While semi-trucks are invaluable to the American way of life, they continue to kill and injure far too many innocent individuals every year. For example, large truck (with a gross vehicle weight rating of greater than 10,000 pounds) accidents caused 4,842 fatalities in one recent year alone. While this figure represents a four percent decrease from the previous year, it’s still a 33 percent increase over the last decade. Further, 107,000 large trucks were involved in injury accidents.
Large trucks represent:
- 9 percent of vehicles involved in deadly accidents
- 4 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S.
- 10 percent of total miles driven on U.S. roads
Suppose you are in a collision with a truck driver. In that case, it’s reasonable to expect that they have sufficient auto insurance to cover your damages. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. An uninsured or underinsured driver can put you in a difficult position, especially with the scope of damages a truck accident can cause. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
After a truck accident, the best course of action is to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. They can examine the specific details of your case and make suggestions about what to do based on your available options. If you decide to hire them, they will manage your claim and seek compensation on your behalf from all available sources.
What Does FMCSA Require for Interstate Truck Insurance?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates interstate insurance for commercial trucks and buses. Commercial companies can’t obtain an Operating Authority (MC number) from FMCSA unless they first purchase public liability insurance with coverages for bodily injury and property damage.
Interstate truckers need liability insurance. It protects truckers and the public from at-fault truck drivers. Bodily injury liability insurance pays for hospital bills of pedestrians or other motorists hurt in accidents. On the other hand, property damage liability pays for repairs to other people’s property damaged in an accident the truck driver caused.
FMCSA requires interstate truckers to carry minimum limits of coverage. For example, if a truck driver is at fault in an accident that amounts to $500,000 in damages, FMCSA requires their insurance policy to cover at least $500,000. For instance, in this scenario, a policy that only covers up to $250,000 wouldn’t be enough to cover all of the damages the trucker is responsible for.
The minimum required insurance coverage depends on the freight the truck driver hauls:
- Non-hazardous freight moved in vehicles under 10,001 pounds: $300,000
- Non-hazardous freight in vehicles over 10,001 pounds: $750,000
- Oil moved by for-hire and private carriers: $1,000,000
- Other hazardous material moved by for-hire and private carriers: $5,000,000
FMCSA Sanctions and Criminal Penalties for Not Carrying Insurance
Drivers and trucking companies who don’t have insurance or don’t carry the required minimum policies can face civil fines, criminal charges, and loss of operating authority under FMCSA.
While these serious consequences will prove costly to their operation, livelihood, and reputation, some truck drivers and trucking carriers still refuse to abide by the law. Still, this doesn’t help victims who suffer severe injuries and losses in these accidents.
Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
Semi-trucks are some of the most oversized vehicles on the road- both length and weight-wise. They can cause hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. They can demolish vehicles and cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries.
The best thing you can do upon learning that the truck driver who hit you didn’t have proper insurance is to hire an experienced semi-truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will know the different sources of compensation that might still be available to you. For example, they know how to investigate your accident and determine who might be liable besides the truck driver and how to locate other insurance policies that might apply.
Other Sources of Truck Accident Compensation
If the truck driver who hit you doesn’t have enough coverage to provide for your damages, your attorney will look to other sources of compensation, including the following.
The Trucking Company
If the truck driver was working for a trucking carrier or using a truck belonging to someone else, the carrier or truck’s owner can be one source of potential compensation. Even though they didn’t directly cause the accident, they are vicariously liable for injuries for hiring the uninsured truck driver or letting them use their truck.
Other At-Fault Parties
Sometimes the truck driver isn’t at fault or isn’t the only party responsible for the accident.
Other at-fault parties might include:
- Other drivers
- The truck’s manufacturer
- Parts manufacturer
- Vendors providing service to the truck carrier
- The owner of the truck’s cargo
- Government entities responsible for road conditions, design, maintenance, or signage
Your semi-truck accident lawyer will perform a thorough investigation into your accident, uncovering any additional at-fault parties. If there are other at-fault parties, they will go through the legal process to find out about their insurance coverage and file a claim against it. Depending on the situation, you can still receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.
Your Insurance Policy
Depending on the auto insurance laws in your state and the insurance coverages you have, you might rely on some of your own insurance coverage to pay for your damages. Medical payments coverage, also known as med pay or personal injury protection (PIP), will cover your medical expenses up to a certain amount. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you must carry this coverage. Other states, like Texas, let you elect this coverage even if they are a fault state.
Some states but not others require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You can usually purchase it in the states that don’t require UM/UIM. If you have this coverage, it will pay for your damages up to your policy limits if an uninsured driver crashes into you. It also applies if the driver has insurance but not enough to pay for your damages.
For instance, suppose your damages from a truck accident amounted to $300,000, and the truck driver only had a $200,000 insurance policy limit. You can file a claim for the remaining $100,000 in damages with your underinsured motorist policy. However, if your policy was only for $50,000 in coverage, you will only receive that much, not the entire $100,000.
You also may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for the compensation you deserve. However, often, if a truck driver or trucking company doesn’t have the minimum insurance coverage, they don’t have many assets to start with. So if you litigate your case and win, but they have no assets you can go after to receive a financial recovery, litigation doesn’t do much good. Even still, this is an option to discuss with your attorney. In some instances, it might be a viable option that you should pursue to get the compensation you deserve to receive.
What Impacts the Cost of a Commercial Truck Accident Settlement?
Although there may be similarities, no two semi-truck crashes are alike. What both the truck driver and injured party were doing right before and at the time of the collision, the road and weather conditions, and the truck driver and trucking company’s records all factor in when determining the value of a semi-truck accident claim.
Other factors that can potentially impact your claim’s value also follow.
The Severity of Your Injuries
The more severe your injuries, treatment, and rehabilitation course, the higher the cost. If the accident causes a fatality, it can result in an even larger settlement. For example, someone with a broken wrist will have a much smaller claim value than someone with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a spinal cord injury (SCI).
Medical expenses, such as diagnostic tests, hospital stays, surgeries, physical therapy, prescriptions, and doctors’ visits, all quickly add up. The more medical care you need because of the accident, the more compensation you deserve to receive.
Has the Accident Changed Your Life?
The degree to which the accident affected your life will help determine what your claim is worth. For example, suppose you can fully recover physically and return to living your life as it was before the accident. In that case, your claim is worth less than someone who lost the use of a limb because of a truck accident and can no longer work.
Your Property Damage
The value of your semi-truck accident should also account for the damage to your vehicle and any other property involved. For example, if your wedding ring was lost or ruined or your eyeglasses broke, you deserve compensation for those items too.
The Truck Driver’s Behavior
When a trucker acts carelessly or negligently, resulting in an accident, the costs typically increase. If the trucker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, broke traffic laws, or nodded off at the wheel, their actions will account for the claim value. A truck driver’s past behavior, such as previous driving infractions, should also be considered.
If the driver was on the clock when the accident occurred, then the trucking company is likely to carry some liability for the crash. That means a potentially higher settlement as the trucking company is likely to have a larger insurance policy.
There may also be other factors that impact your claim’s value. Discuss this with any attorney you intend to hire. The stronger the evidence supporting your claim, the higher the settlement for your commercial truck crash.
A semi-truck accident attorney will collect all of the needed documentation, evidence, and eyewitness testimony to prove the expenses in your specific case. They will represent your best interests when up against insurance companies and trucking carriers so that you obtain a monetary settlement that fairly compensates you for your damages.
Seek Representation from an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today
Commercial truck accident claims are inherently complex. For example, there may be multiple at-fault parties and multiple victims. To secure compensation, you must hold the right parties accountable for their actions. If those parties either don’t have insurance coverage or don’t have enough to cover all of your damages, you need an attorney on your side.
In many cases that appear to lack insurance coverage, an experienced attorney can help track down available sources of compensation so that victims aren’t left holding thousands of dollars in medical bills that they can never dream of paying.
Being involved in a semi-truck accident is hard enough, but learning that the truck driver wasn’t insured or doesn’t have adequate insurance can also shock and worry you. But don’t give up—you may explore other options. Call an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer today to find out more.