Who is liable in a truck accident will depend on the crash’s circumstances. However, potentially at-fault parties usually include the commercial truck driver or the driver’s employer.
No matter who caused your truck crash, determining who is liable for your injuries and damages is vital to your financial recovery. If you can prove your collision resulted from someone else’s negligence, a truck accident lawyer can seek personal injury compensation from those responsible. An attorney can handle the legal process for you while you recover from your injuries.
Who Is At-Fault for Your Michigan Truck Accident?
Establishing liability in a truck accident is crucial if you’re trying to recover compensation through a liability insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. While not the only potentially at-fault parties, the truck driver and the trucking company are most commonly liable in semi-truck collisions.
Truck Driver Liability
Commercial truck drivers must be especially careful on the road because they’re handling large, unwieldy vehicles that can wreak havoc in a crash. If they are not careful and cause a collision, a personal injury attorney can hold them liable for your injuries and losses. Some driver-related causes of truck accidents include:
- Driving while drunk or impaired by drugs
- Driving while drowsy, possibly because of hours-of-service violations
- Failure to obey Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations
- Failure to follow Michigan’s traffic laws
- Distracted driving
- Driver inexperience
- Lack of proper training
Trucking Company Liability
While truck driver error is often the primary cause of a crash, the driver’s employer usually shares the blame (and financial responsibility). The law allows injury victims to hold employers responsible for their employee’s negligent actions under vicarious liability, a legal principle. Trucking companies can also be responsible if they act carelessly, wrongfully, or encourage an employee’s bad behavior.
For example, trucking companies and motor carriers must hire drivers who have the experience and training to handle commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). They must also monitor their drivers for reckless driving behaviors, make sure drivers take required breaks and maintain their vehicles. Some other employer-related causes of truck accidents include:
- Pressuring drivers to violate regulations or engage in unsafe behaviors to make faster deliveries
- Setting unreasonable delivery schedules
- Failing to run proper background checks on truck drivers
- Hiring inexperienced, untrained, or unlicensed CMV drivers
- Failing to conduct mandatory driver drug and alcohol screenings
- Failing to equip trucks in their fleet with proper and required safety equipment, such as underride guards
- Not investigating complaints against reckless or commercial driver negligence
Other Potentially Liable Parties
In addition to the truck driver and their employer, other potentially liable parties in a truck accident injury case may include:
- The owner/loaded or the truck’s cargo. Overloaded and improperly secured cargo can cause car accidents. Loads that violate weight regulations or unsecured cargo can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles or make it harder to slow down or stop. Falling cargo can also contribute to crashes.
- The owner of the truck/entity in charge of maintenance. Sometimes, the truck’s owner or the entity in charge of its maintenance is different from the truck driver or the trucking company. If your crash resulted from a mechanical issue, you may be able to hold the vehicle’s owner, mechanic, or garage liable for your accident.
- A property owner. If potholes, negligent snow or ice removal, lack of lighting, or another negligent condition played a role in your collision, you could hold the owner of the roadway or private property liable.
Proving Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident
To prove liability and win your truck accident case, you must collect and analyze evidence. Evidence that can help demonstrate fault in a truck accident includes the following:
- The police report about the accident
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photos or video from nearby traffic cameras, dashcams, or surveillance cameras
- Data from the truck’s electronic data recorder
- The truck driver’s daily logs
- Training records and other documents from the driver’s employer
- Annual inspection reports
- Maintenance/repair logs
- Roadside inspection reports
- Records of previous violations or official complaints
The more evidence you have, the stronger your case against the driver, their employer, or other liable parties. A truck accident lawyer with Christensen Law can take steps to preserve evidence that can help you establish your claim.
What If the Truck Collision Involves Multiple Vehicles?
If a truck crash involves multiple vehicles, it could complicate determining liability in the accident, but the basic legal principles remain the same. Michigan uses the doctrine of “comparative negligence” in personal injury lawsuits, meaning multiple defendants will pay compensation according to their percentage of fault in an accident.
For example, a court or insurance company may determine a truck driver is 75 percent responsible for an accident, and the driver of a passenger car was 25 percent at fault. This means the truck driver will pay 75 percent of the compensation due. The other car’s driver will pay 25 percent. Our truck accident attorneys can provide more information on the intricacies of multicar crashes during your free consultation.
How to Recover Compensation for Injuries in a Truck Accident
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Benefits
Michigan follows No-Fault laws for car and truck accidents. This means you’ll have to exhaust your other options for recovering compensation for your injuries before you can file a lawsuit. Your first option is personal injury protection (PIP) benefits under your auto insurance, which you can review with a PIP attorney. The amount you can receive in PIP will vary depending on your policy’s terms.
PIP benefits will cover medical expenses, some lost income, and replacement services, regardless of who caused the crash. PIP also pays death benefits to surviving family members in the event of a fatal semi-trailer truck accident. PIP will not compensate for other damages, such as pain and suffering.
A Claim or Lawsuit Against a Liable Party
If your auto insurance policy’s benefits do not cover the full extent of your injuries after an accident, you may have the option to file a liability insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties liable for your truck accident. You will need to provide evidence that the truck driver, their employer, or another party acted negligently, causing the crash and your injuries.
Although a personal injury case can be difficult to win, it offers additional opportunities for recovering compensation. In a truck accident suit, you can recover compensation for pain and suffering and other losses not covered by No-Fault insurance.
Recoverable Truck Accident Damages
As mentioned, a successful PIP claim will cover your accident-related medical treatment, a percentage of your lost wages (for up to three years), and replacement services. If you have grounds for a claim or lawsuit against a liable party, you may also seek the following compensation:
- Your total lost income. With a personal injury case, you can recover the full value of your lost wages, not just a portion. You can also seek compensation for lost employment benefits and additional earnings, such as tips and bonuses. If you have a permanent or disabling injury that interferes with your ability to work, you can recover awards for your lost earning capacity. Wage compensation is not limited to three years.
- Pain and suffering. Also called non-economic damages, pain and suffering awards compensate injury victims for intangible losses, including depression, anxiety, stress, inconvenience, physical pain, mental and emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
- Wrongful death. Our wrongful death lawyer can seek compensation above that provided by PIP death benefits on your behalf. A deceased’s personal representative (executor) can pursue damages on behalf of eligible survivors. Awards may include the deceased’s medical bills, lost income (including future financial support), conscious pain and suffering, and loss of your loved one’s companionship and care.
Our personal injury law firm can help you explore your options for recovering truck accident compensation and determine the best path forward for your case. We will work tirelessly to secure every cent owed to you through every available avenue.
How Long Do You Have to Seek Truck Crash Compensation in Michigan?
You should start on your truck accident insurance claims immediately. If you must take legal action to get full and fair compensation, you have one year to sue for PIP benefits, according to Michigan Compiled Laws § 500.3145. You have three years to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit under Michigan Compiled Laws § 600.5805.
If you do not pursue your case with the statute of limitations, the court will likely refuse to review your lawsuit. In addition, an expired deadline could reduce your insurance bargaining power. You could end up with a denied or reduced settlement and no options for legal action.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer to Handle Your Truck Accident?
The law does not require you to hire legal representation to pursue your case against a negligent truck driver. However, after a crash, your health and future may be on the line. The compensation you could recover could be critical to paying your bills, recouping lost wages, and otherwise assisting you with rebuilding your life after the crash.
With so much at stake, it can benefit you to work with an attorney with our firm who can protect your rights and advocate for your best interests. We can put our firm’s 30-plus years of personal injury experience behind proving liability for your truck accident and getting the maximum compensation possible.
Call Christensen Law Today – We Can Identify Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident
Christensen Law has won millions of dollars for commercial truck accident victims and their families. When you hire us, you won’t have to worry about how you’ll afford our services. We will represent you on a contingency fee basis, which means you won’t owe us anything unless we recover compensation for your injury case.
Our team is ready to defend your right to proper compensation and identify the parties who should cover your truck accident-related losses. Call us today at 248-900-9000 for a free case evaluation.