When it comes to truck accidents, there are a variety of factors at play. One of those factors is the commercial truck insurance held by the party responsible. The type of coverage held by the trucking company not only depends on what they carry but also where they operate.
This makes pursuing compensation a daunting task without the help of an experienced attorney. At Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C., our trucking accident attorneys know the ins and outs of federal and state motor carrier insurance laws.
Here’s what you need to know about commercial truck insurance minimum requirements and when they apply.
Commercial Truck Insurance: Minimum Requirements
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets all the interstate commercial truck insurance requirements for the United States. While there may be additional rules for individual states, these federal requirements apply to all interstate trucking companies.
The minimum coverage needed depends on a few factors. Generally, trucks carrying passengers need more bodily injury and property damage coverage than those carrying cargo. In addition, certain types of hazardous cargo require more insurance.
All interstate motor carriers, whether they carry cargo or passengers, must file an assurance of financial responsibility, known as form MCS-90, with the Department of Transportation. Any person violating these insurance laws faces a $16,000 fine per penalty per day.
Under federal regulation 49 CFR § 387.9, trucking companies need a minimum of $750,000 in coverage when transporting non-hazardous commodities. For hazardous cargo, the minimum coverage may increase to a maximum of $5,000,000.
However, this only applies to vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds. Vehicles under this weight limit carrying non-hazardous materials need only $300,000 in coverage. All property-carrying companies require a form MCS-90 or MCS-82 confirming their minimum coverage.
Trucks carrying passengers need more insurance than those carrying cargo. For vehicles seating up to 15 passengers, the FMCSA requires a minimum of $1,500,000 in bodily injury liability coverage.
This coverage drastically increases if the truck fits more than 15 passengers. For these vehicles, the minimum coverage is $5,000,000.
Intrastate vs. Interstate
One of the major factors in determining the insurance requirements for a trucking company is its scope of operation. Typically, the commercial truck insurance minimum requirements set by the FMCSA generally apply to motor carriers with interstate operations.
The federal government defines an interstate motor carrier as:
- Any for-hire motor carriers operating motor vehicles transporting property in interstate or foreign commerce or
- Any private or for-hire motor carriers operating motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials, substances, or wastes in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce.
Based on this definition, every company carrying hazardous materials must meet the FMCSA’s insurance coverage requirements. In addition, any U.S.-based carrier participating in foreign commerce must follow the coverage rules.
For intrastate motor carriers, the coverage requirements vary widely. In fact, intrastate carriers transporting only non-hazardous goods within the boundaries of one state don’t need to follow federal insurance requirements. Instead, they must follow the rules set by the state they operate in.
Most states adopt the same minimum coverage requirements as the FMCSA, but some require more or less.
Why Minimum Coverage May Not Be Enough
While the commercial truck insurance minimum requirements may seem large enough to cover truck accident injuries, they don’t take certain circumstances into account.
First, it’s important to note that this coverage applies on a per-accident basis. This means that if there is more than one victim in a truck accident, the insurance company splits the coverage minimum between them.
For example, if there are three plaintiffs with similar injuries, the insurance company may offer each of them $250,000 out of the total coverage of $750,000.
Second, this coverage simply isn’t enough for those who have life-changing injuries like paraplegia or a traumatic brain injury. Disabilities like these often come with millions of dollars in current and future medical costs. As a result, the insurance coverage doesn’t usually cover the entirety of a victim’s damages.
Have Questions About Your Truck Accident Claim?
The injuries sustained in a truck accident often cause lifelong pain, anguish, or even disability. In cases like this, don’t try to rely on the insurance company to give you the compensation you and your family need.
Instead, contact one of the experienced truck accident attorneys at Flores, Tawney & Acosta, we understand how devastating these accidents are and fight aggressively on behalf of individuals and families wronged by the negligence of another.
We handle every aspect of your case, from collecting evidence and negotiating your settlement to identifying FMCSA violations and taking the responsible party to trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys in Texas or New Mexico, give us a call at 575-222-1000 or contact us online.