West Virginia Non-Party Liability Statute

West Virginia Non-Party Liability Statute

Jan 19, 2023 | Insurance Defense

 

A gavel and scales of justice, representing how liability is apportioned under the West Virginia non-party liability statute.

When more than one party contributes to the cause of an accident and a plaintiff’s injuries, the law allows the parties to apportion fault or you could possibly avoid liability altogether. However, in some cases, the identity of the individual or organization responsible may be unknown, or the plaintiff may fail to name them in the lawsuit. The West Virginia non-party liability statute allows a named defendant to reduce or eliminate liability by establishing that an unnamed party contributed to or is fully responsible for the accident.

Establishing and apportioning fault in WV involves investigation, consulting with experts, and artfully crafting a defense based on the facts gathered requires an experienced WV litigation defense attorney. M. Andrew Brison can help manage every stage of a claim or lawsuit to minimize negative impacts.

The West Virginia Non-Party Liability Statute Allows Parties to Place Blame on Unnamed Parties

WV Code § 55-7-13a, the West Virginia comparative fault statute, provides the standard for determining the amount of liability for each person or entity that was a proximate cause of an alleged injury to a person or property, including non-parties. This law protects named defendants by allowing them to prove the actions of another person were the actual or additional cause of the accident and liability should be apportioned or placed elsewhere.

Relatedly, WV Code § 55-7-13d allows the court to consider the fault of parties who contributed to the damage even if they are not named in the lawsuit. When a non-party is allocated fault, any damages awarded to the plaintiff are reduced in proportion to the non-party’s fault.

An Overview of Accident Complaints in West Virginia

Most lawsuits for damages arising from accidents or other causes are based on a negligence standard. Under this standard, a defendant can establish the fault of a non-party by proving that the non-party’s negligent actions contributed to the accident. While this may seem straightforward, negligence can be challenging to prove without the help of an experienced West Virginia attorney.

The first element of negligence requires proving that the non-party owed a duty to the injured person. In general, all persons owe a duty to others to act in a manner that avoids causing an injury, physical or monetary. Breach of this duty opens an individual or business up to liability.

A party breaches the duty when its actions are unreasonable given the circumstances. The courts will examine how the average, reasonable person would have acted in similar circumstances and compare that to the actions—or inaction—of the party or non-party. Examples of a breach of duty include driving recklessly, running red lights, or distracted driving.

Once duty and breach of duty are established, a party asserting non-party fault must show that the non-party’s breach must have caused the accident. If there is an intervening or other cause of the accident or plaintiff’s injuries, the non-party may not be determined to be at fault. Finally, the breach must have resulted in actual damages to the plaintiff.

The WV Non-Party Liability Statute and How It Works

Proving a non-party owed a duty and breached it, that the breach was a cause of the accident, and that actual damages arose out of the breach can be difficult. With the help of a skilled attorney, a defendant can better understand the WV non-party liability statute and how it works, helping them better navigate matters related to apportioning fault in WV accident cases.

A defendant seeking to argue non-party fault must file a notice of non-party fault. The notice must identify the non-party that purportedly shares in or is wholly responsible for the accident and provide a brief factual basis for asserting the non-party’s responsibility.

Damages a Plaintiff Can Seek under the West Virginia Non-Party Liability Statute

WV Code § 55-7-13b defines compensatory damages as economic and noneconomic losses. Economic damages compensate the plaintiff for financial losses suffered as a result of the accident, including lost wages and medical bills. Noneconomic damages provide the plaintiff monetary compensation for pain and suffering.

Under the WV non-party fault statute, the court may determine one or more defendants and/or a non-party to be at fault for an accident. However, a determination of fault creates liability for damages only for those named as defendants in the case. That said, a determination of non-party liability can reduce the liability of other defendants for damages.

Questions about the West Virginia Non-Party Liability Statute?

If you have questions about the WV non-party liability statute and or how it may help to reduce your exposure to liability, contact The Law Office of M. Andrew Brison, PLLC. An experienced defense attorney, M. Andrew Brison can help you understand how the West Virginia non-party liability statute might apply to your case. To schedule a consultation, call us at 304-397-8225 or complete our online contact form.