Update 6/16/21: Governor Abbott has signed HB 19 into law. The bill will go into effect on September 1st, 2021.
A proposed law in Texas, House Bill 19, will make it harder for truck accident victims to sue trucking companies for negligence following a collision.
Texas had more truck accident deaths than any other state in 2019. And yet both the House and the Senate recently passed HB 19, which threatens to undermine the rights of victims following their trucking accidents. Next, the bill goes back to the House, which must approve it before the governor can sign it.
What Is HB 19?
Under HB 19, trucking companies could only be held liable in accidents where it can be proven that the trucking company committed gross negligence (or extreme negligence) in their driver training and policies. This means that in most cases, the injury would only be able to sue the truck driver who was involved in the crash.
This means that instead of suing the trucking business after a truck accident involving one of their vehicles, more victims would be limited to suing just the truck driver.
It also means that there is a higher standard of proof that a plaintiff must meet if they wish to hold the trucking company accountable. That’s because, under the proposed law, evidence of a trucking company’s negligent hiring, training, or supervising practices could only be presented in the second phase of a trial after the truck driver is found negligent. Additionally, gross negligence requires a unanimous vote by the jury in Texas while the lower threshold requires a 10-out-of-12 vote.
Unfortunately, because individual truck drivers have nowhere near the level of resources that trucking companies have, HB 19 could make it difficult for truck accident victims to obtain the right level of compensation for their life-altering injuries or the death of a loved one.
Those in support of the bill argue that it is necessary to combat the rising number of lawsuits against motor vehicle carriers, which are said to be increasing insurance rates for trucking companies and hurting the industry. (Supporters of HB 19 include the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition and hundreds of Texas businesses.)
However, some insurance industry analysts are skeptical of these claims, saying that the rising rates could be due to the natural business cycle of the insurance market, especially since all types of industries are experiencing increases in insurance rates premiums right now.
The question we need to ask is this:
Where do we draw the line between allowing trucking companies to protect their own business interests and making them take accountability for accidents caused by their fleets?
Why should these companies be able to pass all the blame onto their drivers when the causes of truck accidents tend to be much more complex than just driver error?
HB 19 will reduce insurance premiums for trucking companies while leaving accident victims without a road to recovery.
About Trucking Accidents and the Trucking Industry in Texas
With trucking serving as a major industry within the Texas economy, it’s no wonder that truck accidents are so prevalent and growing in this state.
Not only does Texas lead the nation in truck accident fatalities, but there has also been a significant increase in the number of truck accidents in recent years. As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), trucking accidents increased by 27% in Texas between 2016 and 2019.
To help you better understand the significance of the trucking industry in Texas, here are a few facts to consider:
- Texas has over 66,000 trucking companies and 185,000 employed truck drivers.
- 73% of all products manufactured in Texas are distributed by truck.
- As one of only four Mexico, with 85% of all trade between the U.S. and Mexico being carried by trucks.
- Because of Texas’ central location in the U.S., truck drivers can reach any other part of the continental U.S. within just 48 hours.
- Over 1.2 billion tons or $1.6 trillion of goods are carried by trucks on Texas highways each year, making up nearly half of all freight moved in the state.
- Texas’ major deep-water ports route a huge amount of foreign trade into the U.S., with the Port of Houston acting as the largest container port on the Gulf Coast.
- Texas is second only to California in both population and total miles traveled by vehicles every year, with trucks representing 12% of that traffic.
- Texas has the most extensive highway and interstate infrastructure in the country, with over 300,000 miles of public roadways in the state.
It’s safe to say with these figures that trucking in Texas is here to stay. With such an active trucking industry, it’s critical to protect other motorists and pedestrians who share the road.
Unfortunately, the new HB 19 bill does the opposite — limiting truck company liability and putting the lives of Texans at even greater risk when it comes to trucking accidents.
How HB 19 Limits Liability for Trucking Companies
Hundreds of families in Texas experience tragedy in trucking accidents every year. Because commercial trucks are larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road, truck crashes often cause catastrophic injuries or death to other motorists and pedestrians.
Personal injury cases filed for tractor-trailer accidents can result in thousands or even millions of dollars in compensation for victims for the harm that they suffered.
Holding Trucking Companies Responsible
The trucking industry must abide by both state and federal laws when it comes to operating commercial vehicle fleets on the roads. Truck driver fatigue is a major problem that can often lead to serious accidents. The government’s safety regulations include rules and limits on the amount of cargo that trucks can carry, as well as the total length of time that truck drivers can work each day or week.
Highway safety laws for the industry are constantly at odds with the profits of trucking companies — the more hours a driver can work, the faster deliveries can be completed, the better profit the company can make. As a result, many trucking operators break the rules or fail to properly enforce these policies, which can lead to tragic accidents.
Lawsuits hold trucking companies responsible when they fail to operate in a way that takes the safety of others into consideration. The threat of having to pay a huge settlement to an accident victim helps keep trucking companies in line. By limiting the ability of accident victims to sue trucking companies, the law lowers the incentive for companies to prioritize safety over profits.
How Personal Injury Lawsuits Protect Victims
Personal injury lawsuits are an extremely important legal tool. They are a way for accident victims to hold trucking companies responsible for the damage that they cause. Lawsuits also help cover the cost of medical treatment, any income lost because of the accident, and other damages such as the cost of vehicle repair or replacement. The organization Public Citizen Texas argues that passing HB 19 “limits corporate liability and throws roadblocks into the recovery process for grieving families.”
What does this new law mean for you and your family if you were injured in a truck crash? What options do you have if a loved one was killed by a commercial truck or big rig?
HB 19 is NOT the Solution
The truck accident lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm strongly oppose HB 19.
If passed, the new law will let trucking companies in Texas off the hook for accidents involving their trucks. This dangerous bill makes it even harder for injury victims to recover the compensation they need to treat their injuries and move forward in life.
Furthermore, while this bill is being proposed specifically for the state of Texas, if passed into law, it could become a trend that spreads to other states, putting victims at risk on a much larger scale.
We implore you to stay informed about this issue and write to your legislators (if you live in Texas) to share any concerns you have about HB 19.
And if you were hurt in a truck accident or you lost a loved one in this type of crash, make sure to take immediate action to consult with an experienced lawyer. Our award-winning truck accident attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm can help you seek maximum compensation for you.
we take trucking accident cases on a contingency-fee basis, which means you don’t pay any legal fees unless you win your case. Call us at (855) 987-6949 for free consultation or fill out our online contact form.