No one plans to be in an accident.
Every time you leave your home and head out in your car or motorcycle, as a pedestrian, or on your bicycle, you likely don't anticipate the possibility of being involved in a crash.
And yet, crashes happen every day in Michigan. In fact, truck accident rates, in particular, have historically been higher in the Great Lakes State than the national average.
Don't believe us?
Just take a look at the numbers for Michigan truck accident fatalities from 2007 to 2017, as compared to the average number of truck accident fatalities in each state during the same time period:
This isn't to scare anyone… it's just a fact. But the good news is that there are things you can do to avoid a truck accident in some situations.
Let's first talk about Michigan traffic laws and liability rules and how they relate to a truck accident.
If you were in a truck accident in Michigan and you were severely injured, you might need to file a lawsuit to claim damages for your expenses that exceed the limits of the insurance policies.
Here's how a lawsuit works:
The plaintiff (injured person) must prove that the defendant (the party who caused the injury) was negligent in order to be awarded damages (money provided in order to compensate you for your injuries).
Damages from a Michigan truck accident could include:
In order to recover damages, you must prove negligence through establishing these elements:
There are 2 significant factors that can affect how much money you can recover after an accident:
Michigan is among 12 states (and Puerto Rico) with a no-fault insurance system. A no-fault system requires that each person involved in an accident file a claim to their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the crash. This keeps smaller cases out of the courts and allows an injured person to recover damages more quickly because there's no need to prove fault in order to receive a settlement.
If you're in an accident, your insurance company's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage will pay for the cost of your injuries up to your policy limits. This can include costs for medical treatment, lost wages, funeral expenses, and other expenses directly related to losses from the accident.
There is also a tort liability threshold. That means there are certain conditions that would allow the plaintiff to file a lawsuit, rather than relying solely on insurance. Those conditions include significant disfigurement, death, or medical bills that exceed the amount of insurance coverage.
Each state follows 1 of 4 methods of determining compensation based on the plaintiff's percentage of fault. In some states, you can't recover damages if you had any fault for an accident. Some states reduce your damage award by your percentage of fault, and other states require that you are 50% or less at fault.
In Michigan, you must be less than 51% at fault in order to recover any damages.
You're driving your car on a 2-lane road and you come to a T-intersection with a traffic light.
Approaching from your right side is an 18-wheeler truck that's signaling to make a left turn. In other words, the truck will need to make a left around you as you sit at the intersection.
There are no other cars nearby. The truck to your right has the green light and your light is red. You can see that the truck is struggling to clear the turn because of its size, and it appears that it's going to have trouble making the turn without entering your lane.
You look around. You can backup to give the truck more room to make the turn. However, at that moment, your phone buzzes. You decide that the truck driver probably will be fine and will figure out how to maneuver his vehicle. Instead of trying to give him more space, you stay where you are and tap out a quick text.
As a result, the truck grazes the front of your car, which causes significant damage to your car and you end up with a pretty good jolt from the impact. You suffer some neck and back pain as a result.
It turns out that you have the minimum amount of PIP insurance, but your neck and back injury is more serious than it seemed at first and you're going to need surgery.
You can sue the truck driver and trucking company for damages, but the court also looks at your liability.
It turns out that there was a pedestrian in a nearby parking lot who witnessed the accident. She saw that you could've moved and didn't. The trucking company lawyers also subpoena your phone records and are able to tell that you were texting at the time of the crash.
As a result, the court finds that you were 60% liable. Even though you didn't cause the accident, you could've taken actions that would have prevented the accident from happening. In that instance, you wouldn't receive any damages to pay for your surgery and related expenses.
But let's look at it another way…
Let's say you did back up your car to give the truck some space to clear the turn. However, you didn't back up enough and the accident still happened. The court might find in that situation that you were 10% at fault, not 60%.
If that's the case, then your damages would be reduced by your 10% of fault, but you would still recover financially in a lawsuit. In other words, if your damages amount to $100,000, the court would reduce it by 10% and you could recover $90,000.
It's important to understand what causes many types of truck accidents because knowing what makes them happen can help you to avoid being involved in one and who you can hold liable.
Although a truck accident could happen in any number of ways, here are some of the most common types:
Both cars and trucks can have tire blowouts. When that happens, it can cause the vehicle to swerve into another lane, rollover, or (in the case of semi-trucks) jackknife. A tire blowout is usually caused by wear and tear, defective manufacturing, or lack of routine maintenance. If a truck tire blows out, the debris from the broken tire could hit other cars, or the truck could collide with other cars if it swerves out of its lane.
A "jackknife" is when the cab and trailer portions of a big rig fold at the joint. If the back of the trailer moves faster than the cab, it creates a sharp angle that causes the truck to face 2 directions. If this happens, the driver no longer has control over the vehicle. A nearby car could collide with the swinging trailer or wedge underneath the rear of the truck.
A passenger car can slide underneath a truck, either from the rear or the side. The height difference in the vehicles could mean that the top or front of the car could be crushed and its occupants seriously injured. This is an especially deadly type of truck accident.
There are many federal regulations for loading cargo, and the main consideration is that the haul must be immobile and secure. The truck's restraint system must be strong enough to keep cargo from sliding or shifting.
There are 2 ways an unsecured load accident could happen:
"Hazmat" stands for hazardous materials. This classification could include anything from gasoline, to pesticides, to lithium batteries, to dry ice. What classifies cargo as hazardous is if it's either highly flammable or could become harmful to breathe if it becomes airborne.
A hazmat truck accident can affect not just the drivers on the road, but also anyone in surrounding areas. If a toxic substance is released into the air or certain bodies of water, it can affect people in nearby communities.
If your insurance doesn't cover the extent of your injuries, knowing who was liable will be crucial to your case. In a truck accident, there can be a number of potential defendants.
So far, we've been talking about how you'd respond to a truck accident as an occupant of another vehicle.
But what if you're the truck driver?
Almost every employer in the U.S. is required to provide workers' compensation insurance for an employee who's injured in the course of performing work-related tasks. That would certainly apply to a truck driver who's injured in an accident.
The exception might be if a driver is an independent contractor. However, working as an independent contractor doesn't necessarily mean that you're not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
Michigan laws around liability and fault are a little more complicated than some other states'. If you're involved in a truck accident, either as a truck driver, a car driver, a pedestrian, or in any other way, it's important to get a lawyer who can help.
Due to the possibility of there being multiple defendants (or defendants who might not be the obvious ones), working with a lawyer will be especially critical to your success in receiving compensation.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more