A Broken System: Texas Mutual’s Special “Justice”
Texas Mutual Insurance Company is garnering the attention of the press, local officials, and state legislators for all the wrong reasons.
In a joint Texas Tribune and Austin American Statesman investigation this month, reporters revealed Texas Mutual’s exclusive deal with Travis County prosecutors. The deal, which allows the private insurer to pay the salaries of public fraud prosecutors, has drawn criticismfor at least appearing unjust.
“When it comes to courtroom ethics, the means to an end is as important as the end itself. While Travis County’s partnership with Texas Mutual may be legal, county leaders and prosecutors should ask, “Is this ethically the best action to take?” The program looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quack like a duck. Isn’t it a duck? It looks like corporate money is being used to imbalance justice’s scales.” –Former Texas State Representative Jerry Madden
However, this is not Texas Mutual’s first attempt to tip the scales of justice. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in a 5-4 decision that Texas Mutual and other workers’ compensation insurers could not be sued for bad faith practices. As a result, workers’ compensation providers can intentionally or maliciously deny a valid claim, but injured workers cannot hold the insurers accountable.
Since then, Texas Mutual has expanded its brand of special justice. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that the Texas Department of Insurance has exclusive jurisdiction over workers’ compensation complaints. Now, insurers can intentionally misrepresent policies or use the criminal justice system to bully injured workers out of filing claims without recourse from the affected worker.
“It is bad enough to survive and suffer such significant injuries that one must fight for life every day, yet to have to endure the constant fighting with adjusters, insurance companies and their agents to survive and get what is necessary to live, makes one think he would be better off dead. I am totally appalled that the Texas Supreme Court will allow me to be held hostage and persecuted in jail and in everyday life as I know it by an insurance company.” – Glenn Johnson, injured worker
Over the past two decades, Texas Mutual has systematically tipped Justice’s scales in its favor. Injured workers are now left without recourse and stripped of a system that holds their wrongdoers accountable. Workers are told to leave “justice” in the hands of bureaucrats while Texas Mutual lines the pockets of their personal prosecutors. In this broken system, injured workers fighting insurers might as well be tilting at windmills.
“The Travis County DA’s office says it has never prosecuted a fraud case against Texas Mutual and instructs critics of the company to direct complaints to the Texas Department of Insurance.” – Texas Tribune Investigative Findings
Reports of injustice in the Texas workers’ compensation system are not new. However, little has been done to help hardworking Texans receive benefits on their valid claims. Texas workers’ deserve equal justice and we’ll be working hard next session to rebalance the scales.