Operating a large commercial truck in U.S. highways and local roads is a privilege, not a right, and truck companies who wish to do business on our roads must do it safely if they are going to do it at all. As I said in November, this means hiring qualified, professional drivers who follow the safety rules. It means servicing and maintaining trucks properly. It also means making sure that the truck company has the ability to demonstrate their “financial responsibility” to the American public.
What is the financial responsibility for trucks that may legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds and travel at 70 MPH in traffic with much smaller family vehicles? According to the federal government, trucking companies may prove their “financial responsibility” to the motoring public on one of several ways. Trucking companies may be “self-insured,” meaning that they can prove that they have enough money on hand to compensate victims in truck crashes. They may also obtain a bond that guarantees their financial responsibility to victims. However, what most trucking companies do to prove their financial responsibility is buy insurance, which may also satisfy these requirements.
How much tractor trailer liability insurance is enough? There are minimum insurance requirements in place, which were set in the 1980’s. A truck company carrying general freight across state lines currently must maintain $750,000 in insurance coverage. Sounds like a lot of money, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that in 2015, if a truck crash causes a single person to become a quadriplegic or suffer another kind of serious injury, $750,000 is not much money at all. It certainly will not meet the needs of a wheelchair-bound victim for the rest of her life. This may have been sufficient in the 1980’s, but it is not sufficient now.
The statistics in this area are concerning. As of March, 2012, there were 287,976 trucking companies registered with the U.S. government. Of those companies, 246,260, or 86% were subject only to the requirement that they carry $750,000 of insurance. The federal government estimates that truck companies subject to the minimums become involved in 49,819 crashes every year. Victims of truck crashes who are seriously injured, and the families of those killed in such crashes deserve better. The American public should not have to foot the bill when trucking companies do not have enough insurance to even cover a person’s medical expenses.
Trucks have gotten bigger in the thirty years since these minimums were put in place, and medical costs have gone up dramatically, yet the minimum insurance has stayed the same. There is now an effort underway to require the trucking industry to maintain adequate insurance to pay the bills when people become victims in crashes, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will likely attempt to increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility for trucking companies. The American public deserves these rules.
Trucking industry insurance is complicated, and the laws and regulations that govern trucking companies are complicated. If you find yourself the victim of a truck crash, or you have a loved one who has been injured in a truck crash, you need attorneys who understand truck collision cases and the unique rules that apply to them. At Farris, Riley & Pitt, we know the extensive rules that are particular to trucking cases, and we know how they should be handled for a successful outcome. A consultation with me or one of our other attorneys is always free and confidential. Please call (205) 324-1212 today to set up an appointment.