South Bend is the home of some very large and profitable companies, many of which are part of the manufacturing industry. One example, which is headquartered in the city, is AM General. This company, founded in 1971, is best known for the civilian and military Hummer, but has manufactured many heavy vehicles including large city transit buses. Companies like AM General rely on semi trucks to ship their products and to receive supplies to manufacture their goods.
With many repair shops and stores selling brand new trucks in the South Bend area, the city understands the importance of big rigs when it comes to getting goods in and out of the city. This leads to a large number of 18 wheelers on South Bend’s roads such as I-80, I-90, State Road 2, State Road 20, and US-31. Although federal law requires special licensing to be able to operate one of these vehicles, truck accidents still happen. Due to the extreme weight discrepancy between semi trucks and passenger vehicles, these accidents can be catastrophic.
If you’ve been injured in a South Bend truck accident, you may consider hiring an Indiana truck accident lawyer. Here are a few ways an Indiana truck accident attorney may be able to help with your case.
1. An Indiana Truck Accident Lawyer Knows About Trucking Regulations
Many people are unaware that truck accidents have to be handled differently than car accidents. Truck drivers, companies, manufacturers, and mechanics are held to a higher standard than regular drivers of passenger vehicles. Different rules and regulations affect the trucking industry. An Indiana truck accident lawyer knows these regulations and can determine whether or not any rules were broken in your accident.
The Hours of Service regulations are particularly important to investigate following a truck accident. These rules limit the amount of time a truck driver can operate their vehicle before taking a break. Truck drivers must be off of the road for a certain number of hours before they can return to it.
If a truck driver neglects to adhere to the Hours of Service regulations, they put not only themselves at risk, but everyone else on the road as well. Drowsy driving can affect drivers just as badly as alcohol, resulting in slower reaction times, poor judgment, and delayed cognitive functioning. It caused 846 deaths in 2014 and 83,000 crashes from 2005 to 2009, according to the NHTSA.
Sometimes, truck drivers are pressured by their trucking companies to stay on the road when they should be resting. An Indiana truck accident attorney can investigate to see if the Hours of Service regulations were followed. If not, they can determine who should be held responsible for breaking them.
2. An Indiana Truck Accident Lawyer Understands Fault
Indiana is a fault state. That means that the percentage of damages for which you’re financially responsible correlates with the percentage you’re at fault for causing the accident. As long as you’re less than 51 percent at fault, you can seek recovery from the other driver’s insurance company.
For example, let’s say you were in a truck accident. The truck driver ran a red light and was texting while driving, but you were speeding, so you’re determined to be 10 percent at fault for the accident. You have a total of $10,000 in damages.
Because the truck driver caused 90 percent of the accident, his insurance company should pay for 90 percent of your damages, or $9,000. You can seek compensation for the remaining $1,000—the 10 percent you’re responsible for—through your own insurance company.
This is easy enough for most Hoosiers, but South Bend residents can get confused because of their proximity to Michigan. Michigan is a no-fault state. That means that no matter who is at fault, you can only go through your own insurance company for compensation.
It gets even more complicated if you’re uninsured or underinsured. In Indiana, you’re required to demonstrate “financial responsibility” in the event of a car accident. Unless you’re a secret millionaire, that means you need to have insurance. However, if for some reason you’re uninsured, you may still be able to recover in Indiana if you’re not at fault for the accident. In Michigan, your chances of recovery are severely diminished if you don’t have insurance.
South Bend is just a few minutes from the Michigan-Indiana border, making it likely that a South Bend resident might get into an accident close to home but in a completely different state with different rules about fault. It also makes it likely that a Michigander might get into an accident in South Bend and be unaware of all of their options for recovery if they’re not at fault for the accident.
Truck accidents tend to result in much more serious injuries than regular car accidents. You may have a large amount of damages you’re trying to get the insurance company to pay for. An Indiana truck accident lawyer can take into account your percentage of fault for the accident and help you determine your avenues for recovery.
3. An Indiana Truck Accident Lawyer Can Determine Who Is Responsible
If you’re not at fault for the truck accident, you may assume that the truck driver is. However, that may not be the case.
Truck accidents are tricky because there are multiple parties that may be responsible for causing the accident. The truck driver is the most visible, but not always the most likely. Many truck drivers drive perfectly and still end up in accidents that aren’t their fault or the fault of the other driver. So who is responsible?
Typically, if the truck driver isn’t responsible, it’s because something went wrong with the truck itself. That would put responsibility on either the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, the company that loaded the truck, the company that maintains the truck, or some combination of two or more of them.
For example, let’s say the brakes didn’t work. The truck driver may be partially responsible for the accident if they were engaging in illegal behavior, like texting while driving. But who is responsible for the brake failure? It could be the truck manufacturer if they installed brakes that weren’t up to code. It could be the company that maintains the truck if the brakes wore out. It could be the trucking company if they tried to cut corners and used shady manufacturers or maintenance companies to save a few bucks.
Determining who is responsible for a truck accident can quickly become a complicated process. An Indiana truck accident lawyer knows what questions to ask to determine who should be held responsible for your injuries.
Help from an Indiana Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a South Bend truck accident, contact an Indiana truck accident attorney at Hensley Legal Group today. These accidents are handled differently than regular car vs. car collisions, and we have the experience you deserve when it comes to your truck accident case. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.