Insurance Bills

Texas insurance lawyers who keep up with the new laws being proposed and passed by the State Legislature need to know some of this information.
Here is some news from the end of the 83rd Legislative Session.
Lobbyists for the insurance industry filed a bunch of anti-policy bills that were designed to make it harder to file a claim and be paid what you are owed. The consumer group, Texas Watch, commissioned a statewide public opinion survey to show lawmakers that Texans were not interested in enacting additional protections for insurance companies. The results of the survey were clear. Texas voters indicated they believe that insurance companies should be required to fulfill their obligations to claimants, and, if they don’t, they should fact stiff penalties in court. This survey and its’ results helped lay the groundwork for the defeat of a host of pro-insurance industry proposals.
A couple of the proposed bills in particular, appeared to have momentum and a good chance of passing.
One was HB 930. This bill would have punished homeowners for filing valid claim, even claims related to weather. The mobilization efforts of Texas Watch and an aggressive media and grassroots strategy, coupled with expert policy research, resulted in the author of the bill withdrawing the bill from consideration. This was key to preserving protections for homeowners.
Another bill was HB 2125. This bill would have limited attorney’s fees and interest that could be recovered by or awarded to a policyholder in connection with their property claims. The result of this would be to leave consumer policyholders without many options for getting their legitimate claims fully paid.
There were pro-policyholder reforms that were passed by this legislature.
One bill that passed required auto insurance companies to tell their customers if they are buying a stripped down “named driver” policy. These junk policies have become all too common. They purport to cover only the driver named on the policy and no one else who may be operating the covered vehicle.
There was a bill that was designed to ban these types of policies outright, but the billed lost steam in the Senate. This bill will be pursued further in the next session.
A bill requiring insurance companies to disclose the true value of home insurance deductibles also passed. Many home owners buy the “percentage” deductible policies without fully realizing how much that adds up to. This bill will make sure the consumer understands the full cost of these deductibles.
Another bill that passed prohibits insurance companies from punishing customers for asking questions about their coverage. Under current law, insurance companies can treat a question like a claim. This legislation guarantees that policyholders have the right to simply ask a question without being penalized.
Yet another bill that passed dealt with the subrogation process. This bill is not as easy to explain or understand but for the person who is faced with a subrogation issue, this bill is very big. This bill was signed into law by Governor Perry the last week of May.
More news from this session is the refusal of the Texas Senate to confirm Eleanor Kitzman as the State Insurance Commissioner. She had been appointed to the job 21 months ago and was very controversial in her apparent efforts to protect insurance companies at the expense of their customers.

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