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What every truck accident lawyer needs to know about MCS-90 filings

Written by Steve Gursten Posted October 28th, 2014

Coverage issues do not prevent an injured truck accident victim from pursuing lawsuits against trucking companies, thanks to the mandatory MCS-90 form filing

Truck driver file

If you’re an attorney litigating serious truck cases, you should know there are certain minimum insurance requirements in place for every motor carrier in the country. These insurance requirements were first implemented in the 1970’s, and remain in place today.

But when the mandatory liability and bodily injury insurance requirements were first installed, (perhaps unsurprisingly) many trucking companies simply were not compliant. In an effort to get active compliance, Congress created something called the MCS-90 endorsement.

Welcome to one of the most confusing areas of commercial transportation litigation for attorneys – the MCS-90.

What is a MCS-90 endorsement?

The MCS-90 is an endorsement that makes the insurer a surety to the public. The endorsement must be attached to any liability policy issued to a trucking company involved in interstate transport. It is not an option.

Typically, when a serious truck accident occurs, the trucking company’s tractor-trailer is listed in the declarations explicitly, or is otherwise covered under the policy. In that case, it’s easy: The insurance policy itself is implicated and the MCS-90 filing is never triggered.

Unfortunately, things are not always so cut and dry. Sometimes a tractor-trailer will have no coverage. This could be for a number of reasons, such as an underwriting mistake, the policy’s terms and how they relate to the crash, insolvency, or, as I have found from litigating these cases, illegal trucking operations. When this happens, the MCS-90 filing is triggered.

How does the MCS-90 work?

If the insurance company cites a coverage issue as a defense,  and you represent a person  injured in a  truck accident, you as the attorney should immediately file a lawsuit against the trucking company, the driver, and the owners. In fact, MCS-90 filings are created exactly for these types of scenarios.

According to the MCS-90 endorsement:

“In consideration of the premium stated in the policy to which this endorsement is attached, the insurer (the company) agrees to pay, within the limits of liability described herein, any final judgment recovered against the insured for public liability resulting from negligence in the operation, maintenance or use of motor vehicles subject to the financial responsibility requirements of Sections 29 and 30 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 regardless of whether or not each motor vehicle is specifically described in the policy and whether or not such negligence occurs on any route or in any territory authorized to be served by the insured or elsewhere…. It is understood and agreed that no condition, provision, stipulation, or limitation contained in the policy, this endorsement, or any other endorsement thereon, or violation thereof, shall relieve the company from liability or from the payment of any final judgment, within the limits of liability herein described, irrespective of the financial condition, insolvency or bankruptcy of the insured.” (Emphasis added).

So remember, if you come across a coverage issue within an insurance policy itself, you can still proceed with your claim pursuant to the MCS-90 form filing. And this has to be attached to every single liability policy that is issued to an interstate trucking cooperation.

Related information:

Truck lawyer tip: Obtain truck company’s form OP-1/OP-2 application to operate; Form MCS 150 application for US DOT number

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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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