Large trucks present a serious danger on Birmingham highways because of the wide disparity in weight between cars and commercial trucks or tractor-trailers. Unfortunately, serious injury often results when cars are involved in accidents with large trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), an agency of the Department of Transportation that regulates the interstate trucking industry, has promulgated regulations that are designed to assure that motor carriers maintain minimum levels of financial responsibility (insurance) in the event of an accident, thereby assuring funds will be available to a motorist injured by a negligent commercial truck driver. Our Birmingham, Alabama truck accident attorneys at Cross & Smith have over 20 years of experience in handling truck accidents in Birmingham and throughout Alabama.
Truck drivers are often classified as independent contractors rather than employees of the motor carrier or company. Under traditional tort law, an owner or motor carrier is not responsible for the negligent acts of an independent contractor. Therefore, in the event of a lawsuit, a motor carrier could attempt to avoid financial responsibility for a Birmingham, Alabama truck accident by asserting what is generally referred to as the independent contractor defense. The regulations promulgated by the FMCSA require motor carriers to be financially responsible for an accident caused by the negligent operation of a commercial truck regardless of whether the commercial truck is operated by an independent contractor or an employee. Most motor carriers meet this responsibility by purchasing an insurance policy.
Under the federal regulations, “motor carriers” are required to obtain and have in effect minimum levels of financial responsibility. A motor carrier is defined as a for-hire motor carrier or a private motor carrier and financial responsibility means financial reserves (insurance policies or surety bonds) sufficient to satisfy liability amounts depending on the commercial truck’s classification. 49 CFR § 387.5. The classifications for the minimum amounts of financial responsibility are based primarily on the gross vehicle weight rating of the commercial truck and type of property transported by the truck. For instance, a for-hire commercial truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds that carries nonhazardous property must maintain a minimum level of financial responsibility of $750,000.00. However, a commercial truck with the same gross vehicle weight rating that carries certain hazardous substances in cargo tanks with a capacity in excess of 3,500 water gallons must maintain a minimum level of financial responsibility of $5,000,000.00. 49 CFR § 387.9.
Proof of the required financial responsibility (generally an insurance policy) must be kept at the motor carrier’s (truck owner’s) principal place of business. The insurance policy must contain what is commonly known in the trucking industry as a Form MCS 90 endorsement. This endorsement is approved by the FMCSA and requires that the insurer pay, within the required liability limits, any final judgment for public liability that results from the negligent operation of commercial motor vehicles subject to the financial responsibility requirements. 49 CFR § 387.7.
Trucks and 18 wheelers traveling through Birmingham and other parts of Alabama are required to comply with these regulations.
If you, or someone close to you, have been injured in a truck accident, please contact the seasoned truck and 18 wheeler accident attorneys at Cross & Smith. Our Birmingham, Alabama truck accident attorneys are very familiar with the financial requirement for commercial trucks and tractor-trailers. You may contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.
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