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Monthly Archives: July 2013

E-Filing in Texas

Apparently, the confusion over e-filing in Texas and House Bill 2302 passed by the legislature is widespread.  There is a concerted effort from the fine people over at the Office of the Court Administration to explain the new system, but since this bill went through the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, where I was General Counsel for the 2013 Regular Session, I figured I would go ahead and address some concerns and hopefully provide some clarity.

In December 2012, The Texas Supreme Court mandated e-filing across the state.  E-filing will be mandatory in the Supreme Court of Texas and in civil cases in the courts of appeals effective January 1, 2014.  E-filing will be mandatory in civil cases in the district courts, statutory county courts, constitutional county courts and statutory probate courts according to the following implementation schedule based upon the counties’ 2010 Federal Census population:

a. Courts in counties with a population of 500,000 or more – January 1, 2014

b. Courts in counties with a population of 200,000 to 499,999 – July 1, 2014

c. Courts in counties with a population of 100,000 to 199,999 – January 1,2015

d. Courts in counties with a population of 50,000 to 99,999 – July 1, 2015

e. Courts in counties with a population of 20,000 to 49,999 – January 1,2016

f. Courts in counties with a population less than 20,000 – July 1, 2016

The Texas Legislature, with the assistance of the Supreme Court and the OCA, drafted and passed House Bill 2302 to address the concerns regarding the costs e-filing.

Currently, e-filing is done as a toll road model, where the filer may have to pay the Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) a fee for every filing and every transaction.

The new law addresses the costly toll road model by providing uniformity and base fees to the e-filing system. First, it provides for a $20.00 filing fee on any civil action or proceeding requiring a filing fee and any counterclaim, cross-action, intervention, interpleader or third party action in the Supreme Court, District Court, County Court, Statutory County Court, or Statutory Probate Court.  If any of these actions are filed in Justice Court, the fee is $10.00

This fee is being instituted to replace the statewide Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) and provide a free option for an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP), which will be the TexFile EFSP. After paying the initial $20.00 (or $10.00 for Justice Court) filing fee, filers will be able to use the TexFile EFSP at no additional charge or fee for ANY subsequent filing. There will still be an option to use a different EFSP that charges their own fees, but there is no requirement to use one of these fee services.

The only other fee is the potential $2 per transaction fee the counties may choose to charge to recoup the costs of integrating with the e-filing system. To charge this $2.00 fee, counties first have to submit an affidavit to the Office of Court Administration (OCA) stating that they have costs to recover. The $2 transaction fee sunsets in 2019.

Widespread concern about the costs of filing cases in Texas skyrocketing due to e-filing are based on understandable misconceptions about the new system set to go into effect.  Hopefully, this post has addressed some of those concerns and ensures lawyers and parties across the state that e-filing will not create unwieldy burdens or limit access to the courts.

Ryan Lee

 

 

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You can’t prevent stupid, but there’s coverage for that.

Why should you give the insurance company more money for Personal Injury Protection and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Because car wrecks happen. They happen to you, they happen to me, they happen to any person who has been in or will be in a moving vehicle.  Even if you’re as careful as a naked man climbing a barbed wire fence, they can still happen, because let’s face it, there are more people in the world like this than there are of you.

The first rule of driving is to ALWAYS have insurance. Do you have liability for bodily injury (like the state of Texas requires)? Yes. Good. That means when you are at fault, the other persons injuries will be paid for by your insurance company. But what about when you are the victim? That is what things like Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) protection is for. Don’t decline these. Because if that kid whose texting while driving only has the state required minimum coverage, and you end up taking a ride in an ambulance to the E.R. and need any extended care, chances are your medical bills will easily reach beyond $30,000.00 minimum.

PIP usually provides about $2,500 in coverage, regardless of fault for the accident.  It costs very little per month and is very easy to get.  Oftentimes, if it’s just a minor injury, PIP will cover all of your bills and can be sent straight to your doctor or chiropractor. It actually comes with your car insurance unless you sign to waive it. So don’t, keep it, use it, and be happy about it later.

UM/UIM is for the big stuff, or for when someone without insurance hits you and you are injured. It’s not terribly expensive, and is way better than having to pay out of pocket for medical bills and treatment from an accident that wasn’t even your fault. It covers the bills that go beyond the at fault drivers coverage, up to the limit you selected when purchasing insurance.

So, to sum it up, as much as  I hate to advocate for making insurance companies more $ so they can spend it on useful things like sponsoring the World Series instead of paying out claims, it really is the smart thing to do.

 

by: Ryan Lee at The Law Offices Of G. David Smith, P.C.