“I was hit by a semi-truck and heard these cases are difficult. Is that true?”
More difficult? They certainly can be. Unlike any other Indiana auto accident case? Absolutely. The differences between a semi-truck accident and a collision between two cars are many.
For this reason, we always recommend that you consult with an experienced Indianapolis semi-truck injury lawyer before speaking with the insurance company or attempting to settle your personal injury claim.
However, until you speak with attorney Matt Boulton, we have put together 3 semi-truck personal injury case tips to keep in mind following your accident.
1.) There are Different Laws for Semi-Trucks
A semi-truck with an empty trailer weighs approximately 35,000 lbs. Fill the trailer up to its legal limit and you have an 80,000 lb. vehicle traveling at interstate and highway speeds alongside much smaller cars, vulnerable motorcyclists, and pedestrians. (The weight of an average car? 4,000 lbs.)
Despite the glaring weight difference between semi-trucks and other vehicles, size is just one of several reasons the trucking industry is individually regulated by federal and state laws.
For example, a number of regulations also exist to decrease the risk of driver error, so depending on the type of evidence associated with your semi-truck accident, there is a strong possibility that one or more federal or state violations can prove negligence on behalf of the trucking company.
Federal Semi-Truck Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are tasked with issuing laws and regulations dedicated to decreasing the risks and dangers commonly associated with semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles throughout the United States.
As you can imagine, overseeing every facet of the trucking industry requires a lengthy list of federal regulations that can be technical and ever-changing. Unless you handle these types of cases regularly, it can be extremely difficult to have a true understanding of how the laws apply to your claim.
Because of the potential case complexity, we recommend that semi-truck accident victims ask Matt to review their claim for experienced and professional analysis.
Matt has investigated a number of Indiana semi accidents that found companies in violation of one or more federal trucking requirements, including:
- Hours of Service (HOS) – All semi-truck drivers are limited to a set number of continuous hours they can be behind the wheel without time off and/or taking a mandated break.
For example, in addition to the total number of consecutive hours a driver is limited to, truckers must also take a 30-minute, uninterrupted break for every 8 cumulative hours they drive.
If an investigation determines that a driver and/or trucking company was in violation of HOS, it can be a large contributing factor to a successful semi accident claim.
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) – Instead of handwritten logs, which can easily be manipulated, ELDs help ensure drivers follow federal HOS regulations.
ELDs are attached to a semi-trucks onboard diagnostics port and pull data directly from the rig’s engine. This can tell an attorney how long the engine was on for any given time period, how far the driver has traveled, and how much fuel has been used.
If Matt suspects an HOS violation, they may submit a formal request to the trucking company for all information and data contained by the semi’s ELD.
- Drug & Alcohol Testing – All semi-truck drivers are subject to the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing protocol.
Drivers may be subject to drug and alcohol testing under a number of scenarios, including random testing, an accident that results in bodily injury or death, an accident that results in one or more vehicles being towed from the scene, and/or reasonable suspicion. Whether or not the truck driver is found to be negligent for the accident has no bearing on the testing requirements.
A number of recent high-profile semi-truck accidents that occurred in Indianapolis resulted in the immediate drug and alcohol testing of the driver(s).
- Transportation of Hazardous Materials – Semi-trucks regularly haul hazardous materials that can represent additional dangers in the event of a crash, e.g., fuel trucks.
Due to the added risks, trucking companies can face a number of hazardous material violations for a variety of missteps, such as not properly securing the cargo/material or not having the required Hazardous Materials Registration Number, among several others.
- No Texting Rule – Distracted driving remains one of the most dangerous actions one can take behind the wheel. As such, the FMCSA has set forth strict rules against texting and driving for trucking companies and their drivers.
Drivers found to be texting and driving not only can be disqualified from driving a truck, but they and their employer can also face significant fines of up to $2,750 and $11,000, respectively.
These examples only represent a fraction of the trucking industry’s federal regulations, however, it should be noted that not every accident with a semi-truck will result in the discovery of a violation.
Also, as mentioned above, in addition to the FMCSA’s and DOT’s federal regulations, the trucking industry must also be in compliance with local state laws.
Indiana’s Semi-Truck Regulations
And while Indiana has adopted a number of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as state law, we also have a number of unique mandates, such as semi-truck insurance requirements:
- Semi-trucks transporting non-hazardous cargo – $750,000 minimum insurance coverage.
- Semi-trucks transporting hazardous cargo – $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 in insurance coverage.
With regard to safety equipment requirements, Indiana’s semi-trucks must carry the following:
- A driver’s truck must be equipped with a fire extinguisher.
- Spare fuses must be available.
- In the event a semi-truck is disabled, drivers must use a warning device for the stopped rig or bidirectional emergency reflected triangles.
Semi-trucks must be inspected before each trip to ensure various components are in safe, working order:
- Service brakes, including trailer-brake connections
- Parking brake – Due to their weight, semi-truck parking brakes are critical to preventing roll-away accidents.
- Steering mechanism
- Lighting devices and reflectors
- Tires – Semi-truck tire blowouts not only have the potential to cause a serious traffic accident, but we have also witnessed cases in which tread from a semi-truck has struck a vehicle or pedestrian resulting in serious injury and/or death.
- Windshield wipers
- Rear-vision mirror(s)
- Coupling devices – A semi’s coupling is the point of connection between two shafts that transmit power and enables the truck to move.
- Wheels and rims
- Emergency equipment
In addition to the many safety requirements, Indiana requires the display of a valid Indiana or DOT number.
2.) There May Be Multiple Defendants
The search for applicable defendants is one of the most important distinguishing factors between an accident with a semi-truck and a collision with an everyday car or pick-up truck.
For instance, a truck driver typically works for one company, however, they may transport cargo for a number of different companies and organizations. As a result, the driver of the rig may be insured by one policy while the trailer/cargo is insured by a separate policy, resulting in two potential sources of compensation and/or defendants.
In instances like this, the amount of compensation available for your damages could potentially double, e.g., the rig is insured for $1,000,000 and the trailer has an additional $1,000,000 in coverage.
There have also been instances when a semi-truck accident was the result of a mechanical failure. Depending on who performed the maintenance on the truck, and whether or not it was a result of human negligence or a defective part, it could result in multiple insurance policies and/or defendants.
Matt has also investigated semi-truck accidents in which an unsecured load was thought to have contributed to the collision. In these cases, it may be possible to trace liability back to the company and/or parties responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck, resulting in yet another potential defendant.
Ultimately, if you wish to file a personal injury claim for a semi-truck accident that occurred in Indiana, there is always the possibility for multiple parties to be named as defendants, each with individual policies and the potential to have liability for the collision.
3.) Insurance Companies Treat Semi-Truck Cases Differently
As we’ve discussed above, accidents with semi-trucks are subject to an entirely different set of laws and considerations, mainly due to their potential to cause traumatic injuries.
And because semi-trucks are required to carry much larger insurance policies than passenger vehicles, this means the insurance company risks having to pay out significant compensation, sometimes amounting to millions of dollars.
For these reasons, when an insurance company is notified of a semi-truck accident, they immediately spring into action. Unlike a fender-bender between two cars, a representative for the insurance company may show up at the scene of a semi-truck accident to begin analyzing the evidence in an attempt to shift or deny liability.
Additionally, an adjuster for the insurance company may be especially aggressive in their attempts to contact you and request a recorded statement and/or have you sign a medical release form.
The goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible on injury claims, and due to the potential value of a semi-truck accident case, they can and will make use of a vast array of resources to help ensure this happens. This includes being backed by a team of their own attorneys, investigators, and sophisticated algorithms that may assign a value to your case in their favor.
Hiring an experienced Indianapolis semi-truck accident attorney such as Matt helps to even the playing field. It also ensures that you have someone working entirely on your behalf and not in the interest of the insurance company.
In addition to investigating the potential sources of insurance coverage and identifying all possible defendants, Matt will also help to ensure the trucking company is held responsible for any violations of federal and Indiana law.
After you become a Boulton Law Group client, Matt will aim to recover maximum compensation from the insurance company for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Any future medical care
- Lost wages
- Lost earning ability
- Loss of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
Questions About Your Semi-Truck Accident Injury Claim?
If you were injured in a semi-truck accident, we encourage you to reach out to Boulton Law Group for free and friendly legal advice. Matt is an award-winning attorney with more than 20 years’ experience helping victims of serious accidents.
Semi-truck accident cases are among the most complicated and potentially valuable cases in personal injury law. This means the insurance company will devote significant resources toward your claim to limit their exposure and pay as little compensation as is possible.
To help even the playing field, you can hire an experienced semi-truck injury attorney whose goal is the exact opposite of the insurance company: recover the greatest amount of compensation possible for your injuries and pain and suffering.
Boulton Law Group also offers all semi-truck accident victims a Zero Fee Guarantee. This means that you will never pay to have Matt review your case, and you owe the firm nothing until we make a recovery on your behalf. Our risk-free promise is part of our aim to make sure you Get Treated Like Family.
To speak with Matt, call him direct at 317-350-2680. If you prefer to write to us with your story, please use our confidential contact form. Matt personally reviews all semi-truck injury cases received at our firm.
We look forward to learning how we can help you!
Attorney Matt Boulton is an award-winning personal injury attorney with more than 20 years of experience helping seriously injured people throughout Indiana reclaim what was taken from them. His firm was created for for the client who expects exceptional service and passionate, successful legal representation.