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 attorney 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.