Bill to Limit Trucking Company Liability Passes Texas House
Updated at 3:20 p.m. with additional developments.
A bill that would make it harder to successfully prosecute commercial trucking companies is moving forward after a series of postponements in the House.
According to the bill’s author, Plano Republican Jeff Leach, the legislation would create a fair framework to ensure victims of commercial vehicle collisions can spend their day in court, while protecting commercial vehicle operators from harm. excessive prosecution. On Friday, at third reading, House Bill 19, passed 81-49.
“With the passage of this bill, we will see commercial vehicle insurance rates drop in the state,” Leach promised during his testimony in the House Thursday.
On Thursday night, after the bill passed second reading, the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition praised the legislation for promoting business statewide. According to a statement released by the coalition on Thursday, more than 550 companies have supported his bill as drafted.
“Texas House has taken an important step in ensuring that our legal system provides appropriate remedies for injured Texans without allowing rampant trial abuse to wreak havoc on small businesses,” the statement said.
But opponents of the bill argue that Texas roads remain unsafe and that HB 19 would potentially let commercial operations off the hook.
“Litigation is the last resort for consumers, but it is currently our most important deterrent against fatal negligence and wrongdoing by commercial vehicle companies,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, who helped organize a Safe Streets webinar for opponents of the bill. .
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of truck accidents in Texas increased 27% between 2016 and 2019. The state recorded more fatalities in truck wrecks than any other in 2019.
But, according to the analysis of the bill, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits has increased by 118% since 2011, while the number of injuries involving commercial vehicles has increased by only a small percentage.
“In many cases, the accused person is not at fault, but has to spend more and more money in court and take out insurance coverage,” the analysis says.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform is another staunch supporter of HB 19. On Monday, the Austin-based organization, which controls a powerful political action committee, released a survey of southern Texas Democratic primary voters on their views on political action. lawsuits against trucking companies.
“Democratic Primary voters have spoken up, supporting and overwhelmingly trusting small businesses in Texas over personal injury lawyers, recognizing the value that job creators and commercial vehicles bring to our community. State and voting accordingly at the polls, ”said Mary Tipps, LRT executive director, in a statement. statement on HB 19 and the results of the investigation.
Adrian Shelley, the director of Public Citizen Texas, heads one of the many organizations that argue that HB 19 is a law that would put the well-being of businesses before the safety of citizens.
“This bill turns its back on the hundreds of families in Texas who experience tragedy in commercial truck crashes each year,” Shelley said in a statement. “This limits corporate liability and puts obstacles in the process of recovering grieving families. Texas has a serial truck crash problem, but the HB 19 is far from a solution. “
Laredo Democrat Richard Peña Raymond, who asked Leach about HB 19 on Thursday, said his district had a strong interest in protecting the trucking industry because of its proximity to Mexico. According to the Texas Trucking Association, one in 16 Texans is employed by the trucking industry, and 85% of commerce between Texas and Mexico is handled by trucks.
But even supporters of the bill had reservations about the scope of the reform in the current state of the bill. A series of amendments added to the bill seek to clarify some of the measures, and advocacy groups suggest there is still work to be done.
“While we are concerned about the scope of some of the provisions of HB 19, we look forward to working with the Texas Senate to ensure the bill is well designed and focused,” the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition said. in its press release. “The goal of HB 19 remains as it always has been: to ensure that accident victims can be fairly compensated in our courts and that small businesses can continue to safely drive commercial vehicles without going bankrupt. by frivolous and abusive litigation. “