Supporters say jurors are too kind to truck accident victims
A recently passed bill that makes life harder on truck accident victims in Texas will go into effect on September 1, 2021.
House Bill 19, which was approved on June 16, makes it more difficult for people seriously injured in crashes with big rigs, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and other commercial vehicles to find out the trucker's employer. That means it might take longer for a victim to file a claim against a trucking company in the aftermath of a serious crash.
Is Texas HB 19 based on a myth?
Industry groups, lobbyists, and other people who support HB 19 say it will reduce "lawsuit abuse" against transportation and delivery companies.
Jurors, they say, are too kind to accident victims hit by big trucks that are owned or operated by large corporations. Supporters say when a jury knows a big company is behind an accident, they are more likely to award more money to the victim. The reality is victims of trucking accidents often suffer severe, life-altering injuries, and their losses are almost always substantial.
While those who support HB 19 claim lawsuits against trucking companies hurt the industry and increase the cost of doing business, holding negligent truck drivers and carriers financially accountable for their actions can also help force positive change in the industry.
"Lawsuit abuse" against trucking and transportation companies is a myth. The numbers just don't add up. To justify the change, bill supporters point to how the number of Texas "motor vehicle lawsuits" has grown since 2008. This is not a meaningful factoid for this debate.
When you count motor vehicle lawsuits, you're counting claims filed against cars, SUVs, motorcycles, electric scooters, and a bunch of other powered vehicles — as well as trucks. This begs the question: Why would someone hide the real number of lawsuits against commercial trucks and vehicles underneath a lot of other data?
Bill supporters allege there are more lawsuits being filed against the trucking and transportation industry, but the number of Texas traffic accidents that involve a large truck or bus has increased by about 50% since 2008.
How these changes might impact you
As the bill goes into effect in a few months, it's important to take a look at how it changes accident victims' rights:
- Lawsuits filed over truck accidents will be split into two parts — one for the driver and one for the company.
- The truck driver in an accident will have to be found liable before a case can be brought against his or her employer.
- The jury will not learn who employed the driver unless the trucker was found liable.
While the bill essentially makes it more difficult for accident victims to seek justice, it does not completely let corporations off the hook. An employer's identity will not be protected in a case involving extreme negligence.
People have different ideas on the impact the bill will have now that it has been approved. Although it is intended to protect corporations from paying substantial awards to injured victims, the plan could backfire. Some critics note that if a trucker is found liable first, it will likely be more difficult for his or her employer to deflect responsibility later.
The bill could also have consequences on everyday road safety. If big transportation and trucking companies are not held accountable, many may cut corners to increase profits. That's a problem, as Texas already has some of the most deadly roadways in the U.S.
Truck accident victims should seek legal help right away
If you were injured or a loved one died in a wreck with an 18-wheeler in Texas, a truck accident lawyer can protect your legal rights and help you seek full compensation for your losses.
Any case involving a large commercial truck is difficult to navigate on your own because there are multiple parties that may be held liable for your damages. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, some or all of the responsibility may fall on the trucker, the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, the owner of the cargo, the truck manufacturer, a vendor that provides a service to the carrier, and others who may have contributed to your crash.
As your attorney we can determine all liable parties, calculate the total cost of all your damages, and fight for every dollar you're entitled to under Texas law. We also take truck accident cases on contingency. That means there are no upfront costs to retain our services, and you pay nothing unless we make a financial recovery in your case. To find out how we can help you, contact Coby L. Wooten, Attorney At Law in Fort Worth today.