I’ve complained frequently about the consumer-unfriendly Texas Legislature and our governor (re-elected with 39% of the total votes). The biannual legislative session ended a couple of weeks ago, and now the deadline has passed for the governor to veto bills passed by the Legislature.
Only a handful of consumer-friendly bills were passed, as usual. And, as usual, most of those that did pass were vetoed by Governor Perry.
One extremely important bill, that sought to clarify the omnipresent “paid vs. incurred” medical bill problem was vetoed. In a nutshell, the Legislature in 2003 completely confused everyone by their sloppy wording in the medical malpractice “reform” bill, which has now essentially ended medical malpractice claims in Texas. The question is whether an injured Texan can recover the full amount of medical bills, or only that portion not paid by health insurance. In other words, should the defendant tortfeasor receive the benefit from the plaintiff’s having paid for health insurance? Of course the insurance companies always argue this, and it can reduce total damages to an amount not worthy of litigation.
This legislative session, the lawmakers passed a bill 162-2 saying the “paid vs. incurred” issue was meant only to apply to malpractice claims, since that was the bill it was included in. Naturally, Governor Perry wasn’t satisfied with a vote of 162-2, and decided to take the advice of his insurance company contributors, and veto the bill. So now we’ll have to wait until the nine Republican judges on the Texas Supreme Court decide the issue. What suspense…
Another bill vetoed by the governor would have stopped chiropractors from phoning or visiting accident victims immediately after an auto collision, offering them free exams, and then referring them to lawyers. I guess the chiropractors also gave lots of money to the governor.
The one bill that survived, and that is actually good for Texas consumers, will raise the minimum limits for auto liability insurance coverage. The last time the limits were raised was in 1983 — how many of you were even old enough to drive back then? The per-person limit has been $20,000 for almost 25 years now. In that time, it’s estimated that inflation has increased by 85%. So the Legislature decided to increase limits by 25% to $25,000 for policies sold after April 1, 2008. A ridiculously low percentage, and a ridiculously long time for the increase to take effect, but at least it’s something. And they also said the limit will increase to $30,000 after another three years.
So the auto liability limits will now be $25,000 per person, $50,000 per incident, and $25,000 for property damage. We always advise our clients to purchase more than minimum limits, and to also add Uninsured Motorist coverage and Personal Injury Protection to their policies — very inexpensive additions.