Some States Are Now Making It Harder To File Lawsuits Against Trucking Companies
Filing suit against fleet companies after a crash used to be complex yet easily handled by skilled attorneys. However, some states are making it increasingly harder for drivers to file lawsuits against trucking companies following crashes.
Trucking industry lobbyists in states like Iowa, Montana, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, and Florida have already been successful in passing new laws limiting truck crash victims’ rights to sue trucking companies after collisions. While the lobbyists’ efforts haven’t altogether limited a victim’s ability to file lawsuits yet, it has resulted in caps being applied to financial recovery amounts.
Continue reading, where we’ll hash out where these legislative efforts to limit trucking company litigation stand and discuss the implications this may have on you or someone close to you if they’re involved in a truck crash in California.
Why Are Lobbyists Seeking To Limit Motorists’ Litigation Options Following Truck Accidents?
Trucking industry representatives so far have focused the bulk of their attention on seven states as they look to limit drivers’ rights to sue and present certain evidence at trial, how cases are litigated, or their ability to recover compensation post-crash. The states on which the lobbyists have focused most of their attention include those with the highest numbers of fatal truck accidents, including Florida and Texas.
Industry advocates claim that their overreaching objective is to restore balance and fairness in the litigation process following truck crashes. They’ve further explained that they have the desire to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and costly payouts that have resulted in an uptick in litigation, and higher trucker insurance rates motivate them to limit plaintiffs’ rights to sue. Plus, they note that the uptick in insurance premiums means trucking companies aren’t able to offer competitive pay to experienced truckers and must hire inexperienced drivers instead, potentially adversely impacting safety.
Victims’ advocacy groups argue this lobbying merely justifies them not trying to reduce crash rates, as the newly imposed laws allow fleet companies to skirt responsibility when they occur.
Why Is Limiting Liability for Tractor-Trailer Collisions an Issue for Victims?
The most recent data compiled by the National Safety Council shows that between 2016 and 2021, there were over 5,700 people who lost their lives in crashes with large trucks. Many others involved in these crashes suffered a wide range of injuries, some of which were life-altering. A comparison of year-over-year data shows that truck accidents, fatal or otherwise, are steadily increasing every year.
Generally, a victim or their closest surviving family member would be entitled to file an insurance claim or wrongful death lawsuit to compensate for damages sustained. If the crash involved an interstate carrier, this could mean that a plaintiff could recover as little as $750,000, the federal mandatory insurance minimum one of these truckers can have, by taking legal action.
Trucker advocacy groups discount today’s reality, which is that receiving adequate medical care in this era is costly. They instead claim that the reason they’re seeking legislative reform in this area is because legal claims are based on inflated calculations of damages instead of realistic ones.
How the Passing of New Truck Litigation Laws Has Trickled Into the Courtroom
In Texas, which also happens to be the leading state for truck-related fatalities, plaintiffs now face the following obstacles when looking to file suit after a truck collision:
- Truckers must be deemed liable by a court before plaintiffs can sue trucking companies for their involvement in causing the crash
- Attorneys litigating truck crash cases in courtrooms generally aren’t allowed to bring in evidence of a trucking company’s past negligence, including the number of crashes it’s been involved in, but instead must stick to discussing negligent hiring practices, vehicle maintenance, and facts surrounding that specific accident during the initial phase of the trial
As for another state where trucking lobbyists have been busy, Iowa, their focus has been on getting caps applied to plaintiffs’ settlement awards where there are hard-to-quantify losses, such as the passing of a child due to someone’s negligence. In April 2023, Iowa legislators passed a law capping pain and suffering payouts for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents at $5 million. There are exceptions if the death resulted from gross negligence, though.
Last, another state where trucking industry lobbyists have been busy advocating for legislative reform, Florida, ranks third in the nation for fatal truck crashes. Recent legislation has been passed that:
- Limits plaintiffs to only being able to recover the actual amount paid toward medical bills versus how much was billed
- Reduces the statute of limitations in personal injury cases from four to two years
How Shifts in the Handling of Truck Accident Cases in Other States Impact You
State legislators will often look to other states and whether they’ve implemented certain laws and the impact it’s had on society when debating whether to vote for something similar in their own jurisdiction. Attorneys will often cite other states’ cases, and judges will review this information in rendering judgments as well.
What’s the point of mentioning all this? Once one state imposes certain laws or a judge renders a decision in a case, it sets a precedence that makes it easier for others to follow suit. So, even if lobbyists aren’t actively pushing for legislation to protect trucking companies’ interests right now, you better bet they’re waiting on the right time to pounce and do so. And once they do, unraveling what’s been done is an uphill battle, if it is possible at all.
Spoken truck accident attorneys like ours at Trucking Injury Law Group handle tractor-trailer crashes nationwide. We keep up with the ever-changing laws in these states and are prepared to work hard to identify the best possible option for recovering maximum compensation for you—even when options seem limited.
If you’ve suffered a loss in a truck accident, you need a strong advocate to go up against unscrupulous trucking companies and their insurers. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and fight for you, so schedule your free initial case evaluation with one of our attorneys today.