Truck accidents kill and injure thousands of Americans every year. Yet outdated insurance regulations mean that many trucking companies carry insufficient coverage to compensate victims and their families for their devastating losses.
Although lives may never be the same, victims can seek some semblance of recovery through financial compensation from negligent truck drivers and their employers. When trucking carriers and drivers are held to account for tortious (wrongful) conduct, it deprives them of the financial incentive that often drove them to engage in unreasonable risk in the first place (i.e., faster delivery times, more deliveries completed, paying less in payroll and training costs, etc.).
While most trucking accident settlements and verdicts are paid for by insurers, trucking carriers often pay higher rates when insurers have to pay out claims. However, industry lobbyists have been successful in pressuring federal legislators to keep those minimum required insurance rates down. This directly impacts truck accident victims, who may not obtain full recovery for their injuries.
The Regulation That Will Not Change
For more than 30 years, federal regulations have set minimum liability insurance coverage for trucks at $750,000. This figure has not changed since 1983. It has not even been adjusted for inflation. Fair Warning estimates that that same amount of coverage, adjusted for inflation, would equate to $2.2 million in 2017. But the minimum continues to defy inflation - let alone the exponential costs of American health care.
Oddly, even the trucking industry seems to recognize that $750,000 is not a sufficient amount of coverage to pay for the severe injuries caused by trucks and big rigs. Fair Warning reports that the Trucking Alliance encourages its members to maintain "significantly higher" coverage than the federal minimum. (Trucking companies are subject to judgments against them for any legal judgments not covered by liability insurance, but such judgments are very rarely paid.) The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently declined yet another proposal to raise the minimum coverage standard. For now, it would appear that safety has - once again - been sacrificed to the needs of politicians.
Insufficient insurance coverage is a very real and devastating problem for the families who are most harmed by truck accidents. Consider the value ($9.6 million) that the Department of Transportation places on human life when calculating the costs and benefits of safety regulations. $750,000 is a mere fraction of this cost. Yet families who lose a loved one to trucking accidents are bound by the $750,000 minimum policy limits that many trucking companies carry.
This is not to say these claims aren't worth pursuing, but it's troubling that insurers are ducking out on what may be considered the lion's share of these costs, instead passing them on to injury victims and taxpayers.
How Ohio Drivers Can Protect Themselves From Truck Accidents
There are many driver behaviors which can reduce the chances of being involved in a truck accident:
- Make sure you are visible to any truck drivers nearby. Large vehicles have large blind spots, and this can make it difficult for a truck driver to avoid collision with smaller vehicles nearby. Use your horn and lights as necessary to increase visibility. Do not stay in a blind spot for too long - speed up or slow down to get out of the blind spot and remind the truck river that you are still nearby.
- Slow down! Large trucks maneuver more slowly than small vehicles, and they cannot quickly respond to cars that weave around them or make sudden movements. Speed should also be reduced any time that visibility is reduced at night, due to weather, or other circumstances.
- Allow extra space between your vehicle and any large vehicle nearby. Large, heavy vehicles require greater stopping distance, and an unexpected obstacle in the road can be disastrous for a vehicle following a truck too closely.
- Pay careful attention to the cargo hold of nearby trucks. Liquid cargo creates a sloshing effect, which can both propel the vehicle forward and cause the tank to sway across the road. Wind, slick roadways, and other weather conditions can also make it difficult for a truck driver to maintain control of his or her vehicle.
- Watch for trucks in construction zones. Trucks are typically found on shoulders, in medians, and other unexpected places in and around construction zones.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact a Columbus truck accident attorney as soon as possible. There may be a number of legal avenues for compensation, and we look forward to helping you explore those.