North Texas

Senate OKs Limiting Insurer Liability on Storm Damage Claims

The Texas Senate has preliminarily approved a bill limiting liability for insurance companies sued by policyholders following storm damage, leaving the hot-button measure on the verge of heading to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Tuesday's 21-8 state Senate vote followed contentious debate and passage in the House earlier this month.

The bill cuts penalties for insurance companies sued for offering too little money on storm claims, including wind and hail damage, while making it harder for those suing to collect attorneys' fees.

It would also require attorneys to give insurance companies 61 days notice before filing a lawsuit. Attorneys must also provide a damage estimate that outlines how much damages and attorney fees will cost.

The proposal is opposed by trial lawyers but backed by powerful conservatives who promoted past laws limiting jury awards in lawsuits against businesses.

Supporters say the bill is aimed at curbing "frivolous" lawsuits.

"Their complaint is that this is limiting the ability of insured to bring claims against the carrier when, in effect, we feel that it is a consumer-friendly bill and that it allows legitimate claims to proceed," said Jennifer Gibbs, a Dallas attorney representing insurance companies.

Supporters say the number of hail and windstorm claim lawsuits increased 1,400 percent in recent years. Democrats counter that Texans will have less recourse when insurers underpay claims.

NBC 5's Meredith Yeomans contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us