AUSTIN - Storm chasing is the new ambulance chasing, according to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, an advocacy group that recently announced its 2017 legislative proposal aimed at ending hailstorm litigation abuse.
“Hail litigation is the worst lawsuit abuse in Texas today,” TLR states on its website. “TLR will work with the Texas Legislature to put an end to this lawyer-driven abuse while protecting the right of every Texas consumer to sue his or her insurance company if it does not settle a legitimate claim fairly and timely.”
In November, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced hailstorm lawsuit reform was one of his top priorities this legislative session. The Texas Legislature has already heard testimony on the issue.
“[C]ertain lawyers partner with unethical roofers or public adjusters to recruit homeowners and other property owners to file unnecessary lawsuits after a hailstorm—all for the lawyers’ financial gain,” the site states.
“This exploitation of our court system has real consequences for Texans. Every lawsuit abuse produces a ‘tort tax’ that is ultimately paid by consumers. In this case, all Texans who purchase property and casualty insurance will ultimately see their insurance costs increase through higher deductibles or premiums, or they may even see reduced or lost coverage.”
TLR argues thousands of Texans in the Rio Grande Valley have already lost their insurance coverage as their carriers have withdrawn from the market.
The proposal contains several elements, which include:
- Maintain the Insurance Code’s strict liability provision;
- Require the plaintiff ’s attorney to file a pre-suit notice that includes a realistic demand for the amount needed to repair or replace the damaged property and a statement of the attorney fees incurred to that time;
- Allow the insurance company to irrevocably assume the liability of any individual named as a defendant in the lawsuit, thus allowing the individual to be dismissed from the lawsuit;
- Change the current 18 percent penalty interest rate to a market-based rate, floating between 8 and 18 percent;
- Maintain the one-way grant of attorney fees for the property owner who needs legal representation, but at the same time, discourage the abuse of the one-way fee provision by plaintiff lawyers;
- Recognize that individuals acting on behalf of lawyers gather many of the thousands of abusive weather-related lawsuits through solicitation of clients; and
- Break the irrational link between the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Unfair Claim Settlement Practices Act in the Texas Insurance Code by requiring the plaintiff ’s lawyer to sue under either the DTPA or the Insurance Code, but not both.