Municipalities in West Virginia (WV) face a unique set of challenges when it comes to defending potential lawsuits. After all, the costs related to litigation and possible liability can hurt the financial well-being of even the largest city, making WV municipal liability insurance a necessity. However, due to the inherent risks shouldered by WV cities-and the resulting inability to procure affordable liability insurance due to these risks-state lawmakers created the Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act.
How does WV municipal liability affect cities in the Mountain State?
How Does the Law Affect WV Municipal Liability?
In the most basic terms, the purpose of this particular Act is to limit the legal liability of political subdivisions, such as municipalities, and provide immunity from suit in certain situations. This, in turn, helps regulate the cost of insurance coverage.
When Is a City in West Virginia Liable for Damages?
The WV Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act states that a municipality is "not liable in damages in a civil action for injury, death, or loss to persons or property allegedly caused by any act or omission" of the municipality or a city employee. However, there are some very important exceptions to this liability shield, including circumstances in which an injury, loss, or death occurs in circumstances like these:
● The negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a city employee engaged in the scope of his or her employment;
● The negligent performance of acts by a city employee acting in the scope of his or her employment;
● The negligent failure to keep public roads, highways, streets, sidewalks, or other public grounds in the municipality limits open and in good repair;
● The negligence of city employees that takes place on the grounds of or inside a municipal building; and
● Any situation in which the West Virginia Code expressly imposes liability on the municipality.
Are There Other Times When a Municipality Isn't Liable for an Alleged Loss?
The Act contains several specific provisions outlining when a municipality enjoys immunity from liability. For example, a municipality is expressly immune from liability when the alleged loss stems from its execution or enforcement of a lawful court order. However, this is only one of the many WV municipal liability immunities delineated in West Virginia law.
Legal Guidance May Be Necessary to Understand All There Is to Know about WV Municipal Liability.
Given the complexities of WV immunity laws, it is often best to consult with an experienced municipal liability defense attorney if you have questions or concerns. A knowledgeable attorney can help navigate these complicated laws and assist in explaining whether potential immunity from liability may exist. The attorneys at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC would be happy to help navigate the difficult terrain of WV municipal liability laws. Contact us by calling (866) 617-4736 or by completing our firm's Contact form.
The information contained herein is merely a simplified overview of West Virginia's Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act and accordingly should not be relied upon as legal advice.