Overwhelmed by thousands of lingering hailstorm lawsuits, Hidalgo County recently earned the title of “Judicial Hellhole,” bestowed by the American Tort Reform Association.
Aspiring lawmaker Abraham Padron, a small business owner who immigrated to the Rio Grande Valley when he was just a child, says that while he’s not a “one trick pony,” one of the issues he’ll push for is hailstorm lawsuit abuse reform if elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
“There are so many issues motivating me to run,” said Padron, candidate for District 36. “There’s so much that needs to be done for our community. I’m not talking only about insurance – there are many other issues, health care, border security, education, infrastructure.”
Hidalgo County became a hot spot for insurance litigation after two hailstorms swept through the area three years ago. Trial lawyers set up shop and begin advertising heavily for clients.
Soon after, allegations of barratry and corruption began to surface. It’s estimated that around 40 percent of the policy claims made after the hailstorms morphed into lawsuits – approximately 10,000 lawsuits targeting insurers.
An insurance professional for the past 18 years, Padron, who, to no avail, advocated for hailstorm lawsuit abuse reform during the last legislative session, still believes there’s a need for meaningful reform that will benefit both insureds and insurers.
“At no time do I want to take rights away from insureds, they have a right to justice, but there needs to be balance,” Padron said. “We still have 6,000 lawsuits pending at a local courthouse, and we still have people whose homes have not been repaired from three years ago because they have a lawsuit pending.
“There needs to be reform, but not at the expense of insureds losing the remedy to sue if insurers drop the ball.”
One of the areas that needs to be addressed is the claims process, says Padron, contending adjusters and contractors, working on behalf of trial lawyers, prompt insureds to sue before the process is complete.
“Corruption is not acceptable in any industry,” Padron said. “The numbers don’t make sense. Companies need to be held accountable, but they are not even being given an opportunity. We have a process; the process is not being given a chance.”
Padron will face fellow Democrat and current incumbent Sergio Munoz Jr., a trial lawyer, in the March 1 primary.
If elected, Padron says he’ll also focus on infrastructure and education.
“Our area is definitely growing; infrastructure needs to be addressed down here,” Padron said. “We want the economy to grow.”
Padron graduated from The University of Texas – Pan American (now UT-Rio Grande Valley).
In 1997, he accepted a position as a “scratch” captive Allstate agent. Within five years, his agency was the third largest Allstate agency in the country out of 18,000 agents.
In 2004, Padron sold the Allstate business and is now the president of SafeGuard Insurance Agency, an independent agency with 11 office locations spanning from Brownsville to Laredo.
District 36 includes parts or all of the Hidalgo County cities of Hidalgo, Granjeno, McAllen, Mission, Palmview, and Pharr.