By: Peter N. Davis, Esq., Paterson, New Jersey
When it comes to auto insurance, states typically follow either a “tort” or “no-fault” system. The majority of states are considered tort states, with only 12 being referred to as no-fault states.
What’s the Difference and How Does it Affect You?
When an accident occurs in a tort state, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying any damages the other party may have suffered. A tort system requires one or more drivers to be determined ‘at-fault.’ For example, if you caused an accident and are considered at-fault under a tort system, the other driver is able to sue you for any damages inflicted upon them including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and physical or mental pain and suffering.
Tort states require drivers to carry liability insurance to account for injuries or property damage they cause to other individuals in an accident that’s considered their fault. If an at-fault driver does not possess an automobile liability insurance policy, they are responsible for paying the damages they caused out of pocket.
The specific details and regulations for tort systems vary from state to state. For example, some allow drivers to choose a limited or full tort automobile insurance policy. Under limited tort, you typically cannot sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering unless your injuries are deemed severe or permanent.
On the other hand, in no-fault states, you generally seek compensation directly from your own auto insurance provider when you’re injured in an accident, even if the accident isn’t your fault. Up to a specified limit, car insurance providers in no-fault states guarantee the compensation of your damages. For this reason, you forego some of your rights to sue the other driver in the event that it is their fault. Only in certain circumstances can an individual step outside of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against another driver. For instance, if the injuries sustained are considered significant by the state, or if medical expenses surpass a particular amount, only then could an injured person sue the other driver.
All states are tort states except for the following:
West Virginia, A Tort State
If you’re a West Virginia driver, it’s important to know that West Virginia is a tort state. Why does this matter? If you’re in an accident and suffer injuries, it’s in your best interest to understand the nature of your state’s automobile insurance, so you can take the appropriate legal action, if necessary. With that said, at Stewart Bell, PLLC, we understand how confusing and overwhelming the moments after an accident can be. That’s why our team of experienced and knowledgeable Charleston car accident lawyers are available to assist you through this challenging time.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury due to another driver’s negligence or disregard for safety, call our office at (304) 345-1700. You will naturally have questions, and we are here to answer any questions you may have. By speaking with a Charleston car accident lawyer, you can have the details of your case reviewed free of charge, and receive guidance on the complexities of the legal process. Since West Virginia follows a tort system, you have the right to file a lawsuit and receive compensation directly from the guilty party. At Stewart Bell, PLLC, we take victims injured in car accidents seriously, and can help you hold the other driver financially liable for their careless actions.
Our Charleston car accident lawyers have been serving injured clients in Charleston and across West Virginia for years. With over 120 years of combined experience, we have the skills and determination to aggressively represent your case and help you obtain any compensation you might be entitled to.
The Importance of Car Insurance
No matter if you’re in a tort or no-fault state, it is absolutely vital to have car insurance. Without some kind of protection, you run the risk of suffering criminal penalties, fines, or the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
Although car insurance is required by law across the nation, many people still drive without it. For this reason, West Virginia requires drivers to possess uninsured motorist coverage included in their car insurance policy. In the event you are injured in an accident at the hands of an uninsured driver, this coverage protects you and allows you to make a claim against your own insurance company, up to their specified limits.
Driving without car insurance is not only illegal, but harmful to yourself if you sustain injuries in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Some states abide by a “No Pay, No Play” rule, that limits compensation for drivers that were uninsured at the time of an accident, even if it wasn’t their fault. The logic behind this rule is that if you’ve been the victim of an accident, but don’t have auto insurance that could provide compensation to another person if you injured them in an accident, then you shouldn’t be able to receive benefits from anyone else’s insurance policy, either. Below are a list of states that implement the “No Pay, No Play” rule:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
While West Virginia does not follow this rule, it is still imperative to have car insurance if you’re going to drive on the roads. The state requires drivers to have proof of auto insurance in the vehicle at all times, and a failure to do so can result in strict penalties.
Speak With a Charleston Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’re in Charleston or another area of West Virginia and are the victim of a car accident, call Stewart Bell, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation with a qualified Charleston car accident lawyer. We’ll strive to help you navigate West Virginia’s tort system to obtain the compensation you need to recover.
About The Author
Peter Davis is a leading car accident attorney in Paterson, New Jersey and managing partner of Peter N. Davis & Associates. The firm represents injury victims from all over Northern New Jersey including Passaic, Essex, Bergen, and Middlesex Counties. Peter has been practicing personal injury law since 1988 and is a member of both the New Jersey Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.