I think we have established this fact on this blog. What we have not talked about specifically is the risk to truck drivers. Driving a truck was the single most hazardous occupation in the United States last year, taking 852 lives. Logging that many hours on the road with vehicles that are tough to control… I’m surprised the number is not higher.
Large Truck Does Not Equal Large Uninsured Motorist Policy
Compounding this tragedy is the lack of uninsured motorist benefits for truck drivers. Commercial trucks have liability insurance requirements. Most trucks must be insured at a minimum of $750,000. (It is a crime that this cap has not been raised in the last zillion years but that is a whole different issue.)
Many commercial truck drivers assume they have coverage if they get into a serious accident. The federal regulations require minimum insurance on big commercial trucks; to protect the public from the risks associated with these vehicles. The companies that employ these drivers are always looking to save money. One way to save money is not to purchase uninsured motorist coverage, beyond the minimum required for the truck driver.
Fifteen years ago, when I first switched over to doing plaintiffs’ work, I learned this lesson. We had a case where a small truck t-boned our driver, who was driving a big rig truck. Our client had a lot of tough injuries, including a crush injury to his ankle. There was some early confusion about the at-fault driver’s insurance because he mistakenly gave the wrong information to police at the scene of the accident. We were concerned for a brief time that he might be stuck with just his uninsured motorist coverage. I was thinking a big truck will equal a big policy. But the policy had the minimum uninsured motorist coverage.
A big, recognizable company cutting corners by leaving its drivers at risk. This story had a happy insurance coverage ending because we came to find out that a large electrical company owned the little truck that hit our driver. But, I remember my surprise that the uninsured motorist coverage did not mirror the liability coverage the way it almost invariably does for a personal car insurance policy in Maryland.
- Going after both the broker and the shipper can lead to much deeper pockets, turning a $1 million case into a $5 million case
The Take-Home Messages
First, if you are a small trucking company and you are driving your own truck; you should get uninsured motorist coverage that at least mirrors your liability coverage. If you are a large trucking company, don’t leave your employees out to dry with just their workers’ compensation coverage. Second, our laws that set mandatory liability limits for trucks should require uninsured motorist limits. Finally, we all should have high uninsured motorist coverage on our personal policies to protect us from drivers that do not have enough coverage; since there are few insurance policies out there that fully cover on serious injuries or wrongful death cases.