Legal watchdog fears proposed insurance bill would create windfall for plaintiff's lawyers

David Yates Mar. 25, 2010, 10:27am

Hoping to prevent trial lawyers from enriching themselves on the backs of hard-working Texans, a legal watchdog group has petitioned a Texas House committee to recognize a new bill "as nothing more than a windfall for plaintiff's lawyers."

According to a March 25 press release, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse urged the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence to recognize the "paid vs. incurred" proposal, which is part of House Bill 3281, as nothing more than a "personal injury lawyer windfall that will increase costs for all Texans."

The Committee is considering the issue as part of its interim charges.

Under Texas Civil Law, Section 41.0105, plaintiffs are entitled to recover only medical expenses actually paid or incurred. The measure was implemented as part of Texas' 2003 tort reform effort.

"During the 80th Legislature, personal injury lawyers pushed a proposal that would allow them to recover damages for expenses that never happened," said Bob Parker, chairman of the oard of directors of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "The bill had no logical or legal justification. It was and is a sham and a shame."

Gov. Rick Perry has already vetoed a similar measure that reached his desk in 2007.

"Gov. Perry was wise to veto this misguided measure in 2007," said Houston CALA spokesperson Michelle Martin. "We hope to show others as well that this proposal is not about protecting consumers, it's about creating a financial windfall for a handful of aggressive personal injury lawyers."

Critics argue proposals like those included in H.B. 3281 could drive up the cost of insurance, allowing trial lawyers to sue for amounts that exceed the actual costs incurred.

"Allowing personal injury lawyers to sue for costs that were never incurred by their client doesn't help consumers and it doesn't help injured Texans – it simply enriches their legal counsel," said Diane Davis, spokesperson for East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. "Texas consumers would bear the brunt of this sham via increased insurance premiums."

Stephanie Gibson with CALA of Central Texas noted that the only Texans testifying in support of this measure during the 80th Legislature were the very personal injury lawyers who stood to gain financially from its passage.

Supporters of the measure tried to pass the bill again in 2009 but it never came before the full House or the Senate for a vote.

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