You do not put much thought into auto insurance policies until you need to file a claim. Then, you start hearing terms like “policy limits,” being thrown about by insurance claims adjusters.
When you are in an accident with a semi-truck, the injuries are often more catastrophic, and the damages can quickly double compared to a crash with an ordinary passenger vehicle.
Sadly, insurance policy limits do apply in commercial truck cases too. The only difference is that you may have alternatives when that company’s policy runs out, while in a passenger vehicle case your options are limited.
To see how a policy limit might affect you, you must first understand the policy limits imposed by the federal government, then how an attorney might handle a claim where your damages exceed those policy amounts.
What Are Minimum Insurance Coverages Allowed for Trucks Operating in Georgia and the U.S.?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has minimum insurance requirements for any trucking companies that operate across state lines. They impose these minimums to ensure that regardless of the state, the company will have adequate insurance coverage in the event they cause an accident with injuries.
The following are the current guidelines imposed by FMCSA:
- $300,000 for any semi-truck that weighs under 10,001 pounds and transports non-hazardous materials
- $750,000 for semi-trucks that weigh over 10,001 pounds and carries non-hazardous materials
- $1 million minimum for semi-trucks, regardless of weight, that transport oil products
- $5 million minimum for trucks, regardless of weight that carries hazardous materials
Owners of these trucking companies are required to have proof of insurance inside every truck in their fleet. These must be sent to the FMCSA for approval, and it is the only way a fleet will receive their motor carrier number. Without an MC number, that carrier cannot legally transport any cargo from one state to another.
Georgia Has Separate Laws
Not only does a company have to follow federal guidelines, but Georgia law requires that all interstate carriers operating out of the state have a minimum of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Most commercial vehicles in the state, however, contract well above these state minimums.
How These Minimums Affect Victims
Trucking companies might opt for the bare minimum when it comes to coverage, to increase profits and decrease overhead. While the minimum might seem like more than enough at first glance, it is vital that you realize how these minimums affect you as the victim of an accident with a commercial vehicle.
Minimums Fall Short of Actual Coverage
When a company only uses the minimum coverage, it significantly shorts the victim of compensation they need for their catastrophic injuries and losses. Some of the policy limits motor carriers have are so outdated that the numbers barely scratch the cost of hospitalization for the victim. After all, inflation has driven up medical prices in the country, which means a victim could easily spend hundreds of thousands in medical care alone.
A truck accident victim is often awarded more than the policy limits by a jury. In one study it was found that 42 percent of the settlements paid out by trucking companies exceeded the federal minimum guidelines for motor carriers.
What Happens When Damages Exceed Policy Limits?
You must note that insurance companies are only liable for the maximum policy amount. Therefore, if a company were to carry the $750,000 minimum, but you were awarded $1 million for your settlement, the insurer for that carrier only pays $750,000.
The motor carrier would pay the remaining balance.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Section 46-7-12 allows for you, the victim, to file a lawsuit against the liability insurance company and the trucking company. You can also file a lawsuit between the motor carrier’s liability insurance and the truck operator’s insurance. This provides you with more outlets to satisfy the settlement awarded to you in a case.
Therefore, you could receive the full compensation for your medical costs, pain and suffering, lost income, loss of future earnings, and so forth.
Hire an Experienced Trucking Attorney in Atlanta
If you were injured in an accident with a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, you need a Georgia personal injury attorney experienced in these types of cases.
The team at Van Sant Law, is here to help you. We have handled countless cases just like yours, and we know how to fight back against trucking companies and their insurance companies when they try to deny your claim.
Schedule a free consultation today by calling us at 404-991-5950 or request an appointment online.