The truck accident lawyers of Michigan Auto Law and the American Association for Justice are pushing to raise the insurance requirements of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which sets minimum insurance standards for interstate trucks. We want economic regulations to reflect economic reality, as the standards haven’t been adjusted in nearly 30 years, and are now completely incapable of compensating truck accident victims with serious personal injuries.
According to the act, the minimum insurance standards for interstate trucks range from $750,000 for a basic truck to $5 million for trucks carrying hazardous materials. Keep in mind that $750,000 in 1980 equals just under $2 million when adjusted for inflation in 2009 — and is worth only $292,000 in today’s dollars.
According to the Consumer Price Index:
o $750,000 in 1980 equals $1,921,811 when adjusted for inflation in 2009, and is worth only $292,693 today.
o $1 million in 1980 equals $2,562,415 when adjusted for inflation in 2009, and is worth only $390,257 today.
o $5 million equals $12,812,075 when adjusted for inflation in 2009, and is worth only $2,491,933 today.
Serious Truck Accidents Make Case for More Truck Insurance
To illustrate why it’s important to raise these archaic insurance limits for commercial trucks, consider Los Angeles Lawyer Bob Foss‘ case representing a deceased truck driver’s family: In April 2008, two people were killed Colorado when a truck speeding around a curve lost its load of steel pipes. One victim, truck driver Stanley Nichols, left behind two minor sons. The other victim, 21-year-old Samantha Middlebrooks, is survived by her husband and parents. The trucking company only carried a $1 million policy amount, which doesn’t even cover the loss of income to Nichols’ family.
And the case of my friend and excellent lawyer, Robert Sachs of Philadelphia, who represented the family of a deceased married couple: In 2003, a husband and wife were killed when their minivan was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer in Pennsylvania. The truck driver, who was driving too fast for the fog-and-drizzle weather conditions failed to slow down, even when he learned a nearby vehicle fire was contributing to the limited visibility. The truck “overran” the couple’s vehicle at a very high speed. The wife, who was four months pregnant, was killed instantly. The husband survived just over an hour. All of the first responders recalled his calls for help and complaints that he couldn’t breathe, symptomatic of impending respiratory failure from his massive blunt force chest trauma. The truck that killed the couple had only $1 million in insurance. Shortly after the accident, the company went out of business, so there could be no legal recourse from this driver’s negligence.
The case of Maryland Lawyer Ronald Karp is also a sad example calling for increased insurance limits. Karp represented the plaintiff family: In 2007, Jose Villalta was killed when a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of his car. Villalta left behind a wife and two small children. The truck driver had dozens of driving violations and a suspended license in two states. Additionally, the driver has falsified driving records to conceal that he had barely rested. The two insurance carriers involved fought over which coverage was primary. With the help of a federal mediator, the case ultimately settled, however, each carrier argued that their policy was not primary and refused to offer the full policy limits.
Lastly, the case of my friend Michael Leizerman, an amazing Ohio lawyer: Plaintiff client has a mangled ankle from a truck accident. He went back to work as a machine maintenance person, but after multiple surgeries, he just couldn’t keep the job. Conservatively, the client will lose $1.5 million throughout his lifetime. The truck company policy limits are only $1 million. Therefore, the client will not be made economically whole.
Like Liezerman, our truck accident attorneys insist that a 30-year-old assembly worker, teacher or truck driver making $30,000 annually will lose more than $1 million in lifetime earnings when he or she becomes disabled from a truck crash. The median income is much higher than in 1980, and should be adjusted accordingly. A $2 million limit would at least cover the lifetime disability income loss of an average worker.
If you are a truck accident lawyer and have experienced similar unfortunate circumstances, please tell your story by making a comment below. You can also e-mail them to Sue Steinman, director of public policy – public affairs, for the American Association for Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Photo compliments of Creative Commons, by Gravestone
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Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008. The largest Michigan settlement was a truck accident case. For more information about Michigan Auto Law, please read our law firm quick facts.