On the Side of Victims Since 1993
An accident with a semi-truck, box truck, or another commercial vehicle is an unfortunate common cause of injury and death on Indiana roadways. The most tragic part is how often these incidents were and are preventable. Whether the driver of a commercial vehicle is negligent or deliberately behaving unsafely, the consequences are equally devastating for all involved and injured in a trucking accident. Sometimes the trucking company is the one being negligent or malicious if trucks are not maintained or truck drivers don’t get the rest and breaks they need. To learn more about what you need to know as a victim of a truck accident and how our team of Indianapolis truck attorneys can help, call Christie Farrell Lee & Bell.
Why Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?
How Common Are Truck Accidents in Indiana?
Over 16,000 people had an accident with a commercial vehicle in Indiana in 2017. These truck and commercial vehicle collisions included 16% of all fatal traffic collisions in Indiana, claiming 152 lives. Most shockingly, there was a 21% increase in Indiana commercial vehicle collision fatalities from 2016 to 2017.
Why? Almost 94% of these accidents were related to the behavior of one or more drivers involved. Here are the most common behaviors by commercial drivers that led to commercial vehicle accidents:
- Unsafe lane movement: 2774 (19.5%)
- Following too closely:2302 (16%)
- Unsafe backing: 1542 (11%)
- Improper Turning: 1183 (8%)
Errors That Contribute to Truck Accidents
Beyond these simple behaviors driving and following the rules of the road in Indiana, there are other factors that may cause a collision. These are more specifically related to what happened before the accident and how the driver and carrier were monitoring for quality and safety.
Commercial Driver Inattention and Error
Distracted driving and driver inattention is growing rapidly on our roadways and is the cause of more and more accidents each year. Other times, collisions on Indiana interstates are caused by a lapse in judgment or a bad decision. In a national survey of 141,000 truck accidents across 17 states, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration identified that 55% of the time, the large truck involved was the cause of the crash.
They also identified four critical reasons that showed up when the truck driver was the cause of the accident:
- Decision (38%–30,000 trucks): For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.
- Recognition (28%–20,000 trucks): The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.
- Non-Performance (12%–9,000 trucks): The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason.
- Performance (9%–7,000 trucks): For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.
While these mistakes by a truck driver may not always be caused by negligence or malice, there are lots of accidents where it is suspected the truck driver or their employer was not meeting their responsibilities.
Delivery Scheduling and Carrier Oversight
After an accident with a tractor-trailer, there are many parties involved that could be responsible for the causes of the accident. Entities like a trucking company or the broker that helped the shipper hire the trucking company might also have been negligent. Even the shipper of the goods can be held liable if they knowingly hire a company that doesn’t follow truck driving laws and safety practices. This includes evaluating the driving record and past performance of the truck driver. Amazon Independent Contractors and other third-party drivers must also be evaluated to these standards. If companies knowingly hire negligent drivers, they can be considered negligent. They must also ensure drivers go through training as needed and continue to monitor their records.
Failure to Maintain or Repair a Semi
You might be surprised to learn there isn’t one central licensing or accrediting organization for mechanics in Indiana. This includes diesel and commercial mechanics. But these professionals are still under an obligation to be honest about their abilities and perform their work with care. When semi mechanics don’t maintain or repair a vehicle to industry standards, they are being negligent in their duties.
Equipment failure causing a semi accident may also be caused by the part or equipment itself. If brake pads, hitches, tires, or other parts are not manufactured to the right standards, that may be a cause of responsibility for an injury or wrongful death.
Common Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Outside large trucks and tractor-trailers we call “semis,” there are other commercial vehicles with a duty to care about the rules of the road in Indiana.
There were 1,949 bus accidents in Indiana in 2017, resulting in 7 fatalities and 217 injuries. In a collision with a bus, an attorney would evaluate factors like the bus driver’s training and experience, the condition and layout of the roadway, and other elements and evidence to determine if negligence or malicious behavior played a role in the bus collision.
School Bus Accidents
School bus accidents are a unique class of tragedy. In 2019 Indianapolis has already experienced two such incidents when school buses have collided with tow trucks and garbage trucks. With these just being in the state capital we know Indiana school bus collision victims may need legal representation any time, though we hope they never do.
Large Pickup Accidents
Pickup trucks over 10,000 pounds are also often classified as commercial vehicles. This includes vehicles like tow trucks or wreckers. These drivers should hold a commercial driver’s license and follow all Indiana roadway laws.
Hazmat Vehicle Accidents
Around 400 Indiana commercial vehicles with hazmat placards were involved in collisions in 2017. Of that number, less than 50 vehicles released hazardous material during collisions. Sometimes hazmat release may occur even from a commercial vehicle that is not marked. In all cases, those injured by a hazmat vehicle collision in Indiana deserve an advocate in their corner.
Indianapolis truck accident attorneys Christie Farrell Lee & Bell are committed to the process of helping victims regain peace of mind and move forward in life. Call us today at (317) 245-3709 to get started.
Q:What is the truck accident case process like?
A:It’s important to understand what goes into a civil case, especially a truck accident case, before getting too far along in the process. Flashy advertising doesn’t always give an accurate picture of the process of resolving these cases. Each case is unique and will be affected by elements like insurance limits or accident recreation. Your truck accident attorney should explain these details and other strategies in terms it is easy to understand. Part of understanding the process should also include understanding what the attorney will do to earn their fee, and what that fee will be. Communication will be key to the success of the case, so make sure you feel comfortable asking all your questions as the process is explained, and that you get answers that make you feel respected.
Q:What might be covered by my truck accident claim?
A:The reasons for pursuing a lawsuit after an eighteen-wheeler accident are usually related to injury or wrongful death of someone in the accident. A life-altering injury, the loss of a career, or the absence of a family member will be carried with you the rest of your life. But damages for lost wages, medical bills, and funeral expenses are just some of the costs that can be recovered by a trucking accident lawsuit to help you move forward. While commercial vehicles are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, and many carry more, the actual value of a case will be determined by the unique combination of factors and circumstances.
Q:What evidence will be needed for my case?
A:Asking about the evidence that will be needed in your truck injury case is one way to understand not only your attorney’s experience, but also the strength of your claim. Evidence like logbooks, maintenance records, dashcam video, or police reports may take time to obtain and explore. The attorney will also discuss other evidence that needs to be collected like eyewitness statements, social media posts, or photographs of the scene and vehicles involved. Then the attorney may hire experts to explain what the evidence means, like an accident reconstructionist or human factors expert.
Q:What if I am partially at fault in an Indiana truck collision?
A:Indiana is a comparative fault state, meaning you can still seek damages even when partially responsible for an accident. Somewhat contributing to the cause of the collision doesn’t necessarily prevent you from seeking damages to cover resulting medical bills and other expenses. The legal standard in Indiana is if you are 50% at fault or less, you still get to recover in proportion to your own percentage of negligence. This is because the negligence of the other person was greater than yours.
Q:Why do I need a truck accident attorney?
A:Trucking accident injury attorneys have to know a lot more about the trucking industry and equipment involved than an attorney only handling Indiana car accident injuries. It’s important to feel confident your attorney knows what next steps and approaches will advance your best interest. You can develop this confidence by asking about their experience against trucking companies and other parties like shippers and brokers. Only attorneys that truly specialize in handling truck accident cases have the savvy and insight to stand up to the company’s legal teams. This experience will show in their answers and the outcomes of their cases.
Q:Will I need to go to court for my truck accident case?
A:It depends. The vast majority of personal injury cases, including those involving truck accidents, end up being resolved in the form of an out-of-court settlement before a lawsuit is ever filed. Generally speaking, your case will only need to go to court if the responsible party's insurance company fails to offer you an amount that fully compensates you for your injuries, or if there is a substantial dispute about who is liable for the crash. While a trial is not always necessary, our attorneys prepare every case as if it were going to trial to give our clients the best possible leverage during the settlement negotiation process.
Q:How long do I have to file a truck accident lawsuit in Indiana?
A:Under Indiana law, you have two years from the date of your trucking accident to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party. In most cases, once this deadline expires, you no longer have a right to file a claim. This deadline may be extended in rare circumstances, such as if the injured plaintiff is a minor child, disabled, or if the plaintiff dies within the initial two-year period. Since it can easily take two years to investigate a trucking accident, identify at-fault parties, and collect evidence, it is critical you get an Indianapolis truck accident attorney involved as soon as possible after a collision.