Regrettably, something we have seen recently, which is very troubling, are cases where fly-by-night trucking companies that have failed to register with either state or federal authorities operate nonetheless with minimum insurance coverage insufficient to protect the rights of the innocent motoring public. The state and federal regulatory scheme is such that all commercial motor carriers for hire are required to register with state and federal authorities. The reasons for this are obvious. By registering with the state, the state can make sure that all commercial motor carriers are financially responsible should they cause damage to the public. Also, by registering with the state, the state can collect taxes and other fees and also regulate the safety of the motor carrier’s operations. The same is true on a federal level. The problem emerges, however, when the commercial motor carrier fails to register at all. In this context, in order to get business, such a carrier typically will still have to have an insurance certificate from an insurance company certifying to their client/customer that they have insurance coverage. The problem is such insurance coverage is typically inadequate to protect the needs of the public and also creates legal problems in the event of a subsequent claim.
If a motor carrier fails to register with either the state or federal government, then typically the insurance company also fails to file required certificates of coverage also required by such authorities. On a state level, motor carriers are required to file a Uniform Bodily Injury Certificate of Insurance (usually in the form of a Form E filing) which indicates that the insurance company for the commercial motor carrier has issued a liability insurance policy to the motor carrier. Unless Form E is filed, however, in many states, there is no automatic liability of the insurance carrier for the negligent acts of the commercial motor carrier. Thus, we have the anomalous situation where those who comply with the law, that is those who register with the state and file certificates of insurance are in a position to protect the public whereas those who disobey the law are benefitted thereby because the insurance companies can then claim that having filed no Form E with the state, they have no liability to the public. This unjust result obviously needs to be addressed by legislatures nationwide and yet the problem continues to exist.
Not only is this a problem on a state level, this is also a problem on the federal level. Commercial motor carriers for hire who operate in interstate commerce are required to file with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration a Form MCS-90 which again certifies that they have adequate insurance coverage to protect the public in the event of an accident involving personal injuries. For those carriers that fail to register with the federal government but nonetheless operate in interstate commerce, the same problem emerges. The insurance company does not file the MCS-90 because they have not been requested to do so. The insurance company nonetheless has information to believe that the insured for which it has provided coverage is operating commercially in interstate commerce. Nonetheless, by virtue of not filing an MCS-90 form with the federal government, the insurance company can make the argument that it has no duty to the public in the event of a subsequent claim for personal injuries. Again, those who violate the law benefit from their violation whereas those who comply with the law are required to provide insurance coverage for the public in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Again, this anomalous result which still exists today, needs to be addressed by Congress.
It has been our unfortunate experience that when fly-by-night carriers cause great damage to our clients, regrettably, collecting under their insurance policies has proven to be exceedingly difficult. While we will continue to do everything we can to represent our innocent clients most of the legal problems encountered in such cases could be easily addressed by state and federal authorities. We can only hope that this loophole in the law will be corrected before other innocent people needlessly suffer from the acts of fly-by-night motor carriers operating in intrastate and interstate commerce. More Information about Truck Accident Law can be found here