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SB 381 exempts volunteers from liability that may arise while driving a vehicle or equipment owned or leased by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TPWD is liable for damages as long as the volunteer is operating a vehicle within assigned duties given by TPWD, and he or she was not operating the vehicle in a negligent or reckless manner at the time of an accident. Additionally, TPWD's liability is limited under Section 101.023(a) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code: No more than $250,000 to each person, no more than $500,000 to each occurrence of bodily injury or death, and no more than $100,000 for property damage.
SB 381 protects the individual liberty of volunteers, who are operating TPWD vehicles or motor-driven equipment, by making the department liable for their actions. However, if a volunteer acts negligently or recklessly during the scope of their duties this legislation holds that person liable, not TPWD. It is important to remember that by limiting the liability of volunteers it makes it easier for the public to volunteer for the department. For these reasons, we support SB 381 since it holds a person accountable for their actions but still maintains their liberty by holding TPWD liable in accidents in which the volunteer was not negligent.