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New Texas Bill Seeks To Shield Truck Companies From Lawsuits

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A new bill being considered in Texas would make it nearly impossible for personal injury victims to file lawsuits against companies that employed negligent drivers. Instead, the claims would be the sole responsibility of the drivers themselves and leave individual victims with little means of recovery. The new bill would affect all commercial vehicles, including Uber and Lyft vehicles, as well as 18-wheelers, box trucks, and whatever else.

One of the reasons why Texas has become the battleground for such legislation relates to several nuclear verdicts against trucking companies within the state including one fender bender that turned into a $101M verdict for the plaintiff (which was later reduced to $32 by the presiding judge).

The question then becomes, are these verdicts truly “excessive” and if so, then how do you cap excessive verdicts without filing elements of the State and federal Constitution?

How would the new legislation work? 

In Texas, the legislation being proposed would essentially force plaintiffs to prove an individual driver was negligent, broke some law, or otherwise is responsible for the accident. After a jury rendered a decision on liability, a second phase of the trial would begin which would determine damages. Until the driver’s liability was established, the company he worked for would not be brought into the litigation. In other words, there would be two separate trials, one to determine liability and another to argue for damages.

One of the most touted features of the bill is that it would hide the defendant’s identity during trial. Proponents say that this will prevent jurors from punishing a company like Amazon with a higher damage award, but others say that smaller companies could end up getting hit with Amazon-like awards because the jurors don’t know who they’re punishing. However, since the company’s name is only introduced during the damages part of the trial, it may have no impact at all, or worse still, backfire on companies when the jurors learn which company negligently employed a driver who caused severe injury to someone else. 

What’s certain is that employees of trucking companies will like this even less than the general public. Problematically, it will be they who have to endure the stress of a trial while their company waits for a verdict. In some cases, insurers may defend the driver against the action to protect the company, their policyholder, but companies will not want to leave their drivers on their own to hire counsel when it’s their fate that hangs in the balance.

While elements of the legislation sound harsh and have created a stir in the State of Texas, there’s no reason to believe that separating the trial into two separate actions will influence the size of verdicts. All injury trials must establish negligence before damages are awarded. So it remains unclear what possible good it will do. The intent behind the bill is more concerning than the bill itself.

Talk to Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today 

If you’ve been injured in a Florida truck accident, call the Coral Gables tire defect attorneys at Halpern, Santos & Pinkert today to schedule a free consultation and begin the process of litigating your claim.

Sources:

texastribune.org/2021/05/18/texas-commercial-vehicle-crash-liability/

ttnews.com/articles/how-texas-fender-bender-truck-accident-turned-32-million-nuclear-jury-verdict

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