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Grand Rapids Truck Accident Attorney

Have you Been Injured in a Truck Accident?

We read in newspapers or see on local or national television news stories of catastrophic crashes involving large trucks.  The crashes are unfortunate, exposing the danger of large trucks on our roads and the importance of enforcement of safety restrictions and regulations on trucking companies.

Accidents involving large trucks cause serious injuries and death on our roadways every year.  These crashes are serious and the resulting injuries are often devastating.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a commercial truck accident, contact the Buchanan Firm today.  Seek help from experienced attorneys who know the safety rules for commercial trucking to ensure the injured receive fair and just reimbursement for harms and losses.

Truck Crash Statistics

From gasoline to groceries to garage doors, pretty much everything for sale in Michigan spent some time on a semi-truck. To meet strict delivery times, these operators often stay on the road for long hours. Since even experienced drivers have a hard time controlling these massive vehicles, they often cause vehicle collisions.

Truck crashes are on the rise, not only in Michigan but throughout the United States.  The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) reports:

  • There are over 500,000 truck accidents in the United States every year
  • From these accidents, 5,000 people die each year
  • Only about 2% of the fatalities are truck drivers
  • 98% of the fatalities are individuals in passenger vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians
  • One in eight traffic fatalities involves a truck crash
  • 68% of fatal truck crashes occur in rural areas
  • 66% of fatal truck crashes occur during daylight hours
  • In 2000, commuters lost 98,000 hours nationally because of traffic congestion caused by trucking accidents

State and Federal Trucking Regulations

There are state and federal safety rules for commercial trucks.  Safety rules include:

  • drug and alcohol testing
  • qualification of drivers
  • hours of service
  • vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • driver performance enhancement training programs
  • fatigue management

Evidence in a Truck Accident Case

Trucking is a highly regulated industry. Therefore, there is often additional evidence available (and necessary) when a commercial truck crashes. This include:

  • Safety Measurement System: The SMS database is basically an interstate driving record specifically for long-haul truckers. The federal government keeps track of things like substance use and prior tickets. Significantly, the SMS usually draws on law enforcement records, so it is more accurate than secondhand court records.
  • Electronic Logging Device: As mentioned, many truck drivers are behind the wheel for a dangerously long time. The ELD provides almost bulletproof evidence as to HOS (Hours of Service) compliance. Shipping industry lawyers bitterly fought the ELD mandate, because they know what a game-changer these devices could be.
  • Event Data Recorder: Much like the black box flight recorders inside commercial jets, EDRs measure and store information like vehicle speed and steering angle. Large vehicle EDRs are very complex devices, so a Grand Rapids truck accident attorney must have the right tools and knowledge to access this information.
  • Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Records

Evidence is not only important to meet the burden of proof. Generally, there is a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages jurors award.

Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

If you, a family member, or a friend is injured in a trucking crash, the question of what actually caused the crash is complex and more challenging than an automobile traffic accident.  There are complex relationships between truck drivers, trucking companies, and owners of trucks requiring careful research and investigation. Determining the cause for a trucking accident, and the relationships among the persons and entities related to the truck are critical for pursuing a claim.

Common causes of trucking accidents include:

  • Driver error (including, use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, speeding, fatigue, inattention, distractions, work environment, unfamiliarity with the road, or lack of training)
  • Equipment problems (this can include manufacturer mistakes or design errors, but is usually failing to properly maintain equipment)
  • Failure to yield the right away
  • Speeding
  • Weather conditions (driving in conditions of poor visibility caused by snow, rain, fog or smoke)
  • Oversized or overloaded truck

Who Can Be Held Responsible?

Unlike an automobile accident, several parties may be held liable in a trucking crash.  They may include:

  • Truck driver
  • Trucking company
  • Manufacturers of defective parts
  • Contractors
  • Employers
  • Parties that loaded the truck
  • Shipper that retained the trucking company
  • Insurance companies

What Damages Can You Recover?

In Michigan, we operate under the no-fault insurance system.  The no-fault system means drivers involved in an accident, whether at fault or not, can collect insurance benefits (PIP benefits) from their own insurance company.  No-fault applies in accidents involving trucks, but many other issues are involved and seek professional advice regarding additional issues such as different insurance policies, the independent status of truck drivers, and the location of trucking companies or entities with ownership interests in the truck.

First-party claim

Individuals involved in a trucking crash in Michigan with the proper automobile insurance may file a first-party claim against their own insurance company.  A first-party claim is to recover expenses (also known as no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits) which include:

  • Medical expenses
  • In-home attendant care
  • Replacement services (i.e., household chores and childcare)
  • Special transportation and medical mileage
  • Wage loss

Third-party claim

Besides first-party benefits, those involved in a trucking accident may file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver or other parties involved in the crash, alleging negligence.  A third party claim may recover damages for pain and suffering.  In Michigan, one can pursue pain and suffering damages if injuries of the person meet the statutory injury-minimum thresholds of:

  1. death,
  2. permanent serious disfigurement, or
  3. serious impairment of body function.

An experienced truck crash attorney can help you determine if injuries of you or a loved one are severe enough under Michigan law.

Trucking Rapid Response Teams and the Importance of Timely Accident Investigation

Federal regulations dictate that trucking companies have accident insurance of $750,000 or more.  To limit liability and reduce the settlements and verdicts, trucking companies and insurance companies often employ large defense law firms with rapid response teams to arrive on the scene of a trucking crash.  These defense teams often arrive less than an hour after a crash, and with one goal: minimize damaging evidence by hampering the investigation.

For an injured person, retaining the right attorney quickly can help you overcome the dishonest defense tactics employed by rapid response teams and defense lawyers for trucking companies.

What Do I Do If I’ve Been in an Accident Involving a Truck?

After a truck crash, there are important steps immediately and in the weeks after the crash.  An attorney protects you and ensures critical information is gathered and evidence preserved.

Immediately after a crash, you should:

  • Contact the police and seek medical attention
  • Obtain contact information for everyone involved and any witnesses
  • Observe others and document observations and conversations
  • Notify your auto insurance company and apply for no-fault benefits
  • Review your auto policy or contact a trucking specialist attorney to review your policy for any notification requirements and uncoordinated benefits
  • Do not sign a release or give an interview or statement to an insurance adjuster before hiring an attorney

If you or anyone you know was injured in a trucking crash, contact the Buchanan Firm for the advice of its experienced trucking crash attorneys.  We understand your frustration and will start a full investigation to determine the cause of the crash and who is responsible to reimburse you for the injuries.  The Buchanan Firm offers a free and confidential case evaluation as well as an exclusive No Fee Promise. If we don’t win, then you don’t pay. Call today.