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Why the push back from OOIDA on increased insurance limits?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted October 1st, 2014

Hint: the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has quietly become the fourth largest truck insurer in terms of MCS-90 Filings in the country

The hot topic in the commercial trucking world this past summer was regarding raising insurance minimums. And raising insurance policy limits is also one of the few things that many on both sides of the trucking world – from attorneys like me who focus on litigating serious truck cases to some of the biggest trucking companies in the industry and the attorneys who defend these cases when crashes occur – that we can all agree upon.

Almost everyone, that is, except for OOIDA.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has come out against this proposed change, that promises to increase safety and help the motor carriers that do play by the rules. Since safety is an added cost, even if it’s a necessary one, the good companies that play by the rules are often underbid by motor carriers who don’t.

The question is, why has OOIDA come out against this, when it should help so many of its independent owner-operator members?

Currently, commercial motor vehicles must be insured with a minimum $750,000 liability policy under federal law. However, because the insurance requirements for bodily injury have not been adjusted for inflation in three decades, this figure is now grossly deficient to protect people.  In cases of very serious injuries or death, these limits are often extinguished just from the medical and hospital bills. This leaves the victims of the most egregious and preventable truck accidents with nothing or next to nothing for the losses they have suffered, or the family members they have lost.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has been one of the biggest opponents of the proposed increase in insurance policy limits. OOIDA essentially contends that most serious truck accidents do not exceed the $750,000 insurance minimum (wrong!), and grossly underestimates the number of preventable truck accidents and related deaths.

OOIDA claims to be a highway safety advocate. Try telling the families of accident victims killed or seriously injured due to an unsafe truck company that they may get nothing or next to nothing because the insurance limits of $750,000 are quickly exhausted.

But what’s disturbing is what many in the industry now suspect OOIDA’s true motives for its opposition to increased insurance limits. It’s no secret that OOIDA issues commercial insurance to trucking companies. But OOIDA has quietly become fourth largest truck insurer in terms of MCS-90 Filings in the country.

An MCS-90 Filing is an insurance filing for truck companies.

If the minimums were increased, OOIDA’s insurance customer base could take a hit. After all, many of the most unsafe companies are smaller owner-operators. The most dangerous and unsafe of these would not be able to purchase the new federally mandated insurance requirements.

Which is exactly the point of leveling the playing field with the smaller owner-operators who do play by the rules. Since mandatory safety regulations are an added cost, it puts these OOIDA members at a competitive disadvantage to those who ignore them, and by extension threaten the safety of everyone on our roads.

Is OOIDA’s push back  inspired by a sincere belief that there are better ways to address trucking industry safety? Or  by a desire to maintain its very own insurance business?

Steven Gursten Photo

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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