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FMCSA considers raising truck insurance in wake of deadly wrecks

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 20th, 2014

Recognizing current insurance minimums are too low, the FMCSA has started  creating a new rule to increase insurance for commercial carriers

The recent FedEx/bus crash in California has officials revisiting the current truck insurance limits.

The recent FedEx/bus crash in California has officials revisiting the current truck insurance limits.

Attorneys who litigate serious truck accident cases understand there’s a link between unsafe truck and bus companies, and the low minimum insurance coverage that these companies are insured with.

Yesterday, Michael Leizerman, one of the founding attorneys of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, was in Washington DC talking to federal regulators about the need to raise minimum insurance coverage for commercial truck and bus companies.

The timing is certainly appropriate to look at increasing minimum insurance coverage.  You’re probably already  aware of the catastrophic fatal truck accidents as of late. Last month, there was a horrific FedEx truck on bus accident in California that left 10 people dead.

This was a horrible tragedy. It’s still not entirely clear what happened in that deadly crash, but imagine this: What if it wasn’t a FedEx truck that caused this wreck? What if it was one of thousands of trucks on our roads with  only the mandated minimum $750,000 insurance coverage?

This happens every single day.  And in this case, it would mean that all of the families of the people who were killed in the truck accident would only be able to receive approximately $75,000 per family to compensate them for their terrible loss.  But it would, of course, be far less than that because in pure tort states, people would also be suing for hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and wage loss (past and future), and other economic losses.  And those people who were seriously injured but not killed would also sue for their personal injuries.  It is quite possible that the eventual pay-out would be nearly next to nothing – if the truck had the minimum $750,000 in insurance coverage available.

That is unacceptable and woefully inadequate. And yet it is happening every week in America.

Recognizing the problem with the current regime, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has finally decided to act. An FMCSA committee will meet this week to begin work on the agency’s plan to raise the minimum amount of liability insurance required by carriers.

The meeting is May 19-20 in Virginia. The committee will examine different ideas and suggestions about how to effectively change and implement insurance requirements for all commercial trucking operations and motor coaches.

The announcement of this committee comes on the heels of a recently released FMCSA report, which concluded that the $750,000 insurance requirements were simply too low.

The current $750,000 requirement was set all the way back in 1985, and has not kept up with inflation.

This minimum is especially problematic in catastrophic crashes where many people are seriously hurt or killed and there are many potential claimants all arising from the same truck accident. The report indicated that the agency would explore raising the minimum requirements but did not elaborate on how.

Proponents of the proposed change, including the lawyers here at the Roundtable, understand that increasing the minimum required insurance would function to make dangerous trucking companies more safe.  And the insurance companies that insure these companies would give them a harder look, which would also improve safety.

However, the truck lobby, and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is taking the position that crashes over the $750,000 limit are extremely rare.  This is false logic.  The entire point is that most of these motor carriers don’t have assets and aren’t collectible, and there would be thousands of others that would have been seven-figure settlements for people who were hurt and killed – but for the $750,000 policy limit.  For the truck lobby and OOIDA to then turn around and spin it that these are rare is absurd.

Increased insurance limits would protect the rights of those who are seriously hurt or killed in truck accidents and their families.

It is as close to a win-win as we could hope for.

Related information:

Bill would boost truck insurance minimums to account for 33 years of inflation

Steve Gursten

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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