Storm Chasing Lawyers: Where Are They Now?
September 1 marks the one-year anniversary of the enactment of House Bill 1774, the Texas Legislature’s solution to stop storm-chasing lawyers from taking advantage of property owners after natural disasters. After the explosion of unnecessary lawsuits against insurance companies following hail and wind events, property insurers in parts of the state were raising premiums and deductibles, or had stopped offering coverage in some areas all together. The Legislature acted decisively in 2017 to shut down this obvious lawsuit abuse and stop storm-chasing lawyers from hijacking our property insurance premiums.
Our data shows that during the four-and-a-half-year period from Jan. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2018, more than 34,600 weather-related lawsuits were filed throughout Texas, an average of 640 new lawsuits per month. Compare that to the six years before 2012, when fewer than 4,500 of these lawsuits were filed in Texas, an average of only 62 new lawsuits per month.
This explosion of lawsuits was driven by lawyer conduct—including the unlawful and unethical recruitment of clients through door-to-door solicitation by case generators.
TLR’s recent data shows that weather-related lawsuit filing spiked in August 2017, the month before HB 1774 took effect, as storm-chasing lawyers dumped their inventory of heavily-solicited lawsuits into the court system. They filed 1,553 new weather-related lawsuits in that single month! And in more than 36 percent of those lawsuits, the plaintiff’s lawyer named an individual as a co-defendant with the insurance company in order manipulate venue.
But since then, the number of lawsuits filed each month dipped significantly, although we have begun to see a slight uptick in the number of lawsuits filed in the past few months. We hope these positive trends will continue. We will keep an eye on the courts to study the rate of weather-related lawsuit filings.