Eye on Texas Blog

Eye on Texas Blog

Ten Years Later: How House Bill 4 Has Harmed Texans

Riding an electoral wave that saw the election of Rick Perry to his first full term as governor,[1] a large class of impressionable freshman members in the House, and a hard-line speaker, Tom Craddick, the corporate immunity lobby tilled fertile ground during the 78th Legislature in 2003.[2]  Emboldened after pushing through lawsuit restrictions in 1995[3] and 1997,[4] this lobby and their functionaries in the Legislature rammed through HB 4 in 2003,[5] an omnibus package of restrictions that were sweeping in scope and unprecedented in their destructive effect on the rights and lives of everyday Texans.

Ten years later, patients continue to struggle with high cost, low access health care, corporate wrongdoers are allowed to divert and evade responsibility for their actions, and our most vulnerable are acutely impacted by the negative affect of limits on individual legal rights.

Totaling 133 pages in length, HB 4 was a sprawling piece of legislation that upended and undercut myriad aspects of the Texas civil justice system.[6] (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

Close the Six Flags Loophole

In 1998, 15-year old Leslie Lane went to the Travis County Fair to ride the midway. Tragically, the safety mechanism on the her ride failed, catapulting Leslie, along with her brother and best friend, out of the carnival ride. The three children struck a retaining wall. While the other children were not seriously injured, Leslie died as a result of a massive head trauma.

The following year, lawmakers enacted daily safety inspection requirements for the safety harnesses on mobile amusement rides like the one Leslie was on. And, they gave law enforcement the authority to shut down unsafe mobile amusement rides.

But the law has loopholes big enough to drive a roller coaster through. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

Governor Signs Policyholder Transparency Agenda

Gov. Rick Perry gave his approval to legislation designed to improve transparency for Texas home and auto insurance customers. The bills will improve the market by giving consumers more information about their insurance policy.

While much more needs to be done to restore fairness to the Texas insurance marketplace and ensure that rates are fair, coverage is adequate, and claims are paid in full and on time, these bills represent a step in the right direction toward giving policyholders the tools they need to make informed choices. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

Rathgeber Appointed Insurance Commissioner

Governor Rick Perry has appointed Julia Rathgeber, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s Deputy Chief of Staff, as Texas Insurance Commissioner. Her appointment comes after Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman was not confirmed by the Texas Senate for a full term.

The Texas insurance market faces important challenges. With higher premiums, larger deductibles, and expanded exclusions, Texas policyholders are paying more and getting less. Policyholders deserve an insurance commissioner who will fight for them everyday by fostering a balanced insurance market in which prices are fair, coverage is adequate, and claims are paid in full and on time.

We are hopeful that Commissioner Rathgeber will work to restore balance to the market. And, we look forward to working with her to put Texas policyholders first. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

Kitzman Not Confirmed, Leaves TDI

After public concern over Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman’s anti-policyholder decisions during her tumultuous 21-month tenure, the Texas Senate has chosen to not confirm Commissioner Kitzman for a full term, according to numerous media reports.

Senator Glenn Hegar, Chair of the Nominations Committee, said, “Gauging the votes in the last couple of days, it does not appear that there is a majority on my committee or on the Senate floor for that confirmation.”

As a result, Kitzman left office at the end of the recently concluded legislative session, reportedly confirming to her staff that Monday was her last day. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

House Votes to End Some Junk Auto Policies

The Texas House voted to prohibit insurance companies from selling stripped down “named driver” auto insurance policies this week. These cut-rate, low coverage policies have become more prevalent in the Texas market as some insurance companies market them to drivers, many of whom don’t know their coverage has been slashed.

What’s wrong with named driver policies? Because of the gaping holes in these policies:

  • More uninsured drivers are on the road;
  • Innocent drivers are forced to bear the cost of repairs and medical expenses after an accident; and
  • The cost of uninsured motorist coverage is more expensive for drivers with meaningful coverage.

The bill, HB 1773 by Rep. Ed Thompson, bans the use of named-driver policies outright, ensuring that anyone who drives your car is covered under your insurance policy unless you choose to specifically exclude them. As Rep. Craig Eiland said during the debate, the bill “stops the sale of junk policies that mislead people and don’t give them coverage.” (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

Texas Watch Poll 2013

By intensely wide margins, Texas voters believe that insurance customers who have claims unfairly denied, delayed, or underpaid should have easier access to the courts with stiff penalties for insurers engaged in such conduct, according to a recent statewide public opinion survey conducted by Hill Research Consultants, a nationally known Republican opinion-research firm.

This session insurance lobbyists and their clients are working hard to restrict your access to the courts if you believe your insurance company has handled your claim unfairly. And, they have filed a boatload of bad bills to do just that.

So, we commissioned the statewide public opinion survey to find out what Texas voters think. The message is clear. Texas voters – across all geographic, partisan, and political lines – want stronger legal protections from rogue insurance companies. They believe that insurance companies routinely drag out lawsuits, and they want the courts – not state agency bureaucrats – resolving disputes between claimants and insurance companies.

And, 7 in 10 voters will reward legislators who believe it should be easier (or at least not harder) for a policyholder who believes their insurance claim has been handled unfairly to hire an attorney to represent their interests. 51% hold this position”strongly.”

The results speak for themselves. Check them out for yourself.

(more…)

Research & Reports
Research & Reports

The Texas Watch Foundation, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, conducts research and public education activities on consumer law, consumer protection and civil justice issues. Read More »

Court Watch
Court Watch

Court Watch, a program of the Foundation, documents the role and impact of the Texas civil court system on Texas families and Texas public policy. Read More »