Outdated Trucking Regulations Harm El Paso Injury Victims

The truck lies in a side ditch after the road accident

Truck accidents kill and injure thousands of Americans every year. Yet outdated insurance regulations mean that many trucking companies carry insufficient coverage to compensate victims and their families for their devastating losses. Injury victims are legally entitled to be compensated for their injuries. Contact an experienced El Paso truck accident attorney today to protect your legal rights.

The Regulation That Will Not Change

For more than thirty years, federal regulations have set minimum liability insurance coverage for trucks at $750,000. This figure has not changed since 1983. It has not even been adjusted for inflation. Fair Warning estimates that that same amount of coverage, adjusted for inflation, would equate to $2.2 million in 2017. But the minimum continues to defy inflation – let alone the exponential costs of American health care.

Oddly, even the trucking industry seems to recognize that $750,000 is not a sufficient amount of coverage to pay for the severe injuries caused by trucks and big rigs. Fair Warning reports that the Trucking Alliance encourages its members to maintain “significantly higher” coverage than the federal minimum. (Trucking companies are subject to judgments against them for any legal judgments not covered by liability insurance, but such judgments are very rarely paid.)  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently declined yet another proposal to raise the minimum coverage standard. For now, it would appear that safety has – once again – been sacrificed to the needs of politicians.

The Human Cost of Insufficient Coverage

Insufficient insurance coverage is a very real and devastating problem for the families who are most harmed by truck accidents. Consider the value ($9.6 million) that the Department of Transportation places on human life when calculating the costs and benefits of safety regulations. $750,000 is a mere fraction of this cost. Yet families who lose a loved one to trucking accidents are bound by the $750,000 minimum policy limits that many trucking companies carry.

The real-life tragedy of Ed Slattery is another stark reminder of the actual costs of truck accidents. Bloomberg reports that, in 2010, Slattery’s wife and two young sons were driving home from a family reunion when they were rear-ended by a big rig. The collision forced their vehicle into another big rig ahead of them. Their Ford Focus burst into flames. Slattery’s wife was killed and his two young sons were flown to trauma centers in critical condition. The younger son suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is confined to a wheelchair and speaks only with difficulty.

The actual costs of this accident are astronomical. $750,000 would not cover the boys’ initial hospital stay – let alone their mother’s funeral expenses, their ongoing medical care, and their father’s lost wages for months of round-the-clock treatment. The family’s unimaginable pain and suffering becomes a mathematical afterthought.

For now, the minimum insurance coverage for trucking companies remains stuck at 1983 levels. That’s why it’s important to explore all legal options following a trucking accident, including:

  • Product liability (if evidence either of the vehicles involved was defectively manufactured or otherwise created a dangerous condition);
  • Uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage (if trucking company’s coverage is insufficient and your personal policy is over-and-above that amount);
  • Government liability (if poor road design or maintenance contributed to the crash).

Still, drivers must exercise extreme caution around big rigs and hope that truck drivers will exercise similar caution in return.

Michael J. Gopin

Michael J. Gopin has practiced law in El Paso since 1987. Even after more than 30 years, he still remembers his first jury case. It was two weeks after receiving his license, when he represented a person whose life had been forever changed after being blinded in a work-related incident...


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