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Relating to civil liability of a commercial motor vehicle owner or operator, including the effect that changes to that liability have on commercial automobile insurance.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 19 would create specific rules and requirements for civil actions against the operator of a commercial motor vehicle. Commercial motor vehicle would be defined as any motor vehicle being used to transport property or passengers, deliver or transport goods, or provide services. If enacted, such civil actions would have to be conducted through a bifurcated trial, in which the first trier of fact would determine liability for and the amount of compensatory damages owed and the second trier of fact would determine liability for and the amount of punitive damages owed. An employer would be able to be held liable for any damages if the person operating the motor vehicle was an employee acting within the scope of their employment.
If enacted, HB 19 would prohibit a court from requiring expert testimony for admitting a photograph or video into evidence except when necessary to authenticate it. Properly authenticated photographs and videos would be presumed admissible as evidence. Evidence of a defendant's failure to comply with a government regulation would only be admissible in the first phase of the trial if it tends to prove that the failure to comply was a proximate cause of the injury or death and the regulation or standard is specific and governs the defendant or their equipment.
HB 19 was amended on the floor of the House and substituted in a Senate committee. The only major change in the committee substitute would require the Department of Insurance to conduct a biennial study on the bill's effect on commercial automobile insurance. Neither this nor the minor changes adopted to HB 19 change our vote recommendation.
Texas Action supports HB 19 because it would advance individual liberty and limited government. Creating specific rules for commercial motor vehicle accident claims would limit the amount of frivolous suits filed and the unnecessary insurance coverage needed to be purchased by companies. HB 19's requirement that a defendant can only be held liable for failing to comply with a regulation that is a proximate cause of the injury would also prevent damages being imposed upon a defendant for conduct unrelated to an accident.