As you know if you have ever shared the road with a commercial semi-truck—and who hasn’t?—these large vehicles can create hazardous situations for other motorists, particularly if the drivers are not in compliance with federal and state safety regulations. Commercial vehicles travel more than 9.5 billion miles on Indiana roads each year, according to the Indiana Department of Revenue. With each mile, the odds of a devastating accident are increased when the driver’s license is not valid, the truck has not been inspected, or the driver is fatigued or impaired. The truck accident attorneys at Keller & Keller know Indiana and federal trucking laws and will determine if any of these laws have been violated when you are involved in a collision with a commercial vehicle in Indiana.
Understanding What Is at Stake
If you are seriously injured or a loved one is injured or killed in a crash with a commercial vehicle, you will need to prove that the truck driver and/or trucking company were responsible for causing the accident in order to receive full compensation from the insurance company. Indiana law requires that commercial vehicles carry liability insurance according to the following guidelines:
- For-hire carrier transporting nonhazardous property in a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs. or more – $750,000.
- Private and/or for-hire carrier transporting hazardous material – $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.
- For-hire carrier transporting nonhazardous property in a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less – $300,000.
These are significant coverage amounts and, if your attorney can prove that the trucker was 100 percent at fault, you could be entitled to the full amount.
Areas of Potential Liability
When a commercial truck accident occurs, the cause of the crash will be investigated to determine liability. If the truck driver committed a traffic violation, such as speeding, following too closely, failing to yield, or driving recklessly, a ticket may be issued at the scene, providing proof of liability. However, truck accidents often involve violations that are not clearly evident at the scene. A truck accident attorney will be able to uncover the following types of violations:
- Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) violation. In order to drive a commercial vehicle in Indiana, a driver must have a valid CDL. To obtain a CDL, a driver must pass a written knowledge test, a skills test, and a Department of Transportation physical. In order to drive a semi-truck, a driver must have a valid Class-A CDL. CDLs must be renewed every four years in Indiana. If a driver is found to have an invalid CDL following an accident, he or she should be held at least partially to blame for the crash.
- Hiring and training violation. Commercial truck drivers must meet certain hiring requirements as laid out by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) and it is up to the employer to confirm that their drivers meet these requirements. Employers must run background checks, criminal record checks, and employment checks on candidates and must conduct periodic drug screenings throughout the term of employment. Employers are ultimately responsible for confirming that their drivers continue to be healthy and drug- and alcohol-free. If a driver is determined to be unqualified after an accident, his or her employer may be held liable.
- Truck maintenance violation. The owner and operator of a commercial vehicle are both responsible for inspecting and maintaining the vehicle to certain safety standards. The trucking company or other owner must see to it that regular maintenance is performed on key systems. The driver is required to perform spot-checks of the brakes, steering system, lights, tires, horn, wipers, mirrors, coupling devices, and emergency equipment before every drive. If it is determined that equipment failure led to an accident, both the owner and driver could be held liable.
- Hours of service violation. Under federal law, drivers are not allowed to exceed a certain number of on-duty hours. If inspection of the electronic logging device shows that a driver did not take a required break, this can be used to prove driver liability in a crash. If it can be shown that an employer required or forced a driver to exceed hours of service limits, the trucking company could also be held liable.
Truck Accident Injuries Can Be Catastrophic
Injuries sustained in a collision with a semi-truck can be catastrophic—traumatic brain injury, paralysis, or loss of a limb are not uncommon results of these kinds of crashes. Victims will need significant resources to live with their injuries—or with the loss of a loved one—following a semi-truck crash. The Indiana truck accident attorneys at Keller & Keller will pursue every possible avenue of compensation to get you the settlement you need and deserve. Contact us today to discuss your commercial vehicle crash.