Indiana Work Truck Accident Lawyer
Holding Negligent Drivers and Companies Accountable
Workers use vehicles to get the job done. Corporations in Indiana use corporate vehicles to move employees and provide services to Hoosiers at a speedy, efficient pace. Sometimes these corporations and their corporate drivers are more interested in getting the job done quickly more than safely. Time is money, after all.
All drivers should have the paramount goal of safety on the roads. But many don't follow the rules of commercial driver's licenses and regulations.
At Shaw Law, we believe that every accident is preventable. Every accident is due to someone's fault. You should not have to bear the brunt of the negligence of someone else. We are prepared to get you full damages, you can count on that.
Common Causes of Indiana Work Truck Accidents
The following are some of the common causes of truck accidents:
- Driver Exhaustion. Both federal and state laws regulate the number of hours a driver can drive during any given day or week.
- Improper Loading. Poorly loaded trailers impair the handling ability of the driver and may cause the trailer to tip or fall. The poor loading of the trailer may affect the ability to control the truck and keep it under control.
- Driver Inattentiveness. Drivers are often on the road for long hours and can easily lose their concentration.
- Exceeding Maximum Load. Drivers must have specific qualification in order to haul specific cargo. Additionally, a driver cannot exceed specific weight limits or the vehicle will be even more dangerous to operate.
- Negligent Hiring. Many truck operators fail to do a proper background check on the drivers that they hire to drive their trucks, resulting in the hiring of drivers with either suspended or dangerous driving records.
- Improper Inspection and Maintenance. Rigorous inspection and maintenance of the tractor and trailer is required legally and should be performed by the driver at every stop.
- Driver Stress. Drivers have pressure to deliver as many loads as they can in a timely manner in order to make more money.
- Driver Use of Drugs or Alcohol. Some drivers turn to illegal drugs to stay awake. Trucking companies are required to make a mandatory substance abuse screenings when drivers are hired. Truck drivers are also required to do regular screenings to monitor for substance abuse. In any commercial truck accident, a driver is required to submit to a blood test within 4 hours.
- Driving with an Unsecured Load. Some drivers fail to properly secure or maintain the trailer they are hauling.
- Bad Weather. Road conditions caused by rain contribute to a large percentage of truck accidents.
- Bad Driving such as Speeding or Improper Passing or Lane Usage. Trucks are particularly dangerous when driven at a high rate of speed given their size and the longer breaking period to stop. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that over 25% of truckers involved in a fatal crash had a prior conviction for speeding on their record.
What Is “Negligent Hiring?”
Negligent hiring is a legal claim made against an employer. It is asserted by an individual when they are injured as the result of an employee’s actions, particularly when that employee has a history of similar incidents.
The crux of a negligent hiring claim is that the employer knew, or should have known, the history of the employee before hiring them. Failure to learn enough about an employee’s background may result in a negligent hiring claim. If employers are not diligent in their efforts to investigate their employees’ backgrounds, then they will be held responsible for those employees’ actions.
Negligent Hiring of Truck Drivers
Trucking companies are responsible for the conduct of the drivers they employ. State and Federal laws require trucking companies to meet certain criteria when hiring drivers.
There are multiple situations in which a trucking company can be held liable for accidents caused by one of their drivers. When trucking companies fail to meet reasonable standards for hiring these drivers, they can be held liable for negligent hiring.
Some examples of the negligent hiring of truck drivers may include:
- Hiring an unqualified or underqualified truck driver
- Hiring a driver who does not possess a valid driver’s license or commercial license
- Hiring a driver with a history of unsafe driving
- Hiring a driver with a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Hiring a driver with a history of auto-accidents
An attorney who knows a thing or two about trucking accidents, knows how to identify and highlight failures in their hiring processes. This includes presenting evidence that a trucking company failed to take reasonable safety precautions, and therefore, failed to meet their required duty of care.
Trucks Backing Up Can Be Dangerous
Semi-truck drivers are not supposed to back up their trucks when pulling forward is possible. This is because trucks are more likely to be involved in accidents when moving in reverse. Many truck drivers do not even know this.
Lack of visibility, experience, training, and/or attentiveness can all be factors in the improper backing up of trucks and other commercial vehicles. Additionally, truckers and trucking companies should confirm that their vehicle’s safety features (reverse lights, beeping, etc.) are operational. Failure to perform this kind of routine maintenance and inspection can result in serious injuries or death to pedestrians, loading crews, and other motorists.
Another reason improper backing up can be particularly dangerous is because semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles have large blind-spots, referred to in the trucking-industry as “no-zones.”
Truck drivers undergo extensive training which teaches them to be on the lookout for vehicles that enter their “no-zones.” Because semi-trucks are so large, they can have blind-spots on all four sides of their vehicle as well as additional blind-spots that occur while backing up and making turns. Some of these blind-spots can be as long as 75 feet, which is large enough to obscure multiple vehicles from view.
Accidents are much more likely to take place when a car is in a truck’s “no-zone” and even more likely to occur when the driver of the truck fails to notice these cars.
Some examples of truck driver negligence can include:
- Backing up onto an area meant for pedestrians (like sidewalks)
- Failing to maintain safety equipment with which to alert other drivers
- Failing to post warnings or signage on the cab about blind-spots and possible dangers
- Failing to warn others about an intent to back up
Improper Maintenance when Repairs Are Required
Trucking companies must inspect and repair their vehicles regularly in order to keep them as safe as possible. The company, their drivers, and their maintenance contractor(s) are responsible for properly servicing these trucks. Trucking accidents caused by improper maintenance can result in serious injury and even death.
Attorneys who know a thing or two about trucking accidents, know how to identify and highlight failures in a trucking company’s maintenance processes. This includes presenting evidence that a trucking company failed to make reasonable inspections or repairs and therefore failed to meet the required standard of care.
Truck Maintenance Is Heavily Regulated
Trucking companies will often do as little as possible to maintain their vehicles. Trucking is a business and, like other businesses, their goal is to minimize costs in order to reap the largest profits possible. Unfortunately, in the trucking industry, this mindset can have dire consequences.
A trucking company or their truckers may neglect (or even completely ignore) maintenance and repair of their vehicles as the demand to get deliveries out increases. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) promulgates Rules and Regulations which are required to be followed by everyone associated with the trucking outfit, including the driver of the truck, the owner of the truck, and the owner of the trailer.
Furthermore, the FMCSA requires that trucking companies schedule and document maintenance and repairs on their trucks. These companies must also replace crucial safety features, such as brake pads and tires, after a certain number of miles have been driven or after the parts have been in use for a certain number of days.
Regular maintenance should be performed on fuel systems including lights, reflectors, alarms, suspension, tires, windshields, windshield-wipers, and brakes. Failure to properly maintain these components can cause trucking accidents, which can then cause injury or death to other motorists. No one deserves to be hurt by business.
Distracted Driving Causes Accidents and Trucks Make Them Deadlier
Cell phones are connected with 1.6 million motor vehicle accidents every year—nearly 4,500 accidents each day. About 25% of these accidents are caused because someone was texting while driving.
Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. The average person spends five seconds reading each text message. The average accident occurs in just three seconds.
Texting while driving is visually, physically, and mentally distracting. It takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task at-hand.
A truck driver who texts while driving increases his or her chances of causing an accident by more than 20 times.
Federal law bans truck drivers from texting while driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted laws over ten years ago, which prevent commercial vehicle drivers (like truck drivers) from texting while driving.
These laws also prevent truck drivers from using other handheld devices, such as laptops, tablets, watches, pagers, and the like, if it requires more than one “click” to operate. Pushing a button to answer a phone call, or change music stations, is typically permissible.
However, there are many other forms of distracted driving which are against the law, can lead to fatal accidents, and for which trucking companies should be held liable.
Anything that takes a truck driver’s attention off the road could be considered distracted driving, like unwrapping/eating food, lighting/smoking cigarettes or “vapes,” searching for items in the cab while driving, or watching movies or other videos.
Distracted driving also involves cases of drug or alcohol impairment and even driving while fatigued. When a trucker causes an accident due to distracted driving, a claim should be filed against that trucker and their trucking company.
Because most truck accident claims in Indiana are against big companies, it is essential that you hire lawyers that have the experience, the knowledge, and the technological know-how, to beat these giant corporations through long stretches of litigation.
Brake Failures Are the Number One Cause of Truck Accidents
Over 70% of those injured in trucking accidents are the occupants of vehicles other than the truck and brake failures are the leading cause of trucking accidents.
The brakes on a truck can fail for a number of reasons. They could be defective due to manufacturing problems or a design defect. In cases like these, there could be a claim against the designer or manufacturer of the truck brakes.
Even if the brakes, themselves, are not defective, the way they were installed or repaired could still have been improper. Situations like these could give rise to claims against the repair shop or mechanic who performed the faulty service.
This means you could have a claim against:
- A truck driver
- The company that owns the truck
- The company that owns the cab
- The shipping company
- The repair shop
- The mechanic
- The designers or manufacturers of the brakes
- And numerous other entities
In Indiana, you are required to show someone was liable for your truck accident in order to recover. For this reason, it is imperative to identify the parties responsible for the accident as soon as possible—this could make the difference between winning and losing your truck accident case.
Our attorneys conduct thorough investigations into every truck accident to determine the exact cause of each. You must be able to prove who was responsible for the truck accident to receive compensation. Shaw Law has years of experience proving just that.
What Is “Failing to Yield?”
“Yielding” is a basic instruction taught to all beginning motorists. When a driver encounters another driver, cyclist, pedestrian, or other party, the “right of way” gives one party priority over the other party who must “yield” to the first.
Failure to yield accidents occur when drivers break or ignore the rules of the road and do not yield at the necessary times. Failure to yield accidents often take place at intersections and during lane changes. This type of accident has the potential to quickly cause multiple collisions.
Some different types of failure to yield accidents include:
- Failing to yield to oncoming traffic when turning
- Failing to come to a complete stop at stop signs
- Failing to yield to a bicycle or pedestrian
- Failing to slow down (or stop) at flashing yellow (or red) lights
- Failing to yield when merging onto a highway or freeway
- Entering traffic from a parking lot, driveway, alley, or side-road, when the main road has the right of way
When semi-trucks (and other commercial vehicles) fail to yield, the consequences can be devastating. Truck drivers must follow the rules of the road. If a driver fails to yield, or stop, when legally required, they will often be found liable for the resulting accident.
The most common cause of failure to yield truck accidents is distracted driving (like texting). Other causes of failure to yield truck accidents can include: speeding, careless or reckless driving or maneuvering, mechanical (brake) failures, and unfamiliarity with surroundings.
Speed Limits Are More than Just Numbers on a Sign
Most people are guilty of speeding every once in a while. However, as demand to make deliveries increases, some semi-truck drivers and other commercial vehicles make a habit of speeding more often than not. For these businesses, speeding means making more money.
Semi-trucks are especially prone to accidents caused by speeding because of their large size, high center of gravity, and heavy weight. Trucks require significantly longer amounts of time to come to a complete stop than do regular automobiles. For these reasons, it is imperative for truckers to operate their vehicles with care and respect for other motorists’ safety.
What Is Speeding?
While this may seem like an obvious question, speeding is more than simply driving-faster-than the posted speed limit. Speeding can also include driving too fast for current conditions.
If a highway posts a 55-mph speed limit, it may be considered “speeding” if a motorist drives 55-mph on this highway during a blizzard because this could be interpreted as “too fast for current conditions.” Other examples of driving too fast for conditions could involve driving too quickly through a zone that is under-construction, or driving too fast at night on a road that is not well-lit.
Speeding Is a Leading Cause of Truck Accident Fatalities
The force of a crash increases exponentially as speed increases. The faster a truck is traveling, the harder the impact of a crash. A semi-truck traveling at 55-mph takes nearly 300 feet to come to a complete stop. At 65-mph, this number jumps to over 500 feet.
Proving a truck’s speed at the time of a crash is an essential piece of evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Truck Accidents Caused by Drugs, Alcohol, and Other Forms of Intoxication
Most Hoosiers are familiar with the dangers of drunk driving. However, most Hoosiers do not realize that CDL drivers (truckers/other commercial vehicle drivers) are held to higher standards than ordinary motorists.
This means that driving under the influence (“DUI”) laws for truckers are actually different than DUI laws for regular drivers. In Indiana, if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) crosses the 0.08% threshold, they will be found guilty of drunk driving. Truckers and other CDL drivers will be found in violation of statutory limits with BACs as low as 0.04%.
BAC is not the only way to measure whether a driver will be found guilty of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Drugs, like controlled substances or prescription medications, which impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle, can also lead to driving-while-intoxicated charges.
When truckers and other commercial vehicle drivers are involved in dangerous/fatal accidents, law enforcement will ask these drivers to submit to breathalyzers and other kinds of tests to measure drug and alcohol usage. Drivers who refuse these tests can face serious consequences, including the loss of their commercial driver’s license (“CDL”).
If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one as the result of a truck accident caused by a driver who was under the influence of drugs/alcohol, the criminal justice system is not your only option. You may also be entitled to compensation for past (and future) expenses you’ve suffered as a result the crash.
What Are “CDL Violations?”
A CDL is a “commercial driver’s license.” A valid CDL is required in order to drive a commercial motor vehicle in the United States. Truckers and other commercial vehicle drivers must adhere to special regulations not meant for normal motorists. In Indiana, one must hold a regular state driver’s license for a minimum of one year before obtaining a commercial driver’s license.
Truck accidents and other commercial vehicle accidents are often caused because a trucker, or their trucking company, violated one (or more) of the special regulations established for commercial motor vehicles. These are commonly referred to as “CDL violations.”
Who Makes Trucking Regulations?
At the Federal level, the organization that perpetuates trucking rules and regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA is a branch of the Department of Transportation. They enacted laws with the purpose of making the roads as safe as possible.
At the State level, Indiana also has its own laws regulating trucks and other commercial motor vehicles. Semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles must follow specific size-and-weight requirements in order to be driven safely. Other laws relate to the proper securing of cargo, electronic GPS-tracking of the vehicle, meeting CDL licensing requirements, and not driving for too many consecutive hours.
If you, or a loved one is hurt by a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, it is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with all of the relevant trucking laws and regulations.
The Indiana work truck accident lawyers at Shaw Law have personal experience with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Rules and Regulations, and they know how to hold these large trucking businesses accountable for violations of the law.
We are here to help you in your time of need when injured in a trucking accident. Contact us today.
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