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AUSTIN, Texas — The 2019 Texas Legislature has the opportunity to make insurance companies pay on uninsured/underinsured motorist policy benefits. House Bill 1739 received bipartisan support in the Texas House Insurance Committee when it was voted out of committee on April 2. However, the non-partisan citizen advocacy group, Texas Watch, is warning that the bill may not make it to the House floor due to insurance industry lobbyists.
HB 1739, introduced by Representative Charlie Geren, aims to restore the rights of Texans and force insurance companies to pay uninsured/underinsured motorist policy benefits without having to file a lawsuit against their insurance company.
Rep. Geren introduced HB 1739 to make UM/UIM benefits due “once liability and damages have become reasonably clear.” In 2006, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in Brainard V. Trinity Universal Insurance that insurers have no contractual duty to pay benefits on a UM/UIM claim until the insured obtains a judgment. This ruling forces car crash victims to hire an attorney and go through a years-long process to sue their insurance company. To add insult to injury, under the current law, these victims aren’t entitled to reimbursement on attorneys fees and other fees associated with their claims.
“Over the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve had thousands of clients come into our office after receiving UM/UIM denials from their insurance companies,” said Carlson Law Firm Partner Michael Erskine. “It’s an injustice to all Texans to have to file a lawsuit against your own insurance company for something that you already pay for.”
For many Texans, it may come as a surprise to learn that they aren’t immediately entitled to their UM/UIM policy benefits. However, it is no secret that suing insurance companies can take several years. As a result, those injured in car crashes face mounting medical debt from necessary treatments or end up living with lifelong injuries because they were unable to get proper medical care after insurance denials.
On the other hand, the idea of filing a lawsuit can discourage some Texans from moving forward with a costly and time-consuming lawsuit against their insurance provider.
According to Erskine, HB 1739 addresses this injustice.
“We all pay insurance companies to cover us, our loved ones and friends riding in our vehicles when someone with no insurance or limited insurance runs into our vehicle and injures us,” Erskine said. “Insurance companies should be required to hold up their end of the bargain without an unnecessary lawsuit.”
In an email, Texas Watch urged its supporters to sign a petition that it will present to the House Calendars Committee to hopefully persuade them to set this legislation for a full vote on the House Floor.
“Unfortunately, insurance industry dollars are a major influence on our state’s elected officials,” Erskine said. “But there is power in numbers. Everyone who pays an insurance company should want their rights restored and show support of this bill.”
The bill stalled in calendars on April 11. However, HB 1739 supporters are hoping Calendars will schedule a vote before the last day of the 86th Legislature on May 28.
For interviews or comments about HB 1739 with Michael Erskine, contact Kazia Conway.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2019
Media Contact: Kazia Conway
The Carlson Law Firm is a Texas-based national law firm committed to providing exceptional legal services in the areas of personal injury, car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, class actions, bankruptcy, family law, criminal defense, military criminal defense, nursing home abuse, and consumer protection. The Carlson Law Firm has been successfully representing clients for over 40 years with 12 offices all over Texas.