West Virginia has its own state rules for slip and fall accident claims. This article looks at some key points of these laws, starting with the deadlines for filing civil court lawsuits after a slip and fall. We'll also cover West Virginia's rules for situations in which the injured person is found partly responsible for the accident, plus the special rules that apply to slip and fall cases where the West Virginia government might bear some amount of legal liability.
West Virginia limits the time you have to file a lawsuit in court after a slip and fall accident. Under West Virginia's statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have two years from the date of your slip and fall accident to file a case in court. This two-year time limit typically starts running on the date of your accident. If you don't file your lawsuit within two years, you'll almost certainly may be barred from filing it in court at all.
This two-year limit applies only to lawsuits. It does not apply to insurance claims filed after a slip and fall accident. But it's a good idea to get the insurance claim process started as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident. If you wait, you risk running out of time to file a court case as a fallback option if insurance settlement negotiations fail. And if the other side knows that filing a lawsuit is no longer an option for you, you'll lose valuable leverage in settlement talks.
An insurance adjuster or jury that evaluates your slip and fall may decide you were partly at fault for the accident. West Virginia has a "modified comparative fault" rule that applies to cases like these. This rule may reduce or even eliminate your damages, depending on how much fault is assigned to you, and how closely an insurer tries to stick to the rules.
Here's an example. Suppose that you're visiting a county fair. You're so busy looking at all the various exhibits that you don't see a puddle of ice cream someone has dropped on the path in front of you. You slip on the puddle and fall, suffer serious injuries, and you decide to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit in court. The insurance adjuster who investigates your claim or the jury that evaluates your lawsuit decides that your total damages, including lost wages, medical bills, and other losses, totals $10,000. The adjuster or jury also decides you were 10 percent at fault for the slip and fall.
Under West Virginia's modified comparative fault rule, you may receive an amount equal to the total damages award, minus an amount equal to the percentage of your fault. Here, that means you can recover $9,000, which equals the $10,000 total minus $1,000 that represents the 10 percent of fault the adjuster or jury assigned to you.
This calculation applies as long as you are assigned less than 50 percent of the fault for your slip and fall. If you are 50 percent or more at fault for the slip and fall accident, however, your damages award drops to zero under this rule automatically. You will be barred from collecting any damages from any other at-fault party.
Some slip and fall claims in West Virginia involve government agencies or employees, such as when you trip on a broken floor tile in a government building or slip on a spill in government parking lot. If your slip and fall claim involves the government in West Virginia, a special set of rules applies to your case or claim.
In West Virginia, you have two years from the date of a slip and fall accident to file notice of your claim with the state's Court of Claims. Notice should be filed in writing on the state's Notice of Claims form. For more information, see the Court of Claims website or the West Virginia Tort Claims Act.