Commercial Vehicle & Semi Truck Accident Attorneys
Indiana is a beautiful crossroads of America, with a criss-cross of highways that pave their way through farmland, rural towns, and busy metropolitan areas, like Indianapolis. Given the numerous roads and vehicles in the state, traffic accidents occur frequently. Regardless of whether traffic is slow and easy, or complicated by rush hour congestion, tragic accidents happen; and when a tractor-trailer is involved, the injuries can be severe and may even include death.
At highway speeds, a tractor-trailer’s weight can produce a damaging blow; the impact may twist and crush smaller vehicles, leaving the occupants with catastrophic injuries. According to a report issued by Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the state reported 1,972 injuries and 110 fatalities from big truck accidents in 2016. Those who survive such horrific collisions often endure a lifetime of pain, medical treatment, physical restrictions, and financial losses.
At the Law Offices of William W. Hurst, we believe that negligent motor carriers should pay for the damages that their drivers cause. We’ve spent 37 years helping injured victims recover damages from responsible parties, and we understand the complex liability and damages issues that are often involved in these types of claims. Our attorneys are diligent, and we have the experience and resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients.
Every truck accident is a dangerous accident, and tanker truck accidents are no exception. Indeed, tanker trucks are associated with some of the deadliest accidents on our highways. Tanker trucks often ferry extremely dangerous liquids that—when the trucks are involved in accidents—pose an extreme threat to everyone on the road. These dangers can include fires, violent explosions, and chemical leaks. Tanker trucks are responsible for moving highly volatile, hazardous materials over our roads, and when they’re involved in accidents, the results can prove especially horrific.
While not all tanker trucks haul hazardous materials—some, for instance, haul food products like milk—many do. Tankers haul substances that can turn into extremely dangerous hazards when they’re involved in accidents on our roads:
- Diesel fuels
- Petroleum-based products
- Industrial chemicals
- Agricultural pesticides
- Radioactive materials
None of these products represent anything that we’d want spilling across our nation’s roadways.
Tanker truck accidents are exceedingly dangerous accidents, and if you or your loved one was injured in such an accident, you need experienced legal counsel. At the Law Office of William W. Hurst in Indianapolis, our dedicated truck accident attorneys have the experience and fortitude to guide your claim toward its just resolution, and we’re here to help.
Risks of Tanker Trucks
When a tanker truck is involved in an accident, the community in which the accident takes place must swiftly dispatch emergency hazardous material teams to cope with the dangerous spills. While tanker truck accidents are typically caused by the same driver errors that result in other kinds of truck accidents, important elements of these accidents are highly specific to tanker trucks:
- Fires – When a tanker truck is involved in an accident, the likelihood of a fire greatly increases due to the highly combustible nature of its load. The victims of such accidents can suffer horrendous burns and worse.
- Explosions – Tanker truck accidents can also result in violent explosions, in which case fatalities are nearly inevitable.
- Chemical leaks and spills – When a tanker truck is involved in an accident, there’s always a risk that its hazardous load will leak or spill out. Even if the accident involves no impact with other vehicles, the spill can prove dangerous in and of itself—especially if drivers must weave around the road to avoid driving through the spill. In addition, if dangerous fumes are released, it endangers not only motorists on the road but also nearby residents and businesses. Manufacturing defects and inadequate maintenance (such as an improperly closed tank) can contribute to dangerous leaks and spills.
- Sloshing contents – When a tanker truck isn’t fully loaded, the liquid inside the tank can slosh around, which can lead to dangerous shifts in weight that can cause the driver to lose control of the truck.
- Chemical burns – Depending on the tanker’s contents, chemical burns that result in painful disfigurement and scars are possible consequences of tanker truck accidents.
- Tanker truck rollovers – Tanker trucks—because of their liquid cargos—are more susceptible to the weight fluctuations and shifts that can lead to rollovers. And their highly hazardous loads make such accidents even more deadly.
Semi-Truck Crash Statistics
Commercial trucks, including tanker trucks, are out there for a reason—to keep up with growing consumer demands. As more of these vehicles hit the road, accident statistics attest to the attendant dangers:
- Nearly 4,000 persons died in commercial truck accidents in 2015
- Of these accidents, 97 percent of the fatalities were occupants of the vehicle that wasn’t the commercial truck
- From 2009 to 2015, the number of truck accident fatalities increased by 22 percent
- Eleven percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015 involved commercial trucks
These numbers are sobering and should serve as an important reminder to all drivers to allow commercial trucks the room they need to maneuver safely on the roads we all share.
While all commercial truckers are held to federal regulations that govern their safe passage across our country, tanker trucks are faced with additional federal regulations related to the hazardous materials they often transport. This includes obtaining a special endorsement on the trucker’s commercial driver’s license and obtaining a special Hazmat Safety Permit. In other words, the federal government recognizes the heightened risks posed by tanker trucks and implements specialized regulations to help minimize the danger. Tanker truck drivers are well aware of the dangers their rigs pose on our highways and byways—and when they don’t take care to uphold their significant safety responsibilities, their victims should hold them to strict liability.
Truckers are on the front line when it comes to helping to keep commercial trucks moving safely throughout the country, and this includes strictly adhering to all imposed rules and regulations and always making safe driving their top priority. There’s simply too much at stake for commercial truckers to ever engage in impaired, exhausted, or distracted driving. Truckers, however, share the responsibility for keeping the commercial trucks on our roads moving safely with other entities, including trucking companies, truck and parts manufacturers, and truck mechanics. Commercial trucks are highly calibrated machines that demand careful maintenance routines and schedules—along with well-managed driving schedules that don’t overtax the truck drivers and, thus, contribute to the endangerment of everyone on the road.
Our Firm’s Accident Case Results
In past cases, our injury law firm has recovered millions of dollars for injured Indiana truck accident victims. While can’t guarantee a positive result, we do promise to work hard to give our clients the best legal representation possible. When responsible parties and their insurance companies have negotiated in good faith, we’ve successfully settled cases without ever filing a lawsuit. However, when settlement has not been possible, we’ve litigated our clients’ cases in court. We keep settlement details confidential, but our clients’ testimonials and reviews illustrate our successful track record.
What Injuries Do Truck Accidents Cause?
Tractor-trailer rigs can weigh up to 26,000 pounds. When they collide with a private passenger vehicle on an Indiana roadway, the impact is often powerful enough to cause fatalities and/or life-changing injuries, including:
- Spinal cord injury
- Fourth, fifth, and sixth-degree burns
- Dislocated and herniated discs
- Traumatic brain injury
- Skull and facial fractures
- Crush injuries and traumatic amputations
- Internal injuries
- Multiple fractures and broken bones
- Wrongful death
Who Can Cause a Truck Accident?
Following a tractor-trailer accident, most people focus their attention on the truck driver; however, these accidents often involve other potentially liable parties. Other individuals involved in the accident may share responsibility based on their negligent acts, omissions, agency relationships, or contractual arrangements. Other potentially liable parties include:
- Driver – A driver’s negligence includes distracted driving, drug or alcohol impairment, improper loading, sickness, and more. Electronic Logging Devices track driver actions, and can reveal excessive drive times that may have caused fatigue-related accidents.
- Employer – A truck driver and his or her employer/motor carrier usually have an agency relationship that makes the motor carrier responsible for a driver’s actions. An employer may also be liable when negligent hiring and/or supervision played a role in an accident.
- Truck owner – If a leased or borrowed vehicle is involved, the owner may share liability for truck accidents if maintenance, safety, or vehicle defects were a factor. However, contractual arrangements may transfer an owner’s liability to a lessee or borrower.
- Trailer owner – Other parties may become involved when a shipper, contractor, or other entity owns or loads the trailer. Liability issues often become more complex when a driver is deadheading (transporting an empty trailer) or bobtailing (on the way to pick up a trailer).
- Shipper– When a contractor or shipper loads a trailer or flatbed, they may be responsible if the unit overturns due to improper loading.
- Maintenance contractor – A maintenance contractor may be responsible for accidents caused by improper maintenance.
- Truck manufacturer – When a manufacturing or design defect causes an accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible.
Box Truck Crashes
When you think of commercial vehicles, you likely imagine large semi-trucks and other types of tractor-trailers that we see regularly on the highway. While these trucks are often the most recognizable, they are far from the only types of commercial vehicles on the roads in and around Indianapolis. Another commercial vehicle you regularly encounter is a box truck.
Box trucks are different from tractor-trailers in several important ways. First, they weigh significantly less—often up to 30,000 pounds instead of 80,000 pounds for semis. Box trucks are also not articulated vehicles, so they do not have coupling devices connecting the cab and the trailer. Instead, the cargo area is attached permanently to the front of the truck and is usually smaller than a trailer on a large truck.
At first glance, these trucks may seem safer than semi-trucks. However, box trucks crash on a regular basis and can cause serious injuries to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. If you suffered injuries in any type of truck accident, you need the right legal representation as soon as possible. The truck accident lawyers at The Law Office of William W. Hurst can advise you whether another party can be held liable for your losses, so please call today for more information.
The Dangers of Box Trucks
Box trucks may not seem particularly threatening on the roads, however, there are particular risk factors that lead to box truck accidents in the Indianapolis area. Some of these include:
- Delivery trucks – With one click of a button, we can have almost anything delivered right to our front doors. Some people do not even go to the grocery store anymore, as they order their groceries online. Delivery trucks are constantly out and about delivering piles of Amazon boxes at every other house. Unlike large semi-trucks, which we mostly see on the highways, delivery box trucks regularly travel through our neighborhoods. These trucks make frequent turns, go through intersections, drive near parked cars, stop often, and engage in many additional maneuvers that can cause collisions. Additionally, drivers may not see children or bicyclist on residential streets and may collide with them.
- Untrained drivers – Not all box trucks require a commercial driver’s license to operate. Anyone with a license can rent U-Hauls and other moving trucks to help with temporary tasks. These trucks do not come with a driver—instead, someone who may never have driven a vehicle this large can suddenly be behind the wheel. Box trucks have substantial blind spots and may be more difficult to stop than a passenger car—especially if they are fully loaded. Someone without any knowledge of how the truck works or any training for driving large vehicles may easily make a mistake and cause an accident.
- Rollovers – Box trucks have a high center of gravity, which increases the chance of a rollover accident. If a driver takes a turn too fast, tries to make an unsafe lane change, or even slightly hits a curb, the truck can easily get tripped and can roll over onto its side. When a truck rolls over, it can cause a chain reaction crash as other drivers may not have time to react safely.
- Cargo spills – The cargo area of most box trucks has a door that rolls up and down for access or to hold cargo in. In a crash—especially a rollover—the door may come unlatched and cargo may spill out. Whether a truck is carrying hundreds of boxes, large furniture, or anything else, it can be dangerous for such cargo to spill out into the path of traffic on the road.
Liability for Your Injuries
Why does the specific cause of a box truck accident matter? If you suffer injuries in a crash, you will likely incur many losses over the course of the next few days, weeks, months, or even years. Some losses include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income if you missed work
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disabilities
The law entitles accident victims to get compensation from any parties that were negligent and caused the crash. Simply put, negligence occurs when someone has a duty intended to keep others safe and the breach of that duty causes injuries. Different parties can be negligent when it comes to box truck accidents, and our attorneys can fully evaluate what happened in your accident to identify all possible liable parties.
Some liable parties may include:
- Box truck drivers – Drivers can be negligent in many ways, including distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, violating traffic laws, or violating commercial trucking regulations (for drivers with a CDL).
- Truck companies – Box truck companies can be liable if an employee acted negligently. Additionally, companies may negligently allow unlicensed or unqualified people to drive box trucks, or may fail to properly maintain trucks.
- Truck manufacturers – Manufacturers may sell trucks or truck parts that have inherent defects, including defective brakes, tires, steering systems, and more. Malfunctions can cause drivers to lose control of the truck.
What Damages Can a Truck Accident Victim Recover?
The damages we recover for our injured clients usually fall within the categories of economic damages and general damages. A judge or jury may also award punitive damages if the evidence presented at trial proves the defendant acted with malice, fraud, or similarly outrageous behavior. In Indiana, punitive damages are limited by statute, and a large percentage of any award must be shared with the state’s Violent Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
We calculate our clients’ economic damages based on their current and future expenses related to the accident. As truck accident victims often sustain catastrophic injuries, the economic damages are often high, and may include the following:
- Current and future lost income
- Medical expenses
- Physical and psychological therapy costs
- Prescribed pharmaceuticals and prosthetics
- Mobility and assistance devices
- Treatment transportation costs
- Household and personal services costs
- Lost earning capacity
- Funeral expenses
General damages are also a major component of any personal injury settlement, but they can be difficult to calculate. They are generally based on the victim’s mental and emotional injuries related to the accident. General damages address factors that reveal how injuries affect a person’s life and lifestyle, and may include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anxiety
- Loss of companionship, affection, and support
- Inability to care for children
- Reproductive impairment
- Permanent disabilities
- Impaired bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
Truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, and related personal injury claims may involve a substantial settlement amount or damages award. Even if a truck driver, other responsible defendants, and their insurance carriers all admit that liability is obvious, we often must still take a case to trial if they do not offer a fair settlement amount. During negotiations and in court, the involved entities will likely attempt to assert these and other affirmative defenses:
- No negligence – The driver and other defendants take the position that they’re not at fault.
- Comparative negligence – If the defendants show the injured person was over 50 percent responsible for causing their own injuries, Indiana’s comparative negligence laws bar the injured person from recovering damages. If an injured person’s responsibility is found partly liable, but less than 50 percent, that can reduce their total compensation.
- No defect – When a defective braking system or other manufacturing issue causes an accident, the manufacturer may deny that there was a defect.
- Contractual defenses – Often, responsible entities, such as leasing companies, transfer their liability with a “hold harmless” agreement or other contractual arrangement, in which case, they may require the lessee to defend them and pay any judgments against them.
How Much Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Cost?
At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, we believe it’s important to contact an attorney immediately following an accident, and particularly before speaking with any insurance companies regarding settlement. We offer free consultations so that you may discuss your claim with an experienced attorney. If you are disabled or unable to travel to our office, we can meet you in the hospital, at your home, or at your work. Our firm handles cases on a contingency basis, which means that we will only collect attorney’s fees from any compensation that we are able to secure for you.
Let Us Help You
At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, we have over 37 years of experience representing victims in personal injury cases. If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident in the Indianapolis, Carmel, Noblesville, Greenwood, or Fishers areas, we want to help you. We understand that medical bills, lost income, and permanent disability can become a lifetime burden, and we believe that the person who caused your injuries should pay for them. Contact us today at (317) 636-0808, or online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.