The 2017 Texas Legislature is well underway with over 8,000 bills introduced for consideration. The hot topics are the bathroom bill, immigration enforcement, equal parenting, medical cannabis, educational savings accounts, abortion, handguns, and parole of certain inmates. Sounds like a typical Texas Legislative session! There are two insurance related bills I want to address in this post – texting while driving and restrictions on lawsuits against insurance companies.
Texting and Driving: SB31, introduced by state Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, seeks to make texting while driving illegal statewide. There are several communities within our state which have passed local laws banning texting while driving, but this has never made it to state-wide law. Former Governor Rick Perry, felt it would be an infringement on individual rights a few sessions ago so it withered on the vine.
This is the fifth consecutive session Zaffirini has introduced this legislation so I’m hoping Governor Abbott supports it. The bill passed the committee vote 6 – 3 and now heads to the full Senate to vote on. Distracted driving is the cause of more accidents than even drunk driving, and I don’t see how requiring people drive sober is any more of an infringement on individual liberties than requiring them to drive in an attentive manner. I believe passage of such a law will help reduce the number of accidents and accident related deaths in Texas and possibly even lower car insurance rates.
Insurance Company Lawsuits: SB10 which aims to limit the number of lawsuits filed against property insurance companies after severe weather events (hail). The original bill was amended and presented to the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee by its chair, Senator Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills.
Hancock, and the bill’s supporters, claim lawsuits have caused insurance companies to decrease and even decline coverage in the counties where they are most prevalent. Insurance companies support the bill claiming they’ve been forced to raise home insurance rates due to these lawsuits and 7 companies have limited or stopped writing policies in Texas.
Opponents of the bill are concerned this places too much power in the hands of the insurance companies and limits policyholders access to the judicial system and the opportunity of holding insurers accountable. In addition to consumer groups, many business groups and law firms are concerned such a law will keep them from obtaining a fair property claim.
I’m not a big fan of frivolous lawsuits as they do drive the cost of home insurance up in Texas. Neither am I a fan of limiting an individual’s access to having their day in court when an insurance company mishandles a claim (Google Hurricane Katrina related lawsuits against insurance companies and you’ll see what I mean.). I believe this bill is well intentioned but misses the mark and needs even great refinement than what Senator Hancock has done.
What do you think? Share your comments, questions, and suggestions for future insurance related legislation to me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!