Michigan Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have been involved in a truck accident, you should know that navigating the complexities of a truck accident injury claim can be very different from going through a car accident process. This may surprise you; how could the two processes be that different?
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In this helpful guide, we’ll review the differences between a truck accident and a car accident. We’ll also provide the need-to-know information that may help you work towards the compensation you need to recuperate with your family. Our goal is to take the burden of legal logistics entirely off your shoulders during this difficult time.
The Difference Between Car and Truck Accidents
When you look at national car accident statistics, the overall number of crashes and fatalities is stark enough. However, if you look more closely at the types of crashes most likely to cause catastrophic injury or even fatalities, it’s clear that truck accidents pose another level of risk entirely.
While there are more car accidents overall, truck accidents can be far more deadly. The data also makes it clear that when smaller vehicles collide with a truck, the people in the smaller motor vehicle are in much more danger than the truck driver. In 2020, deaths occurring in two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 97% of fatalities involved the passenger vehicle occupants.
Delving into the typical causes of truck accidents begins to paint an alarming picture.
For example, while car accidents are more likely to be caused by distracted driving (a large problem, but one easily fixable by getting people to pay more attention), truck accidents are much more likely to involve mechanical malfunctions. These problems are often much harder to identify, expensive to fix, and not easy to predict.
Another major difference between car accidents and truck accidents is the level of legal complexity. Crashes with eighteen-wheelers, tractor-trailers, and other large commercial vehicles usually involve multiple parties and corporate defendants, large commercial insurance policies, negligent hiring claims, and violations of federal law requiring a very specific type of experience. If you or a loved one is dealing with the ramifications of a truck accident, you should know that a car accident lawyer may not have knowledge of the complex laws that apply uniquely in truck accident claims.
Do Michigan’s No-Fault Auto Laws Apply to Truck Accidents?
Yes, they do. Michigan’s no-fault laws mandate first-party benefits regardless of fault. These laws apply to truck accidents as well as car accidents.
Under Michigan’s no-fault laws, occupants of passenger cars can make a claim for medical expenses, home care, lost earnings, transportation, and other economic losses with the insurance covering the vehicle they were traveling in when the accident happened.
Truck Accident: Collision with Vehicle
Client was lawfully operating her vehicle northbound in the rightmost lane of the highway when a 45,000-pound semi-tractor trailer driver suddenly and without warning crossed over from the exit lane in the direct path of our client, causing a violent collision. The client suffered injuries to her cervical spine requiring surgery.
Truck Accident: Multi-Vehicle Crash
Multi-vehicle crash on an interstate highway was caused by a semi-tractor that swerved into another vehicle causing it to spin out and stall in the middle lane of the highway. Client suffered injuries to his neck, shoulders, back, and head together with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Federal Highway Trucking Regulations
Trucking companies and truck drivers alike must comply with a wide array of complicated federal and state laws and regulations. Many of these complex regulations come from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for creating regulations for large commercial vehicles that reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities on our nation’s roads. These regulations often provide a basis for truck accident claims.
For example, property-carrying drivers are subject to the following “hours-of-service” regulations:
- 11 Hour Driving Limits (after 10 hours off duty);
- 14 Hour Limit, including off-duty time;
- 30-minute break required after 8 hours;
- Driving prohibited after 60 hours on duty for any 7 consecutive days (or 70 hours of duty in 8 consecutive days); and
- 10-hour required sleeping period.
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Following these hours of service should have a positive effect on the number of truck-and-car accidents caused by fatigued or distracted drivers. If your attorney can demonstrate that a truck driver did not follow these specific hours of service, you may be able to use that information to bolster your case.
Drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles have even stricter restrictions, including a maximum of 10 hours of driving after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
Other regulations include mandatory minimum insurance requirements from $750,000 - $5,000,000 for freight transportation based on the type of vehicle used and the type of freight transported.
Michigan Trucking Laws
Michigan has its own set of laws and regulations that govern the operation of commercial vehicles in the state. For example, the Michigan Vehicle Code defines a commercial vehicle as a motor vehicle designed to transport sixteen or more people, has a weight rating of more than 26,001 pounds, or must post a hazardous materials placard under federal guidelines.
This definition encompasses a wide range of vehicles, including mail trucks, delivery vans, buses, and construction vehicles. The Michigan Center for Truck Safety publishes the requirements for a commercial driver’s license in the state. These requirements include that a driver must:
- Be 18 years or older for commercial driver’s license (CDL) inside Michigan and 21 years of age for interstate;
- Exhibit English language proficiency;
- Pass a medical exam;
- Pass a vision test;
- Pass a written test;
- Pass a road test; and
- Submit payment of all required CDL fees.
Additional requirements must be met to obtain licenses for particular types of commercial vehicles such as double trailers, tankers, school buses, and hazardous material transporters.
The Statistics and Trends of Trucking Accidents
We’ve already discussed several reasons why truck accidents differ from car accidents. In this section, we’ll delve into a little more detail regarding the frequency of trucking accidents and their most common causes.
How Common Are Trucking Accidents?
In the United States, a person is severely injured or killed in a truck accident every fifteen minutes by an accident involving a large commercial vehicle. Close to seventy percent of these accidents occur in rural areas, and more than 50% happen in the light of day. The majority of the deaths and serious injuries are to occupants of passenger cars involved in accidents with trucks.
The Most Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
1. Mechanical Defects and Negligent Maintenance
Owners and operators of commercial vehicles are responsible for maintaining their vehicles in compliance with federal and state laws. When they fail to do so, they can be held liable for the injuries that result from their non-compliance. In addition to ensuring that a truck’s brakes, tires, and other mechanical issues are routinely checked and repaired, truckers are also responsible for ensuring that the vehicles are properly loaded. Imbalanced loading or overloading of a truck can cause the vehicle to act or move unexpectedly, causing further risk of accident and injury. In addition, some trucking accidents are caused by mechanical defects caused by the manufacturer of the vehicles, giving rise to a claim for product liability.
2. Drowsy Driving
Despite federal regulations limiting how long drivers may work before taking breaks or sleeping, the financial benefit that accompanies breaking these rules can seemingly outweigh the heightened risk.
When an accident is caused by drowsy driving, any of several involved parties — the trucking company, or a savvy truck accident lawyer, for example — may launch an investigation into any driver logs that may exist. This can help an attorney determine whether a driver violated standard operating hours.
If the driver violated the regulations, the trucking company could be held liable for negligent hiring or failure to terminate the driver — especially if the logs reveal that the violations have happened frequently.
3. Speeding / Reckless Driving
Drivers typically get paid for getting people or property to a location, not for their time on the road.
This can create a tempting incentive for drivers to drive far in excess of safe speed limits.
This is especially dangerous for trucks because their enormous weight makes them difficult to stop quickly. Large trucks are also far more vulnerable to rolling over and causing catastrophic damage at high speeds or on winding roads.
4. Bad Weather Conditions
Drivers are required to reduce their speed in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, sleet, snow, and fog. Many truck accidents are caused by drivers that fail to notice or consider bad weather when making their plans, fail to cancel routes when very bad weather is imminent, or even slow down while on the road during risky storms.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accident injuries tend to be much more severe than injuries from car accidents. Common truck accident injuries include:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) with Loss of Cognition and Function
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) with Paralysis
- Fractures and Dislocations
- Torn Ligaments
- Wrongful Death
While some of these injuries may be more devastating or permanent than others, all injuries will require at least some medical care and time for recovery. In addition, the experience of going through a truck accident can result in lasting mental trauma, stress, shock, or PTSD. Your Michigan truck accident attorney may be able to include these types of pain and suffering in your overall truck accident settlement figure.
What Should I Do After the Accident?
If you’re involved in a truck accident, you should immediately call 911 to request the police and an ambulance. It’s important to give the police as much information as possible about how the accident happened and take the ambulance to the hospital to be checked out.
When Should My Insurance Get Involved?
The biggest mistake you can make after a truck accident is to get talked into keeping insurance out of the picture. Failure to report the accident to your insurance company can void your coverage, and it’s not always possible to be sure of the extent of your injuries until days or even weeks after the accident. Be sure to preserve your rights and coverage by promptly reporting the truck accident to your insurance company.
Investigating the Truck Accident Site
If you’re physically able, it’s helpful to take photos and videos of the accident scene that establish the location of the accident and how it happened. For example, you should take pictures that show the location of the vehicles on the road and the damage they have sustained. It’s also helpful to document skid marks, downed trees, broken traffic lights, and the location of surveillance cameras. The police should collect the contact information and insurance information of all involved parties. Make sure that you and your attorney receive a copy of that police report.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
The Michigan Statute of Limitations for personal injury cases is three years from the date of accident and three years from the date of death for wrongful death cases.
While the statute of limitations may be extended for minors beyond 3 years, it is important from an evidence collection and witness preservation standpoint to speak to an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible about your particular case.
Should I Sue the Driver or the Company?
In most cases, it will be more successful for you and your attorney to file a suit against the driver and the company. Usually, after an investigation of the accident, you’ll be able to demonstrate some liability against the driver and company.
For example, if the accident was caused by a truck driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this could give rise to a claim against the company for negligent hiring.
What Kind of Claim Can I File?
There are many types of claims that can be made against drivers and trucking companies by injured victims. A few common examples include:
- Dangerous Cargo Claims: If a trucker or trucking company is handling particularly dangerous cargo and you can demonstrate that they exhibited negligence while doing so, they can be held liable for the injuries that result.
- Personal Injury Claims: A personal injury claim can be brought within three years of an accident for economic and non-economic compensation. Economic compensation is for the quantitative costs of injuries, such as medical expenses and lost earnings, and non-economic damages for subjective pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
- Wrongful Death Lawsuits: When a person loses their life due to a truck accident, their family can sue the responsible parties for their negligent, reckless, or intentional acts.
You May Be Eligible For Compensation
Whether you or a loved one requires support for recovery after a traumatic truck accident, you should know that you may be able to pursue a good deal of compensation.
The Amount of Common Truck Accident Settlements
Due to the serious injuries that are usually involved, truck accident settlements can result in substantial settlements and verdicts in excess of $1,000,000.00. However, it is important to choose a lawyer with expertise in truck accident cases to maximize the value of your case.
What Influences My Compensation?
The amount of compensation you can work towards will largely depend on the severity of the injuries that you or your loved one sustains. This is measured by the amount of medical treatment needed, the amount of time lost from work, and the limits on your enjoyment of life due to the accident.
When You Should Hire a Truck Accident Attorney
It’s important to hire a truck accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident so that evidence is preserved and deadlines are met. Here’s some practical information that may help expedite the initial proceedings:
How Can I Prepare For My Initial Consultation?
After you make an appointment for your consultation, gather all the papers you’ve received from the police, the hospital, and other medical providers to be handy when requested. Ask your prospective truck accident lawyer about their past cases, their specific experience, and how recent their last truck accident settlement was. See, too, if you feel like you can trust them and their processes. Your goal should be to find an attorney that you feel comfortable trusting with the vast majority of the logistics of your case.
What a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Do For You
Truck accidents are usually more complex than other types of motor vehicle accidents due to the severity of the injuries, they often involve multiple defendants, and large amounts of insurance coverage are in play. That’s why it’s important to hire an attorney with a great deal of experience with truck accidents rather than a regular car accident attorney. A Michigan truck accident attorney with this specific experience will be able to help you with commercial insurance policies, violations of federal trucking regulations, negligent hiring claims, and more to help you win the maximum possible compensation for your case.