Hiring a lawyer may be advisable if a car crash involved professional drivers, if severe injuries occurred or if the statute of limitations is near.
Each year, thousands of people in West Virginia experience car crashes that are serious enough to have lasting physical and financial consequences. In 2014, over 300 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents across the state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even more people may have suffered serious injuries in these crashes.
Under West Virginia law, car crash victims who are deemed less than half at fault in an accident have a right to seek compensation for their damages. Many people may elect to handle this process without any legal assistance. Unfortunately, this can put accident victims at risk of not receiving full compensation for their injuries, especially in the following cases.
1. Severe or unusual injuries
Obtaining appropriate compensation may prove difficult for people who sustained severe or complicated injuries. For example, serious auto accidents are the third leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, which can have lifelong effects on memory, cognition, moods and behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, the prognosis and long-term impacts of a brain injury are often unpredictable. This can make navigating the claims process alone and securing appropriate compensation challenging.
Working with an attorney may also be advisable for people who have suffered injuries with delayed onsets. The presence of many common car crash injuries, including internal bleeding, whiplash and concussion, may not be obvious immediately after an accident occurs. Consequently, proving that these injuries originated from a car accident may be difficult for people who lack legal experience.
2. Accidents with professional drivers
The assistance of an attorney may be advisable if an accident involved a large truck or another type of commercial vehicle. The drivers of these vehicles are held to strict standards regarding hours worked, vehicle maintenance, vehicle loading and other practices. Proving that a commercial driver was at fault in a crash may be easier with the help of an attorney who understands these requirements.
Unique considerations also apply when an accident victim is seeking compensation from a government entity for an accident involving a government employee. For example, in car accidents involving police officers or firefighters, a first responder’s observance of his or her professional training and the law must be considered carefully. Also, under West Virginia law, there are certain immunities or exemptions from liability afforded to governmental entities. An attorney may be able to advise a person of the distinct criteria that affect these cases and build a strategy accordingly.
3. Potential timing issues
Working with an attorney may also be beneficial if the statute of limitations for a claim is approaching. In West Virginia, there are certain time limits a personal injury victim has to file his or her claim. These time limits may prove short for people who suffered severe injuries, losses of loved ones or other personal traumas in an accident. An attorney may be able to help a person ensure that a claim is properly filed within the applicable time limit.
Schedule a consultation
Before deciding against working with an attorney, accident victims may benefit from scheduling a consultation with one. This may allow a person to better understand the potential risks of handling the claim process alone, along with the benefits that legal representation may offer.