In 2020, there were 11,867 accidents involving trucks and buses in Michigan, resulting in 2,001 injuries and 78 fatalities. The greatest number of the accidents involved tractor-trailers, or semis, totaling 4,064 crashes, 815 injuries, and 36 deaths.
An accident with a big rig, as they are popularly called, can be devastating. These trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more, and your vehicle of 5,000 pounds or less is not going to be a match in a collision, despite airbags and seatbelts. You can suffer serious injuries or not even survive the accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a large truck, or worse, a loved one has lost their life, contact the Ratton Law Group PC. We proudly serve clients in Detroit, Wayne County, and all neighboring communities. Our team of attorneys includes those with medical training, so we can bring a unique perspective to your situation and help you obtain the just compensation you deserve.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) enforce trucking regulations found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations cover everything from the training of drivers to the maintenance of the trucks to working conditions and limitations.
Drivers under the code are allowed to work 14 hours a day, but only 11 of them can be behind the wheel. They must get 10 hours off between shifts. In addition, a driver can’t operate their vehicle more than 60 hours in a 7-day period, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days if there is a day off in between.
The trucks must either be equipped with an automatic logging device to record hours of operation and routes taken, or the driver must keep a manual log. These can prove to be useful tools in pursuing a claim after a collision with a truck.
In a two-car crash, one driver is usually more responsible (at fault) than the other, but in a collision with a big rig, others who are not behind the wheel can also be responsible. Under the legal principle of vicarious liability, the trucking company, the manufacturer of the truck, the maintenance people, and the cargo loaders can all play a part.
The trucking company may have rushed a driver into service without adequate training or forced the driver to work beyond federal regulations. Maintenance people may have skimped on brake repair or not replaced tires when they were getting overly worn. The manufacturer may have used faulty parts in assembling the vehicle. The cargo people may have loaded the truck improperly, causing the vehicle’s center of gravity to shift and making it hard to control, or the load itself might not have been secured properly.
In assessing liability for a trucking accident, various factors – which may not be obvious to the driver of the vehicle that is struck – can play into what transpired. You need an experienced attorney to examine all aspects of what happened to make sure you can hold the responsible parties accountable.
Michigan is a no-fault auto insurance state, so in any accident resulting in an injury, you must first report it to your insurance carrier. But what happens if your personal injury protection (PIP) rider maxes out and you’re left with unpaid medical bills and lost wages due to your inability to work? You then have the option of suing the at-fault driver or those persons or entities that also contributed to your accident and injuries.
If you’ve lost a loved one, you can also seek a wrongful death lawsuit, but to do that, you must go through probate court and have a personal representative appointed for the deceased, unless the deceased loved one left a will or trust naming a personal representative.
Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805 states "the period of limitations is 3 years after the time of the death or injury for all actions to recover damages for the death of a person, or for injury to a person or property." In other words, you have three years from the date of your injuries or the loss of your loved one to file suit.
To prevail in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, you must prove negligence by the at-fault party, whether it be the driver, trucking company, maintenance or cargo people, or a combination.
There are four elements to proving a negligence claim:
Duty – the defendant, or person, persons, or entities you’re suing had a legal duty to prevent harm
Breach – the defendant(s) breached that legal duty by failing to act or acting in a certain way
Causation – the defendant(s) caused your injuries, or loss of a loved one, through their actions or inactions
Damages – you were injured, or your loved one lost their life, as a result of the defendant’s causes
Remember that Michigan adheres to the modified comparative negligence standard. This means that both you, the plaintiff, and the defendants will be assigned a portion of the fault.
For instance, if you did something that contributed to the accident – maybe you tried to pass the truck too closely – you could be found 40 percent at fault by the insurance adjusters or a jury. In that case, you would receive only 60 percent of the settlement or jury award granted you. Your $20,000 entitlement could turn into only $12,000. If you’re found 50 percent or more at fault, you can collect nothing.
You need the help and resources of an experienced legal team to investigate the accident, assess full liability, and advise you of your best legal options. If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident in or around Detroit, or lost a loved one, contact us immediately at the Ratton Law Group PC. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources you need to pursue your claim for just compensation.