Due in part to a massive round of tort reform in 2003, the number of lawsuits in The Lone Star State dropped 17 percent between 2005 and 2014.
The decline was even more pronounced in county courts, where most negligence lawsuits are filed. Statewide, county court volume is down 36 percent from 2005. District court volume dipped 11 percent, thanks to increases in suits on account, contract cases, collections actions, and similar business filings.
Specifically in terms of tort cases, while motor vehicle collision actions increased 13 percent in the last ten years, non-motor vehicle tort case filings dropped a stunning 38 percent over the same period. Bryan Blevins, President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, opined that a higher population accounted for the higher motor vehicle figure, and that “the number of lawsuits that are being filed is not going up at all.” Mr. Blevins reminisced that when he began practicing in 1993, he routinely handled between 80 and 100 cases at a time. Now, an associate’s caseload might be 30 files.
Due to decreased revenue from filing fees, the Texas Office of Court Administration recently asked the Legislature for an additional $8.5 million to cover its costs.
What Happened in 2003
“Tort reform” refers to the ongoing tug-of-war between insurance companies on one side and victim advocates on the other side. In a nutshell, business groups claim that negligence lawsuits drive up costs and victim advocates, including personal injury attorneys, maintain that victims must be able to secure fair compensation in court. Most tort reform efforts are geared towards damage caps or obstacles to filing suit.
Insurance companies scored a major victory on both these fronts in 2003. The Legislature drastically limited damages in medical negligence cases, made product liability cases more difficult to win, essentially outlawed punitive damages, changed the way fault is apportioned among multiple defendants, and amended the venue and jurisdiction rules. At roughly the same time, the Legislature closed the courthouse door for many asbestos and silica victims.
Because of these changes, it is more important than ever to have an aggressive and experienced attorney. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, almost any lawyer from anywhere in the state could file and win a tort action in South Central Texas. Now, you need a local attorney who regularly practices in this area.
If you were hurt in an accident, do not let the law, or the insurance company, intimidate you into settling for less. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in New Braunfels for a free consultation. We do not charge any upfront legal fees in these matters.