Motor vehicle accidents are consistently one of the top ten causes of death both in Michigan and across the United States. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, of the 3,602 people who died in large truck accidents in Michigan in 2013, (the most recent year for which statistics are available at this time) 67 percent of those victims were drivers and passengers of other, usually smaller vehicles.
When you’re in a car accident with another vehicle on the road in Michigan, you probably already know to take down the other driver’s information including his or her insurance information. In addition to working with your own insurance company, you’ll work with the other driver’s insurance company or the other vehicle’s owner to cover costs related to the accident.
However, when you’re in an accident involving a truck, it can be difficult to determine whom you will have to deal with in the first place. There are several legal theories in Michigan that can help you and your attorney decide who is most likely to be held legally responsible and how to move forward with any claim.
So Who’s Responsible?
Unfortunately, several parties have the potential to be held legally responsible for damages, injuries, and fatalities caused by a truck accident in Michigan:
- The driver of the truck
- The company that owns the truck
- The driver’s employer
- A third-party contractor
- The company that hired the trucking company for transport
- The manufacturer of a defective part that may have played a role in causing the accident
- The party who was responsible for loading the truck
- The insurance company that insures any of the above parties.
Your goal is to obtain financial compensation for losses and damages that the accident caused for you. While any of these parties may be responsible for a number of reasons, you and your lawyer will need to assess which party is most likely to be held responsible under the applicable laws.
Theories of Liability
There are several theories of liability that might apply when determining who is responsible for injuries caused in a trucking accident in Michigan.
- The Truck Driver – Similar to most motor vehicle accidents, the driver of the truck may be held liable for the accident and any resulting injuries. This can include situations when the driver was impaired, made an error in judgment, or was otherwise negligent.
- The Owner of the Truck – Usually, in Michigan, motor vehicle insurance will cover the vehicle owner and a number of specified drivers. This means that even if the vehicle’s owner was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident, he or she may be held responsible for those that drive the vehicle, assuming that the driver had the vehicle owner’s permission. In some cases, this same idea may be applied to the driver of a truck.
- The Driver’s Employer – Sometimes, when a driver is employed by a trucking company (as opposed to working as an independent contractor), the trucking company can be held responsible for the driver’s actions while the driver is performing work that furthers his or her employer or fulfills his or her job description. This means that any action that is in violation of the trucking company’s policies would likely absolve the trucking company of liability. One purpose of this theory is to ensure that trucking companies are hiring responsible and reliable truck drivers.
- The Party that Hired the Trucking Company – Liability often goes farther up the chain of command, from the trucker to the trucking company to the company that hired the trucking company. When the cost is high, it can be a big step to take responsibility. Similar to how a trucking company can be held responsible for the truck drivers it hires, a shipping company may be held responsible for the trucking company it chooses to hire.
- Defective Parts and Negligent Inspections or Maintenance – According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, loaded trucks can take an average of 30 percent more time and space to stop than a car when in good repair. While a fatigued driver or slick roadway can play a role in accidents, faulty parts may also be responsible. If this is the case, the party who was responsible for manufacturing the defective part, for inspecting the truck, or for performing repairs or maintenance on the truck prior to sending it out on the road may be held responsible.
The various possibilities for determining the responsible party will be different in every situation. Your best option is to discuss your case with a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer. For a free consultation to discuss your situation and your right to recovery, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz Personal Injury Litigation Group today – we’re here to help!