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Truck companies weigh insurance options

Accidents involving commercial trucks can end in tremendous injuries and property damage. People in New Orleans who have traveled next to a big rig truck probably know that these tractor trailers are enormous in size and weight compared to average passenger vehicles. This means that when a large truck is traveling at highway speeds, a collision can involve deadly forces.

Because of the potential damages caused by a truck accident, truck companies must carry insurance policies that far exceed the coverage that people who own cars and other private automobiles must have. Under federal law, these companies must cover their drivers up to at least $750,000, but many companies pay for coverage in the millions of dollars. Some insurance companies, however, see insuring these truck companies as too great of a risk.

Two large insurance companies are no longer writing policies for truck companies, though they do still insure retailers, like Wal-Mart, who ship goods in their own trucks. Other insurance companies have simply raised their rates for covering truck companies by as much as 30 percent.

Truck accidents that resulted in death have declined by 20 percent in the last 10 years. However, industry insiders point to large verdicts from accident lawsuits as changing the insurance economics of trucking. For example, in 2013, a jury awarded $281 million after finding that improper truck maintenance led to a man's death when he was struck by a component of a truck that became detached.

Regardless of the insurance landscape for the trucking industry, truck companies and their drivers have a legal obligation to operate their vehicles safely. If they shirk that responsibility and a tractor-trailer accident ensues, both parties can have liability for the damages suffered by any victims. While the economic feasibility of trucking is important, it should not come at the cost of endangering the safety of other people on the roadways.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "'Nuclear' Verdicts Have Insurers Running From Trucks," Brian Baskin, Oct. 14, 2016

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