United States Department of Transportation Statistics show that tractor-trailers are involved in over 300,000 accidents per year resulting in the death of approximately 5,000 individuals. Given the immense size and weight of these vehicles and their cargo, the consequences of these accidents can be disastrous. Attorneys representing injured victims of trucking accidents must be familiar with federal regulation of commercial motor carriers to ensure the maximum recovery for their client.
The truck driver who caused the accident and the truck’s owner may be liable to the plaintiff, but often times do not have the financial ability to pay damages. The federally mandated MCS-90 endorsement to commercial trucking insurance policies provides an important, and potentially the only, source of recovery. This endorsement was intended to ensure that innocent victims of truck driver’s negligence have a source of recovery and provides insurance coverage in many situations where traditional insurance would not. The endorsement prevents insurance companies from asserting coverage limitations contained in the policy against victims of their insured’s negligence. For example, even if the truck that caused the accident is not listed in the policy, the insurance company may not deny coverage to the injured party on that basis. An insured’s failure to notify the insurance company of a claim or to cooperate with the insurer will also not relieve the insurance company of its obligations to injured victims of its insured’s negligence. Attorneys handling these types of cases should scrutinize any defenses asserted by commercial trucking insurers in light of the MCS-90 endorsement’s requirements.
Commercial insurance companies are not without recourse against their insured. If the insurance company is forced to pay an innocent tort victim pursuant to the MCS-90 for damages it has no obligation to pay under the terms of the insurance policy itself, it has the right to seek reimbursement from the truck driver or the trucking company. This process essentially ensures that when a truck driver or trucking company cannot pay the damages they owe an injured person, the insurance company, not the injured party, is the one left bearing the loss.