Why Haven’t 18-Wheeler Insurance Limits Ever Been Raised?

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Amount Set in 1980 Has Never Been Adjusted For Inflation

Tractor-trailers can cause massive injuries, often to more than one person. The owners of commercial vehicles in the $642 billion a year truck industry make substantial profits. And the risks of truck accidents have dramatically increased as over 500,000 of these giant trucks rush to deliver more products.

According to this report published by the U.S. Department of Transportation last year, the minimum amount of insurance that commercial freight operators is required to carry is ridiculously low. The coverage, only $750,000, is often inadequate to cover the catastrophic damage big rigs cause, especially if more than one person is injured or killed. This amount, unlike any other product or service you can name, has somehow remained the same for 35 years. I have blogged about this serious problem before.

U.S. Senate Is Considering Whether To Raise These Limits

The U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure Safety recently held hearings to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Only Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, citing the horrendous Tracy Morgan crash that happened in his state, had the courage to argue that the policy limits for 18 wheelers should be raised. But one senator from Montana, apparently bought off by the influential trucking lobby, chose to attack trial lawyers, saying we were the only ones who would profit if the limits were raised. 

I doubt that this senator would have the nerve to tell this face-to-face to one of my clients over the last 35 years whose life was dramatically altered when an 18 wheeler crashed into his car or truck. Or I doubt he has ever witnessed the grief of his or her family after their beloved family member was hit by a tractor-trailer and killed. 

The photograph that I posted above shows a truck similar to the one that crashed into my client several years ago at the same intersection in Hurst, causing him to have his neck operated on. Even though I was able to make the trucking company pay my client the available total of $750,000.00 after extensive litigation, my client had to quit his job and his life was drastically changed.

I have also represented the families of those killed in tragic crashes over the years. I am involved in one crash that happened on I-35 and am about to file suit over another. 

Over 5,000 people are killed every year in our country in one of 330,000 tractor-trailer collisions. Many happen here in North Texas.

Why Hasn’t The Commercial Liability Limit Been Raised By Now?

The minimum coverage requirements remain the same as they were in 1980 for commercial vehicles and 1982 for passenger buses.

But consider the cost of living then and now. In 1980, the average cost of buying a new home was $68,700.00, but today it’s a whopping $$295,000.00 — a 420% increase. Back then (when I started practicing law) a brand new car cost $7,200, but today costs over $33,000. 

That amount of $750,000.00 to pay for a victim’s damages in 1980 is worth over $2.1 million today. The same healthcare that would cost $750,000.00 back when Jimmy Carter signed the bill has skyrocked to over $3.1 million.  This amount that might have been enough to pay compensation for lost income, medical expenses and other damages in 1982 is grossly inadequate in 2015. 

It is clearly time for Congress to approve the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s recommendation to raise the minimum coverage requirements to better reflect the damages truck accident victims sustain. 

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