West Virginia Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of West Virginia, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of West Virginia statutes in each section.

Here are the West Virginia car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Section 17C-10-2

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian is allowed to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it becomes impossible for the driver to yield.
Section 17C-10-2

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words "Walk" or "Wait" are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Wait. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Wait signal is showing.
Section 17C-3-6

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.

Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Section 17C-10-3

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Section 17C-10-6

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Section 17C-12-6

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person.
Section 17C-10-4

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 17C-3-4

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Section 17C-7-1

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.

Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Section 17C-7-3

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within one hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Section 17C-7-5

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Section 17C-7-4

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
Section 17C-7-10

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while texting or using a handheld mobile electronic device, except for the sole purpose of calling emergency services.
Section 17C-14-15

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Section 17C-9-1

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 17C-9-2

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers on the roadway to be crossed.
Section 17C-9-4

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Section 17C-11-2

Motorcycling Laws

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists must wear helmets and safety goggles while riding on roadways.
Section 17C-15-44

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway display at least one and not more than two lighted headlamps at all times when driving on the highway.
Sections 17C-15-2 and 17C-15-4

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Reckless Driving

When a person dies within one year as a result of an injury suffered by the reckless driving of another person, then the other person is guilty of negligent homicide.
Section 17C-5-1

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway if the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or more.
Section 17C-5-2(i)

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person injured in the accident, or to the driver or passengers.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required or requested by the injured person.
Section 17C-4-3

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 17C-4-3.

Section 17C-4-3 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and must upon request exhibit their driver's license to any person injured in the accident or to the driver or passengers of the car involved in the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required or requested by the injured person.
Sections 17C-4-1 and 17C-4-3

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 17C-4-3.
Sections 17C-4-3 and 17C-4-2

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, and the name and address of the owner of the car.

If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, and the name and address of the owner of the car.
Section 17C-4-4

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $1,000 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office, county sheriff office, or state police office.
Section 17C-4-6

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

Every police officer who investigates a motor vehicle crash resulting in injury, death, or property damage totalling $1,000 or more, must prepare a report of the crash electronically or in writing within 24 hours.
Section 17C-4-7

Accident Report Forms

The Division of Highways must prepare and supply electronic or paper forms for crash reports to the State Police, municipal police departments, sheriffs, Division of Natural Resources, and other suitable agencies or individuals.
Section 17C-4-9

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In West Virginia, a driver is guilty of the offense of Driving a Vehicle Under the Influence if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
Section 17C-5-2

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device, also known as a motor vehicle alcohol test and lock program. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device.

If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Section 17C-5A-3a

Liability Laws

West Virginia Dram Shop Law

West Virginia has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under West Virginia law, if an establishment or social host violated a statute law, such as by selling or serving alcohol to a minor, then the establishment or social host are liable for any injury caused as a result of that violation of law.

For an injured third party to succeed in a claim for personal injuries or property damage against a commercial establishment or social host, the injured third party must file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the law by the establishment or the social host.

While presenting a case in court, the injured third-party may cite the violation of alcohol control laws by the establishment or the social host.
Section 55-7-9

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of West Virginia, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $20,000 per person
  • At least $40,000 per accident
  • $10,000 per occurrence for property damage
Section 17D-4-2

West Virginia Insurance Information

For information about insurance requirements, see the West Virginia Department of Insurance guide.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In West Virginia, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.

If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Section 55-7-13

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 55-7-13
Right of Way: Section 17C-9-2
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 17C-14-15

West Virginia's Car Insurance System

In West Virginia, the at-fault driver is liable for compensating victims in a car accident. The victim in a car accident can seek compensation for their injuries and property damage by filing a claim with their own insurance company.

If the victim did not contribute to the negligence that caused the accident, they can file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Sections 33-6-29 and 33-6-31

Statute of Limitations

West Virginia has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period following the date of the accident.
Section 55-2-12

Small Claims Courts

In West Virginia, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the at-fault driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,000.
Section 50-1-1

West Virginia Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In West Virginia, it is not possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage.
West Virginia Constitution, Section 6-35
NCSL

Sources

State Government of West Virginia

West Virginia Department of Transportation

West Virginia State Legislature

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety

Governors Highway Safety Association

West Virginia Bar Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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