State lawmakers approved Jeff Leach’s HB 19, which introduces new obstacles when trying to hold trucking companies accountable when their vehicles are involved in accidents.
The legislation intends to halt excessive lawsuits that according to a Republican majority, affects truck-related businesses as insurance services become more expensive.
However, among the larger states, Texas has one of the highest numbers of per capita fatal crashes in accidents involving large trucks, according to a recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration report.
The FMCSA analysis shows that Texas had 20.52 fatal crashes involving a large truck per million people in 2018, which’s even more casualties than the state of California.
HB 19 relating to the civil liability of a commercial motor vehicle owner or operator, imposes new restrictions on the allowed evidence in a trial.
Under this bill, the two-phase trial process would only allow evidence of truck malfunctions and driver fault in phase one, limiting the possibility of presenting evidence regarding negligence in training or supervision if the trial moves to a second phase.
These restrictions have been raising concerns on access to justice, as the bill makes cases harder to win and harder to settle.
“This bill turns its back on the hundreds of Texas families who experience tragedy in commercial truck accidents each year,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen Texas, “Texas has a serious truck crash problem, but HB 19 is far from a solution.”
Supporters of the bill include insurance and trucking companies who claim their businesses have been affected by an excess of unfair lawsuits. They’re also claiming a direct correlation between the lawsuits and increased insurance rates.
Experts confirm that such claim is very difficult to verify. According to Kera News, Tom Baker, an insurance expert at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, cautioned to be “very skeptical” about these type of claims, as the insurance market has its own business cycle and at the moment, there are higher premiums for all kinds of insurance.