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West Virginia's New Auto Insurance Laws

A new law went into effect June 11 that allows motorists to use electronic proof of insurance when they are pulled over. This law took the place of the prior regulation that drivers have to have a paper proof of insurance.

This law will make it okay for drivers to have proof of insurance on their smartphone in the event that they are pulled over. West Virginia drivers will be able to utilize the apps that many insurance companies have for motorists to access their insurance information on the go.This change will make it easier for people to carry proof of insurance and will provide drivers with options to convey that information to an officer.

To find more information about this law follow the links below to the stories posted on WDTV and WBOY’s websites:

Why that Settlement Offer May Not Be in your Best Interest

Immediately following an accident you may be contacted by an insurance company adjuster who will be asking you to settle your claim for "x" amount of money. Your first instinct may be an apprehensive one. This is good, but often people don't follow this instinct. Trying to get accident victims to quickly settle is a tactic readily employed. As would stand to reason, the adjuster that you're speaking with is not looking out for your best interests, they are looking out for the best interests of their company.

It's important that you know that you have the right to reject any offer made by an insurance company. It's also important to remember that if you choose to go to court, numbers from settlement negotiations may not be mentioned. So if an adjuster offers you $10,000, you cannot mention that to a judge or jury.

Another important thing to remember is that the amount that an adjuster quotes you is simply their best guesstimate of what they may be able to settle you case for. No adjuster can guarantee what will happen if you choose to take your case to court. Taking a case to court is a complicated decision that should not be taken lightly. If you need help evaluating your case and figuring out what to do, call Colombo Law for a free case evaluation. 

Why You Should Buy Underinsured Motorist Coverage

You’ve just been in an accident; it’s not your fault, but you’re injured. Fortunately, you pay your car insurance premiums faithfully. However, in West Virginia, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are as protected as you may need to be. 

In West Virginia, there are mandatory car insurance coverages that the law requires you to buy. You must carry Liability Coverage, which protects your personal assets in the event that you’re in an accident and at fault. You must also carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage, which protects you in the event that you’re in an accident, the other driver is at fault, and the other driver doesn’t have any insurance. But, what if you’re in an accident, and you’re injured, but the other driver only has minimum Liability Coverage? 

In West Virginia, the law requires you to purchase minimum Liability Coverage amounts of $20,000 maximum per person, $40,000 maximum total per accident, and $10,000 property damage. As the cost of insurance is directly correlated with coverage, many West Virginians buy as cheap as possible to save money, which means there are a lot of minimum coverage drivers on West Virginia’s roads. 

It’s easy to see the benefits of having Underinsured Coverage in a scenario where your medical bills alone total $30,000, and the other driver’s insurance company can only pay you a maximum of $20,000. Unfortunately, that scenario is far too common. Your damages can add up fast following an accident. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor, and buy Underinsured Motorist Coverage. It could mean protecting your financial well-being if you’re in an accident. 

IIHS rates the safest cars of 2012

The number of cars to get top safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has increased for the second year in a row, according to the Institute’s list of “Top Safety Picks,” announced on Thursday. CNN Money writes that the Institute is now looking at making the awards even tougher, according to IIHS spokesman Russ Rader.

CNN Money reports: “Among the changes being considered are an additional crash test or factoring in safety technology such as blind spot warning systems or crash avoidance systems.”

“It’s tough to win, and we commend auto manufacturers for making safety a top priority,” said Institute president Adrian Lund. The IIHS is a nonprofit group financed by the insurance industry, and its ratings, which began in 2005, are based on tests different from those of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

CNN Money notes that certain cars might get poorer scores in NHTSA auto safety tests despite winning the Insurance Institute’s award. For example, the Fiat 500 is an IIHS award winner despite earning only three out of five stars in NHTSA’s crash tests. A spokesman for Fiat told CNN Money that Fiat is looking into ways to improve its score in the NHTSA tests.

Every major automaker has a least one car model winning an award, with Subaru being the only one to get an award for every model in its 2012 season, including one for the redesigned Impreza, a small car. Toyota/Lexus/Scion has 15 winners for 2012, more than any other manufacturer. General Motors has 14, Volkswagen/Audi has 13, and Honda/Acura has 12.

Car buyers should take note that the IIHS groups winners according to vehicle type and size, and that size and weight are factors in how able a vehicle is to withstand a crash. As IIHS reports:

"Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better occupant protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones. Even with a Top Safety Pick, a small car isn’t as crashworthy as a bigger one."

You can see the complete listing all of the IIHS winners here.


2010 NHTSA report

Over the past several years, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented a several new safety measures designed to make roads safer and reduce the overall number of fatal car accidents.

Most recently, the agency introduced a new - and more rigorous - safety rating system for all new vehicles that utilizes both a family of crash test dummies and a side impact test.

In light of these new safety measures, is not unreasonable to expect that the rate of fatalities on U.S. highways should eventually decline rather sharply?

According to recent statements by a high-ranking official at the NHTSA, this is precisely what happened just last year.

Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford recently informed Wards Auto that a soon-to-be released 2010 NHTSA report will reveal that 32,788 people were killed in car crashes in 2010.

This constitutes a rather significant reduction from 2009, a year in which there were approximately 33,808 fatalities, and the smallest amount of fatal car crashes in over sixty years.

Medford attributed much of the reduction to the aforementioned new vehicle safety rating system and the continued development of certain crash-avoidance technologies.

He also went on the state that while the agency is pleased with the overall reduction in fatalities, more work must be done by government officials and major players in the private sector - car manufacturers and handheld device manufacturers - to eliminate the constant threat of distracted driving (i.e. talking and texting while driving).

"We have challenged the auto industry and the cell phone industry to work collaboratively with us to keep the driver focus on their required task - driving - and to keep them safe."

Interestingly, Medford also indicated that the NHTSA will be working closely with carmakers to ensure that efforts made to improve gas mileage don't compromise vehicle safety.

If you or your child has been seriously injured in a car accident, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can answer your questions and explain your rights.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Read more at: Wards Auto

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, contact the Morgantown Car Accident Lawyers of Colombo Law at 800-860-1414.


Legally Speaking

Colombo Law recently completed a 12 week video series titled "Legally Speaking" that was televised on WDTV. The series was aimed to help consumers make informed decisions regarding a variety of  legal issues.

Each week we focused on a different topic aimed to help inform the viewing public. We started off by discussing how our law firm handles cases and explained how to make informed decisions that will be financially sound . 

In week 2, the topic was "Who do you call first after an accident?" providing valuable information regarding the appropriate steps to take after a car, truck or motorcycle accident.

Week 3 covered "How cases get resolved." The discussion centered around the difference between settlements and cases that go to trial.

Next we discussed "Insurance coverage." Types of coverages, limits of liability, state minimum coverage, the uninsured and the underinsured were covered.

In week 5 we introduced our exclusive "eCase Status" system that allows us to provide near real time updates to our clients' cases 24/7 via our website.

Our website was the week 6 topic, which currently features answers to Frequently Asked Questions and other useful information that can be accessed anytime for free.

The next topic was "Medical payments coverage" on your automobile insurance policy and how it can help when you are involved in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident.

Motorcycle accidents led the discussion in week 8. We talked about how motorcycle accidents can be among the worst accidents, especially when the accident involves a car or truck.

Have you ever thought to yourself "Do I need a lawyer?" We discussed how a qualified and trusted attorney will handle your case and can help you get through your situation in the best possible way.

Week 10 we covered health insurance and medical expenses after an accident. Who pays the bills before your case is resolved?

One of the questions we get asked most often is "How much is my case worth?". We cover this topic in order for you to make a better informed decision regarding your situation. 

In the final episode, the advice given was "Hire an experienced lawyer that is looking out for your interests"

Thanks for watching!


Low Ball Offers From Insurance Companies

More and more we are seeing insurance companies making low ball settlement offers to people injured by motorcycle accidents, automobile accidents, and trucking accidents.  The insurance companies are counting on injured victims to take the low ball settlement offer because they are desperate for cash.  Unfortunately, this settlement strategy has worked very well for the insurance companies when dealing with an injured person who is not represented by a lawyer.

The attorneys at Colombo Law represent children and adults in Morgantown, Clarksburg, Bridgeport, Fairmont, Elkins, Buckhannon, Weston, and throughout North Central West Virginia who have been injured in car wrecks, motorcycle accidents, and trucking accidents.  We know how to handle aggressive insurance adjusters and the insurance company attorneys.  Clients know that when they hire our law firm that they are hiring a law firm that is ready, willing and able to try the most complex case.

For example, Dino Colombo recently tried a case for a client where State Farm had offered only $10,000 to settle a rear end collision type of accident.  The client had a permanent neck injury and $10,000 would just barely cover the medical expenses.  The case went to trial and a Monongalia County jury returned a verdict of over $400,000 for this client.

There is no way any attorney can guarantee a result for our client.  Also, simply because there was a significant verdict for this particular client it does not automatically mean that all cases will end this way.  However, what is important to know is that a well prepared trial attorney, who has the experience necessary to try complicated cases involving permanent spinal cord injuries or brain injury cases, is vital to a successful outcome. 


Choosing a Safe Car Part 3 - Safest Cars for 2009

Cars have gotten a lot safer in recent years, and that trend seems to have accelerated just in the past year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual list of Top Safety Picks. The big news is that 72 vehicles earned the Institute’s highest ranking this year, more than double the number of 2008 models and more than three times the number of 2007 winners.

To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to  receive the Institute’s highest rating of Good in front, side, and rear crash protection, including a Good rating in an assessment of head-restraint safety; and it must offer electronic stability control.

For the first time, there is at least one vehicle in every segment Consumer Reports tests that earns a Top Safety Pick award, giving consumers the ability to find a safe car, no matter their budget or transportation needs. All Acura and Subaru models earn Top Safety Pick awards. The IIHS doesn’t test two-seat roadsters, but three four-passenger convertibles made the grade: the Saab 9-3, Volkswagen Eos, and Volvo C70.

In addition to the 72 Top Safety Picks, another 26 models earn Good front- and side-crash-test scores and offer electronic stability control, but don’t have good head-restraint designs. While rear impacts are rarely fatal, they produce a high percentage of injuries in auto accidents.

Virtually all cars now earn Good front crash scores, but not all have Good side-crash scores and rear-impact scores.

It is important when choosing a new car to also consider its dynamic performance relative to safety. Consumer Reports Safety Ratings factor insurance industry and government crash tests, when available, as well as our own dry braking, wet braking, and accident avoidance test findings. On the model overview pages at, we provide a complete breakdown of how each tested model fares in the full range of safety evaluations.

Below are the lists of 2009 Top Safety Picks, as well as those "Also-Ran" models that lack only good seat/head restraint designs.

Large cars
Acura RL
Audi A6
Cadillac CTS
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Mercury Sable
Toyota Avalon
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Acura TL, TSX
Audi A3, A4
BMW 3 Series sedan
Ford Fusion with optional ESC
Honda Accord sedan
Mercedes C Class
Mercury Milan with optional ESC
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy
Volkswagen Jetta, Passat

Midsize convertibles
Saab 9-3
Volkswagen Eos
Volvo C70

Small cars
Honda Civic sedan with optional ESC (except Si)
Mitsubishi Lancer with optional ESC
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza with optional ESC
Toyota Corolla with optional ESC
Volkswagen Rabbit 4-door

Honda Fit with optional ESC

Honda Odyssey
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona

Large SUVs
Audi Q7
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Saturn Outlook

Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX, RDX
BMW X3, X5
Ford Edge, Flex, Taurus X
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe, Veracruz
Infiniti EX35
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes M Class
Nissan Murano
Saturn Vue
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V, Element
Mazda Tribute
Mercury Mariner
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Large pickups
Ford F-150
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra

Small pickup
Toyota Tacoma

These 26 vehicles earn good ratings in front- and side-crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2009 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earn good ratings:

Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible, Town & Country
Dodge Avenger, Grand Caravan
Infiniti G35, M35
Kia Amanti
Lexus ES, GS, IS
Mazda CX-7, CX-9
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor
Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Quest, Xterra
Saturn Aura
Smart Fortwo
Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Prius, Sienna

Choosing a Safe Car Part 2 - Safety Features to Insist On

I wouldn’t buy a new car without the following three safety features:

1. Electronic Stability Control (“ESC”). These systems sense loss of control systems before it gets out of hand. By sensing any kind of vehicle slippage to the left or right, they use the vehicle’s antilock brake system components and other existing systems to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle. Researchers including the government and major auto manufacturers predict dramatic reductions in the number of accidents in vehicles equipped with ESC, so much so that this is probably the most important safety innovation since seat belts. And there are plenty of these systems available. Manufacturers have been putting the systems on some cars for over a decade, so even used car purchasers can insist on this feature. I would not buy any vehicle without electronic stability control.

2. Side Curtain Airbags that Activate in Rollover. There are two kinds of side bags and both do a good job. Torso bags protect your body, and side curtain airbags protect your head. These head bags can protect you in side impacts, the kind of crash in which the occupant is closest to the striking vehicle. If a rollover sensor is used, side curtains can also protect people in rollovers by keeping them in the car. You are much safer in a rollover if you stay within the confines of a vehicle. As you could imagine, when your head sticks far out the window, your injury/death risk sky rockets.

3. Seat Belt Pretensioners. These systems snug up the seat belts when an accident is sensed, a great and smart safety feature. Pretensioners are found in many cars manufactured since the late 1990s.and some manufactured before that. They are more widely available for, and more important for, the front seats.

If you have kids, other safety features are important including the availability of LATCH systems and tether anchors to ensure the child seats can be held tight to the vehicle, and rear seat adjustable seat belt D-rings to allow belts to be properly adjusted for kids in booster seats or teens and small adults who are too big for booster seats. Look elsewhere on this website and blog for other information on child safety, an issue we will continue to cover because it is a particular passion of ours.

Choosing a Safe Car Part 1 - Resources

Friends often ask me whether the car they are thinking of buying is safe. I always refer them to these three terrific sources of car safety information:

1. WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV – This is the government’s website reporting on its safety testing of vehicles. The government doesn’t test every vehicle sold, but it tests many of them, more rigorously than in the tests the car makers are required to pass to sell the car. It rates the vehicles with a star rating system so you can compare safety from one vehicle to another. If you “drill down” deeper into the site, you can also see the raw numbers – the test scores. One caution: the star ratings only compare similarly sized cars. In frontal collisions, for instance, the tests involve crashing the vehicles into non-deformable barriers, which simulates a head-on collision with a car of the same weight. The ratings don’t factor in the fact that a heavy car is going to have an advantage over a lighter car in any such collision.

2. WWW.IIHS.ORG - Like the government, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests some, but not all, cars in very rigorous testing. The results are reported on this very helpful website. Not only does this site give good comparisons between cars, using its own rating system, it also gives details about its tests and even allows you to watch the videos. Like the government website, the Insurance Institute site can help you identify not only safer models, but safer model years for those models, which is useful if you are shopping for a used car.

3. WWW.CONSUMERREPORTS.ORG – Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is a great source of all sorts of information on new and used cars including safety, reliability, features, pricing, even how fun the vehicle is to drive. You can get some basic information online for free, and more information for a small subscription fee. Or, you can go to your local library and look at the annual April car edition for a wealth of information. The April issue is a great starting point for figuring out which car is right for you.

I always check all three sites when looking for a car for my family or helping friends with their car search. The sites don’t tell everything, for instance, some cars are “designed to the test” so that they perform well in safety tests but contain some other safety flaw or defect that undermines car safety. For those issues, watch this website and blog.