After seven years of providing low-cost motorcycle, ATV, and off-road insurance to mountaineers, Rider Insurance is pulling out of West Virginia.

Rider was founded by a New Jersey motorcycle enthusiast in 1971 and originally served only Garden State bikers. Eventually, the company extended its coverage to riders in Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“We have concluded that it is impossible to do business in West Virginia as a specialized company that is determined to maintain low premiums for our customers,” Rider announced in a letter notifying 6,000 in-state policyholders of its decision to suspend service.

“The reason is the West Virginia legal system,” the letter emphasized. “What we have found is that West Virginia requires us to devote an unfair amount of our resources to properly adapt to its legal system. It is far more difficult than the judicial system in any other state in which we write insurance.”

In a follow-up interview, Rider Marketing Manager Nicole Regna said that in West Virginia “the plaintiffs' bar needs only to perceive a possible error (even if it does not exist), and the courts will let them pursue it, with significant cost to the carrier, and without consequence to the plaintiff's attorney if the matter has no merit.

“That attitude forces unjust settlements,” Regna explained, “since we are forced to evaluate the cost of defense versus paying an extra amount in claims.”

Rider is willing to return to West Virginia when “the state becomes friendlier to specialized insurance companies.”

With our state Legislature and governor currently committed to legal reform and making progress in that direction, Rider's return may not be long in coming, particularly if its 6,000 former customers make their voices heard.

A motorcycle rally at the state capitol building in Charleston might be a good way to kick off the campaign. If nothing else, it'll give bikers a chance to compare notes on policies offered by other insurers.

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