Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

A Trucker's Guide to Accident Liability: How Can You Be Sure You're Covered?

If you ask most truck drivers if they have enough insurance coverage, the majority will answer in the affirmative. However, when you dig a little deeper and take a closer look at the insurance policies most truck drivers carry, dangerous gaps in coverage tend to become apparent. As a truck driver, not having sufficient coverage is the biggest mistake you can make behind the wheel, and it occurs long before you step foot in the cab. It is easily avoidable, and all it takes is spending a little time, and a little money, to purchase the right policy that offers reliable coverage if you are ever involved in a large truck accident in Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or elsewhere in the 50 states.

The Duty of Care all Truck Drivers Must Bear

Commercial motor vehicles can weigh 20-30 times more than a passenger car. The weight and size of these vehicles mean that they require 20-40% more time to come to a complete stop. When an accident occurs involving a large truck, it is usually not the truck driver who pays the highest price; in fact, truck drivers and their passengers accounted for just 16% of fatalities involving large trucks in 2017.

As a truck driver, you understand the risks inherent with operating a large truck. You also understand the weighty responsibilities that come with driving a large motor vehicle. However, a truck accident can occur even when you obey the posted speed limits, drive at a speed safe for conditions, maintain your vehicle, and adhere to hours of service regulations.

But, there is one more responsibility you may have neglected; the duty to yourself to ensure that you have sufficient insurance coverage for those times when no amount of precaution can prevent an accident from taking place.

Rising Accident Rates Underscore the Importance of Proper Insurance Coverage

4,136 people died in large truck accidents in 2018. 82% of these fatalities were the drivers or passengers within the other vehicle, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists. Since 2009, the number of deaths in large truck accidents has risen by 30%. Injury causing accidents involving large trucks are also on the rise.

In 2017, there were 116,000 injury-causing large truck accidents in the US, which was up from 112,000 in 2016. Similarly, the number of large trucks that were involved in accidents causing only property damage rose 3% from 351,000 in 2016 to 363,000 in 2017. That same year, there were just over 450,000 police-reported large truck accidents in the country. That works out to roughly one large truck accident every 15 minutes.

Another way to look at it is this: there are currently 3.5 million truck drivers in the country. Assuming that each accident in 2017 involved a different driver, that means that one in every seven drivers was involved in a truck accident that year. That is more than a sufficiently high accident rate to justify the need for carrying as much insurance coverage as possible.

Checking Your Coverage

Carrying the bare minimum insurance is never a good idea. Rather, truck drivers should spend a little more to enjoy better protection. Title 59, Section 387 of the US Code of Federal Regulations establishes the minimum levels of coverage truck drivers are required to carry. These are broken down into five different categories based on the weight of the vehicle and the cargo classification.

The Cost of Coverage

There is no hard and fast rule regarding how much you will spend for the right coverage. As with private motor vehicle insurance, it boils down to the risk you pose to the insurer. Insurance companies determine this by looking at your:

  • Age
  • Driving Record
  • Criminal Record
  • Average Miles You Drive in a Year
  • Experience
  • Credit History
  • Claims History for the Previous Three Years
  • Type of Cargo Transported
  • Specialist Certifications
  • Value of the Vehicle
  • Routes You Drive

Keeping the Cost of Coverage Reasonable

Truck accident settlements are becoming more frequent. Some have reached into the tens of millions of dollars. This has prompted insurers to raise premiums from 10% to 30%. Because the cost of not having sufficient coverage is clear, truck drivers should proactively take steps to reduce the cost of their insurance premiums. This will allow you to carry more coverage for less cost.

Building additional CDL experience, making sure the FMCSA records are up-to-date and accurate, maintaining an accurate logbook, and maintaining a clean driving record goes a long way towards reducing premiums. Another common and effective savings strategy is to pay the yearly insurance premium upfront. Many insurers will offer discounts of 10-20% for drivers who make their payments in advance.

Brad Pistotnik Represents Your Claim, and Your Interests

Call Brad Pistotnik Law anytime 24 hours a day at 1-800-241-BRAD or at 316-684-4400 or on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237. Our team represents truck drivers who have a truck accident in Hutchinson, Liberal, Hays, Wichita, Dodge City, Garden City, and throughout Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.