What Is MCS 90? If You Were in a Truck Accident, You Need to Know

What Is MCS 90? If You Were in a Truck Accident, You Need to Know

If you have never heard of MCS 90, you are not alone. In our experience as commercial truck accident lawyers, the people who are familiar with MCS 90 fall into one of these three categories:

  • They work in or around the commercial trucking industry
  • They work in the commercial trucking insurance industry
  • They are hurt in accidents involving commercial trucks and suddenly discover that something called “MCS 90” can make a big impact on whether or not they can recover compensation for their injuries!

If you were injured in a crash with a semi-truck, big rig, or another commercial vehicle, we can explain all about MCS 90s. We can also help you file a personal injury claim to recover the compensation you need to cover your accident-related losses. For a free consultation, call 866-959-0975 or visit our contact page. Our experts are available 24/7!

MCS 90 Commercial Trucking Guide

The MCS-90 Endorsement: A Very Basic Explanation

MCS-90 is an “endorsement” to a commercial auto insurance policy that virtually every US trucking company and other motor carrier operating in interstate commerce must have. If you’re not familiar with these terms, here's a summary:

  • An “endorsement” is insurance company lingo for an add-on to a standard insurance policy.
  • A “motor carrier” is any company that transports passengers or cargo for pay.
  • “Interstate commerce” refers to crossing state lines while conducting business.

Federal regulations require MCS-90 endorsements for all commercial motor vehicles operated by motor carrier authorities, as well as any private carrier transporting hazardous materials. If an MCS 90 is expired or incorrect, the trucker or trucking company may be fined by the Department of Transportation.

An MCS-90 endorsement involves public liability. Contrary to popular belief, the MCS 90 does not add additional coverage to an existing insurance policy. Instead, the MCS 90 is an amendment to standard commercial auto insurance policies. It serves as a guarantee to members of the public like you! It ensures that if you get injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, as long as you’re not the one driving it, you’ll have access to at least a minimum amount of money to pay for your injuries, even if the standard insurance policy does not cover the commercial truck involved in your accident.

What Does This Mean for You? Here is an MCS 90 Example

Imagine you’re driving down I-10 when a truck tips over on the highway. You do all you can to avoid the situation, but it’s too late. You’re struck and injured by the truck. It’s a bad wreck, and you end up in the hospital for months.

Between your medical bills, car repairs, and lost time at work, you’re looking at at least $100,000 in damages... and that’s before taking your pain and suffering into consideration.

Did You Know Road Rage is an Exclusion In Most Truck Insurance Policies?

Normally, in a situation like this, you’d expect the trucker or trucking company’s insurance policy to pay for your damages and injuries. After all, the accident wasn’t your fault! But in this particular case, it turns out the trucker was road-raging at the time of the accident, and that’s what caused him to drive recklessly and tip over.

Shockingly, road rage is a typical “exclusion” to a standard commercial truck insurance policy. In other words, most commercial truck insurance policies don’t cover damages resulting from a “road rage” accident caused by a truck driver.

“No problem,” you think, “I’ll just sue the trucker and the trucking company.” But that turns out to be a dead end, too. The trucker is broke, and the trucking company is some fly-by-night outfit that can barely cover its own payroll, much less pay you the hundreds of thousands of dollars you deserve.

How Can an MCS 90 Endorsement Help in This Situation?

This is where MCS-90 kicks in. To operate a commercial vehicle in “interstate commerce,” trucking companies (a.k.a. “motor carriers”) have to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). To register with the FMCSA, companies must show they have the financial capability to cover any damage they cause to the public while operating commercial vehicles, even if their insurance doesn’t cover that damage. Most often, they do this by purchasing an MCS 90 endorsement on their policy from their insurance company.

With an MCS 90 endorsement in place, the insurance company agrees to be on the hook to pay pretty much any claim by someone who is injured by a trucking company’s vehicle, even if the insurance company’s policy doesn’t cover it.

Why would an insurance company agree to that? Good question! There are two reasons: First, the insurance company charges the trucking company for the MCS 90 endorsement. Second, the MCS 90 gives the insurance company a claim for reimbursement against the trucking company/motor carrier for any money it pays out under the MCS 90 coverage.

However, it’s not a foolproof deal for the insurance company. If the motor carrier goes bankrupt, the insurance company is out of luck. But for you, the injured crash victim, the MCS 90 provides an important resource to ensure you have another source of compensation when you get injured in a trucking accident through no fault of your own.

Is There a Catch? There Must Be a Catch!

Yes, there’s a catch. A few of them, actually. Still, in the grand scheme of things, none of them should affect you too much if you partner with a skilled and experienced truck accident injury lawyer.

The MCS 90 endorsement only comes into play in very specific circumstances. First and foremost, the trucking company/motor carrier must be operating in interstate commerce. That means it was doing business, in some form, across state lines. If the truck company only operates in Texas, MCS 90 doesn’t apply. In fact, chances are the trucking company in that example probably doesn’t even carry an MCS-90 endorsement on its insurance policy.

If the trucking company/motor carrier does operate in interstate commerce, here’s when the MCS 90 “guarantee” of your damages kicks in:

  • The motor carrier is at fault for the accident
  • The motor carrier’s standard insurance policy doesn’t cover the accident
  • You, the injured victim, don’t have anywhere else to turn for compensation
  • You are not an employee or independent contractor for the trucking company/motor carrier

Also, depending on how much commercial auto insurance coverage the trucking company carries, the MCS 90 has dollar-value minimums. These minimums might be less than the amount of money you could recover from the insurance company under the standard policy (although it is common for the MCS 90’s maximum amount to correspond to the maximum amount of the underlying policy.)

Under the federal regulations governing MCS 90 endorsements, the liability minimums vary depending on what the truck is carrying.

The liability minimum coverages are as follows:

  • $750,000 for a truck carrying non-hazardous property
  • $5,000,000 for a truck carrying certain hazardous substances
  • $1,000,000 for a truck carrying oil, hazardous waste, and other kinds of hazardous substances
  • $5,000,000 for small trucks carrying certain specific hazardous materials

Why is the first one so much lower, you ask? Trucks carrying non-hazardous loads make up most of the commercial truck traffic on the road. If their limits were any higher it might make the MCS 90 endorsement too expensive.

Higher Minimum MCS 90 Coverage Accounts for Environmental Restitution

The other reason the limit is so much lower for ordinary trucks carrying ordinary property is that the MCS 90 acts as a guarantee against environmental damage, too. Cargo spills can be much worse when a truck carrying “hazardous” cargo has an accident than when a truck carrying ordinary cargo crashes. Someone has to pay for all that clean-up, so the coverage amount is greater. Some trucking insurance policies already feature a pollution exclusion, which would be modified but not totally dismissed in the event of environmental restitution coverage.

History of the MCS 90 and Other Endorsements

MCS 90 has been part of federal law since the early 1980s when Congress passed The Federal Motor Carrier Act of 1980, and the executive branch passed regulations in accordance with it.

Since 2000, the FMCSA has been the federal agency in charge of enforcing those regulations, which include registration of motor carriers and proof of trucking company “financial responsibility” (that is, demonstrating that they have the ability to pay for the damage they cause to the public in the course of doing business in interstate commerce.)

MCS-90 endorsements are by far the most common way for motor carriers to prove their financial responsibility for damages resulting from truck accidents. There are, however, two other ways carriers can prove they have the ability to pay damages. One is a “surety” bond, and the other is “self-insurance.” A surety bond is a promise for one party to pay on behalf of another party if they fail to hold up their end of an agreement. Potential complications arise when resorting to this sort of security for damages if a motor carrier doesn’t have an MCS-90 endorsement on its insurance policy.

Unlike accidents the insurance policy covers, an insurance company typically has no legal obligation to pay for the motor carrier's attorneys when an MCS-90 endorsement comes into play. (It might be in the insurance company’s interest to do so, however, since whatever it pays under an MCS 90, it will want to recover from the motor carrier.)

As a result, a motor carrier that has to resort to its MCS 90 to pay damages in an accident might be slower than usual to get legal help, or it might end up retaining a lawyer less familiar with truck accident issues than the lawyer the insurance company would’ve chosen.

Believe it or not, that poses challenges for your lawyer, too. This is another reason why you need an experienced truck accident attorney on your side to help guide the process of recovering MCS 90 money.

Finally, MCS 90s can get tricky because they’re only triggered by the insurance policy they’re attached to when not covering an accident.

Whether an insurance policy covers an accident usually comes down to two factors: What the policy says and which state’s law applies to the policy.

Even when commercial trucking insurance policies have “standard” language, every state has its own laws about how courts can interpret and enforce insurance policies. You need an experienced lawyer to determine which law applies to a policy and how that law affects whether your accident is covered or not.

If You Were Hurt in a Truck Accident, What Should You Do Now?

In any accident, you want to protect your rights and increase your chances of collecting compensation. Here are the most important steps to take after a truck crash as you are able:

  1. Call 911. First and foremost, make sure you see a doctor and get the healthcare treatment you need. Not only is this the most important thing for you and your family, but the records of the medical treatment you receive can be crucial evidence used to prove how much money the person who caused the accident owes you. Always prioritize your health and safety after any auto accident. Even if you don’t think you need emergency care, you should still call 911 so the police can respond to the scene and create an accident report.
  2. Exchange information. Get the name of the trucker and their employer or affiliate company. Record their license info, insurance info, license plate numbers, and the make and model of all vehicles involved.
  3. Collect evidence. The most important step! Take photographs of your injuries, damage to your vehicle, any other vehicles involved, debris or cargo, and the surrounding area.
  4. Call your insurance company. Tell them you've been in an accident and provide them with the basic facts, such as the time and location.
  5. Consult a truck accident lawyer. Many personal injury lawyers provide free case evaluations. Whether you hire them or not, their input can help you plan your next steps! Schedule an appointment with an experienced truck accident attorney to discuss your right to compensation as soon as possible.

We know talking with a lawyer might not seem like a top priority, but as you can see, just the information about MCS-90 endorsements after a truck accident can be extremely complicated. The sooner an attorney can get started protecting your legal right to compensation and investigating the factual and legal aspects of your accident, the better off you will be.

Is There Anything I Shouldn't Do After a Truck Accident?

Yes, here’s something you shouldn’t do: Don’t sign anything or agree to any settlement offer from any party to the case until you’ve talked to an attorney who is familiar with truck accident law! Trucking companies and their insurers are not on your side. They might try to encourage you to take a quick settlement offer to limit their exposure, particularly if the insurance company is worried that it will have to pay you under an MCS-90 endorsement. They don’t want to go through the hassle of following up with their customer in pursuit of a reimbursement the customer probably can’t afford!

We understand it might be tempting to accept the first offer you receive but trust us: You will be significantly better off in the long run if you resist that “easy” money. Don’t sign away your rights to the compensation you deserve! Always consult a lawyer first.

Talk With a Nationally Recognized Truck Accident Attorney Who Understands MCS 90 Coverage

As we’ve discussed here, truck accident cases are significantly complicated, but when you understand some of the basic elements of a truck accident claim and work closely with an advocate you trust, you can ensure you obtain justice for your truck accident injuries.

To learn more about your options, enjoy a free consultation by calling us at 866-959-0975 or visiting our contact page to share your story. We’re here to listen, 24/7!