New Texas law may soon protect trucking companies but not their drivers

A proposed bill in Texas could soon protect trucking companies from the liability of traffic accidents, leaving the trucker solely responsible. 

The Texas trucking industry has pushed for a restructuring of the state’s accident liability laws, citing the state’s current laws as an “unsustainable lawsuit environment for trucking companies.”

“The commercial vehicle industry continues to be under attack,” said John Esparza, president of the Texas Trucking Association. “We’re seeing dramatic increases in large verdicts.”

If passed, the bill 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, reports KXAN News.

“What they’re doing is they’re taking the largest corporations and they’re trying to give them a free pass, a free break and they’re going to try to pass that along to the consumers,” said personal injury attorney Thomas J. Henry. 

The bill had its first hearing before the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence on Tuesday, March 9th, where the bill’s autor, state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, acknowledged that the current version of the bill has “fairly significant” shortcomings and agreed that changes would need to be made. 

Leach claims that the bill aims to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits, while ensuring that citizens can still seek damages through litigation.  

“If there’s any part of the bill that would hinder a Texans’ ability to seek those damages, then the bill won’t move,” Leach said. “I promise you that.”

“For me, it is a big deal,” said Bobby Jenkins, owner of ABC Home and Commercial Services who has a flett of 700 trucks. He says lawsuits have caused his liability insurance rates  by 20% and umbrella coverage to increase by 200-300%.

Leach says the goal is to move the bill out of committee sometime next week.