Source: SE Texas Record | by David Yates

AUSTIN – Voting mostly along party lines, the Texas House tentatively passed H.B. 1774, commonly called the hailstorm lawsuit abuse bill, on Thursday night.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform has long argued the bill will protect consumers and stop rampant weather-related lawsuit abuse.

“The Texas House of Representatives today voted to protect families and businesses from being exploited by storm-chasing lawyers after severe weather,” TLR Communications Director Lucy Nashed said.

“House Bill 1774 preserves the strongest protections in the nation for Texas property insurance consumers while shutting down the abusive lawsuit mills that have already caused insurers to increase their rates for homeowners or stop writing policies in some areas of the state. We thank the House for their quick action on House Bill 1774.”

Joe Woods, vice president, state government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, issued the following statement:

“Damaging storms, like the ones we saw this week, are inevitable in Texas. But storm victims shouldn’t have to deal with the bad actors that try to profit off their misfortune. Homeowners need to be protected from the increasingly common practice where some lawyers partner with certain roofers and public adjusters to talk storm victims into suing their insurance companies by promising a big payout at no cost.

“HB 1774 will help stop lawsuit abuse by storm-chasing lawyers while ensuring policyholders still have all their legal rights if they feel their insurer acted in bad faith. Homeowners should know their insurers will be there for them in the aftermath of a storm and will work to make the claims process go as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

HB 1774 is largely supported by the state’s tort reform groups.

“Across our state, we’ve seen an increasing number of hail storm lawsuits from a small number of personal injury lawyers who appear to be aggressively recruiting homeowners to serve as plaintiffs and ensnaring innocent bystanders in these suits, and today we applaud the Texas House for moving our state a step closer to reining in these costly, anti-consumer, storm-chasing lawsuits,” said Hazel Meaux, board member of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

TALA noted that, among the bill’s provisions, HB 1774 puts teeth in a legal requirement that’s routinely ignored – notification of intent to sue from a lawyer to the insurer.

By putting teeth in this requirement, a homeowner with a serious claim could expect a quicker settlement offer and resolution, potentially avoiding long and expensive legal fight.

“Nothing keeps a blue tarp on a roof longer than a lawsuit, and that’s why reforms are needed. HB 1774 protects the consumer while guarding against a lawyer gaming the system for their own profit,” said D’Anne Buquet, executive director of the Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “We’re pleased to see the Texas House advance this common-sense reform.”

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