Last year, nearly 13,000 semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles were involved in accidents on Michigan’s highways. Unfortunately, with more people traveling the roads and driving while distracted or drowsy, this number is expected to increase in the coming years.
Due to the sheer size of commercial trucks – most of which weigh between 10,000 and 80,000 pounds – accidents involving them often result in more serious injuries than crashes involving passenger vehicles.
- Insurance claims are more complicated.
- Both state and federal laws apply.
- Multiple parties are usually involved.
- Multiple insurance policies are typically at play.
For these reasons, personal injury claims stemming from truck accidents can be extremely complicated. People injured in a collision with a large commercial vehicle should consult an experienced truck accident attorney – one who understands the applicable federal and state laws, as well as Michigan’s unique no-fault insurance system.
Trucking Accidents Result in More Severe Injuries
The fact is, crashes involving large trucks tend to result in catastrophic personal injuries, including death. This is due to the sheer size of the truck compared to the size of a standard passenger vehicle.
Various other factors contribute to the severity of truck accident injuries, including:
- Large trucks require a greater distance to stop than passenger vehicles. This means a truck is moving too fast or a distracted truck driver is more prone to causing a catastrophic collision.
- Large trucks need more room than passenger vehicles to navigate a turn, which makes them susceptible to tipping. If a large truck tips, it will likely crush a nearby passenger vehicle.
Federal & State Trucking Laws
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued regulations that govern large trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds. At the state level, the Michigan Department of Public Safety has adopted these regulations.
Some of the regulations with which trucks and trucking companies must comply include:
- Insurance – Federal law dictates the amount of insurance a large truck must have. At a minimum, a large truck must carry $750,000 worth of insurance on the individual truck, and motor carriers cannot operate without having the minimum required insurance.
- Record Keeping Requirements – Companies that employ truck drivers are required to maintain certain records. For example, records outlining a driver’s alcohol and substance use and/or prevention programs must be kept, as well as records relating to a driver’s violation of federal regulations.
- Record Retention Periods – Certain records, such as alcohol and substance test results, must be kept for a minimum period of time.
- Driver Logs & Maintenance Standards – Truck drivers are permitted to drive for a maximum number of hours each day and are required to keep logs of their driving time. Commercial trucks must also comply with certain maintenance and safety requirements.
At the state level, Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Act governs truck accident claims and provides coverage to persons injured in truck crashes. Under the no-fault system, victims of truck accidents are entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, which include: 1) unlimited lifetime payment of certain allowable expenses, 2) lost wages for three years, and 3) replacement services for three years.
Who’s at Fault?
Unlike passenger vehicle crashes, numerous parties are usually involved in truck accidents. These include:
- Persons in the passenger vehicle.
- The truck driver.
- The owner of the truck/trucking company.
In addition, the truck’s manufacturer and any distributors, suppliers, or retailers that provided defective parts which contributed to the accident may be held responsible for the crash.
A third-party negligence lawsuit may be brought against the at-fault truck driver, the truck owner and the insurance company for any damages not covered by Michigan no-fault insurance. This includes non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering) and excess economic loss damages (lost wages beyond the three-year period under the No-Fault Act).
If a person dies in an accident with a large truck, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed.
Multiple Insurance Policies
Numerous insurance policies can be involved in truck accident cases, making things even more complicated.
Large trucks frequently have one policy covering the truck and another policy insuring the truck driver. Meanwhile, some trucking companies have separate policies to insure their trailers and to insure the goods being transported.
When different policies issued by multiple insurance companies are at play, it is critical to properly identify the insurance carrier that is liable. This way, the injured person’s claim is preserved.
Trucking accidents can be complex and time-consuming. The attorneys at Sommers Schwartz understand the federal and state regulations that govern truck drivers and trucking companies, as well as the nuances of Michigan’s no-fault law. If you’ve been injured in a Michigan trucking accident, contact Sommers Schwartz today.