Truck accidents often cause catastrophic damage that complicates legal claims. Hiring an experienced Indiana accident lawyer after the accident provides the best chance of recovering compensation for property damages and injuries. Hiring an accident lawyer immediately after the crash will give your attorney the best chance to make sure the defendants preserve any and all evidence, such as black box information, which can be used to help determine liability for the crash.
Truck Crashes Cause Catastrophic Damages
In the United States, truck crashes are a leading cause of accidental deaths. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation report that at least 5,000 people in passenger vehicles die every year in accidents that involve large commercial semi-trucks. Additionally, approximately 700 commercial truck drivers are killed in these accidents. In 2018, actual statistics show there were 4,658 passenger car occupants and 885 truck drivers killed in truck crashes. In 2019, fatalities from truck accidents reached their highest numbers in 30 years.
Due to the size and weight of a large semi-truck, truck crashes cause catastrophic injuries and deaths. At high speeds, a fully-loaded truck can easily crush a passenger car and/or cause occupants to be violently thrown from the vehicle. Large 18-wheelers and semi-trucks pulling trailers loaded with cargo commonly roll over in a crash, leaving few survivors in the path of destruction. Indiana accident lawyers handle many truck accidents that involve severe injuries when victims survive the crash.
Common causes of truck crashes include:
- Truck driver fatigue
- Distracted and/or impaired driving
- Driving too fast
- Poor truck maintenance
- Improper cargo loading
- Mechanical defects and/or equipment failure
Who is Liable for a Truck Crash?
Determining liability for a truck crash can be complicated without a knowledgeable accident lawyer, especially in crashes that involve multiple vehicles. Hiring an accident lawyer immediately following a truck crash can ensure the best recovery for damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages for egregious actions in some cases.
To determine liability for the accident, fault for the accident must be determined first. In Indiana, vehicle accidents fall under comparative fault rules. This means that fault is assigned to drivers based on their degree of fault for the accident. There is also a tort system in Indiana that helps determine fault. When a driver is apportioned his/her level of fault, the driver’s insurance company pays for the driver’s damages, and the costs of damages for the non-fault victim, up to the policy limits.
Truck accidents are more legally complex than car accidents because the truck driver may not be the legal owner of the truck. When pursuing legal action, an Indiana accident lawyer must look at actions of the truck driver, actions of the trucking company, and external factors that may have caused the accident.
While some commercial truck drivers own their own trucks and drive as independent contractors, sometimes commercial trucking companies or a trucking agency own the trucks and hire drivers. Accident liability usually depends on who owns the truck.
The Truck Driver
If the truck driver owns his/her own truck and drives as an independent contractor, he/she may be solely liable for the truck crash. However, the cause of the accident is a big factor in determining fault and liability. If an investigation into the crash determines that the truck driver was driving while drowsy, distracted, impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, or taking prescription medications for a health condition, he/she may be held solely responsible for property damages and injuries caused by the truck crash.
The Trucking Company
In many cases, the company that hires the truck driver may be liable for the truck crash, but proving this may be difficult without an Indiana accident lawyer who can investigate the cause of the accident. If the trucking company pushes the driver to meet unrealistic deadlines on the road or fails to complete a proper safety inspection on the truck before the driver left for transport, the trucking company may be held solely liable for the crash.
If the trucking company provides use of the truck to a driver, but does not legally own the truck, liability for the accident will likely fall on the truck’s actual owner. Under federal trucking regulations, the truck’s owner has a responsibility to regularly inspect and maintain the truck to prevent accidents.
The Manufacturer and Cargo Loaders
If a truck crash is due to faulty or defective equipment, the trucking company may share accident liability with the truck’s manufacturer. Additionally, cargo loaders who over-load or under-load the truck, fail to inspect the cargo before transport, or fail to properly securely the cargo in the truck can be held liable for damages. Accident lawyers see many truck crashes involving tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers caused by overloaded trucks with improperly secured cargo that creates a weight imbalance and a roll-over crash.