Trucks have to carry a minimum of Liability Insurance Coverage
Under federal law, an interstate trucking company must have a minimum of $750,000.00 in liability insurance available to satisfy any judgment that might arise out of a accident in which innocent third parties are injured. This is a minimum amount set by law. Most companies have coverage greater than this amount to protect their assets. If someone were to be killed or seriously injured, given the seriousness of accidents involving large tractor-trailer rigs, it is not uncommon that the damages inflicted will be substantial. Accordingly, it is not uncommon that these minimum limits are exceeded. Many carriers have one, five, ten and 20 million dollars in coverage and others have even greater amounts dependent upon the size of the trucking operation and the amount of assets of that a particular trucking company may wish to protect in the event of a serious claim.
If a trucking company only has the minimum coverage and a judgment greater than $750,000.00 is obtained by the innocent victim or their family, then in that event, the family of the victim can attempt to collect the excess amount of the judgment directly from the motor carrier’s assets. Thus, in many ways, the minimum coverage required by law is irrelevant because most carriers have far greater coverage. The minimum coverage typically is relevant only when smaller carriers are involved with few business assets.
Many carriers are in the business of transporting hazardous substances in interstate commerce. With respect to such substances, because they can be deadly if spilled or involved in an accident, the minimum coverage for such substances is typically $5 million in liability coverage. This is because if a toxic chemical is spilled many people may be affected and thus higher limits of liability coverage are required by law. Again, the more responsible carriers provide even greater coverage because $5 million may be woefully inadequate if there is a spill of toxic substances on an interstate highway.
The good news about federal law is that the minimum limit of $750,000.00 is far greater than Georgia state law minimum limit of only $100,000.00 for intrastate operations. If a trucking company is operating in intrastate commerce only, that is in the State of Georgia by itself, as an example, then in that event, the minimum coverage required by state law is $100,000.00. Again, the more responsible companies which have assets that they need to protect for their own reasons against an excess judgment will have greater amounts of coverage. Fly-by-night or smaller companies may only have the minimum.
We have long advocated that the minimum amounts currently set forth under both state and federal law need to be increased because of the tremendous damage inflicted by these vehicles when involved in accidents. When serious injuries and/or death or involved, the minimum limits are insufficient to compensate the innocent victim. Thus, while the minimum limits, in our judgment, are inadequate, nonetheless, they do provide a minimum safety net for the motoring public.
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