Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Accidents happen every hour of every day across our country. Even when standard-size vehicles are involved, the results can be devastating. The results can be deadly or catastrophic if a commercial vehicle is involved. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles can quickly turn what may have been a simple fender bender into a life-threatening situation.
Commercial vehicles include semi-trucks, buses, pickup trucks over 10,000 pounds, and more. The drivers of commercial vehicles can also get hurt, but typically, the drivers of the cars they come in contact with suffer the most injuries or risk of death.
Indiana law states that “a law enforcement officer shall investigate each motor vehicle accident that results in any of the following: the injury or death of a person or total property damage to an apparent extent of at least $1,000.” This helps law enforcement and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to gather necessary information on accidents to better research safety issues and address them across the state.
Who is Liable for an Accident Involving a Commercial Vehicle?
Suppose you are in an accident with another car while on your way to work. In most cases, you would trade information and report the accident, and you and the other person are typically the only two parties involved.
When you are in an accident with a commercial vehicle, multiple parties may be liable for the damages. The driver of the car, if they exhibited negligent behavior, would be found liable to a certain extent based on their behavior. Other parties that you may not have considered may also be liable, such as the vehicle’s owner, the truck’s manufacturer or auto parts used on the vehicle, and, in some cases, the cargo shipper or loader of the items transported in the commercial vehicle.
When the Employer is Liable
Why would the employer be liable for an accident one of their employees caused? Employers may be responsible if they have failed to inspect the vehicle properly if they have failed to require their employee to complete driver training, and more.
Employers are held to the standard of Motor Carrier Service, a branch of the Indiana Department of Revenue that regulates motor carrier companies, commercial vehicles, and more. Additionally, employers must adhere to the regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, FMCSA.
The FMCSA has many requirements for commercial vehicles, such as inspection tests, adequate driver’s training, background checks, limits on drive time, physical examinations, and more.
How Do FMCSA Laws Pertain to Liability?
Due to the strict regulations set in place by the FMCSA, if a driver is in an accident and is found to violate one or more of the regulations, this can contribute to their negligence in the personal injury case.
Suppose the driver is under pressure from their employer to meet deadlines, speeding to the next location or driving more hours than legally allowed by the FMCSA. In that case, this can typically be determined, and the employer would share in liability for the accident.
For example, to help avoid driver fatigue that can lead to accidents, the FMCSA has set drive time limits. These limits vary based on how many hours the truck is in operation and how many rest hours are included between shifts. The drivers must also document their hours in a drive log that can be inspected for safety concerns and to ensure they abide by the drive time limits.
Safety Hazards of Commercial Vehicles
Suppose the commercial vehicle next to you on the highway hasn’t had its required inspections completed, the brakes or tires fail, and this causes an accident. The driver may have acted negligently in not properly inspecting the vehicle as needed. The employer may share fault by not requiring consistent inspections of the vehicle.
The manufacturer of the parts may also be liable if some parts malfunction. For example, if brakes on a truck fail, though they have been adequately inspected and used, this may be a manufacturer issue. The manufacturer may be solely or partly liable for the damages in that case.
Indiana follows a comparative fault rule when determining liability after an accident. Each party will be assigned a percentage of fault after an accident, as multiple parties may act negligently.
For example, if the driver was speeding, the brakes malfunctioned, and the load shifted abruptly, causing the commercial vehicle to flip over and collide with multiple cars on the freeway:
- The drivers of all vehicles involved may be found to be partially negligent if they were speeding or distracted.
- The employer might be partly negligent if they didn’t ensure their driver was trained correctly.
- The manufacturer may be liable if it’s proven that the brakes malfunctioned and led to the accident.
- The cargo loader may be partly liable for their inability to safely load the cargo so it didn’t shift during transit.
Each party found liable would be assigned a percentage of fault, which is then used to calculate how much they are required to pay or receive in damages from the other parties involved.
Commercial Vehicle Accidents
If you are seriously hurt in an accident, you need an attorney to prove fault of the other driver(s). Establishing fault can be complicated. Sometimes, with semi-truck accidents, there are multiple vehicles involved. While the accident may have started with a commercial vehicle, fault may also fall on other drivers.
The important thing to remember is that all of the parties mentioned above from a commercial driver’s employer, to the manufacturer of the vehicle, and even the company that loaded the cargo, will all have their own attorneys protecting their interests, working hard so that insurance does not have to pay. It is important that you have an attorney fighting for your right to compensation.
Your rights are not guaranteed without protection. You don’t pay our attorneys unless you win. Hire the experienced legal team at McGlone Law to win your case!
Call our office today at (812) 247-8116 to learn more about how we can help you.