Lawsuits against insurers after truck crashes limited by Georgia legislature

The gold dome of the Georgia Capitol gleams in the sun, Aug. 27, 2022, in front of the skyline of downtown Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

The ability of people to sue insurance companies directly after trucking crashes would be limited under a bill receiving final passage in the Georgia legislature.

The House voted 172-0 on Monday to pass Senate Bill 426, sending it to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto.

The measure says someone could only sue an insurance company directly if the trucking company involved has gone bankrupt or when the plaintiff can’t find the company or the driver.

Supporters say the change would result in lower insurance rates for truckers, arguing current rates inhibit trucking companies’ ability to do business.

House Majority Whip James Burchett, a Waycross Republican, said Monday that it was a balancing act between business groups and lawyers. Several Democrats also spoke to praise the bill. Rep. Teddy Reese, a Columbus Democrat, called it ”a great compromise that lawyers like myself are happy with and can work with.”

Kemp has said he wants to make it harder for people to file lawsuits and win big legal judgments. He has said Georgia’s high insurance rates are among the harms caused by such lawsuits. But Kemp said he would pause his effort until the 2025 legislative session in order to gather more information.

Georgia lawmakers capped noneconomic damages including pain and suffering in a 2005 tort reform law, but the state Supreme Court overturned such caps as unconstitutional in 2010.

Besides truckers, owners of commercial properties and apartments have also been seeking limits, saying they are getting unfairly sued when third parties do wrong on their property.