Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Driving on a busy interstate can be dangerous, so it’s always important to engage in defensive driving and to be proactive and alert on the road. However, one can only do so much to be safe, and Indiana car accidents will still occur even when a motorist is exercising the most caution possible. Thus, when a car crash occur sunexpectedly, especially as a result of negligence from the responsible party and cause fatalities, those who are at fault in these collisions can be held accountable.

In a recent news report, an Indiana truck driver was charged with nine felonies related to an Interstate 70 accident. The driver had previously been arrested three times for drug possession in another state and was jailed following the accident. He was charged with four Level 4 felony counts of operating while intoxicated and causing death, four Level 5 felony counts of reckless homicide, and one Level 4 felony count of driving while intoxicated and causing a catastrophic injury. The tragic car accident resulted in the death of four children.

Following the accident, results of a urine test taken hours after the accident came back positive for the presence of marijuana, amphetamines, and ecstasy in the driver’s system. Despite completing a drug treatment program after being arrested for possession of heroin previously in another state and multiple other drug-related offenses, the legal system failed to keep this man off the roads until this fatal accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Indiana truck drivers travel over several millions of miles on the state’s roadways each year, and over 400,000 of these vehicles are involved in crashes. Indiana experiences a high number of trucking accidents every year, in part because of the state’s geographic location. The state acts as a conduit for freight delivery between states, which results in significant truck traffic. Further, commercial vehicle registration is significantly less expensive than several other surrounding states. Many trucking companies maintain hubs in the state because of the lower registration fees.

Indiana truck accidents are among the most likely to result in serious injury or death because large trucks can cause significant damage. Many trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more when they are loaded with cargo. The sheer magnitude of these vehicles makes them disproportionately more likely to be involved in a multi-vehicle accident.

Truck drivers often remain unscathed during these accidents because their vehicles protect them. For example, recently, an Indianapolis man died in a wrong-way crash with a semi-truck. According to a local news report, the 72-year-old man died when he was driving in the wrong lane and slammed into an enormous truck. The driver of the Freightliner noticed the man approaching him and tried to avoid the collision but could not do so in time. The truck driver and his co-driver did not suffer any injuries. Another vehicle then collided into a state patrol car while police were investigating the scene of the accident.

Indiana accidents between commercial truck drivers and passenger vehicles often cause serious and potentially fatal injuries. These accidents tend to be more severe than collisions between two passenger vehicles because of the sheer magnitude of semi-trucks. One of the most dangerous types of Indiana truck collisions is underride accidents. Rear underride accidents occur when a truck slows or suddenly stops, and the car behind the truck cannot stop in time. In these cases, the car slides underneath the truck, often resulting in the car’s roof sheering off. Side underride collisions occur when the smaller vehicle crashes into the side of the truck and slides underneath the truck. Front underride accidents involve a truck backing into and crushing a smaller car.

Many reasons heighten the risk of an Indiana underride accident. The most common cause of these accidents is inclement weather, sudden traffic changes, truck malfunctioning, and truck driver error. Truck drivers may be liable for the accident for engaging in negligent or unsafe driving behavior. Additionally, trucking companies, truck part manufacturers, shipping agencies, loading companies, and other drivers may be responsible. These parties may be liable for failure to follow federal regulations, manufacturing defective parts, mis-loading cargo, and other negligent behaviors.

To prevent these accidents, Federal regulations, require that commercial trucks have rear underride guards. The underride guard is designed to stop the smaller vehicle from sliding underneath the truck. However, underride guard material varies greatly, and it is not always sturdy enough to protect against these accidents. Additionally, there are no federal regulations mandating side underride guards.

When someone is injured in an Indiana truck accident, they may have two avenues of recourse: one against the negligent driver who caused the wreck, and another against the driver’s employer. This second form of liability is what is called “vicarious liability.” There there are certain cases where an employer can be held liable for their employee’s actions if they were performed while doing work for the employer. Indiana accident victims may want to bring suit against both parties particularly in situations where the negligent driver might not have enough money to pay for the resulting damage on their own. If the total cost of the accident is $100,000, for example, but the defendant is only able to pay $50,000, the plaintiff may still end up in debt even after a successful suit. Thus, it is in plaintiffs’ best interests to always file a vicarious liability claim if they have one.

Because it is such a powerful doctrine, there are limitations to vicarious liability. Generally, the doctrine does not apply when the alleged “employee” is actually an independent contractor. A recent Illinois state case illustrates this point and its practical implications for Indiana plaintiffs. According to the court’s written opinion, a mother and daughter were driving in Illinois when they were severely injured after being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer that was en route to Indiana. Afterward, the two filed a civil negligence suit against the driver and the two companies that contracted with him, alleging vicarious liability. The defendant companies filed a motion for summary judgment in response, arguing that the driver was an independent contractor, not an agent of the company, meaning the suit against them had to be dropped. The lower court granted their motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. The court relied heavily on the written contract between the driver and the companies contracting with him. Specifically, the contract explicitly stated that the driver had full control over his operational costs and equipment and was an “independent contractor.” Because the company did not have sufficient control over the driver, they could not be held liable for his negligent driving, meaning that summary judgment was appropriate. As a result, the plaintiffs could only seek compensation from the negligent driver.

Earlier this month, a husband and wife were killed in a fatal Indiana dump truck accident involving a total of eleven vehicles. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the crash occurred near the intersection of U.S. 36 and South County Road 625 East, at around 3:30 in the afternoon.

Evidently, the dump truck rear-ended an SUV that was stopped in traffic. After the initial collision, the dump truck drifted across the center median and collided with a minivan head-on. The driver and passenger of the minivan were both killed in the accident. In all, a total of eleven vehicles were involved in the accident, including a school bus. Thankfully, no children were on board at the time. An additional victim in one of the other cars suffered serious injuries, including spinal cord injuries and fractures to her femur, pelvis, and spine.

After police arrived on the scene, they conducted a field sobriety test on the driver of the dump truck, which he failed. The driver then admitted to police that he had snorted heroin earlier in the day. The driver was arrested and charged with several serious crimes, including reckless homicide and causing death operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Police officers also noted that there was a white powdery substance lining the inside of the driver’s nostrils, which they believe to have been heroin.

Last month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Indiana personal injury cases. The case required the court to assess whether a company that provided maintenance for machinery could be held responsible for an accident that may have been able to be prevented if certain safety features had been installed on the machinery. Ultimately, the court concluded that the maintenance company could not be held liable, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff worked as a truck driver. One day, the plaintiff was waiting at his employer’s warehouse for another employee to load his empty tractor-trailer with goods. As the plaintiff was waiting for the trailer to be loaded, the employee who was operating the forklift backed up over the plaintiff’s foot. The forklift did not have a back-up alarm installed.

Evidently, the plaintiff’s employer had a contract with the defendant company to provide maintenance for the forklift. That agreement called for the defendant company to provide preventative maintenance on the forklift every 90 days. Apparently, the forklift had been serviced just a few months prior to the accident by one of the defendant’s employees, and the installation of a back-up alarm was not recommended. After the accident, the defendant installed a back-up alarm on the forklift.

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Due to Indiana’s location in the central part of the country, the state sees a constant flow of large commercial vehicles traveling along the state’s highways as trucks travel from the East to West Coast and vice-versa. For the most part, semi-truck drivers are well-trained, responsible motorists who take pride in the work they do. However, each year there are thousands of Indiana truck accidents that are caused by negligent truck drivers.

According to the state’s most recent data, there are approximately 14,000 Indiana truck accidents per year. While some of these accidents are minor, it is reported that there are over 3,500 people injured and 120 killed each year due to Indiana truck accidents. In most cases, the motorist who is injured is not the truck driver, but instead the drivers or passengers of the other vehicle that is involved in the collision.

There are several causes of truck accidents in the state, and in some cases the most common causes overlap with the common causes of Indiana car accidents. However, equipment related accidents accounts for a higher percentage of the total number of truck accidents. These incidents include those that are the result of improperly maintained or inflated tires, brakes, signals, and lights.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing what the court called the “sudden emergency doctrine,” explaining how it may be applied to excuse what may otherwise be considered negligent behavior. The case is important to Indiana car accident victims because the doctrine is also applied by Indiana courts.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving in a line of cars, all of which were entering the highway. As one of the cars was proceeding up the on-ramp, another motorist pulled around the side of her vehicle, passed her at a high speed, and made an obscene gesture in her direction. The passing motorist then slammed on her brakes, causing the motorist to also suddenly brake.

The plaintiff was traveling immediately behind the motorist who had just been passed. When that motorist applied the brakes, so did the plaintiff. The plaintiff stopped in time to avoid a collision. However, the defendant truck driver was immediately behind the plaintiff and, as the cars in front of him quickly slowed down, the defendant also applied the brakes.

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Last month, a Mississippi court issued an opinion in a truck accident case brought by a man who was injured in a chain-reaction accident when he rear-ended another vehicle that was stopped in a traffic jam caused by the original accident. In the case, Ready v. RWI Transportation, the court held that the second accident was too far removed from the first to establish liability against the truck driver. The court based its opinion not on a causation analysis, as one might expect, but instead on the holding that the truck driver did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant truck driver caused an accident on a Mississippi highway when he changed lanes and collided with another vehicle. The accident significantly slowed passing traffic, causing a back-up leading up to the scene of the accident.

The plaintiff was driving on the highway toward the accident at approximately 65-70 miles per hour. As he approached the line of stopped vehicles, he was unable to stop and crashed into the rear of another vehicle. The plaintiff sustained injuries as a result of the crash and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver. He also named the truck driver’s employer under the theory of “negligent entrustment.”

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Good Samaritan laws were designed to protect passersby from liability when they try to help an injured person during an emergency. The idea is that if the law fails to offer protection to someone trying to help another person in peril, citizens are unlikely to ever offer such assistance for fear of civil liability. However, the type of conduct that is covered by a Good Samaritan law is not always clear.

In a recent case in front of one state’s appellate court, the court had the opportunity to interpret that state’s Good Samaritan law. Interestingly, the court broadly interpreted the law to include a wide range of actors and a wide range of conduct.

Carter v. Reese:  The Facts

Carter, a truck driver, had arrived at his destination and unloaded his trailer at the loading dock. After he was finished, he pulled his trailer a few inches away from the loading dock and put the air brake on so that the truck would stay put. Carter then got out of the truck to head back inside through the loading dock doors. However, as he climbed up onto the loading dock, he fell and got his leg stuck in the small gap between the truck and the loading dock. Carter began calling for help, and Reese responded.

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