Regular motorists are now speaking out against a proposed bill that would protect trucking and insurance companies from the liability of trucking accidents in Texas.
If passed, House Bill 19 would require the plaintiff to prove that the trucking company was “grossly negligent” in order to pursue a lawsuit. Otherwise, only the truck driver involved in the accident would be liable for damages. Critics of the bill claim that this change in law would create a sort of free pass for trucking companies.
Because of this, motorists that have been previously involved in semi truck accidents and benefited from large settlements after suing trucking companies are standing with truck drivers to oppose the bill that “helps the insurance companies and it helps the trucking companies, but it doesn’t help us.”
Harold Bonin is one of these citizens. On June 4th, 2017, Bonin’s son, William, was involved in a serious accident with a semi truck that ran a red light and left him paralyzed from the waist down. The family was able to sue the large trucking company that employed the driver and won a multimillion dollar settlement to help cover William’s now lifelong medical expenses, so they know first hand the importance of holding trucking and insurance companies accountable.
In fact, it was later discovered that the truck driver involved in the accident already had 17 driving violations at the time of the life-altering incident, but their company had allowed them to continue driving anyway. Because of this experience, Harold Bonin has stood before a Texas House Committee and delivered an “emotional plea,” explaining why he is opposed to the bill, and why they should be too.
”I don’t see how this helps your constituents and citizens in Texas. It helps the insurance companies and it helps the trucking companies, but it doesn’t help us,” he said.
“We have a clear and present danger on our roads caused by these large trucking companies not taking safety seriously,” agreed Ware Wendell, the executive director for Texas Watch, an organization dedicated to advocating for citizens, particularly regarding issues of public safety.
”This bill is going to make it harder to bring a case against a trucking company when they injure or kill a family member. It’s going to take the focus away from corporate wrongdoing,” Wendell continued.
Despite this opposition, State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, who is sponsoring the bill, says that the new legislation is intended to reduce the uptick in “astronomical” lawsuits that are driving up insurance rates across the state and running small trucking companies out of business, Leach claims. Leach also assures that the bill would still allow for trucking companies with a “historically bad record” to be held accountable.
“Despite the attempts of some special interest to intentionally misinform and mislead the public, the bill strongly safeguards the rights of all injured Texans to be compensated for the full array of damages,” Leach said to ABC 8.
“This is really a lawyer-driven problem that’s causing these lawsuits to increase at an astronomical pace, which is also affecting insurance rates, you know, just a higher risk for liability in Texas, because any accident no matter the severity — even a small fender-bender — can result in huge huge lawsuits,” said Lucy Nashed of Texas for Lawsuit Reform, who is in support of the bill.
The bill has already passed through the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and is set for debate in the Texas House.