Texas Needs to Set State-Wide Insurance Requirements for Ambulances

Ambulance LoadingUnlike commercial motor vehicle requirements, there are no statewide regulations of ambulance insurance minimum limits apart from what passenger cars must carry. Instead, any insurance requirements for ambulances over and above what passenger cars carry must be set by municipalities. However, Texas cities are all over the map on what ambulance insurance requirements should be. Some Texas cities have such old, antiquated ordinances that they set the ambulance insurance requirements below the State minimum requirements for all automobiles. Others are inconsistent on what restrictions they place upon private vs city-owned-and-operated ambulances—as if the accident victim needing help cares what kind of vehicle injured him. As a result, Texas citizens have no assurance that an ambulance flying down the road at 100 mph has anything more than a bare minimum policy to protect the ambulance passenger, riders, and/or other motorists and pedestrians put in harm’s way.

Texas Minimum Insurance Requirements

The minimum amount of liability insurance that a passenger car may carry in the state of Texas is 30,000 per person and 60,000 per accident. This insurance covers someone else when the driver who has the insurance is at fault. If the other driver is at fault, this insurance does not provide coverage to the occupants of the vehicle purchasing the coverage. A person must buy uninsured/underinsured motor is coverage for this. But this type of insurance is not required in Texas for private cars nor is it one of the insurance requirements for ambulances.

Texas Has Higher Limits For Trucks But Not Ambulances

In Texas, like most states, vehicles that are at a higher risk for causing serious injury when they are in an accident have a higher-than-minimum-limits insurance requirement. Most Commercial Motor Vehicles in Texas must carry a minimum of $500,000 in coverage if they have a gross vehicle weight of over 26,000 lbs. Certain higher risk vehicles such as buses or hazardous waste transporters must carry as much as $5,000,000 in liability coverage.
You would think that the same logic that applies to commercial motor vehicles would apply to ambulances. Ambulances often travel at extremely high speeds in emergencies. High-speed collisions have a higher risk of causing serious-injury collisions. Ergo, ambulances need higher insurance limits. However, the Texas legislature has not agreed. Instead, insurance requirements for ambulances are left up to the municipalities to decide.

Houston and San Antonio Have Antiquated Codes

The Houston Code of Ordinances §4-15, which has not been updated since 1968, sets a requirement that ambulances carry a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. (Code 1968, § 5-16; Ord. No. 70-1518, § 15, 9-16-70; Ord. No. 76-235, § 1, 2-11-76.) This was more than the amount required by law for automobiles at the time. Before 2008, only 20,000 per person and 40,000 per accident were required. See Texas Transportation Code § 601.072, Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1298 (S.B. 502), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2007. So, ironically, the City of Houston recognized that a higher amount should be required for ambulances than private automobiles when the law was put in place, however, Houston ambulance insurance requirements were not raised by the City when the State raised limits for passenger automobiles.

San Antonio has an even more antiquated (1959) law. City of San Antonio Code § 19-342 states that it is unlawful to operate an ambulance in San Antonio without at least $5,000.00 per person and $10,000.00 per accident in liability coverage. (Code 1959, § 38-39.) This amount is unlikely to even cover an emergency bill if an ambulance gets in a high-speed collision. Again, this is an example of another City that has not even updated their city code requirements to match the minimum State of Texas requirement for all automobiles. State law would preempt this requirement.

Austin Has a “Do As I Say” Rule

The City of Austin takes a different approach than other major cities in Texas. Austin prohibits private ambulances. The Code of the City of Austin, TX § 10-2-26. They do, however, allow people to operate private non-emergency medical transports so long as those individuals carry no less than $1,000,000 for personal injury in any one accident, and not less than $500,000 for property damage for each transfer vehicle Source: 1992 Code Section 6-3-43; Ord. 031023-11; Ord. 031211-11; Ord. No.20180614-016, Pt. 2, 6-25-18. Ironically, the City is protected by sovereign immunity—meaning that if a City ambulance causes a wreck, liability is capped by the Texas Tort Claims Act at $250,000. This means that you are better off being hit by a private medical transport than a city-operated ambulance in Austin, TX due to the City requiring private people to carry more liability protection than the City provides.

Dallas Has a “Do as I Do” Rule

The City of Dallas allows private ambulance services but, requires that they Carry $300,000 per occurrence. Dallas City Code § 15D-9.26. (Ord. 21861) This is fairly equivalent to the City’s liability cap of $250,000 under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Thus, Dallas tried to be somewhat consistent here.

Dallas UM/UIM Requirements

The Dallas code is unique in another aspect from the codes above. It is the only one that requires the ambulance to carry Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist (UM/UIM) insurance. UN/UIM protects the ambulance passengers when the accident is another vehicle’s fault but that vehicle does not carry sufficient insurance. With the growing number of accidents involving uninsured drivers on the road, this seems like a pretty important thing for a high-risk vehicle to carry. While Dallas recognized the importance, they only required 20,000 per person and up to 40,000 per accident in coverage. The disparity between coverage requirements for liability an UM/UIM is perplexing. The Dallas officials recognized that accidents caused by ambulances can be very serious with high bills but, failed to recognize that the impact is no different if it is an uninsured driver’s fault.

Texas Needs Uniform Insurance Requirements For Ambulances

Despite the State and several municipal governing bodies recognizing that the risk is greater when an ambulance gets in a wreck, there is no consistency across the State of Texas as to what minimum level of insurance coverage should be required for ambulance services. Even though the State regulates other high-risk vehicles, ambulances are left largely unchecked. Government-owned ambulances get a cap of $250,000 no matter what. Private ambulance requirements range from antiquated codes that do not even meet State minimum requirements of $30,000 to $1,000,000. The State of Texas needs to step up its game and afford it’s citizens unified protection that acknowledges the higher level of risk in high-speed ambulance wrecks. Leaving it to the municipalities is simply causing confusion.

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