Motor vehicle accidents have serious consequences and are too often deadly. Truck accidents are particularly dangerous, especially when big trucks collide with smaller cars. Negligence in these accidents may be attributed to the driver or the trucking company, but new legislation in Texas might make it harder for victims to sue the companies responsible.
Truck Accidents and Negligence
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), thousands of trucks are involved in accidents every year. The FMCSA is responsible for setting safety guidelines for the trucking industry. The owners of companies, managers and supervisors, dispatchers, and the drivers themselves are responsible for following the rules to reduce the incidence of accidents.
Drivers, and the companies employing them, may be held liable for damages suffered by drivers and passengers in other vehicles after an accident. Negligent behaviors include factors like driver fatigue, mechanical failures, worn-out tires, poor vehicle maintenance, and driver error.
While drivers may be negligent, more often, the blame is on the trucking company. It is the company that is responsible for maintaining vehicles and ensuring they operate safely, training drivers, and adhering to safety rules such as maximum shift lengths.
The Texas Legislation Supports Trucking Companies
Texas House Bill 19 is making its way through the Texas Legislature and tackles the issue of negligence in truck accidents. The impetus for the bills is what some lawmakers call an unsustainable and unfair environment for trucking companies. They want to level the playing field for plaintiffs and defendants in truck accident personal injury cases.
The Texas Trucking Association reports increasingly large settlement and verdict amounts that are hurting the commercial trucking industry. They want to see less liability for the companies to reduce these costs and frivolous lawsuits.
The bill would redirect liability in accidents from the trucking company to the driver. It would make suing a trucking company and finding them negligent and liable much more difficult, although not necessarily impossible.
Critics Argue for Victims’ Rights
Critics of HB 19 say that it is too lenient on trucking companies and too limiting for victims. They say it will make it too difficult for victims of accidents, and their families, to exercise their rights to recover damages.
The bill may also be problematic because it could raise the prices of vehicles and insurance for Texas residents and drivers. Critics also argue that the bill does nothing to actually reduce the incidence of trucking accidents, which are high in Texas compared to other states.
The critics of the bill do not include most truck drivers. Experienced drivers worry about frivolous and abusive accident lawsuits. Some even report behavior by other drivers that seem to indicate they are trying to stage an accident in the hopes of getting a settlement or verdict award.
HB 19 has not yet passed, but it has good support in the legislature. Opponents, activists, and people who lost loved ones in accidents have been protesting the bill and participating in public comment periods. Whether it will pass into law remains to be seen, but if it does, it will likely see some changes.