Three-quarters-of-a-million-dollars is a lot of money. But in terms of fatal trucking accidents, it does not come close to covering the losses of victims’ surviving family members. Yet that’s been the minimum amount of liability insurance trucking companies have gotten away with for almost 30 years.
Fortunately for motorists critically injured in trucking accidents, that may change this year.
Trucking Companies’ Insurance Coverages
The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 established minimum levels of liability insurance for trucking companies. The minimum financial thresholds in this legislation were:
- $750,000 liability coverage for the transportation of property
- $5 million liability coverage for transportation of certain hazardous materials
- $1 million liability coverage for the transportation of hazardous materials not including under the higher level
These minimums took effect in 1985 and remain unchanged today.
Bus Companies’ Insurance Coverages
Victims of catastrophic bus crashes aren’t protected any better. President Rea gan signed into law the Bus Regulatory Reform Act of 1982, which set minimum levels of liability insurance for companies transporting passengers, such as commercial bus lines. Those levels were:
- $5 million for companies operating buses that carry 16 or more passengers
- $1.5 million for companies operating vehicles that carry no more than 15 passengers
In April of this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced its intention to recommend higher limits. The organization said that if the trucking industry’s minimum insurance requirement kept up with the consumer price index since 1985, it today would be $1.62 million. Comparing the $750,000 million minimum to the medical consumer price index, today’s should be $3.18 million.
Using those same indexes, the FMCSA determined that insurance minimums for large bus companies today should be between $10.8 million and $21.2 million.
In December 2008, the FMCSA released a report estimating the cost of catastrophic trucking accidents. It estimated the average total cost of a fatal tractor-trailer accident to be $7.63 million.
The FMCSA said it will introduce in September 2014 its recommendations for increasing the liability insurance minimums for trucking companies. Some members of Congress may throw up obstacles to block the FMCSA’s proposals. And, of course, the trucking industry is lobbying hard against any increase.
If you’ve had a loved one killed in an accident caused by a trucker, you may want to consult an attorney experienced in investigating trucking accidents to have someone stand up for your legal rights and pursue just compensation for your loss.