House Bill aims to prevent uninsured drivers from suing for exemplary damages

By David Yates | Mar 11, 2015

Uninsured motorists driving around in the Lone Star state soon might be unable to sue for non-economic damages, including exemplary damages, even if they’re blameless in an automobile collision.

State Rep. Ed Thompson, a Republican insurance salesman from Pearland, has introduced House Bill 820, which states “a person may not obtain non-economic damages or exemplary damages in a civil action for bodily injury, death, or damage to or destruction of property arising out of a motor vehicle accident if the person was” driving without insurance.

As of March 3, the bill was pending in committee. But there had been a lively hearing that day.

During the hearing, Ware Wendell, deputy director for TexasWatch, testified that his group was opposed to the bill and that there are better ways for “attacking the uninsured motorists problem.”

Wendell is an Austin trial attorney. TexasWatch touts itself as "a non-partisan citizen advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that corporations and insurance companies are accountable to their customers."

“We don’t favor this particular approach. The reason why … is it would really hurt families,” Wendell said. “So let’s think about a mom – a stay at home mother in a minivan, who’s T-boned by an 18-wheeler, and she accidently let her insurance lapse a month ago.

"She’s now paralyzed … racked by pain day in, day out. She doesn’t have economic damages. She doesn’t have wages. Her pain is the value of her claim.”

Wendell said one in five Texas drivers are uninsured, calling it a “big problem” for the state.

As written, Thompson's bill would not prohibit recovery for non-economic damages for the uninsured if the offending party:

* Was driving while intoxicated;

* Caused injury through gross neglect;

* Fled from the scene of the incident; or

* Was acting in furtherance of the commission of a felony.

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