Back on September 1 of this year, brand new legislation that regulates plaintiff cases involving commercial vehicles officially went into effect.
There are those who claim that the new law could permit companies to essentially be let off the hook for personal injury damages in terms of civil vehicle crash cases. On the other hand, those who support HB 19 claim that the bill prevents excessive amounts of lawsuits against companies; however, advocates of public safety have warned that the bill could potentially end up making roadways throughout Texas much more dangerous, as well as passing the costs of personal injury claims onto consumers.
Back in 2019, approximately 40,000 crashes involving commercial vehicles occurred in the state of Texas. That same year, a total of 613 people died in commercial vehicle accidents throughout the state.
On June 16 of this year, HB 19 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, and it officially requires plaintiffs who face serious injury to prove “gross negligence” on the part of the company who either owns or had hired the commercial vehicle driver. This could potentially result in injured victims of severe crashes being robbed from their day in court.
This also means that crash victims can possibly be prohibited from filing a lawsuit or claim against the company that’s at fault. Gross negligence is considered to be a more severe type of recklessness as opposed to actual negligence and serves to provide trucking companies a free pass for reckless company behavior.
HB 19 also passes liability from the corporation or company that employs drivers directly to the drivers themselves. Essentially, if the plaintiff and their attorney are unable to demonstrate “gross negligence” on the part of the actual trucking company, then the driver will be the sole party who will assume liability.
Here are a few facts regarding the legislation:
It was written by State Representative Jeff Leach, who claimed that it would protect commercial vehicle operators from “unjust and excessive lawsuits.”
The Senate passed the bill with an amendment on May 20, 2021.
*The bill is similar to Senate Bill 17, which was filed in the Texas Senate on March 11, 2021, but was unable to advance out of the Transportation committee.
Those individuals and groups who have spoken out against the law have represented the financial interests of the trucking industry itself, who claim that the bill would prevent lawsuits that are frivolous.
Consumer advocates, however, along with personal injury attorneys and traffic safety advocates have vocally opposed the changes that have been made to the bill. One nonpartisan news publication wrote, “The only ones who benefit – and benefit big – are trucking companies and maybe lawmakers when campaign donation season rolls around.”
The newer requirements would limit an injured individual’s ability to sue the company who is at fault by coming up with a two-step legislative process, and would also protect larger companies and corporations from accountability.