Illinois truck accident attorneys should be aware of the recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding whether the Illinois Vehicle Code’s “omnibus coverage” applies to commercial truckers. In Zurich American Ins. Co. v. Key Cartage, 2009 WL 3470846 (2009), the Court held that “omnibus coverage” mandated by Section 5/7-317(b)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code does not apply to commercial truckers regulated under the Illinois Commercial Transportation Law, 625 ILCS 5/18c-1101 et seq. “Omnibus coverage” is defined as a motor vehicle liability policy that “shall insure the person named therein and any other person using or responsible for the use of such motor vehicle or vehicles with the express or implied permission of the insured” 625 ILCS 5/7-317(b)(2).
The issue in Zurich was whether Zurich American Ins. Co. which insured a lessor trucking company, Rose Cartage, or West Bend Ins. Co. which insured the lessee, Key Cartage and driver of the truck, were responsible for providing coverage when one of Key Cartage drivers was involved in an Illinois accident which resulted in a death. Zurich’s insurance policy had a reciprocal coverage provision that stated that they would only cover Rose Cartage employees and that they would not provide coverage to anyone using the truck, even with permission, unless that person (Key Cartage) also insured Rose Cartage. West Bend Ins. Co. maintained that the reciprocal coverage provision violated 625 ILCS 5/7-317(b)(2). The Appellate Court in Zurich held that the reciprocal coverage provision violated Section 5/7-317(b)(2) and was void as against public policy.
The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and held that: “…we conclude that the definition of motor vehicle liability insurance policies set forth in section 7-317, including the omnibus requirement in section 7-317(b)(2), does not apply to commercial truckers regulated under the Commercial Transportation Law.” The Court pointed out that section 18c-4902 of the Commercial Transportation Law provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission “shall prescribe the amounts of Insurance” necessary for insurance policies issued to motor carriers of property in the state of Illinois.
In properly evaluating the value of wrongful death actions or serious injuries sustained during a trucking accident, it is critical to know at the earliest possible time the amounts of coverage available so that recommendations can be made as to the value of the case. As a practical matter it is generally wise to name as defendants in trucking lawsuits not only the driver and his employer, but also the owner of the tractor, trailer, and any leasing agents.