Frequently Asked Questions about Truck Accident Cases in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller about a potential truck accident case. 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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How can an experienced Indiana truck accident attorney prove truck driver negligence?
A thorough investigation by an experienced law firm is extremely important when you have been seriously injured in a crash with a commercial truck. Truck accident cases are complicated by the fact that legal claims involve not only the driver, but his employer, their attorneys, and their insurer. They also involve federal laws and large insurance policies that most non-commercial crashes do not. The victim of a crash with a commercial truck needs to make sure the circumstances are investigated by someone who is on his side.
How Is a Truck Accident Investigation Conducted?
There are dozens of ways a truck driver, his employer, and other parties involved with the truck may be found liable when a crash occurs. The experienced truck accident attorneys at Keller & Keller will take the following steps to determine liability:
- Investigate the scene of the crash. If the crash was caused by the trucker’s careless or reckless driving, an investigation of the crash scene, including talking to witnesses, reading the police report, and viewing any available video of the accident will provide the evidence needed to hold him accountable.
- Send a spoliation letter. This legal document prevents the trucking company from destroying, altering, or concealing evidence related to the crash. Without this document, the trucker or his employer could erase a digital logbook or conceal other records that could be used as evidence of liability.
- Look for hours of service violation. Federal law limits the number of hours a trucker can drive without a rest break. Our truck crash attorneys will examine the driver’s log book or electronic logging device to determine whether he violated hours of service laws, which could make him liable for the crash.
- Examine driver records. Drivers must also adhere to strict eligibility rules under federal law. Your attorneys will find out whether the trucker in your crash was properly licensed, had a valid health exam on record, and had a clean driving record. If any of these requirements were violated, the driver may be liable for the crash.
- Examine employer records. If the trucker’s employer failed to conduct adequate background checks, failed to administer drug testing, or allowed an unqualified driver behind the wheel of one of their trucks, they may also be held liable for your injuries.
- Any other necessary steps. Our Indiana truck accident attorneys have many years of experience investigating these kinds of crashes and will go to whatever lengths are necessary to hold the negligent parties accountable.
Our Attorneys Are Experienced Investigators
Seeking immediate counsel with the law firm of Keller and Keller will help to ensure that valuable evidence does not disappear. We will investigate your crash and make sure that the liable parties are identified and held accountable. Call any one of our Indiana offices today to find out more about how we can help.
- Dangerous Trends in the Indiana Trucking Industry
- Box and Delivery Trucks Can Cause Serious Accidents
- Commercial Truck Driving Laws in Indiana
What are the dangers of Indiana hazmat trucks?
We see large tankers carrying hazardous materials on Indiana roads every day. We may not know what’s in the containers, but we know we don’t want to come in contact with whatever it is. When one of these trucks crashes and hazardous material is released, motorists are in danger of more than just broken bones. Exposure to chemicals could cause a variety of ailments, including chemical burns, respiratory damage, eye damage, and organ failure, and the trucker may not be the only liable party.
What Are Hazmat Trucks Carrying?
In Indiana, hazardous materials are grouped by several classifications, depending on risks associated with them. Trucks are required by law to communicate the risks through signage on the tank indicating what is being transported. The driver is also required to carry shipping papers and emergency response information. Trucks in Indiana may be transporting the following materials:
- Class 1: Explosives, including dynamite, flares, fireworks, and ammunition
- Class 2: Flammable or toxic gases, including propane, helium, and compressed fluorine
- Class 3: Flammable liquids, such as gasoline
- Class 4: Flammable solids, such as ammonium picrate, white phosphorus, and sodium hydroxide
- Class 5: Oxidizers and organic peroxides, such as ammonium nitrate and methyl ethyl ketone
- Class 6: Poison and infectious substances, such as potassium cyanide and anthrax virus
- Class 7: Radioactive substances, such as uranium
- Class 8: Corrosives, such as battery fluid
- Class 9: Miscellaneous hazardous materials, such as PCBs
If a hazmat truck crashes and releases any of these materials, even those not directly involved in the crash could suffer injuries.
Who Is Liable for a Hazmat Truck Spill?
In the case of a hazmat truck crash, liability for damages will have to be determined. An investigation into the trucker’s actions, maintenance and repair records on the truck, and actions on the part of the shipper of the hazardous materials must be conducted. If the trucker’s actions caused the crash, but the hazardous materials he was hauling caused most of the harm, there may be a shared responsibility.
Our Indiana Truck Accident Attorneys Will Represent Your Interests
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a hazmat truck crash, you need a law firm that will pursue every possible liable party on your behalf to get you the compensation you need to recover from your losses. Call Keller & Keller when you want tenacious, experienced representation.
What should I do when I see a reckless truck driver?
Seeing a 40-ton tractor-trailer in front of you swerve off the road or drift out of his lane can be frightening to witness and, if you’re smart, you will back off to avoid a potential collision. However, you can do more to prevent the trucker from harming someone else. When you see a reckless driver, you should report him to the police and to his employer.
How to Spot a Reckless Driver
We’ve all taken our eyes off the road for a second to turn up the heat or set the cruise control and may even swerve out of our lane in the process, but when a driver is drunk, fatigued, or purposely driving aggressively, his behavior should be easy to spot. Look for these signs to see if you are dealing with a dangerous truck driver:
- Driving too fast or too slow
- Weaving in and out of cars
- Drifting out of a lane or driving between lanes
- Excessive braking
If you have been driving behind a truck for several minutes and have witnessed these actions repeatedly, you should report his driving to the state police.
How to Report a Dangerous Driver
The first thing to consider is whether you can safely report a dangerous driver without becoming one yourself. You should either have a passenger do the reporting or pull over when it is safe to do so. If someone has already been hurt or is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If there is no immediate danger as far as you can tell and a passenger is able to help you, look up the nearest Indiana State Police post and call their 800 number. You should try to give them as much of the following information as possible:
- Your location, including nearest mile marker or exit if on the interstate
- The name of the trucking company
- The license plate number and state
- The USDOT number or IN number displayed on the cab of the truck
- Your name and cell phone number
It may not be possible to gather all of this information, but the more you have the more likely it is that the police will be able to find and stop the driver.
How’s My Driving?
If the truck has a sticker on the back with a phone number to report bad driving, you can also call that to report the driver to his or her employer. If there is no sticker, you can still call the trucking company and give them the license or USDOT number.
If you are able to take these steps, you could save a life. If you are injured or a loved one is killed by a reckless truck driver, call Keller & Keller in Indianapolis to help you file a claim. We will check the driver’s record to see if he has been reported in the past for traffic violations, which will help your claim.
Are Indiana’s highways safer because the speed limit for semi-trucks is lower than for cars?
That’s a good question! Certainly, the motivation behind the lower speed limit for trucks is safety. Indiana and the six other states—California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington—that currently have a speed limit of at least 5 miles per hour less for semi-trucks believe that slower trucks result in safer highways. However, there are concerns about the logic behind this belief. We take a look at the question here.
It Is a Fact That Speed Kills
After the repeal of the national maximum speed limit in 1995, states were free to set their own speed limits. At the time, several states took the opportunity to raise the limit for cars but not for trucks. The thinking was that trucks are more dangerous at higher speeds because they are more difficult to maneuver and need more distance to stop. As speed limits for cars continue to increase—going as high as 80 or 85 mph in some areas—supporters of truck speed limits believe that trucks should never be allowed to travel at those speeds. While it is true that speed plays a part in a large number of highway crashes, there is concern that the difference in speed between cars and semi-trucks poses more problems than it solves.
How the Speed Differential Creates Problems
Proponents of a uniform speed limit for cars and trucks argue that it is the difference in the speed of travel that creates dangerous conditions, not the speed of the truck. For example, if trucks are driving at lower speeds, cars wishing to drive the speed limit will need to pass every time they approach a truck. Because drivers often pass carelessly, this creates a hazard that would not exist if the two vehicles were traveling at the same speed. Another argument in support of a higher speed limit for trucks is that it would reduce the number of hours a trucker must drive to get to his destination, thus decreasing the risk of driver fatigue and, ultimately, decreasing the number of trucks on the road.
Whatever the Cause, We Are Here for You
Whether Indiana ever votes to repeal the differential speed limit or not, truck drivers will continue to be responsible for their own actions when they cause a highway collision. If a truck driver is exceeding the 65 mph limit and causes a crash, he should be held liable. If the speed limit for trucks is increased and a trucker fails to stop in time to avoid an accident or loses control of his truck due to speed, he is also liable for the damage he causes. If you were in a crash with a commercial semi-truck in Indiana that was not your fault, contact Keller & Keller at one of our Indiana offices. We protect the rights of truck accident victims in Indiana.
Will mandatory electronic logging devices on commercial trucks and buses save lives in Indiana?
While the truck and bus industry has had years to prepare for the change, complying with the mandatory use of electronic logging devices this December will still be a major change for many truckers and bus drivers. It may seem like this has nothing to do with you—the average passenger car driver—but, in fact, the law was passed with you in mind. As a more reliable way to enforce truck and bus driver hours of service rules, it should remove more fatigued truckers from the road, protecting you and your family from a potentially fatal run-in with a truck.
What Are Hours of Service Rules?
Designed both to protect drivers from being overworked by their employers and to protect the general public from dangerously fatigued drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mandates the maximum number of hours drivers can operate their vehicles. These hours of service (HOS) rules apply to drivers of vehicles that meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
- Transports hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
- Carries 9 or more passengers—including the driver—for compensation
In other words, every large commercial truck or passenger vehicle is subject to these limits on the number of hours they can be driven.
Federal HOS rules mandate the following for property-carrying vehicles:
- Drivers may not drive for more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Drivers may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
- Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
For passenger-carrying drivers, the rules are a little more restrictive. Bus drivers are subject to the following HOS rules:
- Drivers may not drive for more than 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers may not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
- Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
While these rules may seem complicated to a non-commercial driver, you can be sure that every commercial driver understands what they mean for their driving. When they choose to ignore the rule—whether they are under pressure from an employer or not—they put you and your family at risk. Drivers are required to keep a log book of their on-duty and off-duty hours. They are subject to having their log books inspected by authorities for violations of these rules. However, paper log books are easily faked, leading to far too many fatigued commercial drivers on the road.
Electronic Logging Devices Are Designed to Keep Drivers Honest
Electronic logging devices (ELD) are installed in the vehicle and automatically record driving time by monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. ELDs are expected to strengthen compliance with HOS regulations. FMCSA estimates the devices will save at least 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries each year.
While many trucking companies are already using ELDs in their trucks because they make life easier for the driver, not every company has been on board. Beginning on December 18 of 2017, however, every commercial vehicle that is subject to the HOS regulations will be required to install ELDs in all of their vehicles. Not only will these devices save drivers and their employers from mountains of paperwork, they will also save lives.
Truck Crash Attorneys Will Get to the Bottom of Your Accident
Even with ELDs, it is possible for drivers to violate HOS regulations and cause an accident. If you are injured in a collision with a big truck, leave it to the truck accident attorneys and Keller & Keller to investigate and find the cause of the crash. If the truck driver was negligent, we will prove it and make sure you get the compensation you need to recover from your injuries. Call us today with your Indiana truck accident questions.
Why should I hire an attorney if I've been involved in an accident involving a semi-truck?
If you are unlucky enough to be injured in a crash with a semi-truck, you will most likely hear from the trucking company’s insurance company and attorneys very quickly. It is important that you know what your rights and entitlements are as the victim. Without your own attorney at your side, the odds are that you will be taken advantage of and will not receive the full settlement to which you are entitled.
Traditionally, semi-truck accidents have been deemed the most complicated and aggressively defended cases because of the parties involved, as well as the commercial policy aspect related to these accidents. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at truck accident investigation and claims. Therefore, having knowledgeable and experienced legal representation is extremely important to ensure the proper parties are involved and sufficient negligence is established. By retaining an attorney early in your semi-truck accident case, you will increase the ability to retain valuable evidence that will prove highly beneficial to your case.
Keller & Keller Will Stand by Your Side
As experienced Indiana truck crash attorneys, we know how to protect your claim from the tactics of big trucking companies. We will gather the evidence you need to prove the trucker was at fault and help you through the process of negotiating a fair settlement for your injuries. Contact us today to talk to an attorney about your case.
Why are expert witnesses important to prove fault in a truck accident case?
An experienced truck accident attorney knows what to look for in the aftermath of a truck crash and may even be able to gather enough evidence to prove truck driver liability. However, an attorney investigation should not take the place of hiring expert witnesses to review the case and testify on behalf of the victim.
Why Use Experts?
Every trucking case should have experts to assist an investigation and to analyze the information for potential testimony on liability. It is also important to employ experts in order to establish that safety inspections and driving logs were properly kept. Truck accident experts will know how to obtain key pieces of evidence, including inspection reports, maintenance records, the truck’s black box, driving logs, cargo manifests, and more. If your attorney does not utilize experts in truck accident cases, you may want to find a new attorney.
Keller & Keller Has the Resources to Properly Investigate Your Case
The law offices of Keller and Keller will work closely with the proper resources to ensure that your accident is investigated fully and in a thorough manner. If you are struggling after a truck crash in Indiana, call our offices at 800-253-5537 today.
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.
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