Commercial Truck Liability Accident Insurance Basics

In Oregon, it seems there are almost as many types of commercial truck accident liability insurance policies as there are truck drivers. The entire issue of what represents adequate and appropriate coverage can seem quite complicated, but Oregon commercial truck accident lawyers say it is important to get the right cover for your individual circumstances.

Depending on the type of driving you do and the size of the company you work for or own, there are a number of options regarding commercial truck accident insurance available to meet your specific needs. What’s most important is that you have enough coverage in place that an accident doesn’t ruin you financially. The facts are:

Depending on whether you’re a full-time, salaried driver; a part-time, independent driver, or even if you own a small business that uses a fleet of trucks, there are specific types of insurance policies available to meet your needs.

If you’re not sure of the level of coverage required, speak to an independent expert. Oregon commercial truck accident lawyers know that these policies can be expensive, but not having sufficient coverage in place can be even more so, both financially and legally. Laws vary from state to state, as well as in different regions around the country, so it’s important to be sure you’re well covered if you’re doing long-haul driving.

Insurers Are Careful About Who is Covered by Commercial Truck Insurance

Because commercial truck drivers are operating very large, very expensive equipment that is more likely to cause extensive and costly damage, insurance companies often place strict guidelines around those drivers to whom they choose to provide coverage.

The federal government requires all truck drivers to have a CDL (Commercial Drivers License), and insurance companies will also commonly provide coverage only to drivers who are in a higher age bracket and have a specified number of years of driving experience. In addition, they may refuse coverage to drivers who have been involved in a specified number of at-fault accidents over a specific time period, or who have committed a number of major moving violations.

The most common types of commercial truck insurance policies:

Independent drivers don’t need liability coverage to the same extent as, for example, fleet owners, but they may need to consider a policy that continues to provide them with an income if they are injured on the job and are out of work for awhile. Once you understand your specific needs, you can start to narrow down your options somewhat. Some of the more common types of policy include:

  • General Freight. Any company operating a large fleet of trucks should have a policy that protects them against lost, stolen or damaged cargo. General freight policies are generally assigned to an entire company, rather than to individual drivers and are obviously more expensive than personal insurance policies.
  • Primary Liability. This is one of the most common types of commercial truck liability insurance policies taken out and is required under federal law. It insures the truck driver against both damages to property and for bodily injury if they are the driver at fault in an accident. A minimum coverage level of $750,000 must be held by every truck driver on the road. If an accident causes damages above that amount, the driver or his company will be liable for the balance, so many truckers take out higher levels of coverage. This type of policy does not, however, cover the driver’s own losses.
  • General Liability. This part of the policy–which may or may not be included in a general freight policy, so be sure to enquire—covers incidents that might happen when the truck is stopped at a rest area, or when the truck is being loaded or unloaded, as well as against theft or vandalism. Policies vary widely, so be very sure of exactly what’s covered before signing up.
  • Comprehensive Coverage. For independent drivers, this is one of the more expensive policies available, but as the name suggests, it gives far-reaching protection in the event of an accident. This type of insurance will cover the policy holder for damage to his own vehicle regardless of who was at fault for the accident, which can save many thousands of dollars in expensive repair bills.
  • Cargo Insurance. This type of policy can actually be applied to interchangeable trailers, as well as the trucks themselves. Drivers who carry highly perishable foodstuffs or hazardous cargo, or who trade cargo with other haulers, should give serious consideration to this type of policy. If you’re an independent driver, you may find your clients will insist that you have this type of coverage (and on the upper limits of that coverage) before they will agree to hire you.
  • Non-trucking Liability. Also known as “bobtail” or “deadhead” insurance, this commercial truck liability insurance specifically covers your truck when it is parked, stored, unloaded and you are not working.
  • Occupational and Accidental Injury. This can be specifically added to other types of policies and is used mostly by independent drivers who operate their own vehicles. This coverage will pay for both medical and living expenses, so effectively guaranteeing the driver an income, if they are injured while on the job. Consider this the “workman’s compensation” package for the independent trucker.

Other types of policies are also available, so this is clearly a widely diversified and potentially complicated area. However, it’s one which must be attended to before any trucker gets behind the wheel, because the plain facts are that truck drivers are statistically more likely than other drivers to be involved in both multi-vehicle and fatal accidents.

The large majority of truckers are skilled, professional drivers who take their livelihood seriously and are genuinely concerned with the safety of other road users. However, accidents still happen, and if you’ve been injured in an incident involving a commercial trucker, you may be wondering how to take the next step. Because of the complexity of the types of insurance policies and companies that may be involved, you should contact a qualified and experienced Oregon commercial truck accident lawyer for advice. Your consultation is free, and you will be able to get valuable information regarding the procedures you need to follow to make a claim against the truck driver’s insurance company. You can also find out about the amount of compensation you are likely to receive in the event of making a claim.