Every state has a negligence standard that is used for personal injury lawsuits. The states that do not use the old contributory negligence rule use either the pure comparative system where all injured drivers are reimbursed based on their personal negligence percentage or a modified comparative negligence model at either a 50 or 51% bar for financial recovery. The West Virginia law is modified comparative at the 50 % bar rate, which can mean problems for those involved in two-vehicle auto accidents.
How at-fault liability applies
Along with a comparative negligence standard, states also decide on an “at-fault” or “no-fault” application as well. In “no fault” states, injured parties turn first to their own auto policy of initial coverage regarding certain aspects of their claim such as financial recovery for medical bills and lost wages when the claimant cannot work due to the accident injuries. These costs are assigned to the most “at fault” driver in a modified comparative state like West Virginia to the extent of their comparative negligence percentage along with general damages for pain-and-suffering associated with the personal injury claims.
The 50% damages bar
The primary issue regarding the West Virginia modified comparative negligence rule is that those who have a 50% or greater fault percentage are denied financial recovery. In an auto accident, this means that drivers involved in a two-car accident of equally shared fault will result in neither driver receiving any financial compensation for their injuries unless they have personal injury protection riders on their insurance policy.
This fault requirement does not apply in certain types of personal injury cases in West Virginia, such as claims dealing with animal bites or defective products..