Congress: Raise The Limits On Commercial Vehicles

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently requested that Congress increase the liability insurance limits that cover the commercial trucking industry. This is long overdue.

The current minimum insurance limits for commercial trucks and tractor trailers is only $750,000 for a vehicle that exceeds 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. That figure was set 34 years ago. This number has not been increased with inflation or the required liability limit would be over two million dollars today.

Last year Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., proposed a bill to increase the required insurance minimum. The bill failed. Cartwright, a former plaintiff’s attorney who handled these cases, understood first hand the catastrophic cost of medical care, lost wages, and damages that often arise from these cases. More than 100,000 people had been killed in 18 wheeler crashes since the law was last amended. Representative Cartwright has proposed that the liability limit be increased to $3,188,250.00.

Representative Cartwright and other legislators have also proposed that the following vehicles have higher liability insurance limits:

Low hazard hazmat tractor trailers $1 million to $4,251,000
High hazard hazmat tractor trailers $5 million to $21,255,000
Large buses $5 million to $21,255,000
Small buses $1.5 million to $6,376,500
I have handled cases where an 18 wheeler driver kills and/or seriously injures more than one person. It is common and the cases are horrific. The photo above was taken from the scene in a case where my two clients, a husband and wife, were seriously injured. The defendant trucking company whose driver rear ended their smaller car on Interstate 35 south of Fort Worth had higher limits fortunately (the case settled just before trial for $5.5 million).

Cases like this are more common than you may think. A loaded rock t leaves Bridgeport and is driving with bad brakes while its poorly trained and rushed driver is texting and kills or seriously injures four people. After the insurance company for the trucking company pays the maximum amount of $750,000 under the policy, what next for the victims? Most smaller companies have no other sizeable assets or ability to pay more money so the family is forced to accept that amount. If the plaintiffs pursue the company and driver in court, all too often the defendants file bankruptcy.

Commercial truck liability limits have to be increased to protect innocent people and their families who have sustained serious injuries or deaths. And after all, $750,000.00 certainly isn’t what it used to be in 1980. Compare that number with the following stats:

* Sandra Bullock made $77 million from her movie “Gravity;”

* Brendon Todd got $1,250,000 for winning the Byron Nelson golf tournament yesterday;

* The average house for sale in Dallas is listed at $600,000.

Even some larger trucking carriers and their liability companies approve an increase in the limits, as they realize that this will reduce the number of collisions, especially by small, often unsafe companies who undercut the larger, more responsible ones with small insurance policies and unsafe, underpaid drivers.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an 18 wheeler “big rig” collision, you should meet with an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate your rights and learn how you can be compensated for your damages. I have been been a board certified specialist in the field of Personal Injury Trial Law for 20 years. I limit my law practice to truck and automobile collision cases. I have served on the board of directors of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Tarrant County Trial Lawyers Association for many years. I am a member of the American Association for Justice’s Interstate Trucking Litigation Group and other organizations. More information can be found here.

The Law Offices of William K. Berenson protects the rights of those who were injured or who lost a loved one in a collision. We are based in North Texas but serve clients throughout the nation. If you or someone you love has been injured by a careless truck driver, don’t sign anything the trucking company gives you. Click here, call us as soon at 888-801-8585, or send an email to to speak to an attorney or arrange a free, no obligation, confidential consultation.

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