Truck Accident Claims: The Basics

Alexander P. Pinegar

Author: Alexander P. Pinegar

POST DATE: 2.23.21
Ccha  Personal Injury

You or someone you love has been in a semi-truck accident and you need to know what to expect in the days, weeks and months ahead. CCHA is here to help you better understand what you (or your loved one) should expect when it comes to truck accident claims.

Commercial trucking is a highly regulated industry, given the sheer size of the vehicles involved and the risk they pose to others on the road. Both federal and state laws are in place to help protect the public from accidents involving semi-trucks and tractor-trailers, and if involved in an accident, violations may be proof of negligence on the behalf of the truck driver.

For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight for commercial motor vehicles. The FMCSA has, in recent years, focused on reducing accidents caused by driver fatigue, by placing limits on the amount of time a commercial truck driver can work before taking a required break. For example, one FMCSA regulation limits a driver’s “driving window” to 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Once a driver has reached the end of this 14-consecutive-hour period, they cannot drive again until they have been off duty for another 10 consecutive hours, or the equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Driving is limited to the 14-consecutive-hour period even if some time is taken off-duty time, such as a lunch break or a nap, during those 14 hours. The FMCSA regulation also holds drivers to an 11-Hour Driving Limit during the 14-consecutive hour period (detailed above). Finally, the FMCSA regulations regulations require that if more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty (or sleeper-berth) period of at least half an hour, a driver must take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes before driving.

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It is also important to know that there may be and often are multiple at-fault parties in a semi-truck accident. Many truck drivers work for one company, but transport products for one or more additional companies. The trucks may be serviced and maintained through a still different company, using parts that were manufactured and distributed by other companies. As such, fault may be attributed to more than one party, depending on the accident.

In order to demonstrate to a court or jury that a party is at fault, an attorney will often need to demonstrate the level of each party’s negligence, as it relates to the accident you were involved in. This is a three-step process, usually involving the establishment of:

  1. The defendant(s) (or negligent parties) owing you a duty of care. Duty of care is often defined as “a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use.” What this duty of care requires can be different for each defendant or negligent party depending on how they or their product or service relates to the accident.
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to act as a reasonable person would as described above.
  3. The breach led to, i.e., caused, the injuries you sustained.

Statute of Limitations

As with most states, the statute of limitation that applies in Indiana to most car accident lawsuits is the same as the one that applies to all personal injury cases where one person’s negligence is said to have caused harm to another. Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, you usually have two years after the accident to file a lawsuit for any personal injury or for any damage to your personal property. Whether you were a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian in an accident, or whether your vehicle or other personal property was damaged, you generally must get your lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within two years of the date of the accident.

How Truck Accident Lawsuits Work/Areas of Potential Liability

When a commercial semi-truck accident occurs, the cause of the crash will be investigated. If the truck driver committed a traffic violation — i.e. speeding, failing to yield, following too closely, reckless driving, etc. — a ticket may be issued at the scene, providing proof of driver liability. However, truck accidents sometimes involve violations that may not be evident at the scene — such as with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) violation, hiring or training violation, truck maintenance violation, or hours of service violation. A CCHA truck accident attorney will assist you in determining the types of violations that may have occurred to help you recover damages for your injuries.

Contact CCHA with your Semi-Truck Personal Injury Accident Needs

The Personal Injury Practice Group at CCHA is here and available to help you or a loved one move forward after being involved in a semi-truck accident. Obtaining a fair settlement offer from an insurance company can be difficult — CCHA provides the necessary resources and experience you need to efficiently and effectively pursue compensation on your behalf.