Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Personal Injury Laws in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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What are the most common factors in collisions between commercial trucks and automobiles?
Commercial semi-trucks are a common sight on Indiana roads. Nationally, the trucking industry moves 58 percent of all goods shipped throughout the country, making them the largest carrier of goods. While numerous trucks indicate a strong economy, unfortunately, these trucks can also present dangers to drivers of passenger vehicles.
Risks Inherent in Semi-Trucks
In general, semi-truck accidents are caused by a combination of a truck's characteristics, performance capabilities, and others’ limited understanding of those characteristics. What this means is that trucks are much harder to control and maneuver than smaller vehicles and, when those smaller vehicles don’t defer to the truck’s limitations, accidents can happen. Specifically, trucks are less able than cars to do the following:
- Accelerate. Trucks are heavy and, while they can get to normal highway speeds and beyond eventually, it takes a lot longer to do so than cars. As a result, they can be slow to merge on the highway, creating a hazard to cars approaching in the right lane or merging onto the highway behind them.
- Brake. Their size and weight also make trucks hard to stop, so if a car brakes suddenly in front of a semi, the truck will most likely not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the car. Also, truck brakes often overheat and fail, creating a dangerous situation for everyone on the highway.
- Be seen. When trucks travel at night, it can be difficult for other drivers to see the entire length of the rig—especially when the truck has side reflectors or lights that are out—and cars can make a lane change or merge onto the highway right into a semi-trailer.
It falls on the driver of the truck to operate his rig at safe speeds and at increased following distances, but when passenger car drivers are aware of a truck’s limitations, they can protect themselves and their passengers from a devastating crash.
Who can be sued in a truck accident case?
Crashes with commercial semi-trucks can be devastating, causing massive highway pileups and catastrophic injuries. When you find yourself the victim of a truck crash, you may be forced to sue the responsible party to cover your medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damages. It’s important to look at more than just the driver for liability, however.
Who May Be Held Accountable
There are many possible defendants in a trucking accident. An experienced truck accident attorney will look at all of the following as possible defendants in your truck accident case:
- The driver for negligent or careless driving
- The owner of the tractor for mechanical issues
- The owner of the trailer for poor loading or improper couplings
- The company identified on the trailer, even if other than the owner, for maintenance problems or irresponsible hiring practices
- The persons or company who placed the contents in the trailer for improper loading
- The owner of the contents of the trailer if the nature of the load contributed in some way to the crash
- Government entities for road conditions, construction zones, or poor signage
The list of parties who could possibly owe the victim damages is long and complicated. The attorneys at Keller & Keller will know who to look at when you are involved in a crash with a commercial truck. Call us today to learn more.
Why is a traffic accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving passenger cars?
A typical fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity, and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal injuries.
Injuries That Result From Crashes With Commercial Trucks
When a passenger car collides with a semi-truck, the injuries sustained by the occupants of the car are often permanent and life-threatening. In most cases, the driver of the truck is not even injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 4,000 fatalities resulting from truck crashes in 2014, 73 percent were occupants of other vehicles and 17 percent were occupants of large trucks. Clearly, the risk is much greater to the occupants of cars. Other potentially serious injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
Keller & Keller Can Help
If you suffered serious injuries in a collision with a commercial truck, contact our experienced truck accident attorneys in Indiana. Call (800) 253-5337.
What is a "commercial truck?"
A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples of a commercial truck include eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks. If you are involved in a crash with a truck, it is important to know whether it is considered a commercial vehicle, as that will complicate any legal action. Crashes with commercial vehicles often involve federal regulations, trucking companies, drivers, cargo loaders, and more.
Definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) as a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle has any of the following:
- A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
- A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
- Is of any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations
Keller & Keller Understand Indiana Commercial Truck Accident Claims
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck in Indiana, call any one of our offices throughout Indiana. We understand the complications involved in a commercial truck accident and we will walk you through your case step by step.
What are some specific examples of the variables found in a semi-truck accident?
A crash with a commercial tractor-trailer in Indiana can become a very complicated claim for damages. This is because truck cases involved many more variables than a more straightforward car accident case. While a car accident claim is usually just between two drivers and their insurance companies, a truck claim involves the driver, the trucking company, maintenance records for the vehicle, those who loaded cargo, state and federal regulations, and more.
Examples of Variables Found in a Tractor-Trailer Accident
An experienced truck accident attorney will be aware of the many variables that can come into play with a commercial truck crash. Some of the most common factors a truck crash attorney must account for include the following:
- There are usually at least two insurance policies covering the accident.
- An accident with one tractor-trailer could bring in multiple defendants and therefore multiple liability insurance policies.
- A truck driver has a higher standard of care than most.
- Truck drivers must adhere to federal hours-of-service rules.
- There is automatic liability for some accidents under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
- Negligent hiring may impose punitive damages on an employer.
- Employers must continually review their drivers’ health records and records of traffic violations as well as conduct random drug testing.
- The deliberate use of unsafe equipment may substantially increase your award.
- A trucking company may not blame someone else for the accident if it operates under a “public franchise.”
- There are specific rules on how to load a truck so its contents will not fall off.
- A truck has only 10 minutes to set out emergency signals after it becomes disabled.
Keller & Keller Will Investigate All the Variables
In order to launch a successful claim, you need a truck accident attorney who will follow up on all of these variables in order to identify all possible sources of compensation. Our truck crash attorneys have experience with Indiana truck crashes and make sure no stone is left unturned.
What is the danger associated with driving in a truck's "No-Zone" area?
You are probably well aware of the blind spots surrounding your sedan or minivan. You know that if you don’t turn around and look over your shoulder before changing lanes, you may hit a car that was cruising in your blind spot. Now imagine just how big the blind spots are surrounding a semi-truck. These areas are known as “No-Zones”.
Where Is a Semi-Truck’s No-Zone?
The "No-Zone" refers to the areas behind and beside a commercial truck, where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility:
- The left rear quarter
- The right rear quarter
- Directly behind the truck at a short distance.
When a driver is operating a vehicle in any of these areas, they are highly susceptible to an accident. Truckers can't see vehicles in the side no-zone and may cut them off when making a lane change. When you drive directly behind and too close to a semi-truck, you are not only hidden from the driver, but your ability to see the traffic in front of the truck is reduced or eliminated.
When you are driving near semi-trucks, always be aware of these no-zones. Remember, too, that if you can't see a trucker's mirrors, the trucker most likely can't see you!
Keller & Keller Is an Experienced Truck Accident Law Firm
At Keller & Keller, we have seen far too many tragic consequences of crashes with semi-trucks. We encourage you to drive safely around these big rigs and to contact us if you are the victim of truck driver negligence.
What should I look for when hiring an attorney in a trucking case?
Experience, knowledge, and understanding are important to every case. Since 1936, the law offices of Keller & Keller have successfully defended its clients and their claims. Because trucking accidents can present unique variables and instances of complicated liability, it is highly suggested that you seek legal counsel that will be able to properly guide you through the legal process.
Keller & Keller Has Truck Accident Experience
Our attorneys have experience handling semi-truck accident claims that will be critical to your case. This includes our knowledge of the special laws regulating semi-trucks and their drivers, as well as our ability to locate the potential of "multiple policies." We know Indiana and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration laws regarding commercial truck operation and we know how to obtain the necessary evidence to prove truck driver or trucking company negligence.
We Will Put Our Top-Rated Firm to Work for You
As an AV rated firm, Keller & Keller possesses the experience and skill to help determine the best strategy in pursuing your claim. If you were hurt in an accident involving a semi-truck, don’t hesitate to call.
How quickly should I contact an attorney after my semi-truck accident?
When you have been involved in a semi-truck accident, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney should be contacted as soon as possible. Victims who choose not to contact an attorney often find that evidence proving negligence is often lost or destroyed. The longer you wait to retain an attorney, the harder it is for an attorney and their investigators to piece together the facts. The law offices of Keller and Keller are available to you and your loved ones at any time for a free consultation and legal advice.
Are you still entitled to a settlement if the police report places you partially at fault?
First of all, remember that a police report is not always the final word. There are instances where officers make honest mistakes or new evidence and witnesses are located after the initial report is completed. Even if the police report places you entirely at fault, it is a good idea to contact an attorney to have them examine the facts and circumstances of your case.
If the report places you partially at fault, you may still be entitled to a settlement. Every state has different laws regarding theories of negligence. Indiana is a comparative negligence state, which means that you may have the right to a paid settlement in the event it’s proven that you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident. This said, the value of your claim is reduced by the degree at which you are found to be at fault.
Example: If you were involved in a car accident that resulted in serious injury and received a settlement in the amount of $50,000 but were 10% at fault, your compensation would decrease by $5,000, leaving you with a total settlement of $45,000.
Your Ability to Recover Compensation Will Depend on Specific State Laws
Every state has different laws. Some states, like Indiana, have adopted a comparative negligence approach. Other states use a contributory negligence approach, meaning that the plaintiff is barred from recovering if he or she acted negligently and contributed to the accident in any way. It is important to ask your lawyer what law applies in your state so that you know your rights.
Remember: The sooner an attorney can get involved, the more likely it is that they will be able to appropriately assess your liability, if any, in the accident. And the earlier you contact an attorney, the more quickly they can gather evidence before it is altered, destroyed, or misremembered. At Keller & Keller, our on staff investigator will immediately go to the scene to gather information, interview key witnesses, and will thoroughly examine the crash details.
Are semi accidents viewed differently than other auto accidents?
Absolutely. The biggest and most obvious difference between semi accidents and car accident is that the impact can be much more severe because of the size and weight of a semi-truck (3,700 pounds of car vs. 80,000+ pounds of truck). The weight of the truck means that it takes a semi-truck longer to stop. The length of stop time combined with the high speed of highway travel can lead to deadly disasters.
Another important difference is that semi-trucks are required to carry greater amounts of insurance coverage, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For that reason, semi-truck insurance companies will defend their claims aggressively to protect the large amount of money on the line.
Unique Regulations Governing Commercial Trucking Require Unique Legal Experience
Trucking companies also have to abide by safety standards and federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act requires driver background checks, periodic evaluation of existing employees, regulation of hours driven in a day, drug and alcohol testing, and other strict standards. Violations of these regulations can provide the basis for establishing liability on the part of the company and its driver.
Types of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can be caused by driver negligence, truck malfunction, negligent maintenance of the truck, or a combination of these issues. Again, because of their sheer size, there are many different types of accidents that can result, including:
- Rear-end collisions
- T-Bone/side impact collisions
- Head-on collisions
- Rollover accidents
- No-Zone accidents
For more information about what to do after a truck accident, download our free book, Free Truck Accident Guide Book.
The Bottom Line: Truck Accidents Are Complex
The bottom line is that truck accidents are complicated and far more complex than other auto accidents. The likelihood of severe injury combined with large insurance policies and federal regulations often results in intense legal battles that require experienced attorneys. Keller & Keller is recognized as one of the state’s top rated personal injury firms and our attorneys have represented hundreds of semi-truck accident victims. Contact us today for a free analysis of your semi-truck accident claim.
Why is the insurance company for the semi driver so aggressive?
Trucking companies are required to carry greater amounts of insurance coverage, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. For that reason, trucking insurance companies will defend their claims aggressively to protect the large amount of money on the line. Because of the size of the trucking company and its financial resources, it is easy for the trucking company to quickly get the upper hand. These companies have access to an experienced team who is familiar with the rules and regulations governing truck drivers and it is their job to negotiate settlements every day. They have years of experience investigating trucking accidents and know how to compare the value of your case to actual jury verdicts and past settlements. This is why it is so important for you, the injured party, to have an experienced team of lawyers on your side.
Don’t Take Their First Offer
Don’t let the insurance company’s aggressive tactics force you to take the first offer. The insurance company will likely play nice at first and tell you that you don’t need an attorney. They will say that they will work with you to resolve your case fairly. The offer from the trucking company may sound appealing at first, but keep in mind, it is not the trucking company’s nor its insurance carrier’s job to pay you what your case is worth. It is their job to pay you the smallest amount possible.
It is always important to consider not only how you are feeling today, but how you will feel tomorrow, next week, next month, and maybe even for years to come. If you settle your case too early or sign anything from the trucking company, you may be signing away your right to full compensation. Don’t sign anything before consulting with an experienced semi-accident attorney.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
Keller & Keller’s team of experienced truck accident attorneys isn’t afraid to stand up to the insurance companies. Don’t let an aggressive trucking company trample your legal rights, contact Keller & Keller today to request a free, no-obligation consultation. From our firm headquarters in Indianapolis, we’re proud to serve the entire state of Indiana and beyond.
When should I hire an attorney?
Some people like to try to handle the claim on their own before consulting an attorney. However, the best practice is to consult with an attorney before making any decision on how to proceed in a motorcycle accident case. Early investigation is critical and should be completed as soon as possible to secure scene evidence and witness statements. The insurance company will be nice at first and will encourage you to settle your case directly with them. Remember, they do not have your best interest in mind and are simply trying to get your case settled as quickly as possible so that they can wash their hands of you. Contacting an attorney immediately will ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for your injuries.
Calling Keller & Keller to discuss your case is always free. We work on a contingency fee basis meaning that we don’t ask you to pay us anything up front and don’t charge hourly rates while we work on your case. We won’t get paid until you get paid.
Contact our Albuquerque, New Mexico office today for a free case evaluation of your potential motorcycle accident claim.
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