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Semi-Truck or Commercial Truck Accidents

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  • Auto & Truck Accident Law

  • No-Fault Law Basics

  • No-Fault Law History

  • The No Fee Guarantee

  • Truck Accident Client – $5.9mil

  • What Happens When You Call Sam

We understand that many survivors of truck crashes suffer such serious injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, and long-term medical treatment. Often, truck accident victims never fully regain their ability to return to work or resume family responsibilities and personal relationships.

In Michigan, these accidents raise many complex legal issues. After the accident, the clock begins ticking to secure benefits that you are entitled to under Michigan law. Click on the drop-downs below to learn more about Michigan No-Fault law and the rights of accident victims.

Contact us before you talking with the insurance company. Signing the wrong papers could mean you have settled for less than you deserve.

To protect all your legal rights, you need a well-resourced law firm that is experienced with the complicated laws that semi-truck and commercial truck accident claims. Studies have shown that injured parties represented by legal counsel obtain far greater recoveries than individuals who represent themselves.

For many accident victims, the actual motor vehicle accident is only the beginning of the physical and emotional hardships that they experience. Don’t delay in recovering all the benefits you deserve.

Submit a simple, free consultation form now for help.

Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

Legal Resources

The following sections have more information on Semi-Truck or Commercial Truck Accidents:

  • What does “No Fault Insurance” mean?

    No Fault insurance is a system where your own insurance company pays most of your economic losses resulting from a car accident, whether or not it was your fault. These benefits are known as “First-Party Benefits” or “Personal Injury Protection (PIP)” benefits. These benefits include wage loss, medical bills, attendant care, and mileage reimbursement.

    Non-economic losses, including damages for pain and suffering for the injuries you suffer in an accident, are called “Third-Party Benefits”.  A Third-Party claim is filed against the driver whose negligence caused the car accident.

  • Michigan No-Fault Law Basics

    Under Michigan No-Fault law, an injured party is eligible for two types of benefits:  FIRST party benefits, which are derived from one’s own insurance company, and THIRD party benefits, which are usually derived from either the at-fault driver or vehicle’s insurance company.

    First party benefits include personal injury protection (PIP) and property protection (PPI) benefits.

    PIP includes the following:

    • 100% of medical costs;
    • 85% of lost wages for up to three years (with a maximum of $5,398/month as of 10/01/15);
    • survivor loss benefits (with a maximum of $5,398/month as of 10/01/15); and
    • up to $20/day in replacement services, which pays for routine household services, such as household chores and yard work.

    PPI includes the following:

    Up to $1,000,000 for damage to other people’s property or properly parked vehicles.

    Third party benefits include bodily injury and property damage.

    Bodily injury includes the following:

    Compensation for death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent disfigurement.  The amount of compensation payable by the insurance company is confined to the limits of the legally responsible person’s policy.  The minimum limit is $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident; however, depending on the insured’s policy, additional coverage may be available.  An amount in excess of the policy limits may be awarded by a court of law, in which case the defendant would be personally responsible for the uninsured amount.

    Property damage:

    Property damage is covered up to $1,000 if you are 50% or more at fault in an accident which causes damage to another person’s car that is not covered by insurance.

    No-fault coverage extends to every person living in the same house as the primary insured.  PIP benefits will be paid even when a household member is a pedestrian or a passenger in a non-household member’s car.  PIP benefits also extend to anyone who is injured as a passenger in the insured’s vehicle and does have a no-fault policy of his/her own.

  • Common Causes of Semi Truck Accidents

    According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s estimate, there were approximately 120,000 fatal and injury crashes nationwide during the 33-month study period that involved at least one large truck; 141,000 large trucks were involved in those crashes.

    Semi-truck accidents can be caused by human error, carelessness, improper maintenance, or distracted driving, among other things.  Some of the most common causes are described below:

    Impaired Truck Drivers

    Truck drivers often work long shifts in order to cover long distances.  Inadequate sleep, prolonged sitting, and the monotony of driving can cause a driver to take unnecessary risks and have poor reactions and judgment.  The same problems can be intensified by alcohol and use of prescription medications.  Federal regulations require trucking companies to test drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment, and also require periodic testing while drivers are on duty and after fatal accidents.

    Of all truck accidents caused by driver error, 44% involve a driver taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, 23% involve speeding, and 18% are caused by driver fatigue.

    The federal “hours of service rules”, 76 FR 81133, attempts to avoid driver fatigue by placing limits on the number of hours a driver may work.  Under this regulation, a commercial driver may work a maximum of 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours of driving.  Drivers must be off-duty for 10 consecutive hours prior to the start of each shift.  Drivers may not drive after being on duty 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, until he or she been off duty for 34+ hours.

    Federal regulations require truck drivers to keep a driver’s log.  If you suspect that your accident was caused by driver fatigue as a result of violation of the hours of service rules, request a copy of the driver’s logs and/or the trucking company’s logs.

    Carelessness While Driving

    Semi-trucks have “no-zones”, where a passenger car can disappear from the truck driver’s view.  No-zones occur at the front, side, and rear of a truck, as well as when the driver backs up or turns right.  An accident is 60% more likely to occur when a car is in a truck’s no-zone, as opposed to when it is visible to the truck driver.  Accidents are most frequent when the truck driver doesn’t know or doesn’t take precautions when a car is in one of its no-zones.

    Truck rollovers, also a common cause of truck accidents, are most frequently caused by speeding, fatigue, inexperience, improper load distribution, or when a driver takes a curve too fast.

    Improper Maintenance

    According to the United States Department of Transportation, 29.4% of all large truck accidents involve brake failure, brakes that are out of adjustment, or other brake-related issues.  Responsibility for maintenance of brakes falls on the driver, the company who loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the brakes, and the manufacturer of the brakes.

    Truck drivers sometimes depower their front brakes, which reduces operating costs by minimizing wear and tear on the brakes and tires.  Depowering the front brakes results in reliance upon the trailer brakes and downshifting to slow or stop the truck, and increases the risk of accidents, especially jackknifing.  Improper attachment of the trailer to the front of the truck can also result in jackknifing.

    Tire problems are another cause of accidents.  Allowing drivers to drive on tires that don’t meet minimum DOT tread depth requirements, mounting mismatched tire sizes or with significantly different wear, and mixing bias and radial tires on the same axle, can all cause drivers to have problems that could lead to accidents.  Federal safety regulations require pre-trip tire inspections that, if conducted properly, should greatly minimize problems like improper tire pressure and worn or damaged tires, that can also cause accidents.

    Distracted Driving

    Research commissioned by FMCSA shows that commercial drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) than those who do not.  The average driver took his or her eyes off the forward roadway for 3.8 seconds, which equates to a traveling distance of 306 feet when driving 55 mph.

    As a result, the FMCSA has prohibited drivers of commercial motor vehicles from texting, holding a mobile device to make a call, or dialing by pressing more than a single button.  Violations of the restriction can result in civil penalties of up to $2,750, and driver disqualification for multiple offenses.  Trucking companies may not require their drivers to text or use hand-held mobile devices while driving.

    Commercial truck drivers can still legally use mobile phones by using an earpiece or the speakerphone function, using voice-activated driving, or using the hands-free feature.

     

    *trucks are considered to be large when they have a gross weight rating exceeding 10,000 pounds

    Souce: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief

  • Federal Laws Regarding Semi-Trucks

    Congress is authorized by the United States Constitution to pass laws pertaining to interstate commerce.  As a result, the federal legislature is responsible for creating laws governing travel between the states.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) was established by the United States Department of Transportation on January 01, 2000 pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 U.S.C. 113).  The purpose of the FMCSA is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    Many states, including Michigan, have adopted the FMCSA rules and regulations, making it a state statute as well as a federal statute.

    FMCSA regulations include the following:

    • compliance with interstate motor carrier noise emission standards
    • motor carrier routing regulations
    • passenger carrier regulations
    • special training requirements
    • controlled substances and alcohol use and testing
    • standards for commercial driver licenses, requirements and penalties
    • safety fitness procedures
    • rules of practice for hazardous materials proceedings
    • hours of service
    • inspection, repair and maintenance
    • transportation of hazardous materials
    • rules for securing cargo
    • required vehicle markings, including USDOT number, Hazmat markings, etc.
    • licensing requirements

    FMCSA enforcement cases are initiated following compliance reviews, complaint investigations, terminal audits, roadside inspections, and other investigations, and can result in civil penalties and fines.

  • Semi Accident Reconstruction

    Accidents involving semi-trucks often result in greater vehicular damage and injuries than those involving two passenger vehicles.  While the average passenger car weighs only about 4,000 pounds, semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.  This disparity in size and weight can be disastrous for the smaller vehicle in an accident.

    The purpose of accident reconstruction is to answer questions about how a traffic crash occurred.  Tools for determining the cause of an accident include at-scene investigation, photography, scale diagramming, crash data retrieval, and mathematical analysis.  Stopping speed is often a key element in investigation of semi-truck accidents.

    Because they are so heavy, trucks take 25-65% longer than passenger vehicles to stop, which translates to 60-80% braking efficiency.  Truck tires are made from harder rubber so that they last longer, but this also results in lower friction values.  Also, different tire types and sizes can cause handling difficulties or speedometer error, showing slower than actual speeds.  When evaluating accidents, reconstructionists must include adjustments to normal friction values, or else the truck’s speed will be calculated too high.

    A standard semi-truck has 18 tires.  Brake imbalances can cause uneven application of brakes, with only some brakes fully locking.  A truck skidding on all tires will stop in a shorter distance than a truck skidding on fewer than all tires.  Tools used to investigate the effects of brake imbalances include skid testing, use of a brake dynamometer, and brake force calculations.  When there is a brake imbalance, the truck’s speed will be calculated too high unless an adjustment is made to the friction value or rate of deceleration.

    Lag time is the time interval between brake application and wheel lock-up.  All brake systems have a slight delay in the build-up of brake force after the brake pedal is applied.  Air brakes require more time for the build-up of air pressure, resulting in additional delay.  Reconstructionists use a standard lag time of one-half second, which is added to the driver’s perception-reaction time when a time-distance analysis is performed.  This time is assumed from the requirement that brake systems achieve 60 psi (pounds per square inch) in less than approximately a half second.  Most trucks’ lag time is faster than this.

    Like the black box of an airplane, most vehicles contain an Event Data Recorder (“EDR”) as part of the airbag control module.  The EDR can be configured to store recorded information, such as speed, brake use, and restraint system performance, and can help determined what a vehicle was doing before, during, and after a crash.  Reconstructionists also have tools to tell if a seat belt was buckled or if the vehicle’s lights were on at the time of the accident, the number of tires that were locked, and the speed of a vehicle at the time of impact.

  • How long after an accident can I bring a claim?

    To make the strongest possible case, you need to start as soon as possible with the collection of evidence and the identification of potential witnesses.

    You have THREE YEARS from the date of a motor vehicle accident to file a claim for Third-Party Benefits. This means that if you do not file a lawsuit against those at fault for the accident before the end of that period, you will forever lose your right to file a lawsuit against those responsible for the incident.

    Minors have until one year past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. There are other exceptions for military personnel, mentally incapacitated individuals, and survivors of individuals killed in a car accident.

    You have a ONE YEAR limitation to file a claim for reimbursement for No-Fault First-Party Benefits such as wage loss, medical bills, attendant care, and mileage reimbursement. You can collect on these losses for longer than a year, but you must file a lawsuit within one year of when the expense was incurred.

  • What do I need to win my accident case?

    You must show that you have suffered a “threshold injury” to win against a careless driver to recover non-economic damages in a “Third Party” claim.

    Michigan law defines a “threshold injury” as:

    …serious impairment of an important body function, serious disfigurement or scarring, or death.

    It is common for the insurance company and their attorneys to assert that an injury is not a “serious impairment of a body function.”

    If you have an an injury that effects your ability to live your normal life, then contact our office to protect your rights. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • Will my medical bills be covered for life?

    Yes. Michigan law requires that no-fault related medical coverage continue for life, or for as long as you need treatment, for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. However, many factors may complicate payment of your medical bills. If you have questions about the way these complex issues apply to you, contact us now.

    To qualify for medical expense reimbursement, a medical bill must be reasonable (in cost and necessity) and the expense must be actually incurred, meaning you must have already completed the appointment or procedure. The law does not provide for guaranteed pre-payment of bills for treatment of injuries resulting from an accident. Sometimes, an insurance company will try to escape its responsibility by questioning the need for a medical test or procedure ordered by your physician or by disputing the amount of the bill.

    Michigan’s No-Fault insurance providers offer two types of medical coverage:
    1. Uncoordinated benefits
    2. Coordinated benefits

    An uncoordinated policy pays benefits, regardless of the presence of other health insurance.

    A coordinated policy requires your other health insurance to pay first, and your automobile insurance to pay amounts that your primary health insurer does not cover. Your auto insurance policy states which type of benefits you should receive.

    It is common for a primary health insurance policy and auto insurance policy to contain contradictory language regarding which policy is first obligated to pay medical bills. If you have questions about this or are experiencing difficulty getting your medical bills in a timely manner, it is important to contact us immediately.

  • Can I recover lost wages?

    Yes. Michigan law allows you to receive 85% of your lost wages if you are disabled from work due to injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. This benefit is tax-free and lasts up to three years.

    The law also sets a monthly cap on the amount of lost wages that the auto insurance company must reimburse.

    Contact us for help addressing issues related to no-fault benefits and lost wages.

  • Who will take care of me while I am recovering?

    Attendant Care

    Michigan law requires an insurance company to pay for attendant care and nursing services if you need supervision or assistance while recovering at home. A severely injured person may need around-the-clock supervision.

    If a member of your family is helping take care of you, they may be entitled to reimbursement. Though the law does not set a specific hourly rate for the caregiver, the reimbursement should reflect the type and complexity of the services that you receive.

    Replacement Services for Chores and Errands

    An accident can prevent you from completing household services, chores, and errands. If you have paid or promised to pay for activities which you previously accomplished on your own, then you may be entitled to reimbursement for these expenses.

    Your physician may need to provide a written statement identifying the tasks you are unable to do on your own. Michigan law states that an auto insurance company is obligated to reimburse up to $20 per day for replacement services and that these benefits last for up to three (3) years.

    Contact us for help addressing issues related to no-fault benefits and lost wages.

  • Semi-Truck Jurisdictional Issues

    Car accidents usually involve plaintiffs and defendants who both reside in the state where the accident occurred. The simplicity of this situation makes it easy to determine jurisdiction, or where the defendant can be sued. Michigan courts have jurisdiction over a cause of action involving an accident that occurs in Michigan between two Michigan drivers. Things are not so simple when it comes to accidents with semi-trucks, which usually drive long distances over multiple states.

    The concept of “personal jurisdiction” was created in order to protect a defendant from being sued in a “hostile”, and possibly far-off jurisdiction. Corporations are domiciled where they are incorporated or in the state of their principal place of business, and a court has personal jurisdiction over a party that is domiciled in its state. Thus, a company that is incorporated in Illinois but has its headquarters in Michigan can be sued in both Illinois and Michigan.

    The purpose of personal jurisdiction is to avoid inconvenience to defendants, but the same consideration is not extended to plaintiffs, as a plaintiff’s domicile is not a consideration for personal jurisdiction. You cannot sue someone in your home state if the accident did not occur in your state and the defendant doesn’t live in your state, has never been in your state, and doesn’t do business in your state.

    Personal jurisdiction also applies in the state where the defendant caused an accident. The jurisdiction issue is less complicated if the accident occurred in your home state. However, if you were in an accident with a semi-truck while traveling outside of your state, the jurisdiction is still restricted to the place of the accident or the domicile of the trucking company.

    A court may have personal jurisdiction over a party that has “minimum contacts” with the state. The “minimum contacts” requirement is generally satisfied when the defendant has enough connection to the state where a case has been filed for a judge to conclude that it is fair for the state to exercise power over the defendant. A defendant may be deemed to have minimum contacts in a state where it has a warehouse, store, or branch office, or if it sends mail order catalogs, publishes advertisements, or takes online orders from customers in that state.

    It is also possible to avoid the state court personal jurisdiction issue altogether and sue in federal court, as long as the following conditions are met: (1) complete diversity of citizenship (no defendant is domiciled in the same state as the plaintiff); and (2) the amount in dispute is at least $75,000.00 in money damages.

    Where can you sue?

    Federal Court:

    • there is complete diversity of citizenship; and
    • there are money damages of at least $75,000

    Michigan State Court:

    • all parties are domiciled in your state; or
    • the accident happened in Michigan; or
    • the defendant(s) have minimum contacts in your state.
  • What if the driver who hit me had been drinking? (Drunk Driver)

    If the negligent driver was intoxicated, then a “Dramshop” Claim may exist. This is the legal term for a lawsuit against a liquor store, bar, or other business, which illegally sold alcohol to the person whose unlawful behavior caused an accident. Whether or not the sale of alcohol was legal may be based on the sale of alcohol to either a minor (under age 21) or to a visibly intoxicated adult.

    Michigan law requires the accident victim to assert the claim against the seller of the alcohol within 120 days after he or she retains an attorney. Therefore, contact us immediately if your accident involved a drunk driver.

  • Can I collect reimbursement for travel to my treatment?

    Yes. Often, proper medical treatment, tests, and physical therapy require travelling long distances. Michigan law provides for the reimbursement for mileage traveled to and from medical care.

  • Who pays for my First-Party No-Fault Benefits?

    Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, the injured person’s own auto insurance company pays most of the economic losses caused by a motor vehicle accident. Michigan law establishes an “order of priority” to determine the correct insurance company that is responsible to pay.

    1. Your own insurance policy, if none then…
    2. The insurance company of a resident relative (i.e. spouse, parent, or sibling), if none then…
    3. The insurer of the owner of the vehicle occupied, if none then…
    4. The insurer of the driver of the vehicle occupied, if none then…
    5. The State of Michigan Assigned Claims Facility.

    The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility is the State Agency with the power to assign an insurance company to provide benefits to an injured victim who is not eligible for other No-Fault insurance coverage. To get an application for these Benefits, you can contact the Assigned Claims Facility directly at 517-322-1875.

    This order of priority changes if you were riding a motorcycle.

  • When did No-Fault Insurance become Law?

    The Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law took effect on October 01, 1973 under Governor William Milliken.  Prior to this date, Michigan operated under a tort liability system, in which fault in an accident had to be determined before benefits could be paid.  The tort system was cumbersome and inefficient and gave rise to excessive legal and administrative fees.  Additionally, most at-fault parties had insufficient insurance to cover the injured party’s damages, which resulted in under-compensation.

    Under current Michigan law, no-fault insurance is required in order to register a vehicle.  Payments for collision damage, medical treatment, and wage loss are administered by one’s own insurance carrier.  Adoption of no-fault law resulted in an increase in benefits paid to the injured person, more efficient distribution of payments, and reduced premiums for legal and administrative costs.  Disputes over who is at fault are irrelevant when making a claim for benefits.  In exchange for this uncomplicated access to no-fault benefits, the injured party can sue only in the case of serious injury, disfigurement, or death.

    Currently, 12 states* and Puerto Rico have no-fault auto insurance laws.  Michigan’s law is unique because it offers unlimited medical and rehabilitation benefits, while other states place a monetary cap on these benefits.  Under Michigan no-fault law, an insured is entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, residual bodily injury coverage, and property protection insurance.  (These benefits will be discussed more extensively in a separate entry.)

    There have been many challenges to the Michigan No-Fault law, on both the judicial and legislative levels.  Although the law has been tweaked in multiple areas, its main structure has prevailed since implementation nearly 42 years ago.

    *Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah

  • Landmark Cases in No-Fault Law

    Under Michigan Compiled Laws §550.3135, a cause of action for damages may be brought by a person who has suffered serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.  The definition of “serious impairment of a body function” is considered a verbal threshold, since the term is not defined specifically in the statute.  The question of what constitutes serious impairment of a body function has been debated ever since the law took effect in 1973.

    In 1982, the Michigan Supreme Court asserted its first interpretation of “serious impairment of bodily function” in Cassidy v. McGovern.  The court established a threshold that specified that an injury must affect the ability to live a normal life.  Since “a normal life” can be loosely defined, few plaintiffs were able to recover non-economic damages under Cassidy.  Only those who were completely unable to work and/or care for themselves were considered disabled enough to qualify under this standard.

    In 1986, the Michigan Supreme Court decided the DiFranco v. Pickard case, in which the definition of “serious impairment of a body function” was expanded.  The court held that an injured party must show that there is a physical basis for subjective complaints of pain and suffering.  Factors to consider included the extent of the impairment, the body function affected, the length of time of impairment, and the treatment required.  The more generous interpretation opened the doors for fairer recovery for personal injury plaintiffs.

    The success experienced after DiFranco lasted until 2004, when the Michigan Supreme Court decided Kreiner v. Fischer and narrowed the definition of “serious impairment of bodily injury” to an injury that affects the general ability to lead a normal life.  Under Kreiner, it was insufficient for an injury to affect just part of one’s life, and could not be a mere minor interruption.  Therefore, a person who suffered and eventually recovered from a severe injury, or a person who suffered an isolated injury but could still proceed with his/her life, was unlikely to be compensated for the injuries.

    McCormick v. Carrier, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010, expanded the restrictive definition of “serious impairment of a body function” that had been imposed under Kreiner.  Where under Kreiner a person had to show total disruption of his/her life, under McCormick, an injured victim has only to establish that the impairment affected some of the person’s capacity to lead a normal life.  Under this more inclusive standard, many more people are able to be compensated for their injuries.

     

    Sources:

    • Cassidy v. McGovern, 330 NW 2d 22 (1982)
    • DiFranco v. Pickard, 287 NW 2d 896 (1986)
    • Kreiner v. Fischer, 683 NW2d 611 (2004)
    • McCormick v. Carrier, 795 NW2d 517 (2010)