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Should 1980 truck liability insurance amounts increase?

A lot of things have changed since 1980. Jimmy Carter was president. The first space shuttle had yet to be launched. Apple computer had just introduced a new model, the Apple III, there was no such thing as an IBM PC or a "minivan," and the Cardinals still played football in St. Louis, while the Rams played in Los Angeles.

But, if you are a truck driver or trucking company and you need insurance, it is still 1980. That was the year Congress put in place the minimum liability insurance a truck must carry. A request for comments by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on the question of raising that amount generated a huge number of comments, most from trucker and personal injury attorneys.

The breakdown of comments was as expected. The reality is 30 years of inflation have eroded that $750,000 figure that Congress set in 1980 until it is only worth about $264,000 in 2015 dollars.

And that is using the base CPI from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; inflation for medical services has been even higher, with $4.8 million being the estimated equivalency in today's dollars. One attorney suggested it should it should be closer to $10 million.

Truckers claim higher premiums will drive them out of business. But for an injured motorist, severely hurt or for the family of someone killed in a truck accident, $750,000 is often far too little to cover their losses.

Simply because a negligent trucker does not have adequate insurance does not mean the injuries and the losses go away. Someone always pays. In one case, a 10-year-old girl suffered severe head injuries and will require more than $9 million in lifetime care. Because her father was in the military, the federal government, and taxpayers, will end up footing the bill.

The trucking industry argues that these accidents are rare. If they really are that rare, then the market should price them accordingly and they are unlikely to cause premiums to rise so high that they put truckers out of business.

Cleveland.com, "Trial lawyers vs. truckers: a feud over trucks, crashes, insurance and devastation," Stephen Koff, March 9, 2015

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