H. B. 2939

(By Delegates Shelton and Stalnaker)

[Introduced February 10, 2003; referred to the

Committee on the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend article five, chapter twenty-four-a of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated section five-a, relating to limiting noneconomic damages recoverable in an action brought by an uninsured motorist against a public transportation provider.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That article five, chapter twenty-four-a of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated section five-a, to read as follows:
§24A-5-5a. Uninsured motorist coverage limit on public transportation providers.

(a) Legislative findings and declaration of purpose. -- The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the citizens of this state are entitled to the best public transportation available and that public transportation providers offer an essential and basic service which requires that the public policy of this state encourage and facilitate the provision of such service to our citizens:
(1) That our system of litigation is an essential component of this state?s interest in providing adequate and reasonable compensation to those persons who suffer from injury or death as a result of a liable party;
(2) That our system of litigation with regards to uninsured motorist falls short of fair by economically punishing properly insured parties without significantly discouraging uninsured drivers;
(3) That liability auto insurance is an important part of our system of protecting injured parties, while fulfilling the need and fairness of limiting the costs of the uninsured motorist insurance provider so as to ensure to the extent possible the highest quality of public transportation;
(4) That a further important component of these protections is to discourage uninsured motorists from driving on the roads of West Virginia;
(5) That in recent years, the cost of automobile liability insurance coverage has risen dramatically while the nature and extent of coverage has diminished, creating an imbalance of fairness between properly insured motorists and uninsured motorists;
(6) That many of the factors and reasons contributing to the
increased cost and diminished availability of public transportation liability and uninsured motorist insurance arise from the historic inability of this state to effectively control the passage of uninsured motorists on West Virginia roads, particularly from bordering states without mandatory insurance laws;
(7) That nonliable parties providing uninsured motorist protections are entitled to relief based solely on the fact that they are nonliable; and
(8) Therefore, the purpose of this enactment is to provide for a comprehensive resolution of the matters and factors which the Legislature finds must be addressed to accomplish the goals set forth above. In so doing, the Legislature has determined that reforms in the uninsured motorist law must be enacted.
(b) Limit on uninsured motorist coverage for noneconomic loss. -- In any uninsured motorist action brought against a public transportation provider governed by the provisions of this chapter, the maximum amount recoverable as damages for noneconomic loss may not exceed five thousand dollars and the jury shall be so instructed.
(c) Limit on liability for drivers and passengers of uninsured vehicles. -- In any liability action brought against a properly insured motorist by the driver or passengers of an improperly or uninsured vehicle, the action shall be dismissed with prejudice.
(d) Seizure of uninsured vehicles. -- Any vehicle found to be traveling the roads of this state without proper insurance coverage or proof thereof, may be impounded immediately. The vehicle may only be released after proof of insurance is presented. All towing and storage fees, regardless of circumstance, will be the responsibility of the vehicle owner. Vehicles abandoned more than thirty days will be sold at auction by the impounding authority. The penalty for a first offense of driving without insurance is a mandatory fine of two hundred fifty dollars, to be paid prior to release of the vehicle. The penalty for a second or subsequent offense is mandatory forfeiture of the vehicle.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to limit recovery of noneconomic damages in an action brought by an uninsured motorist action against a public transportation provider to $5,000.000.

This section
is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.