Bus Accidents Highlight Importance of Raising Insurance Minimums
In one deadly week this past September, two student buses were struck by semi-trucks with tragic results. For the North Central Texas College in Gainsville, four members of the softball team were lost when a tractor-trailer veered from its lane and hit the team van traveling on an Oklahoma interstate. In Florida, a negligent truck driver slammed into a school bus carrying fifteen passengers resulting in the hospitalization of seven students on board, including one needing critical care.
Unfortunately, these stories represent only a few of the thousands of Americans who are killed and injured in motor carrier accidents each year. Now, imagine $750,000 split between potentially dozens of victims after an accident involving a passenger motor coach or bus. Despite increasing medical costs, this is precisely the reality confronting families who must bear not only the emotional aftermath of crashes but also shoulder the financial burdens that result.
Congress Envisioned Regular Increases to Mandatory Insurance
When the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 began deregulating the motor carrier industry, Congress sought to ensure that reducing barriers to entry would not result in decreases in safety standards. Thus, while the minimum insurance levels in 1985 for general freight carriers and bus operators were $750,000 and $1.5 million respectively, Congress intended to increase the minimums regularly, in lock-step with inflation.
However, over the past 35 years, while the number of truck and bus accidents have steadily increased along with medical inflation and the costs of health care related expenses, minimum insurance requirements for commercial motor vehicles remain the same. Moreover, in an April report to Congress, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that in real terms, insurance premiums have actually decreased for the same amount of coverage since the 1980s.
Consequences of Under-Insurance
When an accident occurs and truck and bus companies are only insured for the minimum levels required under federal law, the "gap" between the amount that insurance policies will cover and victims' health care costs are passed onto taxpayers. Each year, Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare shoulder millions of dollars of medicals bills due to underinsured carriers. Raising minimum levels of insurance would incentivize motor carrier companies to make changes in their safety cultures, leading to safer interstate highways for all motorists.
Our mission is to obtain justice and fair compensation for those wrongly injured in accidents involving semi-trucks and tractor trailers. Contact our accident law firm today to learn more about how we can assist in your case.