West Virginia Becomes 13th State to Require Insurance Information Disclosure
Effective June 8, 2012, West Virginia Code 33-6F-2 will require insurance companies to provide attorneys representing a driver injured in an automobile accident access to the other driver's insurance information upon request. Insurers failing to provide the information within 30 days of a written request could be subject to a $500 fine, plus attorney fees and other expenses.
Twelve other states have insurance disclosure statutes. The original version of WV House Bill 4486 mirrored Florida's Statute Section 627.4137 requiring disclosure upon request of a claimant of any liability insurance coverage, including excess or umbrella insurance. An extensive lobbying effort by the West Virginia Insurance Federation and others resulted in a "strike and insert" amendment to the bill by which the Senate Judiciary Committee restricted the scope of the bill to automobile coverages only. The final bill enacted is similar to the laws in neighboring Virginia, and is viewed as one of the more conservative versions of an insurance disclosure statute.
The West Virginia Association for Justice and others in favor of insurance disclosure argued that the effect of the measure will be to reduce the filing of lawsuits. They reason that the statute does not change what information an insurance company is require to provide – it just changes when that information is to be provided.
Calling the original version an "anti-legal reform bill", the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the most vocal opponent of the bill, characterized HB 4486 as a "massive and unprecedented attack on individual privacy." Other opponents argued the measure will result in higher settlement demands in cases where another driver's insurance policy has higher coverage limits. Moreover, opponents fear the bill creates an incentive for lawsuits and will re-open the floodgates to third-party bad faith litigation in West Virginia.
The final version is set forth below in its entirety.
§33-6F-2. Disclosure of certain
insurance information required.
Notwithstanding the provisions of section one, article six-f, of this chapter:
(a) Each insurer that may provide personal lines liability insurance coverage as that term is defined in section nine, article twelve of this chapter to pay all or a portion of a claim asserted against an insurance policy insuring a motor vehicle shall provide, within thirty days of its receipt of a written request from a claimant's attorney who has given written notice that he or she represents the claimant: (1) A response providing the following information relating to each of the insurer's known policies of insurance, including excess or umbrella insurance, which does or may provide liability coverage for the claim:(A) The name of the insurer;
(B) The name of each named insured of the subject policy; and
(C) The limits of any motor vehicle liability insurance policy at the time of the events that are the subject of the claim; or
(2) The declarations page of any motor vehicle liability policy applicable at the time of the events that are the subject of the claim, appropriately redacted to comply with applicable privacy laws or regulations;
(b) Any written request by the claimant's attorney under this section must include: (1) The date and location of the events that are the subject of the claim; (2) the name and, if known, the last known address of the insured; (3) a copy of the accident or incident report, if any; (4) the insurer's claim number;(5) a good faith estimate and documentation of all of the claimant's medical expenses if any and any wage loss documentation as of the date of the request, if any; and (6)documentation as of the date of the request of any and all property damage.
(c) Disclosure of the information required by subsection (a) of this section shall not constitute an admission that the alleged injury or damage is subject to the policy, nor shall such disclosure waive any reservation of rights an insurer may have.
(d) No information disclosed by any party pursuant to this section shall be, by reason of such disclosure, admissible as evidence at trial.
(e) An insurer's compliance with this section does not constitute a violation of this article, or subsection twelve, section eleven, article six of this chapter.
(f) An insurer that fails to comply with this section is subject to a penalty of five hundred dollars, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in obtaining disclosure of the information required by subsection (a) of this section. This penalty is the sole and exclusive remedy for an insurer's failure to comply with this section.