The trucking industry, like other big commercial enterprises, has to carry insurance on its employees in case they hurt other people while they are working on the job. When big rig truck drivers are in crashes, that trucking company’s insurance policy comes into play to cover the damages and harmed caused in the semi truck crash.
However, there is a huge problem with the truck driver’s insurance coverage in these big rig wrecks. The insurance policy limits — how much the trucking companies had to buy as a minimum coverage in their insurance policy — has not been changed under federal law for THIRTY YEARS.
The minimum coverage limits for commercial motor vehicles right now is $750,000 for general freight carriers.
Think about that — and consider what things cost back in the mid-1980s. Think about the cost of gasoline, cars, tires, food, clothing, medical care, your insurance coverage for your car. Those have all risen, right?
So why hasn’t the trucking insurance coverage changed in all these years? Good question.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Report
FMCSA completed a report earlier this year and sent it over to Congress providing detailed analysis on why the trucker’s insurance coverage should be legally required to be higher. We provided details about that FMCSA report in an earlier post and you can read the details in “The Cost of Commercial Truck Accidents: FMCSA Pushes for Commercial Carriers to Take Greater Financial Responsibility for Big Rig, Semi Truck Crashes.”
Congress Votes Against Raising Liability Insurance Coverage Requirements for Truck Drivers
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives voted for HR Bill 4745 as part of 2015 funding and HR4745 blocked the federal agency, FMCSA, from taking action to increase the minimum insurance limits for both commercial trucking companies as well as bus companies like Greyhound and other bus operators.
What This Means to The Truck Crash Victim
By keeping the current minimum insurance limits for the commercial trucking and bus industries, accident victims and their families are facing medical expenses that in no way correlate to the 30-year old insurance coverage limits that remain in place.
Medical costs for doctors, hospitals, drugs, therapists, ambulance calls, long term care, rehabilitation, medical equipment, etc., are nowhere near their mid-1980s prices. This means that the truck driver’s insurance coverage may not be enough to cover the accident’s aftermath especially in catastrophic crashes involving wrongful death of bus passengers or traffic victims in semi tractor trailor big rig crashes.
The Trucking Alliance, for instance, has found that the current $750,000 limit is not enough to cover 42% of commercial truck crashes.
What Happens Now?
Right now, if the trucking company does not have sufficient insurance coverage, then it becomes responsible for providing financially out of its own resources (and victims must hope that the trucking company has sufficient assets to cover their long-term damage needs).
Collection of a judgment can be another huge fight after the courtroom battle over liability for the wreck has been won.
In Congress, there are continuing efforts underway to pass legislation that does allow for increasing the limits here. For instance, the American Association of Justice has supported an effort by one Congressman to increase the limits to $4.422 Million which reflects the present day medical costs in the same proportion that the $750,000 reflected when it was first established.
Eventually, this wrong will be righted.