Recent Commercial Carrier Tragedies
On April 25th, we learned of a horrific accident involving a FedEx truck’s collision with a college tour bus in Northern California, killing 10 people. The tour bus, carrying 43 high school students and three chaperones erupted in fire after the FedEx truck with its two 28-foot trailers jumped the center median. After colliding with a Nissan Altima, and came to a halt when it hit the bus.
Then on May 25, yet another commercial carrier collision occurred when the driver of a charter bus crashed and overturned trying to avoid steel pipes that were strewn on the highway from a jackknifed big rig. Four passengers died and dozens were injured.
Then, of course, the Wal-Mart truck crash on June 7 that critically injured Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger.
These recent commercial carrier accidents have shed spotlight on the current commercial carrier insurance limits. As attorneys who represent those severely injured or killed by negligent truck and bus companies and their drivers, we recognize the dire need to raise minimum insurance coverage for commercial truck and bus companies.
Due to the size, speed and force generated by commercial trucks and buses, accidents involving those vehicles are often catastrophic. It is not uncommon for someone seriously injured in one of these accidents to require future medical care of over $1 million. If the truck company only has $750,000 in coverage, that won’t even cover the injured person’s medical bills. That does not even begin to take into account the person’s lost wages or earnings potential, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, etc.
Specifically, the minimum amount of insurance required of commercial carriers under federal law are:
- $750,000 for for-hire interstate general freight carriers
- $1,000,000 for for-hire private carriers of oil and hazardous materials
- $5,000,000 for for-hire and private carriers of other hazardous materials
- $1,500,000 for for-hire passenger carriers of 15 or fewer seats
- $5,000,000 for for-hire passenger carriers with more than 15 seats
- $300,000 for for-hire general freight carriers of less than 10,0001 pounds
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently issued a report to Congress recommending an increase in the minimum insurance coverage for commercial carriers.
The minimum of $750,000 was set back in 1985, and if it had adjusted itself with inflation, it would be $3.18 million today.
At Passen Law we recognize, from our experience with cases such as these, that increasing the minimum required insurance would make dangerous trucking companies examine their safety policies closely. Insurance companies would definitely take a closer look at these companies before insuring them, and this in itself will improve safety on the roadways.
Proponents of the insurance increase claim crashed that exceed $750,000 in insurance payouts are rare, and this is simply false. If there were no $750,000 limit, there would have been thousands of others involved in accidents like these receiving seven-figure settlements for injuries and deaths.
Increased insurance limits would protect the rights of the innocent victims seriously hurt or killed in truck accidents and their families. This would force commercial carrier companies to reexamine safety issues more carefully, and this in turn would make America’s roadways safer to travel.