Insurance coverage is very important to my job as a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer. Unfortunately, the injuries from an accident between an ordinary vehicle and a commercial truck tend to be very serious, and that usually means expensive to treat—or to compensate adequately, if the victim has died. Trucking companies are required to carry liability insurance to cover this kind of payout, just like ordinary drivers are—and most of the time, that’s where accident victims’ payments come from. So I was interested to see an article saying a trucking industry group has a new report calling for larger minimum insurance coverage requirements for trucking companies.
The report comes from the Trucking Alliance, a group of seven trucking companies that lobby for more safety legislation. According to Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, the group looked at actual dollar settlement amounts in trucking accident lawsuits or insurance claims. Though high settlements were relatively rare, they represented a serious risk for trucking companies that carry only the federally required minimum policy, which covers payments up to $750,000. The report, calculated by an actuarial firm, showed that a company carrying the federal minimum insurance would risk being uninsured for 42 percent of the claim. At the top end of the firm’s calculations, a trucking company carrying $4 million in insurance would risk being uninsured for only 17.7 percent of a claim.
Other trucking industry groups criticized the study, noting that the actuaries called it an informal analysis and that the minimum insurance coverage is more than adequate in most cases. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also studying the issue of whether to increase minimum insurance requirements, at the request of a Congress that recently considered raising the minimum to $1 million. The last time insurance minimums were raised was 1986, the story said; an FMCSA official who spoke anonymously said Congress intended to study the issue more often. The FMCSA study is expected to echo the Trucking Alliance study’s finding that the number of high-cost settlements is increasing, even though overall accident rates are going down. The Alliance notes that inflation alone will increase the potential exposure from uninsured high-dollar settlements.
As a St. Louis trucking accident attorney, I hope the FMCSA and Congress raise the minimum insurance requirement. Trucking companies don’t like anything that increases their operating costs, of course, but it’s in everyone’s best interests if they carry adequate insurance. Without it, a trucking accident victim who wins a legal claim against the underinsured carrier won’t be able to collect the full amount, and he or she could attempt to collect from the company itself. This could easily drive the company into bankruptcy, an outcome the company surely does not want. Just like it’s bad for society when ordinary drivers don’t carry insurance—because the cost of their bad behavior is pushed onto the people they injure—it’s bad for commercial drivers to carry inadequate insurance. But as a southern Illinois big rig accident lawyer, I know firsthand that trucking accident injuries can be much more serious.
If you or someone in your family suffered serious injuries because of a trucker’s or trucking company’s negligence, Carey, Danis & Lowe can help. You can tell us your story and learn more at a free consultation by calling 1-877-678-3400, or send us an email.
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