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State bill protects homeowners

San Antonio Express News, May 18, 2017

By: Lucy Nashed

Re: “‘Blue tarp’ bills hurt consumers,” Editorial, May 12:

This newspaper’s editorial regarding House Bill 1774, which both houses have approved, is uninformed and misleading. With a 1,400 percent increase in litigation statewide, weather-related lawsuit abuse is the latest example of trial lawyers getting rich by abusing the legal system that is supposed to protect consumers from bad actors.

Unfortunately, San Antonio is in the cross hairs of storm-chasing lawyers. After going door to door in neighborhoods and setting up booths at flea markets, storm-chasing lawyers filed more than 100 lawsuits in Bexar County in the first two weeks of May. This creates real problems for Texans.

To start, 12 insurers have raised rates for homeowners and seven have reduced, limited or stopped writing policies in Texas because of this lawsuit abuse. To make matters worse, lawsuits take seven times longer to resolve than regular insurance claims. Truly, nothing keeps a blue tarp on a roof longer than a lawsuit.

Texans deserve to be protected from all bad actors — insurers who unfairly deny and delay claims, and lawyers who aggressively and unnecessarily manufacture litigation. HB 1774 strikes that balance.

It creates much-needed accountability for storm-chasing lawyers, addressing specific areas of the law that are abused and making common-sense reforms to bust the mass-litigation business model. For example, lawyers finally would be held accountable for making wildly exaggerated demands and required to provide notice before filing lawsuits so disputes can be resolved more quickly.

At the same time, the bill preserves a clear path to the courthouse for Texans who have legitimate disputes with insurers, preserving the strongest consumer protections in the nation for Texas property owners. And insurance companies will still face significant damages and financial penalties for shirking their responsibilities to policyholders.

It’s time to shut down the lawsuit mills and pass HB 1774.

Lucy Nashed is communications director for Texans for Lawsuit Reform.