When Archaic Laws Limit Accountability, Americans at Risk
It was a cold and snowy day in western Pennsylvania. The family minivan carrying 10 year-old Davanna was stopped at a red light. Without warning, the sound of a semi-truck’s horn pierced the air. But it was too late.
Though its driver applied the brakes, he couldn’t stop. In fact, he’d never driven a tractor trailer in snow before. The truck skidded through the red light and slammed into the minivan, striking it, and catapulting it almost 50 feet. And a nightmare ensued for Davanna’s family.
Davanna was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh as a level one trauma patient. Her body temperature had to be lowered in an attempt to preserve her brain tissue. A hole was drilled into her skull reduce pressure on her brain. She was sedated, paralyzed, and needed mechanical ventilation to live.
Within a few days after the injury, the doctors began the slow process of re-warming Davanna’s body and she was removed from mechanical ventilation. Her slow process to recovery includes regular and intense physical rehabilitation therapy every day. In addition, Davanna now attends a school for children with special needs.
Unfortunately for Davanna and her family, the truck involved in the accident was carrying only the federal minimum insurance coverage – a figure set over 30 years ago and never changed.
The accident altered Davanna’s and her family’s lives drastically. Investigations after the crash revealed that this truck needed more than five different kinds of brake safety improvements – putting it in direct violation of federal law.
In order to help cover Davanna’s life-time of care and special needs, the minimum trucking insurance coverage must change. As the laws now stand, families like Davanna’s are left struggling to cover many medical costs on their own. Since her father was in the Army, TriCare has paid some of her bills, but not all.
These same outdated and insufficient insurance laws undermine every American’s safety on the road and deny essential relief to those injured or killed in trucking crashes. And when a truck company doesn't have enough insurance to pay for the harms it causes, it places an unnecessary burden on taxpayers through programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and TriCare.
The civil justice system is vital in holding negligent trucking companies accountable. However, archaic insurance rules undermine the economic incentives to safety and justice provided by the courts.