Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for regulating all registered commercial motor vehicles (including large trucks and buses) that operate on an interstate basis or that carry hazardous materials (whether they operate on an intrastate or interstate basis). According to a report issued to the U.S. Congress by the FMCSA, the current minimum insurance limits required for members of the commercial motor vehicle industry—which includes approximately 540,000 motor carriers and 5.6 million drivers—is too low to cover the costs of some truck or other large vehicle crashes.
Most people who use our nation’s roads and highways have no idea how much insurance trucking and other large vehicle companies carry, nor what such coverage might mean to them if they were to be injured in an accident involving one of these vehicles. Federal law presently requires a minimum of $750,000 of coverage for for-hire interstate general freight carriers, $1,000,000 or $5,000,000 for carriers of certain hazardous materials, and only $300,000 for general freight carriers of less than 10,001 pounds.
But, according to the study conducted by the FMCSA, the costs of truck or other motor carrier accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries or death can amount to more than $1,000,000, far exceeding the currently required limits for carriers of non-hazardous materials. Another study, performed by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), concluded that liability awards in crashes involving large trucks and resulting catastrophic injuries or deaths can be as high as $10,000,000. On the basis of those statistics, the PIRE has recommended that minimum insurance limits per crash be raised to at least $10,000,000, with an index for inflation.
This is a hotly debated issue, with the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, Inc. (also known as the Trucking Alliance) agreeing that the current $750,000 limit is too low and the American Trucking Association (ATA) and many other trucking industry organizations arguing that current limits are acceptable.
Should the minimum amount of insurance required to be purchased by trucking and other commercial motor vehicle companies be increased? The short and obvious answer to this question is yes. An increase in the current limits is absolutely necessary to the fair and adequate compensation of people who are injured or killed in accidents caused by the negligence of these companies or their drivers.
When someone is injured in a truck crash or accident involving any other type of large commercial motor vehicle as a result of someone’s negligence, the injured person’s only recourse for compensation is through the institution of a negligence action against the drivers and company responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and resulting damages. These damages may include, among other things, the pain and suffering endured by the plaintiff as well as the costs incurred for past and future medical treatment, loss of earnings and future earning potential, future surgeries, rehabilitation, home and vehicle adaptations, and home care.
In order to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by a plaintiff in a truck or other vehicle accident under the negligence laws of most states, the plaintiff must establish that it is more likely than not that the negligence of the driver of the truck and/or of the company that employs the driver was a cause of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff in the accident. Likewise, if someone is killed in such an accident, the survivors of the victim may recover damages suffered by the survivors as a result of their family member’s death from the same defendants by proving that the defendants’ negligence was a cause of their family member’s death. In each case, a trucking company may be held indirectly liable for injuries or deaths caused by its driver-employee while the driver was under the employer’s control. If the company was negligent in screening, hiring, or training the driver, the company may be held vicariously liable, as well.
When insurance coverage fails to cover a jury’s award of damages in one of these cases, the company is still liable for the balance owing the plaintiff above the amount covered by the defendant’s insurance. What is the result for the plaintiff in some of these cases? To avoid having to pay out of its own company “pocket,” a company faced with such liability may opt to declare bankruptcy to avoid the liability and then reorganize the company under a new name and go right back into business. The plaintiff is left with less than he or she was awarded by the jury—and less than he or she deserves—while the trucking company has managed to pay far less than it should have for the devastation it caused to someone’s life. The only equitable solution is an increase in insurance limits to cover such awards and to deter trucking companies from avoiding them through bankruptcy.
Minimum Insurance Limits for Trucking Companies Should Be Increased
Today’s writer, Jeffrey Killino, is the managing partner of The Killino Firm, P.C. and a respected litigation attorney with extensive experience with all types of accident, personal-injury, and truck accident cases. Attorney Killino is concerned with the dangers caused to consumers by negligent truck drivers and companies, particularly when those companies carry insurance inadequate to cover plaintiffs’ injuries. Attorney Killino has obtained national recognition through appearances on major television networks such as CNN, ABC FOX, and the Discovery Channel, regarding his involvement in national cases, including a car accident case that resulted in the recall of 450,000 defective tires manufactured in China.