The field of truck accidents could be getting some much-needed help from a proposed bill that is currently heading through the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would increase the minimum insurance coverage that commercial truckers need to carry in order to drive on the roads in the U.S.
House Bill 3781 would do two things:
- It would increase the current minimum insurance coverage required of all commercial truck drivers from $750,000 to $4,923,154.
- It would automatically adjust the new minimum every five years based on inflation in the healthcare industry.
The strangely precise amount of the proposed new minimum for insurance coverage represents the difference in buying power in the medical field between today and when the current insurance minimum was enacted back in 1980. That difference was calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That long time since the old insurance requirements were put in place is a big impetus for the new bill. Everything has gotten far more expensive than it was in 1980, especially in the healthcare industry. The insurance requirement for truck drivers, however, did not have an adjustment for inflation – the amount of money stayed the same at three-quarters of a million dollars, but what that money could buy has shrunk drastically in the 39 years that have passed.
The current $750,000 in insurance coverage is required by 49 C.F.R. § 387.9. While $750,000 seems like a lot, these are truck accidents that we are talking about: they are frequently fatal and often leave innocent victims in passenger vehicles with permanent disabilities and life-altering debilitations from catastrophic injuries.
Worse, that $750,000 is also often a single limit policy. It gets spread among all victims of a truck accident, rather than going towards each victim. If a truck accident nearly kills one person in a crash, the victim could rely on the $750,000 minimum covering at least a significant chunk of their expenses. If a truck accident nearly kills five people, though, they cannot each collect $750,000 in insurance payments from the trucking company's insurer. Instead, they will all be splitting the $750,000 to cover their losses, leaving everyone under-compensated for their injuries.
Those multiple-victim accidents are the norm in truck crashes – tractor-trailers are high enough off the ground and heavy enough to move through the vehicles they hit and collide with others that are in their way. Severe and catastrophic injuries are also the norm: one study found that 42% of the settlements from truck accidents between 2005 and 2011 went for more than the minimum $750,000 insurance requirement.
When nearly half of the lawsuits are being settled for more than the required insurance policy, there is something wrong with the minimum policy amount. It means that the average truck accident is worse than what the trucking company has to prepare for.
This proposed bill aims to rectify that and force trucking companies to carry more insurance. Victims of trucking accidents would then be able to rest more assured that they would recover the compensation they need after such a severe crash.