Georgia Senate Moves To Limit Ability To Sue Insurers In Truck Wrecks

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia senators are moving to limit the ability of people to sue insurance companies directly in lawsuits over trucking accidents.

The Senate voted 46-2 on Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 426, sending it the House for more debate.

The measure says someone could only sue the deep pockets of an insurance company directly when the trucking company involved in the lawsuit has gone bankrupt or when the plaintiff can't find the truck driver or the trucking company to serve with a copy of the lawsuit.

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

Sen. Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican sponsoring the measure, characterized it as a compromise between business groups and lawyers, saying it would "advance the ball and stabilize rates.” Tillery said there are elements that he might personally not favor as a lawyer who represents plaintiffs.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and some Republican senators vowed to press on with measures to limit lawsuits even after Gov. Brian Kemp said he would pause his effort until the 2025 legislative session, waiting to gather more information. Jones called Tuesday's measure “desperately needed in order to get Georgia’s business community the relief it needs.”

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 of such lawsuits.

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.