A collision between a passenger vehicle and a large truck, or between two trucks, can lead to significant physical injuries to the drivers and passengers of the vehicles involved and property damage to the vehicles themselves. Often, legal claims are filed by one or both parties, seeking to recover for their injuries. West Virginia (WV) law requires that all registered vehicles be insured, which means insurance is a factor in all West Virginia trucking accident claims.
Defending against West Virginia Trucking Accident Claims
Whether all of the drivers and vehicles or just some are insured, insurance companies quickly play a role in a vehicular collision situation. WV Code § 17C-4-3 requires any driver who causes physical injury or property damage due to a crash to exchange information, including proof of insurance coverage, with others involved in the accident. Most drivers then report the accident to their own insurance company.
Once the drivers notify their respective insurance companies about the claim, the insurance companies quickly have their adjusters evaluate their insureds’ damages and the circumstances of the accident. West Virginia case law is clear that insurers agree to defend and indemnify their insureds against risks and under conditions specified in their insurance policies. To meet that obligation, insurers assign either in-house counsel or hire an outside (contracted) insurance defense attorney to defend against West Virginia trucking accident claims.
Parties Involved in a West Virginia Truck Accident Claim
As with all vehicular accidents, truck accidents can happen in a variety of different ways. The situation may involve a single vehicle crash, such as a truck roll-over, or it may involve a truck and one or more other vehicles. The involved vehicles, vehicles’ owners and drivers may or may not be insured, and if insured, they may not be adequately or fully insured. These factors dictate who the parties involved in a truck accident claim will be.
Stages of Litigation in West Virginia Trucking Accident Claims
To recover compensation in a truck accident claim, WV Code § 55-2-12 requires the person who was injured or suffered another type of loss to file a complaint pursuing the claim within two years of the accident. A summons served on the defendant(s) and the appropriate insurers gives notice of the claim. All defendants then have a chance to respond. Insurance defense attorneys become involved at that stage.
After a claim is filed, both parties will conduct investigations of the truck accident and the injuries sustained during the accident. Those findings are subsequently shared with the opposing side through the discovery process. Insurance defense attorneys will look at available defenses, which rest on the facts such as who was the at-fault driver and whether the insurance policy covered the driver or vehicle under the specific circumstances of the case.
Coverage matters are often a particular source of disagreement in truck accident cases. The parties often have differing arguments as to what the subject policy covers based on conflicting interpretations of the language used to describe covered incidents or exclusions. The involvement of multiple insurers in a case often leads to disputes as to which insurer is liable, and an experienced insurance defense attorney will be helpful in advocating your position.
At some point, the plaintiff will most likely issue a settlement demand, to which an insurer must craft a response—acceptance, refusal or (most likely) a counteroffer. Settlement negotiations may entail extensive back and forth between the parties. Reaching a settlement agreement can be beneficial for all parties involved, as trials are expensive and time-consuming for both sides. If settlement discussions break down, the case proceeds to trial, where the parties will present their evidence and arguments.
Following the trial, the jury will return a verdict, or the judge in cases of a bench trial. Depending on the circumstances, either party might appeal the judgment, thus prolonging the action and ultimate judgment.
Subrogation in West Virginia Trucking Accident Cases
When an insured driver is injured in an accident, and/or their vehicle is damaged, they may look first to their own insurer to pay some of the many expenses that may accrue as a result of the accident—such as medical expenses and costs to repair their vehicle. In such cases, subrogation is used so that insurers can recover the amounts they paid to their insureds from the parties determined to be responsible for the damages.
Representation in a West Virginia Truck Accident Claim
If a claim has been filed against you arising out of a truck accident in West Virginia, contacting an experienced WV insurance defense attorney as soon as possible is the best choice. An attorney at The Law Office of M. Andrew Brison, PLLC can help you evaluate the claims against you and plan your defense. Contact Andrew Brison at 304-397-8225 or by completing this online contact form to discuss your insurance defense options related to West Virginia trucking accident claims.