Breakthrough regulatory reform is underway to ensure that victims of truck and tractor trailer accidents have sufficient compensation to cover the expenses that typically arise following trucking accidents. Truck drivers and the companies that employ them (referred to as “motor carriers” under federal regulations) have long been required to carry liability insurance to fund the claims of victims who suffer injury or property loss following accidents caused by truck driver negligence. However, as time has passed, the minimum insurance requirements have remained unchanged and the current coverage requirement is frequently insufficient to fairly cover victims’ losses.
Tractor trailers typically weigh 80,000 pounds when loaded, and the force of impact between these large vehicles and a typical private passenger auto often produces devastating injuries. With medical costs escalating year after year, truck accidents often result in hospital, surgical and physicians’ bills which meet or exceed the current liability insurance coverage limit of $750,000.00. This mandatory coverage limit is typically all that most small trucking companies or independent owner-operators choose to carry. Further, these $750,000.00 insurance policies carry “per-occurrence” limits, meaning that the coverage limit is eroded by every payment for property loss and personal injury. In cases where multiple vehicles are involved, all victims are left to share the $750,000.00 limit for all property loss claims and injury claims. When the coverage is paid out and exhausted, the only avenue of payment and financial recovery is to proceed through a trial, secure a verdict and judgment, and then seek to collect against the personal wealth and assets of the truck driver and the trucking company.
Most motor carriers and trucking companies incorporate, and they thereby protect the managers and owners from any personal legal liability for victims’ losses. Unfortunately, this protection often blocks victims who hold large judgments from ever seeing any real money for their medical expenses and other losses. For example, the victim who secures a multi-million dollar judgment against a truck driver and trucking company will certainly have access to the $750,000.00 in insurance coverage. However, if the trucking company does not have any liquid wealth and assets, the company can simply dissolve the corporation and re-open under a different name with a new corporate identity.
Due to the frequency of truck accidents and the fact that injury claims in truck accident cases often exceed the $750,000.00 limit of required coverage, personal injury lawyers and other victims’ rights advocates have lobbied for legal reform. We now finally have regulatory reform underway and the proposed new minimum coverage limit will exceed $4 million!