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Commercial Truck Crash Insurance Claims Get Complicated

Aortali1375 via Flickr -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/11001549@N08/2699431068Few doubt that people who suffer injuries in crashes caused by interstate truck and bus drivers deserve compensation and monetary damages. Even fewer argue that the families of individuals of people who die in wrecks caused by professional drivers’ negligence or recklessness should not succeed with a wrongful death claim. That nearly universal acknowledgement of what is fair and just for crash victims does not translate into quick and easy insurance settlements.

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The problem, as any personal injury or wrongful death attorney will admit, is that filing insurance claims against an at-fault truck or bus driver gets very complicated very quickly. For a tractor-trailer, separate policies may cover the driver, the tractor of a big rig, the container being hauled, the trailer being towed, and the cargo inside the container. A tour bus or commuter bus will definitely have policies on the vehicle and the driver. The driver may also be a contractor who holds his or her own insurance policy, carries coverage through the trucking or bus company, and, if he or she is a contractor, has coverage through a third company.

It often makes sense to file claims against more than one policy. The usual place to start is to access the mandatory insurance that each commercial truck or bus must have. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, enforces these regulations, and companies that operate big rigs or tour buses without insurance can face criminal charges and massive civil lawsuits.

During 2019, the following minimum coverages were required:

 

Type of Commercial Vehicle

Type of Coverage

Minimum Total Liability

Large Motor Carrier (GVW > 10,001 lbs.)

Bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration

$750,000 - $5,000,000, depending on commodities transported

Small Motor Carrier (GVW < 10,001 lbs.)

Bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration

$300,000 for nonhazardous freight only

Large Passenger (> 15 people)

Bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration

$5,000,000

Passenger (15 or fewer people)

Bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration

$1,500,000

 

This type of coverage is available to interstate truck and bus accident victims because a commercial driver’s employer is automatically liable the negligence or recklessness of its employee or agent (i.e., contracted worker). A company could also have its own liability if it knowingly hired or entrusted a vehicle to a dangerous driver. This would be the case if a driver does not hold a valid CDL or failed a drug and alcohol screening before getting into the vehicle.

Consulting with an experienced truck accident victim’s attorney will help clarify when and where to file insurance claims. Continuing to work with the plaintiff’s lawyer is recommended because each insurance company that gets involved will almost surely either contest the claim or offer only a minimal settlement. Partnering with a dedicated personal injury or wrongful death attorney will ensure that the crash victim has an ally who understands the law and will not cave to pressure from insurance company representatives.

EJL

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia