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Looking at comparative negligence in West Virginia, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking a bit about the topic of comparative fault and how it works in West Virginia. As we mentioned, West Virginia uses a modified comparative negligence approach with a 50 percent bar, meaning that a plaintiff cannot recover if he or she is responsible for at least 50 percent of the damages.

Another aspect of the law, up until recently, was that defendants could be held jointly and severally liable for a victim’s injuries, meaning that a defendant could end up paying for other defendants’ share of the damages. The joint and several liability rule changed back in March, though, when Governor Tomblin signed a comparative fault bill that prohibits courts from holding defendants responsible for more than their share of the damages.

Under the new rule, defendants may not be held responsible for damages caused by a party who cannot pay those damages. The change, not surprisingly, has been criticized on the grounds that it will have a negative impact on plaintiffs and that it will increase legal costs, particularly for businesses. The reason for this, it is argued, is that defendants who want to dodge responsibility have more motivation to bring other parties into the legal process in order to shift blame. How all of this gets sorted out remains to be seen, of course, and time will tell whether the measure is reasonably workable.

Sorting out matters of liability is not always and easy matter and those who are harmed in a motor vehicle accident should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure their interests are protected.

Source: West Virginia Record, “Tomblin signs comparative fault bill,” Chris Dickerson, Mar. 6, 2015. 

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