New West Virginia Law Countering Civil Suit Abuse Starts July 1

Noneconomic Damage Awards Capped at $5 Million
West Virginia state Capitol
A view of the West Virginia state Capitol in Charleston. Senate Bill 583 passed the Senate by a 30-1 vote and the House by an 81-15 count. DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Starting July 1, noneconomic damage awards in civil lawsuits in West Virginia involving personal injury or wrongful death claims against commercial motor vehicles will be no higher than $5 million due to legislation enacted by Gov. Jim Justice.

“This is not just a victory for the trucking industry; it’s a win for consumers, businesses and everyone in West Virginia,” said Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Trucking Association. She predicted the new law “will deter abusive and frivolous lawsuits, which have unfortunately turned our legal system into a profit center for the plaintiffs’ bar.”

Before it became law, Senate Bill 583 received broad support during the 2nd Session of West Virginia’s 86th Legislature after it was introduced Jan. 20 by state Sen. Mike Stuart (R), an attorney and who served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of West Virginia.

SB 583 (Employer Liability and Damages in Civil Actions involving Commercial Motor Vehicles) breezed through the state Senate with a single vote in opposition and 30 in favor before it passed 81-15 in the House of Delegates. Additional bill sponsors were Republican Sens. Michael Azinger, Vince Deeds, Rupie Phillips, Rollan Roberts, Randy Smith, Eric Tarr and Jay Taylor.

Traci Nelson


“I am thrilled to see the passing of SB 583, which caps noneconomic damage awards at $5 million. Capping subjective, nonmonetary losses is crucial to maintaining fairness and balance in civil litigation,” Nelson said. “West Virginia’s trucking industry is vital to our state, providing essential services to communities and supporting middle-class jobs. However, rampant lawsuit abuse has hindered our ability to operate safely and efficiently.”

There are 33,890 West Virginians working in the trucking industry. Nearly 85% of the state’s communities depend completely on trucks to transport goods.

“The law will cap noneconomic damage awards at $5 million. Capping subjective, nonmonetary losses is critical to ensuring fairness and balance in civil litigation and will deter abusive and frivolous lawsuits that have perverted the system into a profit center for the plaintiffs’ bar,” Nelson noted.

This reasonable reform ensures justice and fairness drive accident litigation outcomes, not profits.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear

Chris Spear

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear applauded the new law, while commending West Virginia lawmakers and Justice for their actions to protect professional truck drivers and safeguard the supply chain.

“This reasonable reform ensures justice and fairness drive accident litigation outcomes, not profits,” Spear noted. “Trucking is essential to our economy, delivering the goods Americans need every day and supporting quality jobs. When the plaintiffs’ bar perverts civil litigation into a casino game of ‘jackpot justice,’ the costs are borne by everyone — not just trucking companies, but consumers, too, in the form of higher insurance rates and higher prices for everyday goods.”


Volvo's Chayene de Souza and Magnus Gustafson discuss how new, connected trucks can boost business, enhance safety practices, and reinforce preventative maintenance plans. Tune in above or by going to  

Now the state code has a new section stipulating that in civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, the maximum amount awarded to each plaintiff may not exceed $5 million for each occurrence (regardless of the number of claims or theories of liability against employer defendants of a commercial motor vehicle) as compensatory damages for noneconomic loss in incidents involving a commercial driver license holder driving a commercial motor vehicle.

However, disqualified from this limit are employer defendants lacking at least $3 million in aggregate worth of commercial motor vehicle insurance coverage for each occurrence in a personal injury/wrongful death in civil lawsuit.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

The law also contains several caveats to prevent it from applying to drivers found at the time of an incident to have operated a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance, other drug, or inhalant substance, having an alcohol concentration of .04% or higher, refusing to submit to drug/alcohol testing, driving with willful/wanton disregard for the safety of people/property, engaging in distracted driving or carrying without special permission loads in excess of the maximum gross vehicle weight rating established under state or federal regulations.

Another key provision could raise the awards due to inflation. The limit on compensatory damages for noneconomic losses will be reviewed annually for inflation adjustments no higher than 150% starting Jan. 1, 2026.