Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new bill sought after by the state’s trucking industry to protect commercial motor carriers from excessive lawsuits against them when involved in an accident.
The bill, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, modifies state law to provide a framework for trial procedures, the use of evidence, and the determination of liability in certain civil actions involving commercial motor vehicles.
The law will spilt cases going to trial into two phases. In the first phase, liability for and the amount of compensatory damages is determined. This phase is focused on the actual damages in the specific incident and finding if the driver was negligent. In the second of the trial, liability for and the amount of exemplary damages is determined.
If the truck operator is found negligent in operating the commercial motor vehicle in the first phase of the trial, the claimant could proceed on a negligence claim against the employer.
Over the past 11 years, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits have increased by 118% in the state while the number of collisions involving a fatality, severe injury, or any injury at all have increased by single-digit percentages or have decreased, explained State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) in the bill analysis. Leach authored House Bill 19, which was signed into law.
“In many instances, the person being sued is not at fault, yet must spend increasing amounts of money in court and to purchase insurance coverage,” Leach wrote.
Earlier this year, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate passed HB19.
The Texas Trucking Association and Southwest Movers Association applauded the original passage of the bill, calling it a “monumental day for the Texas trucking industry.”
“For too many years, the trucking industry has been a lucrative profit center for some trial attorneys—often times preying upon victims of accidents and guiding them to frivolous lawsuits, while also manipulating and misleading jurors on the facts of the case,” TXTA President and CEO and SMA Executive Director John Esparza said in a press release.
Those against the law said it will make it harded for those affected by crashes involving commercial motor vehicles to win damages from companies, and allow those companies to evade justice.