Texas 18-Wheeler Accidents: Proposed Law Could Allow Trucking Company to Escape Crash Liability
A bill recently proposed in the Texas state legislature would make it far more difficult for victims to sue a trucking company for damages after an accident involving a heavy truck or 18-wheeler.
H.B. 19 Would Shift Accident Liability to Truck Drivers
Right now, trucking companies are liable when an accident results from the actions of their employee. But if Texas House Bill 19 becomes law, Texas truck and 18-wheeler accident victims would need to prove “grossly negligent” behavior to sue a trucking company whose employee caused injury or death. Otherwise, financial responsibility for their injuries and losses would shift entirely to the truck driver.
H.B. 19 also makes evidence of a defendant’s failure to comply with standards and regulations inadmissible in court unless that failure is directly related to the crash. Additionally, previous records of failure to comply with regulations not related to the incident are also inadmissible. Truck accident lawyers seeking proof of such failures would need to submit a court order that cannot explore more than two years of history.
Those provisions would make it much more difficult for truck and 18-wheeler accident victims to establish a chain of general negligence that might convince a jury the trucking company had a dangerous history of non-compliance with safety regulations. It could also make Texas roads more dangerous by giving companies less incentive to comply with trucking rules.
H.B. 19 Sponsor Has Trucking Industry Ties
Interestingly enough, H.B. 19 is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, chair of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. While Leach maintains that the bill would “ensure a level playing field” for plaintiffs and defendants and “restore fairness,” critics note that he is a member of a law firm that defends trucking companies against accident and injury claims.
Since 2014, Leach’s various political campaigns have also received $1,069,431 in donations from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, a powerful lobbying firm H.B. 19 that advocates for reforms that would generally benefit large, deep-pocketed corporations. More than $1 million of the funding Leach received from the PAC came in 2020 alone.
Texas already leads the nation in truck and 18-wheeler accident deaths. According to the state Department of Transportation, more than 39,000 commercial vehicle crashes occurred in Texas in 2019, resulting in 613 deaths and 6,204 injuries.
H.B. 19 was scheduled to come up for a vote next Wednesday, but public pushback has delayed those plans. Texas residents still have time to stop this legislation and should contact their state representatives to voice their opinions.
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