Over 7,900 Texas bills have been filed so far this year. Let’s take a look at some of the more-interesting ones.

New Texas Laws for 2021

From police reform to legalized gambling and alcohol sales to digital license plates, here’s a small sampling of the bills filed during Texas’ 87th legislative session—which may become law later this year.

The 87th Texas Legislature officially began on Jan. 12, 2021, and is scheduled to conclude on May 31st, 2021. With thousands of bills already filed, it can be difficult to keep up—especially when they’re written in confusing legalese. Today, we figured we’d highlight some of these new proposed laws and explain exactly what they mean in simple terms.

We will continue to update this page as more bills are introduced over the coming weeks, but keep in mind that not all of these bills will become law. Once this year’s legislative session has ended, we’ll discuss many of the bills that did pass in further detail.

This article highlights about 150 different proposed bills, but we’ve grouped them into several categories. Click the links below if you’d like to jump to a specific section:

If you have questions or concerns, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page. While our law firm solely focuses on car accidents and personal injury law, we’ll do our best to provide answers—or at least point you in the right direction.

DRIVING & TRANSPORTATION

Cell Phone Usage While Operating a Motor Vehicle

Texas Senate Bill 42 (SB42) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

In 2017, Texas passed a law banning drivers from “electronic messaging” via a portable wireless communication device (i.e., a phone) while operating a motor vehicle. This law notably only applies to drivers “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages,” and does not address various other actions like browsing the internet, entering an address into Google Maps, scrolling through a music playlist, etc.

SB42, if passed, would seek to expand on this law by banning all hand-held mobile phone usage while driving (except when necessary to contact emergency services). Drivers would still be permitted to use dedicated GPS devices, dash cams, and (if 18 or older) hands-free communication devices.

While the existing law still permits motorists to read, write, and sending electronic messages while their vehicle is stopped, SB42 also clarifies this section by adding “stopped outside a lane of travel.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Preemption of Local Texting & Driving Ordinances

Texas House Bill 86 (HB86) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

This bill seeks to disallow cities, counties and municipalities from enforcing more-restrictive laws or regulations relating to the use of wireless communication devices (i.e., phones) while operating a motor vehicle. Many cities in Texas currently have hands-free ordinances on the books, but if passed, HB86 would effectively make these local laws unenforceable.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Prohibiting Police Profiling of Motorcyclists

Texas House Bill 1837 (HB1837) — Introduced 02/11/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 2141 (SB2141) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB1837 & SB2141 both seek to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure in order address (and prevent) “motorcycle profiling” by law enforcement officers.

If passed, these bills would prohibit law enforcement officers from initiating actions (e.g., traffic stops) based, in whole or in part, on an individual operating a motorcycle or wearing motorcycle-related or motorcycle club-related paraphernalia—rather than on the individual’s behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity.

The bills further state that officers who violate this law may face civil actions (lawsuits) brought by the defendant in order to recover damages arising from said profiling (including attorney’s fees and litigation costs), as well as injunctions against future violations of this law. A peace officer may not assert official immunity as a defense to liability, and the officer’s governmental unit would also be liable to such a suit under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Designation of "Highway Safety Corridors"

Texas House Bill 795 (HB795) — Introduced 12/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1946 (HB1946) — Introduced 02/17/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, both HB795 & HB1946 would allow municipalities and/or counties in Texas to name portions of a roadway containing high numbers of traffic fatalities as “highway safety corridors.” Like construction zones, traffic offenses occurring in a designated highway safety corridor would result in fines being doubled.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Prohibiting Police Traffic Stops on Highway Shoulders

Texas House Bill 2452 (HB2452) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB2452 would amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure in order to require each law enforcement agency in the state to “adopt a policy prohibiting a peace officer of the agency from making a motor vehicle stop on the shoulder of a controlled access highway.”

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021, although law enforcement agencies will have until 01/01/2022 to adopt said policy.

Lowering Residential Speed Limits

Texas House Bill 442 (HB442) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3877 (HB3877) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB442, if passed, would effectively lower the prima facie speed limit of any residential street in Texas (located within in a municipality and not officially designated or marked as part of the state highway system) from 30 miles per hour down to 25 miles per hour.

HB3877 seeks to lower the prima facie speed limit of any urban district street in Texas city with a population greater than 950,000 to 25 miles per hour on a street other than an alley, and 15 miles per hour in an alley.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Additional Restrictions on Motorized Scooter Usage

Texas House Bill 934 (HB934) — Introduced 01/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB934 seeks to modify Section 551.352 of the Texas Transportation Code in order to add additional restrictions on operating motor-assisted scooters within the state of Texas. If passed, the bill would:

  • Restrict anyone from riding a motorized scooter (gas or electric) on a roadway unless the posted speed limit is 30 mph or less (currently the limit is 35 mph or less).
  • Restrict motorized scooter usage to bicycle lanes, if and when available.
  • Allow motorized scooters to be ridden on sidewalks.
  • Limit motorized scooters to one rider at a time.
  • Set a maximum speed of 15 mph for standing scooters (or 20 mph for seated scooters).
  • Require motorized scooter riders to yield the right of way to pedestrians.

The bill also seeks to allow counties and municipalities to further restrict the speed at which a person may operate a motor-assisted scooter, the locations a person may operate a motor-assisted scooter, locations a person may park a scooter, a minimum age requirement, higher civil and criminal penalties for traffic law violations, as well as the requirement that riders wear a safety helmet.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

"Colten's Law"

Texas House Bill 1287 (HB1287) — Introduced 01/22/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1674 (HB1674) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

In 2017, Colten Carney was struck and killed by a motorist while walking to work in Royse City, Texas. Carney’s body was tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol, but the motorist involved in the accident was not. Currently, Texas law leaves it up to the individual law enforcement officer to decided whether or not to conduct a blood alcohol test on a motorist when they hit a pedestrian.

HB1287 seeks to change this by amending Section 724.012 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that a peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s blood if:

  1. The officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle;
  2. The person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily;
  3. The person was the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident involving a pedestrian;
  4. The officer reasonably believes that the accident occurred as a result of the offense; and
  5. At the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that as a direct result of the accident the pedestrian has died, will die, or has suffered serious bodily injury.

According to the bill’s author, “Anyone who hits a pedestrian in this state causing serious bodily injury or death should not be allowed to leave the scene of that accident without having been tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol in their body.”

HB1674, while similar to HB1287, seeks to go a bit further by amending Section 724.012 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that a peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s blood if:

  1. The person was the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident;
  2. The officer arrests the person for an offense in connection with the accident;
  3. The person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily;
  4. The officer reasonably believes that the accident occurred as a result of the offense for which the person is arrested; and
  5. At the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that as a direct result of the accident an individual other than the person arrested has died or will die.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Vehicles Passing Pedestrians or Cyclists

Texas House Bill 554 (HB554) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1290 (SB1290) — Introduced 03/09/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB554 & SB1290 both seek to add a section to the Texas Transportation Code outlining rules for motor vehicles when passing pedestrians or bicycle operators on a roadway. If passed, the bills would:

  • Establish a “safe distance” of at least three (3) feet when passing pedestrians/cyclists in a car or light truck, and six (6) feet for operators of large trucks and commercial vehicles.
  • Require that motor vehicles move to another lane (if available) to pass bicycle riders on a roadway.
  • HB554 would also allow motorists to cross over to the left of pavement striping within a designed no-passing zone in order to safely pass a pedestrian or cyclist.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Stopping and Yielding to Pedestrians

Texas House Bill 443 (HB443) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

While it’s true that the Texas Transportation Code already requires drivers to “yield the right of way” to pedestrians lawfully using a crosswalk (marked or unmarked). HB443 seeks to require drivers to not only yield, but to “stop and yield the right of way.”

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

The "Lisa Torry Smith" Act

Texas House Bill 2081 (HB2081) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1055 (SB1055) — Introduced 03/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

Lisa Torry Smith was hit and killed by a vehicle in October 2017 while walking in a crosswalk with her 6-year-old son. The driver responsible for the incident was cited with failure to yield, but was never charged. Two years later, the district attorney’s office presented evidence to a grand jury asking that they charge the accused driver with criminally negligent homicide. The grand jury declined to indict the defendant.

The Lisa Torry Smith Act (HB2081 & SB1055) seeks to provide greater protection for pedestrians by amending Subchapter I, Chapter 545 of Texas’ Transportation Code to add a section on “motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians or other vulnerable road used within an area of crosswalk.”

If passed, the bills would make it a Class A misdemeanor to cause bodily injury to a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, motor-assisted scooter, electronic personal assistive mobility device, neighborhood electric vehicle, or golf cart while negligently operating a motor vehicle within the area of a crosswalk. The offense would be upgraded to a state jail felony if the victim suffered “serious bodily injury.”

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Move Over / Slow Down for Additional Types of Vehicles

Texas House Bill 555 (HB555) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)

Texas’ current “Move Over / Slow Down” law states that motorists who are approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, or highway maintenance/construction vehicle must vacate the lane closest to the vehicle if the road has two or more lanes, or to slow down to 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

If passed, HB555 seeks to expand on this law by applying it to additional types of stationary vehicles adjacent to a highway, such as utility service vehicles and vehicles used exclusively to transport municipal solid waste or recyclable material.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Programs

Texas House Bill 113 (HB113) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 2106 (SB2106) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB113 & SB2106 both seek to amend Texas’ Business & Commerce Code to allow for peer-to-peer car sharing programs (a business platform that connects owners with drivers to enable vehicle sharing for financial consideration) to operate within the State of Texas.

If passed, the bill would establish basic guidelines, outline responsibilities, insurance requirements, record retention policies, and more.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021, but would not affect the enforceability of any provision in an insurance policy delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed before 01/01/2022.

Insurance Practices Related to Motor Vehicle Repairs

Texas House Bill 1131 (HB1131) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB1131 seeks to add additional restrictions on certain insurance practices related to the repair of a motor vehicle following an accident and/or property damage claim. The bill would amend Chapter 1952 of the Texas Insurance Code to (among other things) restrict insurers and adjusters from:

  • Requiring that a vehicle be repaired with a part or product on the basis that it’s the least expensive part or product available.
  • Requiring that a part or product be purchased from any vendor or supplier on the basis that the part or product is the least expensive part or product available.
  • Intimidating, coercing, or threatening a beneficiary or claimant to induce them to use a particular repair person or facility.
  • Offering an incentive or inducement (other than a warranty issued by a repair person or facility) for the beneficiary or claimant to use a particular repair person or facility.
  • Offering, communicating, or suggesting in any manner that a particular repair person or facility will provide faster repair times, faster service, or more efficient claims handling than another repair person or facility.
  • Disregarding a repair operation or cost identified by an estimating system, including the system’s procedural pages and any repair, process, or procedure recommended by the original equipment manufacturer of a part or product.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021, but does not affect the enforceability of any provision in an insurance policy delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed before 01/01/2022.

Authorizing License Plate Readers to Identify Uninsured Drivers

Texas House Bill 1119 (HB1119) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB1119 seeks to amend Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code to establish the “Texas Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program,” which would use automatic license plate reader systems to help law enforcement agencies identify uninsured motor vehicles.

This would include the installation of automatic license plate reader systems on “appropriate infrastructure” owned by this state or a political subdivision of this state (including traffic signals, highway signs, bridges, and overpasses). The program would collect captured plate data, and permit peace officers to issue citations for failing to maintain financial responsibility.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

No Front License Plates Required

Texas House Bill 502 (HB502) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1199 (HB1199) — Introduced 01/19/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1274 (HB1274) — Introduced 01/22/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB502, HB1199 & HB1274 all seek to allow motor vehicle owners in Texas to display a license plate only on the rear of a motor vehicle.

If passed, HB502 would amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to authorize the department to collect a fee of $50 per year from drivers who do not wish to display a front license plate on their registered vehicle. The bill would also require that these vehicles display a distinctive insignia (issued by the department) on the windshield for validation of that authorization. The annual $50 fee will be deposited into the state highway fund.

HB1199 & HB1274, if passed, would also amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that “a person is entitled to operate on a public highway a passenger car or light truck that displays only one license plate if the plate is attached at the rear of the vehicle,” and that “the department shall issue only one license plate for attachment at the rear of a passenger car or light truck for which the plate is issued.”

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Allowing Digital License Plates

Texas House Bill 1105 (HB1105) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2367 (HB2367) — Introduced 02/26/2021 (Read Full Text)

While many people don’t know this, digital license plates are already allowed under Texas law—just not for passenger vehicles. Digital license plates are currently only allowed if the vehicle is part of a commercial fleet or owned by a government entity.

If passed, HB1105 would amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to remove these restrictions, effectively opening up this option to all motor vehicles registered in Texas.

HB2367, on the other hand, seeks to amend Section 504.002 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that “the department shall allow a vehicle registered under Chapter 502 to be equipped with a license plate that utilizes integrated circuit technology.”

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Eliminating Tolls After Toll Roads are Paid Off

Texas House Bill 1117 (HB1117) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 756 (SB756) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3497 (HB3497) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)

Many drivers are frustrated with the increasing number of toll-funded highway projects in the state, as well as the fact that our state’s oldest toll roads still collect fees from drivers even though the road has long since been “paid off.”

Each of the bills listed above seek to change this by amending Chapter 372 of the Texas Transportation Code. If passed, the bill would add language requiring tolls to be removed once the costs of acquisition and construction of the project have been paid. The bill would also disallow toll project entities from amending financial (or other) agreements in a manner that would extend said payoff date.

Under HB1117, once a toll road is paid off, the road would become part of the state highway system and must be maintained by the commission (or shall continue to be maintained by the entity operating the project if certain criteria is not met).

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Roadside Memorial Signs Dedicated to Victims of Car Accidents

Texas House Bill 1574 (HB1574) — Introduced 02/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

Texas currently has a “memorial sign program” allowing loved ones to publicly memorialize victims of alcohol or controlled substance-related car accidents through the erection of a roadside memorial sign. These signs read “Please Don’t Drink and Drive” followed by “In Memory Of” and the name(s) of the victim(s). If approved, the sign may remain posted for a period of two (2) years.

HB1574, if passed, seeks to amend Section 201.909 of the Texas Transportation Code to extend the period in which these signs may be posted from two (2) years to ten (10) years.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Prohibiting Exhaust Systems Which are Louder Than Stock

Texas House Bill 2540 (HB2540) — Introduced 03/02/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3918 (HB3918) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB2540 seeks to amend Section 547.605(c) of Texas’ Transportation Code to state that the owner or operator of a passenger car or light truck manufactured after 1967 may not modify the exhaust system (or a part of the system) in a manner that the owner or operator “knows or should know will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle.”

Similarly, HB3918 seeks to require that all motor vehicle mufflers not emit a sound of more than 95 decibels, measured 20 inches from the tailpipe, while the vehicle is operating in neutral between 3,000 and 5,000 RPM.

If approved, HB2540 will take effect on 01/01/2023. HB3918, if approved, will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Changing the Terminology from "Car Accidents" to "Car Crashes"

Texas House Bill 3325 (HB3325) — Introduced 03/09/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1945 (SB1945) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

The majority of motor vehicle collisions are caused by acts of negligence. Characterizing collisions as “accidents” can send the wrong message, as (by definition) the word may imply that a collision was the fault of nobody in particular.

If passed, HB3325 & SB1945 both seek to amend several sections of Texas’ Transportation Code (as well as portions of Texas’ Business & Commerce Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Penal Code, Education Code, Family Code, Government Code, Insurance Code, and Occupations Code) in order to replace the word “accident” (when used to describe a motor vehicle collision) with the word “crash.”

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Allowing Cyclists & Motorcyclists to Proceed Through Certain Red Lights

Texas Senate Bill 1737 (SB1737) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

SB1737 seeks to amend Section 544.007 of Texas’ Transportation Code in order to allow cyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through a traffic-actuated red light if the traffic-control signal fails to register the motorcycle or bicycle. The operator of the bicycle or motorcycle must come to a full and complete stop at the intersection, exercise due care as provided law, and may only proceed through the intersection when it is safe to do so.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Addressing Non-Signaled Intersections Prone to Crashes

Texas House Bill 3990 (HB3990) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB3990 seeks to address non-signaled intersections in the state which commonly lead to right-angle (T-bone) crashes. If passed, the bill would require law enforcement officers who investigate a right-angle collision at an uncontrolled intersection to file a written report with the Texas Department of Transportation. If, during any 12-month period, TxDOT receives 10 or more of these reports for a single intersection, they shall perform a traffic study of that location and take actions determined reasonable and necessary to improve safety at the location.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

PERSONAL INJURY & CIVIL LAW

Shielding Trucking Companies From Liability in an 18-Wheeler Crash

Texas House Bill 19 (HB19) — Introduced 03/19/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 17 (SB17) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB19 & SB17 both seek to amend Chapter 72 of Texas’ Civil Practice and Remedies Code in order to shift liability away from transportation companies and onto individual drivers when it comes to 18-wheeler truck accident claims or lawsuits.

Texas law currently allows for truck accident victims to pursue damages against both the commercial truck driver as well as the transportation company who hired the driver—if it can be shown that their negligence (e.g., lax vetting of hired drivers, pushing drivers past their hours-of-service limits, failure to maintain their fleet, etc.) likely played a role in the crash.

If passed, both HB19 & SB17 would effectively give trucking companies room to sidestep important safety precautions that demonstrably reduce the likelihood of a preventable crash, and instead shift the blame solely onto their drivers. The bill not only seeks to set limitations on the amount of damages plaintiffs can seek following a serious 18-wheeler accident, but would also put limitations on what information can be admitted as evidence.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Adding Diminished Value to Liability Auto Insurance Policies

Texas House Bill 552 (HB552) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)

If enacted, HB552 would modify Section 601.072(a-1)(3) of the Texas Transportation Code to specify that any diminution of value (diminished value) as the result of a crash must be included when assessing the property damage portion of a motor vehicle accident claim.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021, but is not enforceable until 01/01/2022.

Recovery of Medical or Health Care Expenses in Civil Actions

Texas Senate Bill 207 (SB207) — Introduced 11/17/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1617 (HB1617) — Introduced 02/05/2021 (Read Full Text)

Both SB207 & HB1617 seek to amend Section 41.0105 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code to provide additional limits on recovering economic damages (e.g., medical expenses) in civil cases. If passed, the bills would allow defendants to introduce evidence of the “reasonableness” of the amount charged for medical or health care services provided to the plaintiff, including:

  • The amount actually paid for the medical or health care services.
  • The amount billed by the medical or health care provider.
  • The amount paid, the amount that would have been paid, or the amount likely to be paid for the medical or health care services by a health benefit plan, workers’ compensation insurance, an employer-provided plan, Medicaid, Medicare, or another similar source available.
  • The average amount typically paid or allowed by health benefit plan issuers or governmental payers at or near the time the medical or health care services were provided.
  • The average of the amounts actually accepted for payment in the previous 12 months by the medical or health care provider for the same services.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Preventing Hospital Liens from Exceeding Amount Recovered in Trial

Texas House Bill 2064 (HB2064) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

Hospitals often place liens on claims where a victim receives medical services for injuries caused by an accident that’s attributed to the negligence of another person. Currently, such hospital liens may not exceed:

  1. The amount of the hospital’s charges for services provided to the injured individual during the first 100 days of the injured individual’s hospitalization; or
  2. 50 percent of all amounts recovered by the injured individual through a cause of action, judgment, or settlement.

If passed, HB2064 would also add that such hospital liens may not exceed “the amount awarded by the trier of fact for the services provided to the injured individual by the hospital, less the pro rata share of attorney’s fees and expenses the injured individual incurred in pursuing the claim.”

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Settlements of Certain Claims on Behalf of a Minor

Texas House Bill 903 (HB903) — Introduced 12/22/2020 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB903 seeks to amend the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code in order to allow a person with legal custody of a minor to settle a civil claim on the child’s behalf (as long as the settlement is $25,000 or less) without the need to appoint a guardian ad litem.

The person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor must complete an affidavit or verified statement that attests that to the best of the person’s knowledge, the minor will be fully compensated by the settlement, or that there is no practical way to obtain additional amounts from the party entering into the settlement agreement with the minor.

If the minor or the person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor is represented by an attorney (and the money payable under the settlement agreement is paid in cash) the payment must be made by direct deposit into the attorney’s trust account maintained under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to be held for the benefit of the minor.

If the minor or the person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor is not represented by an attorney (and the money payable under the settlement agreement is paid in cash) the payment must be made directly into a federally insured savings account that earns interest and is in the sole name of the minor.

The money placed in a minor’s savings account, trust account, or trust subaccount may not be withdrawn, removed, paid out, or transferred to any person, including the minor, except pursuant to a court order, on the minor’s 18th birthday, or upon the minor’s death.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Providing Pro Bono Legal Services to Veterans and Service Members

Texas House Bill 476 (HB476) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB476 seeks to expand the use of the “fund for veterans’ assistance” to allow the Texas Veterans Commission to make grants to provide pro bono legal services to veterans, active duty members of the United States armed forces, and members of the state military forces.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Recovery Under Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims

Texas House Bill 359 (HB359) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1935 (SB1935) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

Under current Texas law, in order for an accident victim to recover compensation through their uninsured or under-insured auto insurance policy, there must first be a judgment or other legal determination establishing the other motorist’s liability or the extent of the insured’s damages.

If passed, both HB359 & SB1935 seek to amend Subchapter C, Chapter 1952 of Texas’ Insurance Code in order to remove this prerequisite.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021, but does not affect the enforceability of any provision in an insurance policy delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed before 01/01/2022.

Increasing Limits on Compensation in Small Claims Court

Texas Senate Bill 419 (SB419) — Introduced 01/25/2021 (Read Full Text)

In Texas’ last legislative session two years ago, lawmakers passed a bill into law which increased the maximum amount of money that one can recover in small claims court (called “justice court” in Texas) from $10,000 to $20,000. If passed, SB419 seeks to again increase this limit from $20,000 to $50,000.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Increasing Certain Civil Court Costs

Texas Senate Bill 41 (SB41) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

If passed, SB41 seeks to increase the filing fee for civil lawsuits filed in county court, statutory county court, county court at law, probate court, statutory probate court, or district court in Texas. This fee (which increases to $50 in some cases) does not apply to a suit filed by any governmental entity or to a suit for delinquent taxes.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Safety Requirements for Amusement Ride Operators

Texas House Bill 205 (HB205) — Introduced 02/25/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB205, if passed, seeks to modify Chapter 2151 of the Texas Occupations Code in order to require that amusement ride operators be trained in the proper use and operation of the ride, and to be at least 16 years of age. This bill also seeks to disallow ride operators from simultaneously operating more than one amusement ride at a time.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Offsetting Amounts Paid in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Claims

Texas House Bill 804 (HB804) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)

Normally in a motor vehicle accident, if a passenger files a “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) claim against the owner/operator of a vehicle they were riding in, the insurance company is entitled to an offset/credit/deduction equal to the amount they paid out.

HB804 seeks to amend this law so that the insurer is only entitled to an offset/credit/deduction if and when they have paid out the full amount of the applicable liability policy limits.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Increasing Damage Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases

Texas House Bill 501 (HB501) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

In September of 2003, Texas passed a law which substantially limited the amount of compensation that medical malpractice victims can seek from a physician or health care provider in civil court. Since this time, the noneconomic damages portion of a victim’s claim have been limited to an amount not to exceed $250,000—regardless of whether or not the plaintiff was awarded more in court.

HB501 seeks to adjust these arbitrary caps equal to any increase or decrease in the consumer price index—which measures the average changes in prices of goods and services purchased by urban wage earners—since September of 2003. If passed, HB501 would effectively raise the caps on noneconomic damages from $250,000 to upwards of $350,000.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021 (or immediately if passed by a 2/3 vote).

Requiring Disclosure of Insurance Policy Limits to 3rd-Party Claimants

Texas House Bill 1682 (HB1682) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

If you’re involved in an auto accident, under current Texas law, the other driver’s insurance company has no obligation to disclose the limits of their insured’s applicable liability policy (the total amount of money available to compensate a victim). The only way to compel an insurance company to reveal their driver’s policy limits is by filing an actual lawsuit.

Insurance companies claim that this information is irrelevant and immaterial to a pre-suit claim, while plaintiffs lawyers argue that it can help facilitate settlement and avoid needless litigation.

HB1682, if passed, would amend Chapter 542 of Texas’ Insurance Code in order to require insurance companies to disclose their insured’s policy information to 3rd-party claimants upon written request. It would also require policyholders who receive a written request for policy information from a claimant to disclose the name of their insurance company and type of coverage provided by their insurer.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Increase in Death Benefits Paid Under Workers' Compensation

Texas House Bill 243 (HB243) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

Similar to HB501 (above), HB243 seeks to adjust the amount of death benefits awarded in workers’ compensation cases equal the percentage increase (if any) in the Consumer Price Index. The commissioner shall set the rate of the adjustment no later than November 1st of each year.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Time Limits on Filing an Unpaid Wages Claim

Texas House Bill 405 (HB405) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 57 (SB57) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

Currently, employees in Texas only have 180 days to file a claim for unpaid wages with the Texas Workforce Commission. Both HB405 and SB57 seek to extend this period from 180 days to one (1) year.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Allowing Court Proceedings to be Conducted Remotely

Texas Senate Bill 690 (SB690) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3611 (HB3611) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 4081 (HB4081) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

Each of the three bills listed above seek to amend several sections of Texas’ Government Code (as well as the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Family Code, Estates Code, Health and Safety Code, and Code of Criminal Procedure) in order to permit or require the attendance of a court hearing or proceeding remotely through the use of “technology and the Internet.”

Among other things, the bills (if passed) would allow a court to:

  1. Conduct a hearing or other proceeding as a remote proceeding without the consent of the parties (unless the United States Constitution or Texas Constitution requires consent);
  2. Allow or require a judge, party, attorney, witness, court reporter, juror, or any other individual to participate in a remote proceeding, including a deposition, hearing, trial, or other proceeding.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Allowing Therapy Animals in Certain Court Proceedings

Texas House Bill 1071 (HB1071) — Introduced 01/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB1071 seeks to allow any party to an action filed in a court in this state to petition the court to authorize a “qualified facility dog” or “qualified therapy animal” to be present with a witness who is testifying before the court. The court may authorize this only if the presence of the dog or animal will “assist the witness in providing testimony,” the party petitioning for the order provides proof of liability insurance coverage in effect for the dog or animal, and the party petitions the court no later than the 14th day before the date of the court proceeding.

A handler who is trained to manage the qualified facility dog or qualified therapy animal must accompany the dog or animal at a court proceeding, and courts may impose additional restrictions during the court proceeding.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Prohibiting Certain Nondisclosure & Arbitration Agreements

Texas Senate Bill 209 (SB209) — Introduced 11/18/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1980 (HB1980) — Introduced 02/22/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, both SB209 & HB1980 seek to outlaw nondisclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, or other agreements between an employer and employee which prohibit the reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment to local or state law enforcement agencies or any state or federal regulatory agency.

HB1980 also seeks to outlaw nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements which prohibit an employee from disclosing to any person, including during any related investigation, prosecution, legal proceeding, or dispute resolution, facts surrounding any sexual assault or sexual harassment committed by an employee of the employer or at the employee’s place of employment, including the identity of the alleged offender. Strangely, the text of HB1980 states that this would not apply to “a negotiated settlement agreement or administrative action.”

SB209 also seeks to make any mandatory arbitration agreement covering disputes involving allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment void and unenforceable.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

CHILD SAFETY

Requiring video cameras in certain child-care facilities

Texas House Bill 1073 (HB1073) — Introduced 01/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB1073 would require daycare centers to place video recording equipment in each area of the facility (excluding bathrooms) occupied by children who are two years of age or younger, and to record any time children who are two years of age or younger are present in the area.

These daycare facilities shall retain all recorded video required by this act for at least 30 days after the date the video is recorded.

Recorded video required by this act will be confidential, and may not be released or viewed by anyone except:

  • An employee who is involved in an alleged incident.
  • The parent(s) of a child who is involved in an alleged incident.
  • Appropriate commission, department, or law enforcement personnel as part on an investigation related to suspected abuse, neglect, or a licensing standard violation.
  • Contractor or employee performing job duties relating to the installation, operation, or maintenance of said video recording equipment.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021 (with a grace period extending to 01/01/2022).

Criminal Penalties for Failing to Report a Serious Injury to a Child

Texas House Bill 1009 (HB1009) — Introduced 01/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

If passed, HB1009 would modify Section 261.101 of Texas’ Family Code to provide a criminal penalty for those who fail to report child abuse resulting in a serious injury.

According to the text of the bill, a person who knows that a child has suffered a serious bodily injury caused by abuse or neglect shall immediately make a report to law enforcement and/or the appropriate licensing agency.

If a person with such knowledge knowingly fails to make a report, they’re subject to a state jail felony. If the child was under seven (7) years old and died as a result of said injury, the offense is elevated to a third degree felony.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Outlawing Child Marriage in Texas

Texas House Bill 1590 (HB1590) — Introduced 02/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

Many states, including Texas, currently allow minors under the age of 18 to get married if they’ve received a court order “removing the disabilities of minority” (i.e., emancipation). If passed, HB1590 seeks to amend several sections of Texas’ Family Code in order to completely remove this exception.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Human Trafficking Awareness & Prevention

Texas House Bill 390 (HB390) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 316 (SB316) — Introduced 01/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

Both HB390 and SB316 aim to establish a human trafficking awareness and prevention training program for employees of commercial lodging establishments (i.e., hotels, motels, inns, etc). If passed, in order to meet compliance, operators of these establishments would be required to have all employees complete said training program on an annual basis.

The training program must be approved by the attorney general, and will include guidance on how to recognize and report human trafficking, how to report suspected human trafficking, and more.

Employees who make a good faith report of a suspected act of human trafficking may not be disciplined, retaliated against, or otherwise discriminated against by their employer.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.

Child Water Safety Requirements ("Cati's Act")

Texas House Bill 1676 (HB1676) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

HB1676 (known as “Cati’s Act”) seeks to amend Chapter 341 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code in order to enact additional requirements for schools and youth camps which allow children under their supervision access to a swimming pools, lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water.

If passed, schools, preschools, kindergartens, nursery schools, day camps, or youth camps must determine whether a child is able to swim or is at risk when swimming, and provide the owner or operator of the body of water a written or electronic disclosure that clearly identifies each child who is unable to swim or is at risk when swimming.

At any time in which a child who is unable to swim (or is at risk when swimming) has access to a body of water, the organization shall:

  • Provide a US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device;
  • Ensure the child is wearing the personal flotation device, and;
  • Ensure that the device is properly fitted for the child.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Preventing HOAs From Prohibiting Swimming Pool Enclosures

Texas House Bill 67 (HB67) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

HOAs (AKA “property owners’ associations”) in Texas generally have a lot of leeway when it comes to enforcing restrictive covenants. If passed, HB67 seeks to amend Chapter 202 of Texas Property Code in order to prevent HOAs from the adopting or enforcing any provisions that prohibit or restrict a property owner from installing a swimming pool enclosure that conforms to applicable state or local safety requirements.

If approved, this act will take effect on 09/01/2021.

ALCOHOL SALES & SERVICE

Allowing Liquor to be Sold on Sunday

Texas House Bill 937 (HB937) — Introduced 01/04/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1551 (HB1551) — Introduced 02/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

Texas’ “blue laws” currently state that alcohol retailers may not sell wine or “vinous liquor” containing more than 17 percent alcohol by volume on Sundays. It also states that no person may sell, offer for sale, or deliver any liquor before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on any other day.

If passed, HB937 seeks to amend Section 24.07 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to allow stores which hold a wine only package store permit and a retail dealer’s off-premise license to sell liquor on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The bill would also allow liquor to be sold on any other day between the (expanded) hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Texas’ blue laws also state that stores may not sell beer on Sundays between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. HB1551, if passed, seeks to amend Section 105.04 of Texas’ Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to allow beer and wine stores (stores which hold a wine and malt beverage retailer’s permit or a wine and malt beverage retailer’s off-premise permit) to sell beer on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

If approved, these acts would take effect on 09/01/2021.