Crashes involving commercial trucks can cause severe and long-term injuries to drivers and occupants. The cost of lost wages, hospital stays, surgeries, physiotherapy, and various other necessary past and future medical care can easily exceed $1,000,000. Commercial truck insurance minimums need to provide adequate liability coverage for these crashes, but the current minimum liability insurance only requires $750,000. This amount has shown disparity between the needs of victims and what companies have to have for coverage given that this amount has not changed in nearly 40 years. But pursuant to the INVEST in America Act, an amendment to the bill which was passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in June would raise the minimum liability insurance of commercial motor vehicles to $2,000,000, something that is past due for many reasons.
Why the truck insurance minimum is outdated
The trucking insurance minimum was set in the 80s and does not take into account several important factors. These factors include inflation, rising medical costs, increased court cases and increases in life spans. A lot has changed in the last 40 years, and insurance minimums should reflect everything from the cost of living to the often debt-inducing cost of managing life with a serious injury and its effect on families.
Rising medical costs are an important consideration for increasing insurance minimums. Serious wrecks between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles have resulted in catastrophic and life-changing injuries that are not covered by the current $750,000 liability minimum. Other financial implications, such as lost wages due to these trucking crashes are another aspect of what victims face. Quality of life, access to vital services, and fair compensation to families of fatal crashes should not be hindered because of coverage that is insufficient.
Court settlements for commercial truck crashes that involve passenger vehicles have steadily increased, revealing a problem that needs to be addressed. With more cases taken to court and higher monetary amounts being awarded, logically the minimum liability insurance needs to increase. Add on very large verdicts – verdicts in which the victim is awarded $10,000,000 or more – and we can see even greater importance to increasing trucking insurance minimums. Raising the coverage from $750,000 to $2,000,000 would be a small step in the right direction to ensure businesses are properly insured based on the reality for victims when wrecks occur.
Causes of commercial trucking crashes
Truck crash claims center around forms of negligence, such as driver exhaustion, driver intoxication, incorrectly loaded cargo, poorly maintained trucks, hiring agencies which employ risky and dangerous drivers, hiring companies with poor safety records but reduced costs to transport loads. These wrecks can cause catastrophic injuries, from traumatic brain injuries to spinal cord injuries and even deaths, and are generally worse than crashes involving only personal vehicles. Why is that? The size and weight of commercial trucks are much greater, and in a crash, the bigger object will win. Commercial trucks can completely decimate cars and SUVs, so it’s no surprise that the injuries they cause require significant compensation to treat and manage.
Road safety during COVID-19
One of the greatest changes to road safety during the current reality of life during COVID-19 is the suspension of trucking safety regulations. This suspension was extended yet again to ensure that essential supplies, including medicine and food, are delivered on schedule during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the regulations that have been suspended include those that restrict commercial truck drivers from being on the road for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Because this rule has been suspended, more drivers and passengers are at greater risk for crashes due to truck driver fatigue.
The safety regulations are designed to protect truck drivers and the motoring public from exhaustion and promote road safety; fatigue is a cause of many crashes, so allowing semi-truck drivers to be on the road for longer periods without requiring a break has raised valid safety concerns. Victims were already facing costs that aren’t adequately covered by the current liability minimum, and the suspension of key regulations only adds to this problem. More accidents mean more insurance claims and jury awards.
While the bill to increase trucking insurance minimums has yet to be implemented, it’s a positive step towards addressing the gap. The increase would recognize an outdated minimum that doesn’t reflect inflation, medical costs, lost wages and the reality of the increase in the number and severity of truck crashes. Consider contacting your elected officials today to insist that you and your loved ones be better protected in the event of a truck wreck.
The attorneys at Murray and Murray have a long-standing history and experience in handling truck accident cases. If you or someone you know has seriously injured in a truck crash, contact us today at 419-664-3711.
Partner at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A.