For most people, driving is unavoidable. Yet, every time you travel in a vehicle, or even cross the street as a pedestrian, you run a significant risk of personal injury. In 2021 alone, there were 118,498 crashes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, causing 968 fatalities and 58,786 injuries. Motor vehicle accidents caused by trucks can be the most severe and often result in catastrophic injuries to a victim. Fortunately, due to special state and federal laws, victims of motor vehicle accidents caused by trucks will have access to more insurance coverage than other auto accident victims, enabling them to be adequately compensated for their damages.
Insurance Coverage in Auto Accidents
Most at-fault drivers cannot afford to personally compensate a person for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. That is why licensed drivers are required to have auto insurance. However, insurance providers only have to pay up to their “liability limits,” and, unfortunately, the minimum liability limits in Virginia are quite low: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. That means that, unless the at-fault driver elected to purchase higher coverage, if one person is injured in an auto accident, the most the insurance company has to pay is $30,000.00, and if two or more people are injured, the most the insurance company has to pay in total is $60,000, even if there are several victims. In the vast majority of cases, this insurance coverage will be the only money practically available to compensate the victim for their injuries.
There is some good news, however. For policies effective on or after January 1, 2025, that limit will increase to $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident. While that is a long time from now, higher minimum liability limits will assist those injured in an auto accident. But even then, these increased limits will likely not be enough to compensate a person severely injured in an auto accident, and whether a victim can be properly compensated or not will come down to whether the at-fault driver elected to purchase higher coverage.
Insurance Coverage in Auto Accidents Caused By Trucks
It is not difficult to imagine the sheer devastation resulting when a person is on the wrong end of a motor vehicle accident caused by a truck. In such cases, death and severe, life-altering injuries are not uncommon. Fortunately, under both Virginia law and federal law, most trucks are subject to higher minimum insurance liability limits, thus giving victims a higher potential recovery.
Intrastate Commerce/Virginia Law
The Virginia Code has special provisions applicable to any person who transports property for compensation over the highways of the Commonwealth, intrastate (in other words, wholly within the Commonwealth of Virginia). The same law defines motor vehicles as “any vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used upon the highways in the transportation of property.” Thus, commercial trucks are subject to these special provisions of law.
While ordinary vehicles presently need only have liability limits of $30,000, trucks are required to have the following minimum liability coverages while in active use:
|Gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds
|Gross vehicle weight rating of 7,501-10,000 pounds
|Gross vehicle weight rating of 7,500 or less pounds
Commercial trucks, such as two axle trucks and semi-trailer trucks, all generally have gross vehicle weight ratings in excess of 10,000 pounds. Thus, quite unlike the person injured by an ordinary driver with $30,000 in insurance coverage, if you are injured by a truck in an auto accident, you will have access to at least $750,000 in insurance coverage, from which you can be compensated for your injuries.
There are, however, some notable exemptions from these heightened insurance requirements. A vehicle is not required to maintain the above minimum limits if it is (1) owned or operated by federal, state, or local governments; (2) used in interstate commerce; (3) used wholly within the limits of any one city or town; (4) controlled and operated by a bona fide cooperative association; (5) used exclusively to carry newspapers and/or certain farming products; (6) used exclusively to transport farm supplies; (7) used exclusively to haul for the Department of Transportation; (8) used exclusively to carry fertilizer for distribution to farms; (9) used exclusively to collect and dispose of refuse; (10) used for transporting property by an air carrier; (11) passenger cars, motorcycles, autocycles, mopeds, and vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less; and (12) personal delivery devices.
Interstate Commerce/Federal Law
With respect to interstate commerce, that is, the transportation of property between states, Virginia law defers to federal law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency within the Department of Transportation, regulates the trucking industry. As relevant to this article, these regulations apply to a person engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation; for example, a commercial truck.
Under federal regulations, a for-hire motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of over 10,000 pounds transporting any property must have at least $750,000 in insurance coverage. However, if the vehicle is transporting certain oils or certain hazardous materials, the vehicle must have at least $1,000,000 or $5,000,000 in insurance coverage, respectively. Thus, most commercial trucks traveling between states will have at least $750,000 in insurance coverage, just like the minimum required by Virginia law, and far over the ordinary limits applicable in motor vehicle accidents.
Injured by a Truck? Contact Fishwick & Associates to Discuss Your Legal Options
Truck accidents can be devastating, often resulting in death or severe, life-changing injuries. If you or a loved one was injured by a truck, Fishwick & Associates can help you understand your legal options. To schedule your confidential consultation, complete our online contact form or call us at 540-345-5890.
Va. Code § 46.2-472
Va. Code § 46.2-2100
Va. Code § 46.2-2143.1
49 C.F.R. § 387.9