Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

When is $750,000 not enough?


I was driving home the other night when bits of the news caught my attention.  Someone was putting a bill together to raise the fine retailers pay if they are caught selling cigarettes to minors.   I didn’t catch the beginning of the story, but apparently the fine has been $50 for a number of years.  Based on cost of living increases some legislator figures the fee should be at least $98 and has put together a bill to get it raised to $100.

Now I’m all for fining organizations that sell smokes to minors and I’m glad that someone noticed and is doing something to make it less attractive to do so.  But I can’t help but compare that problem to the minimum insurance levels mandated for injury and death caused by commercial trucks and the total lack of attention this issue has received.

In 1980 as Congress deregulated the trucking industry they set a minimum level of insurance mandated by a trucking company at $750,000.  In the past thirty years that minimum has never been increased.  And to make matters worse, the $750,000 is paid out per incident, no matter how many people are injured or killed.  Many companies, mostly larger commercial carriers, do carry more than the minimum, but smaller companies and many independents carry only as much as they have to.

So lets say the trucking company that hits your car carries a million dollars of insurance.  Sounds like a lot doesn’t it.  Lets says someone in your car has a traumatic brain injury, spends a month or more in intensive care, and many more months in rehab.  How far do you think that million will go?  Or maybe the truck that hits your car also careens into 2 or three more cars.  Maybe multiple people are injured or killed.  That million dollars has to be split up among everyone.  Do you think any one of those affected is worth less because they are one of many involved?  I didn’t think so.

We have members of our truck safety family who have turned over their share of the insurance, money won to compensate them for the death of their son, to the one survivor of the crash, someone in another family, a stranger, because she needs the money for care and will need that care the rest of her life.   That’s the kind of families that are touched by these crashes.  Really great, compassionate people.

So all of this has been swirling around in my head the last few days.  There’s a bill to raise the fine for selling cigarettes, but we can’t get a bill introduced to increase the mandated minimum amount of insurance for commercial carriers.   It makes no sense to me.

And it makes even less sense when I learn of a terrible crash that happened in Indiana a couple of weeks ago.  Seven members of the same family were killed; two young mothers, their four children and an uncle.  Hit from behind by a careless, probably speeding, driver who already had speeding infractions on his  license.  Someone that shouldn’t have been driving at all.  A company that only has to pay, by law, $ 750,000 to the family if they are found at fault.  A family that will never, ever be whole.  A company that likely considers the payout a cost of doing business.  The only thing that makes a commercial truck company take notice is a large monetary loss.  These days $750K is chump change.

Unfortunately the chumps are us.

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

16 thoughts on “When is $750,000 not enough?

  1. I think most, like me, are unaware that there is a minimum amount set, and if more people knew, then maybe something would change. How frustrating though, because most people won’t find out about the minimum until they are smacked in the face by tragedy.

    Our system is so warped.


    • It’s part of our work that we try to educate people, including members of Congress. So far what we got in the last transportation bill was that they (someone, can’t remember who) is going to STUDY the issue. Again. What needs to be studied is beyond me. But at least we got something.


  2. I had no idea. Thank you for educating me.


    • You’re welcome. It’s one of many truck issues that I work on with the Truck Safety Coalition. Sometimes I can’t help getting on my soapbox. Thanks for listening.


  3. I’m with Robin.
    It’s especially frustrating because at least teens are very aware of the dangers of smoking (not that danger ever stopped a teen from doing anything), and makes a choice. No one chooses to be hit by a vehicle…


  4. There are a lot of things more people would work to change if they had any idea what the current situation really is. The per-incident payout is amazing. How many people would know, unless they’d been directly involved?


    • No one would know. The trucking industry likes it that way. Less cost for them…more profits for them. The real cost of doing business is shouldered by families and when their own money runs out, by the rest of us through public health, welfare and increased insurance costs of our own.


  5. It’s when we are in the position of needing care for someone that we learn the costs, and you are so right! Sadly, the trucking industry probably has very powerful lobbyists.


    • The ATA (American Trucking Association) is HUGE and very powerful and has a lot of money. They’re sort of the NRA with wheels. We’ve been up against them for a long time. Sometimes we even win. Mostly we only gain inches, then get pushed back. But we’re not going away. We’re like a gnat in their face.


  6. I heard about that crash in Indiana, Dawn, and had to shudder. That’s the same road I used to travel to South Bend to take Domer to college and back. What a crying shame that the trucking industry lobbyists are such a powerful, influential group while average citizens have to bear such atrocities. Thanks for educating us today.


  7. I never thought about it that way. Wish more people and truck companies would care more about life and not just blow it off like some kind of traffic ticket.


  8. Do I remember correctly, that IF the driver that killed our dad, had good behavior in jail, he would earn 2 days credit for each day served in jail. He would be out in 15 days. Very insulting.


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