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New Tennessee Law Provides Protection from Personal Liability for Certain Volunteer Drivers

Posted on Jul 18 2015 3:50PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee legislature passed a new law that provides protections for volunteer drivers in Tennessee.  Specifically, Public Chapter No. 152 was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on April 16, 2015.  This law is called the “Protection of Volunteer – Insured Drivers of the Elderly (PROVIDE) Act.”  This law can certainly have an impact on certain automobile accident cases.  Specifically, this law provides that volunteer drivers who provide transportation for senior citizens through a charitable organization or human service agency cannot be found individually liable for any civil damages beyond the insurance policy limits collectible for the accident. 

 

This new law protects the at fault driver as long as their fault consists of simple negligence.  However, it is important to note that this statute does not provide this limited immunity when the conduct of the voluntary driver constitutes gross negligence, or willful and wanton misconduct.  Additionally, the human services agency or charitable organization must maintain liability insurance coverage at least equal to the minimum limits set forth in T.C.A. § 29-20-403 of the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (which provides for minimum policy limits of $300,000.00/$700,000.00).

 

This new statute takes effect for actions that arise on or after July 1, 2015.  The entire statute provides as follows:

 

(a) As used in this section:

(1) "Charitable organization" means any charitable unit of a religious or civic group exempt from taxation under 26 U.S.C. § 501, including those supported wholly or partially by private donations;

(2) "Human service agency" means any human service unit, clinic, senior citizens program, congregate meal center, or day care center for the elderly, whether supported wholly or partially by public funds;

(3) "Volunteer" means an individual providing volunteer transportation who may receive reimbursement for actual expenses or an allowance to defray expenses of operating the vehicle used to provide transportation services, but does not receive compensation for the person's time; and

(4) "Volunteer transportation" means motor vehicle transportation provided by a volunteer under the direction, sponsorship, or supervision of a human service agency or a charitable organization.

(b) Any volunteer, who provides volunteer transportation for senior citizens through a charitable organization or human service agency, shall not be individually liable for any civil damages above the policy limits collectable from any policy of insurance that would be obligated to make payment on behalf of the volunteer or on behalf of a person or entity that would be vicariously liable for the volunteer's conduct when liability for civil damages is limited by this section for an injury to the senior citizen arising out of or resulting from the transportation if the volunteer was acting in good faith and within the scope of the volunteer's official actions and duties on behalf of the charitable organization or human service agency unless the volunteer's conduct constitutes gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct; provided, that the charitable organization or human service agency is liable for damages and maintains liability insurance coverage at least equal to the minimum limits set forth in § 29-20-403 of the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act.

 

The primary impact of this statute is to protect voluntary drivers from excess judgments in Tennessee (judgments beyond the insurance policy limits).  It also makes it likely that the entities covered by this new law only need to obtain automobile liability insurance at the minimum limits provided for in the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: Damages, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, 2015 Tennessee Legislation, Immunity
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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