A $500,000 insurance policy, divided by 20. A measly $25,000.
That’s how much the survivors of each victim of the Schoharie limousine crash are entitled to from the insurance company that covered the business whose vehicle was involved in the crash.
And if a judge allows the insurance company, Global Liberty Insurance Company of New York, to take its legal fees out of that payout, the sum paid to each victim will be substantially less.
We understand that no amount of money can ever come close to compensating families for the loss of their loved ones in such a tragedy.
But for the state to allow a company licensed in New York to transport large numbers of people and only carry coverage of $500,000 per accident for bodily harm is appalling.
Lawmakers need to make sure that if a similar tragedy ever happens again, family members receive more than just a token insurance settlement.
Several pieces of legislation to raise the insurance coverage requirement are making their way through the Legislature, either as part of a comprehensive limousine-safety package or exclusively related to insurance coverage.
A number of those bills would raise the minimum coverage level to $1.5 million. But even if that were in place, it would only provide $75,000 each in a crash involving 20 victims.
The state should model any new legislation after the standard set by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and the federal government, both of which set the insurance coverage requirement based on the number of passengers a vehicle can hold.
Under the New York City taxi commission standard, companies are required to carry $1.5 million per occurrence if the vehicle can seat between 9 and 15 passengers. If the vehicle can hold between 16 and 20 passengers, the coverage requirement goes up to $5 million.
Federal law requires coverage of $1.5 million if a vehicle can seat 14 or fewer passengers and $5 million if the vehicle holds 15 or more, but only for interstate travel.
Is it right that the victims of one crash are compensated differently than any other victims, simply because of discrepancies in the laws?
State lawmakers need to correct this inequity and ensure that victims are more fairly compensated for the consequences of a crash for which the limousine companies are responsible.
The state should also force the insurance companies to be responsible for their own legal fees, and not allow them to take their costs out of the compensation for the victims their policies cover.
The paltry insurance payout for victims of the Schoharie crash only adds insult to an already horrific outcome.
Legislators must honor these victims and their families by changing the law.