Did you know that 724 million tons of freight travels through Indiana each year in large freight trucks, box trucks, and other commercial vehicles? And it’s predicted that this amount of freight is going to increase by 60% by 2040.
Indiana is the fifth busiest state for commercial freight traffic in the U.S. Although this is great for the Hoosier State’s economy, it also makes the high volumes of trucks on roads and interstates a high risk to drivers of all kinds.
In 2020, there were 4,870 crashes involving commercial vehicles in Indiana. Among these crashes, there were 1,664 injuries sustained and 144 fatalities.
Both commercial truck drivers and passenger car drivers can be injured in these trucking accidents. When these accidents happen, the injured parties shouldn’t have to seek justice on their own. Let’s discuss some of the most critical information you need to know when you are seeking a semi truck accident attorney.
What Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Do?
A truck accident lawyer can carry out many duties on their clients behalf, such as:
- Collecting evidence
- Identifying the liable parties
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Filing court documents and paperwork
- Finalizing a settlement
- Representing you in court
Commercial truck accident lawyers can also help clients receive compensation for future needs as well as present needs, especially in cases that involve incapacitating injury or fatalities.
Truck accident lawyers are powerful advocates for clients who face dire circumstances that don’t necessarily have a dollar amount assigned to them. They can help their clients receive compensation for:
- Long-term medical care
- The loss of opportunity, companionship, and love
With the support from an attorney on your side, you can have peace of mind that your case is in the hands of an expert that is dedicated to being an advocate for the justice you are entitled to.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer After an Accident?
In the state of Indiana, people who have been in a truck accident have two years from the date of their accident to take legal action or file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This rule is known as the statute of limitations.
Although you may have two years to take legal action, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily wait until the last minute in some cases. If you were to wait nearly two years to file a lawsuit, the evidence you and your lawyer may need to support your claim might no longer exist.
This is particularly true for accidents involving trucking companies. Sometimes, these companies only have to keep certain information for a few months, and after that, they can legally destroy or dispose of data. For instance, federal law only requires truck companies to keep Hours of Service (HOS) logs for six months.
Important Note: In cases where the state or local government may share fault in an accident, the statute of limitations is significantly reduced. Injured parties have 270 days to file lawsuits against the State of Indiana, and 180 days to file suit against the city or county in question.
Whether you are a driver of a car or a trucker who has been in an accident, it’s best to hire a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Who Can Be Sued in a Truck Accident Case?
Many parties can share responsibility when an accident involving a semi-truck, trailers, box trucks, or any other commercial vehicle occurs. On occasion, individuals who are not at the scene of an accident could even be at fault. Let’s take a deeper look into who could be at fault (and sued) in a commercial truck accident case:
All Drivers Involved in the Accident
When it comes to holding responsible parties accountable for injuries and damages after a truck accident, all drivers involved are typically front-of-mind. Assigning fault among drivers can be a complex process, especially if the collision involves a large 18-wheel truck or a multiple passenger vehicle. This is one of the most prominent reasons why it’s important to have an experienced truck accident lawyer to advocate on your behalf.
Although many individuals might assume that commercial truckers are responsible for a large majority of accidents, research shows a different light. In their Large Truck Causation Crash Study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that large trucks were the primary cause of only 55% of crashes they were involved in. But in single-vehicle collisions between the truck and one other vehicle, drivers of large trucks were only the critical reason in 44% of the cases.
Another party who could be partially responsible for truck accidents is the trucking company that employs the commercial truck driver. The company is responsible for vetting the driver properly—making sure they have the appropriate training to maintain their skills and attention to the rules of the road.
It’s also important to note that federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) create laws and safety regulations for these trucking companies to abide by. These regulations can include limiting the number of hours a driver is on duty and maintaining the truck and trailer. If a company doesn’t not follow these regulations, not only could they be at fault in an accident, but they could receive fines from each of these agencies.
Another party that could be at fault in a commercial truck accident could be the freight companies hired by the trucking company that loaded the freight into the truck. If freights were loaded improperly, they can shift during transport. This can cause truck drivers to lose control of their vehicles because the trailer is unbalanced—even if the truck driver is following the rules of the road.
When a truck has brake failure, steering system failure, or failure of another driving system, accidents can definitely occur. When these things happen, the professional mechanics responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the commercial vehicle can be held responsible.
Local Government or Transit Authority
Regional or local governments can also be sued after a trucking accident. For instance, if roadways were not properly maintained during a hazardous weather condition—such as salting an interstate before an ice storm—the individuals who failed in making sure that duty was completed could be partially responsible for the accident. Other examples where parties could share responsibility could include inadequate lighting, poor roadway design, or areas with improperly-displayed signage.
What Lawyers Look for in a Truck Accident
After reading about all the parties who could possibly be responsible or share responsibility in a trucking accident, you might wonder what lawyers look for in a truck accident to decide who is at fault. These are a few of the elements that commercial truck accident lawyers take into account when determining the appropriate individuals responsible for an accident.
- Scene of the Accident: Broken glass and metal, tire marks, the layout of the surrounding area, and other evidence at the scene are all essential to understanding the events that happen in an accident.
- The Truck’s Black Box: Similar to airplanes, semi trucks and commercial vehicles contain black boxes that store information like the speed of the truck, when the driver hit the brakes, how long they have been driving without stopping, communications with the trucking company, and whether or not the driver was wearing a seat belt. These black boxes can save information for around 30 days
- Driver and Maintenance Records: Other records and logs such as maintenance records, timesheets, complaints filed by the driver, and the driver’s own record of accidents and tickets can be used in a case.
- Eyewitness Testimony: Any testimony from the drivers involved, bystanders who witnessed the accident, or passengers can give a statement to support what happened in the accident. Video footage could also be used as a first-hand account of how the accident happened.
- Accident Reconstruction: Sometimes when a case lacks evidence, police or an attorney may assign an accident reconstruction team to the case. These teams use evidence at the scene, police and medical records, and other data to reconstruct the accident in reverse. In some cases, 3D models can be created of the scene to narrow down the facts of the accident.
- Expert Witnesses: These types of expert witnesses can speak to the standards of reasonable care that should have been followed to any negligent party involved in the accident. When an expert witness gives a testimony, they explain what one or more of the parties involved should have done according to the best practices that are a part of their industry.
Why Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer in Indianapolis?
If you live near Indianapolis or have been in an accident in Indiana, you may want to consider hiring a truck accident lawyer in Indianapolis.
Lawyers from the region you live in or have been in an accident in will know and understand the laws from that area. For instance, in the Hoosier state, commercial vehicles are subject to all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations such as:
- Driver qualification
- Hours allowed to work
- Record keeping
- Hazardous material transport
- Number of allowed passengers
Any driver or vehicle that violates any one of these standards are, under state law, ordered out-of-service.
Have You Experienced a Trucking Accident? Have Broadwing Legal Lawyers on Your Side
When you hire a truck accident attorney, you can proceed in your case with confidence—knowing that you have a strong advocate on your side to seek justice. Broadwing Legal has expert lawyers who can put the power back in your hands to take the fight to the responsible parties. We will explore every possible facet of your case, and in doing so, we help you tell your story.
If you or a loved one has been afflicted by a life-altering injury or a wrongful death due to a trucking accident, we are here for you. Our lawyers will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation with a trusted truck accident lawyer in Indianapolis.