By: Allan M. Siegel
In the wake of several large transportation accidents, including a fatal bus
collision in Baltimore and another fatal crash in California, victim advocates are highlighting
the shortfalls of federal minimum insurance limits for commercial vehicles.
Low policy limits are often not enough to cover victims’ damages,
especially when catastrophic accidents cause large scale damage and numerous
injuries or death.
As we’ve seen in large-scale bus accidents, victims face uphill battles.
Bus passengers are not protected by the same robust safety standards as
compared to passengers of other forms of public transportation. They must
also contend with less insurance to compensate their physical, financial,
and emotional injuries. This is a serious shortcoming, according to safety
experts, government regulators, and lawyers who handle lawsuits against
To put the limit in perspective, consider the Palm Springs bus accident
that resulted in numerous injuries and 13 deaths. Victims and families
affected by that crash will have to be divide the $5 million minimum insurance
policy held by the company which operated the bus. That means the losses
and future needs of dozens passengers and their survivors will rely on
a share of the $5 million.
Here are a few important facts about the insurance minimum:
- The $5-million insurance minimum was created in 1982 during the deregulation
of the bus industry. Until that point, bus riders were covered by a miniscule
$5,000 minimum policy limit set during the 1930s.
- Since 1982, inflation and rising costs of medical care have significantly
devalued what $5 million can cover for an injured victim or a family that
has lost a loved one. When adjusted for inflation over 30+ years, it equates
to more than $21 million.
- Minimum insurance limits covering bus passengers are less than those available
to victims of airline passengers and their survivors, as well as train
operators like Amtrak.
- In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pushed for an
increase of the $5 million minimum. The FMCSA states the minimums are
“inadequate to fully cover the costs of some crashes in light of
increased medical costs and revised value of statistical life.”
As is often the case, bus operators, trucking companies, and the insurance
industry have pushed back against raising the minimum policy limit. While
opponents argue against increases because they would increase operating
costs, others contend that weeding out companies which shouldn’t
be carrying passengers without adequate protection could be an added benefit
for public safety.
Minimum insurance limits for bus companies are a serious issue, and, by
way of recent events, one that may again be thrust into the national conversation
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. we often see companies
and insurers that place profits over people. When tragedies like those
of late happen, they remind us all of the real and truly tragic consequences
that can result.
Victims injured in public transportation accidents and accidents involving
commercial vehicles like
commercial trucks can find the support they need by working with proven lawyers. Our firm
understands the difficulties involved in these cases, and how to explore
all avenues for compensation so victims and families can recover what
they need to repair their lives and move on as best they can. If you have
questions after any type of auto accident,
contact our attorneys to discuss your case.