This is horrible. Twenty people enjoying an autumn Saturday afternoon. Two of them who just happened to be in the wrong parking lot at the wrong time. Seventeen others being responsible by hiring a driver so that they could celebrate a birthday with some adult beverages and without endangering anyone else. One person doing his job.
All of them gone in an instant. The pain their loved ones are enduring today is unimaginable.
It feels crass to even raise this subject, but eventually the survivors will seek restitution. I know nothing about the limousine company that provided the vehicle and the driver, but the reports indicate the limo was the only vehicle in motion at the time of the accident. It seems logical to assume that the inevitable lawsuits will be filed against the limo company.
Here are the questions:
- How much Automobile Bodily Injury Liability insurance does the company carry?
- Will the limits be sufficient to settle the claims arising out of twenty fatal injuries?
- Did the company's insurance agent (or the carrier, for that matter) ever quote higher limits to the company's owners?
- If higher limits were quoted and offered, how did the owners respond?
New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission requires a limo capable of carrying 16 to 20 passengers to carry BI limits of at least $5,000,000 per occurrence and $200,000 Personal Injury Protection coverage. However, this accident occurred in Schoharie County, which is a rural part of upstate. I searched the
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website and did not find a similar minimum limits requirement for the areas of the state outside New York City.
It's possible for a limousine service to operate in upstate with relatively low BI liability limits. A company that experiences an event like the one that occurred last Saturday may be put out of business without sufficient insurance limits.
This is a horrific lesson in why insurance matters. No amount of money will ever replace the precious lives that were lost on October 6, but it is unfortunately the only means we as a society have to compensate those left behind. When something like this happens, the quantity and quality of liability insurance coverage becomes extremely important. It seems likely that the limo service will have legal liability for this accident, and the owners will probably owe damages to the families whether or not there is enough insurance to pay for them.
Insurance agents, please let this remind you to always offer as much liability coverage, including umbrella coverage, as your underwriting authority permits. The cost of each additional $1 million in coverage gets progressively smaller because catastrophic events like this are fortunately rare.
I know that your clients ask you, "How much liability insurance do I need?"
When you get that question, slide a print out of a news account of the Schoharie limo crash across the table and answer, "A little more than enough to cover this."