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By of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC on 02/08/2016

Authorization of Transportation Network Companies in WV

REGULATIONS ON RIDESHARE SERVICES IN WV

With the rise of rideshare services in West Virginia (WV), or transportation network companies ("TNCs"), better known as companies like Uber and Lyft, concern over financial responsibility became an important topic.   The most similar legislation at the time would be the regulation on taxi cabs and taxi stands.  This wasn’t a good specification of what the TNC drivers should be involved with for regulations.  New bills were being introduced to find more appropriate regulations.

Legislation Involving Rideshare Services in WV

The regulations of such services need to address the necessary requirements to receive a permit for operating and using TNC services, insurance coverage, and how each TNC has different criteria for their service and the management of their drivers.  Legislation would need to cover these topics and more, and with the quick escalation of the use of such services, it was becoming a more urgent issue. The ease of use was allowing these services to quickly grow and the use of these services moved across the country at a staggering rate.

What Were Some Early Attempts to Regulate Ridesharing Services?

The Senate introduced SB 324 on January 19, 2016 to authorize TNCs, to operate in West Virginia. The bill took a sweeping approach to regulating the registration and operation of TNCs. Notably, the bill addressed financial responsibility requirements of TNCs and potential "insurance gaps" which may occur. The bill required that the driver, the TNC, or a combination of the two-purchase insurance:

(1) When the driver is logged into a TNC app, but not engaged in a pre-arranged ride, the driver must have coverage of at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage;

(2) When the TNC driver is engaged in a pre-arranged ride, however, the limits must be increased to $1,000,000 for death, bodily injury, and property damage.

(3) The driver must also maintain Uninsured and Underinsured motorists' coverage from the time the app is turned on until it is turned off.

In addition, the bill specifically authorizes insurers to exclude any and all coverage afforded under the policy issued to an owner or operator of a personal vehicle for any loss or injury that occurs while a driver has the TNC app on and/or while a TNC driver provides a prearranged ride. The exclusions would be valid notwithstanding financial responsibility requirements.

Finally, the bill provides that all TNC drivers are independent contractors and not employees of TNCs as long as the drivers meet certain criteria set out in the bill. Further, a TNC is not required to provide workers' compensation coverage to a TNC driver who meets those requirements.

What Bills are Currently in Place for Ridesharing Services In WV?

The House introduced HB 4228 on March 5, 2016 to authorize TNCs to operate in WV.  This bill took a similar focus on regulations for operation and the “insurance gaps” that were brought to focus in SB 324.  The bill has the same insurance requirements mentioned in SB 324.  These regulations also provides that all TNC drivers are independent contractors and not employees of the TNCs as long as the drivers meet the specific criteria set out in the bill.  

Legal Counsel

Do you have a WV Ridesharing service legal or insurance case? Call the attorneys at Jenkins Fenstermaker at (304)523-2100 for a free consultation.