUVs, and pick-ups to prevent roll over accidents.
  9. Incorporate some form of roll cages in vehicles.
  10. Incorporation of more safety glass in vehicles.
  11. Restricted licenses for the elderly and those with poor vision.
  12. Better highway design. Fix the bad roads before we build new ones.
  13. Raise insurance rates for at-fault drivers and lower them for safe drivers.
  14. Better DMV reporting of traffic infractions to insurance companies.
  15. Use of and incorporation of safety equipment such as seat belts, air bags, side curtain air bags, crumple zones and energy absorbing bumpers.
  16. Don’t drive if you’re tired.
  17. Raise the driving age to 19.
  18. Require drug and alcohol testing for all traffic infractions.

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

Hearse Leading Funeral Procession Involved in Head-on Collision in Beckley – Creates Unique Car Accident Law Issues

From the Register-Herald today:

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A hearse from Ritchie & Johnson Funeral Parlor leading a funeral cortege was involved in a head-on collision Monday shortly after noon.
Rick Barbero / Register-Herald Photographer

A hearse leading a funeral cortege was involved in a head-on collision Monday shortly after noon, according to the Beckley Police Department.

Police said the Ritchie & Johnson Funeral Parlor hearse was traveling northbound around the 900 block of South Kana-wha Street when it was hit by a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Amanda Bonds. Police did not release her age and hometown.

Police said Bonds was traveling south when her vehicle struck a 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche on its driver’s side. Bonds’ vehicle continued south before crossing the center line and hitting the hearse head-on.

The funeral procession was held up for about 30 minutes while the casket carrying the deceased was transferred to another hearse. All of the funeral procession vehicles were using headlights and emergency flashers en route to the cemetery, funeral home officials said.

Police said the accident investigation is ongoing, but citations were pending.

This is an awful situation to have a hearse involved in a head-on collision while actually leading a funeral procession. To those of us who are West Virginia car accident lawyers, this situation creates some extremely unique car accident law issues. For instance, citations are “pending,” but who is going to get cited? There will be several different insurance companies involved, as well as workers compensation. Liability will have to be determined between the three drivers involved. Lastly, given that the hearse was itself struck, there could potentially be some damages claimed by the family of the deceased occupant of the hearse, depending on the circumstances.

Read the full article here.

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

Should You Contact an Attorney After a Car Accident in WV?

Should you contact an attorney after a car accident in West Virginia?

The short answer is, that it depends. If the car wreck was minor and there obviously have not been any injuries, then it may not be necessary to contact a car accident lawyer in West Virginia. However, if you or anyone you care about has been injured in the car accident, especially if there is any permanent injury, or significant time is lost from work or school or household duties, then you’ll want to see a lawyer about possibly representing you in a claim against anyone else who may be responsible for your injuries. However, even if you’re not injured, don’t entirely rule it out as the facts and circumstances surrounding car accidents are always different.

Contacting an attorney who deals with personal injury (especially relating to auto accidents) can provide you with the peace of mind that no stone gets left unturned. It is especially important to contact an car accident lawyer immediately if any of the following events have occurred:

– An injury has occurred where there has been serious injury (broken bones / hospitalization) or where injuries are likely to be permanent (paralysis);
– A death has resulted from the accident;
– Fault is clearly an issue;
– Other parties were involved such as pedestrians or other autos;
– The accident occurred in a construction area;
– A police report does not accurately describe the accident and puts you at fault;
– Important technical, legal or medical issues are involved;
– The limits of your liability insurance are low,
– You have no insurance, or your insurance company suggests that you did not pay your premium.
– Your insurer starts “acting funny.”
– Your insurer involves its own attorney

Other reasons to speak with a West Virginia car accident lawyer include:

– Seeking advice on the settlement value of a claim (while not an exact science, attorneys may be able to provide best and worse case scenarios);
– Unsure if other insurance (homeowners, travel, etc.) may be available;
– Fault may be an issue;
– Determining whether your insurer may be acting in bad faith (not looking out for your best interests);
– Seeking information on how to handle negotiations with an insurer;
– You don’t know your rights;
– Confused over the terms of your policy;
– Needing an expert to review confusing paperwork or forms.

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

Importance of Seat Belts in WV Car Accident Law

West Virginia, like almost every other state, has a mandatory seat belt law. Thus, there is a limited “seat belt defense” which means if you are injured in a car crash while not wearing a seat belt, and the injury was caused or made worse due to the lack of a seat belt, the amount of damages you can collect may be reduced.

In other words, you are “comparatively negligent” and therefore are partially responsible for causing your own injuries, even if you were not responsible for the accident itself. It is important to consult an experienced auto accident attorney for advice regarding your particular situation.

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

Who Pays for Property Damage and Medical Bills after a Car Accident in WV?

Who pays for property damage and medical bills after a car accident in WV?

The answer to this question depends on your own financial resources and the circumstances of the accident.

Typical sources of compensation for damages sustained in a car
accident include:

(1) Your Car Insurance Company – Whether your insurance will compensate you for your loss depends on your insurance contract. In many contracts, there are considerations for both the first party (you and your vehicle) and any third parties (passengers, other drivers; and their property). Some contracts provide medical coverage for personal injuryof the insured and your passengers. In West Virginia, this is called “med pay,” and usually ranges from about $5,000 to $10,000. It is also important to note that any medical payments made by “med pay” will have to be paid back if you end up receiving a settlement or judgment. The policy may pay for collision repairs and possibly for a car rental while your damaged car is being fixed.

(2) Your Health Insurance Provider – You may have private health insurance or belong to an HMO. In the event of a personal injury from a car accident, you can ask your health insurer to pay for medical treatment. Sometimes, private health insurance plans or HMOs require you to seek recovery from your auto insurance company before the health organization will pay or provide medical treatment. Like “med pay,” in West Virginia, your health insurance will have a lien on any future settlement or judgment that you obtain. So it is important to realize that any future recovery that you receive will automatically subtract these subrogate amounts before you receive a dime of the recovery.

(3) Other People Involved In the Accident – In addition to the three sources above, you may be able to seek recovery from other people who were involved in the accident. West Virginia is an “at fault” states, so this option depends on how fault is apportioned among the other driver(s). This is also subject to the comparative negligence analysis (see my prior posts regarding “fault”). If you are “at-fault” for an accident that occurred in a “fault” state, contact your insurance company. It is the company’s job to defend you in court or to negotiate a settlement.

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