On June 17, 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 19 into law, making it more difficult for injured victims in truck accidents to recover damages from trucking companies. The bill passed in the House in April, while the Senate passed the bill in May.
According to HB 19, victims must first prove in court that the driver was liable before filing a lawsuit against their employer. Then, in the second phase, victims need to also show that the company was grossly negligent with its policies or training to directly seek damages. Furthermore, if an injury or death was caused while the trucker was performing his/her duties “within the scope of employment,” the court must dismiss the case.
Lawmakers who support the bill claim it would shield carriers from “unjust and excessive lawsuits,” stating that lawsuits from accident claims have increased by 118 percent in the past decade, while there was a decrease or slight increase in crashes involving serious injury or death. The trucking industry has also backed the new law, claiming the surge in frivolous lawsuits has created an unsustainable business model.
On the other hand, opponents of the bill—including many personal injury attorneys—argue that trucking companies now have a free pass from liability and the roads are now more dangerous for all drivers. Some of the most dangerous roads in the country are in Texas due to high-speed limits and significant amounts of traffic.
Although the legislation aims to protect companies from costly verdicts by first hiding their identity, the jury could potentially increase liability and financial compensation in the second phase of the trial. For instance, if a jury discovers that a truck driver involved in a collision worked for a large company like Amazon, then punitive damages would likely be higher since corporations have a significant number of resources and the power to foster a safer environment compared to smaller businesses.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in Dallas or Houston, contact Mathias Raphael PLLC Accident & Injury Lawyers today at (214) 739-0100 for a free case review. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients throughout Texas!