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Texas law may limit damages victims receive from trucking firms

A new Texas law that went into effect in September may make it more difficult for accident victims to win legal damages against companies that own and operate commercial vehicles. The list includes large trucks, delivery vehicles and ridesharing vehicles.

The trucking industry and most Texas lawmakers lauded the move, contending the law will minimize the number of frivolous and excessive lawsuits. However, safety advocates beg to differ. Some contend that the law shifts the accident responsibility from firms such as commercial trucking companies to the drivers of those vehicles. In addition, they contend Texas roads will become more dangerous.

Driver must be liable before case proceeds against firm

Will this new law make it more difficult for victims of large truck accidents win damages in lawsuits? Perhaps. The law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, declares that when commercial vehicle owners are sued after a collision, the vehicle driver must be proven liable before a legal case is brought against the driver’s employer.

As a result, juries will not learn the name of the driver’s employer – essentially hiding their identities — unless the trials proceed to the next legal stage when damages are assessed. The law, thus, could affect the amount of damages awarded to plaintiffs.

Texas is no stranger to large trucking accidents that lead to serious, catastrophic and fatal injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2019, Texas led the country in having the highest number of fatalities in large truck collisions. The state recorded 658 such deaths that year, far outnumbering the next highest state of California, which recorded 385 fatalities.

While the new law may shield companies from expensive verdicts, it could lead to unexpected consequences for those very companies. With all the attention focused on these companies during the second phase of the trial, liability and damage awards could potentially increase.