The Hoosier state is rightfully nicknamed “the crossroads of America” because of our hub of interstate highways and large number of out-of-state motorists that pass through. A large percentage of these motorists are commercial trucks, which travel almost 10 billion miles in Indiana every year. Indiana drivers share the road with commercial trucks every day, but there are serious and often unexpected consequences that come from proximity to these large vehicles. In 2021, almost 6,000 large vehicles were involved in fatal crashes. If a truck driver is intoxicated, their load isn’t secured properly, or they aren’t paying close attention to the road, they could cause an accident and inflict severe injuries due to the size and weight of the truck.
You have certain rights as an accident victim. Your truck accident attorney can help you understand these rights and protect them as you seek compensation.
You Have the Right to Pursue Damages
As a victim of a truck accident, you have the right to pursue compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, among other things.
Filing a claim with your insurance company is a good place to start. Unfortunately, insurance companies won’t always offer a fair settlement. Their initial offer is not likely to cover the extent of your damages, which is why it is important to seek representation for your case. Your truck accident attorney can negotiate with the insurer to help pursue a fair settlement.
If the commercial truck driver was responsible for your accident, you also have the right to file a lawsuit against them or the trucking company.
Indiana Has Shared Liability Laws for Truck Accidents
Not every accident has a clear-cut perpetrator and victim. In Indiana, more than one person can be considered responsible for an accident. Imagine that a commercial vehicle switched lanes and hit your car, but you were speeding when it happened. In this case, you may be partially responsible for the accident.
Indiana’s shared liability laws mean that if you are more than 50% responsible for an accident, you can’t pursue damages from the other party. Even if you are less than 50% responsible, your damages are reduced by however much you’re at fault. For example, if you are found to be 30% at fault for the accident, then the amount you receive from the other driver’s insurance company will be reduced by 30%. This is part of why it is important to consult an attorney, as they will be able to reduce your fault, and thus increase your payout.
Determining the Liable Party in Your Truck Accident Case
Several parties could be at fault in your accident, including:
- Trucking companies
- Truck drivers
- Cargo loaders
In a truck accident case, you’ll need to prove liability for one or more of these parties. Generally, this means proving negligence — that is, proving that the at-fault party breached their duty of care. Examples include:
- A trucking company forcing their drivers to work long hours
- An individual driving while intoxicated
- Not securing cargo properly
Currently, the trucking industry has a shortage of roughly 80,000 drivers, which means that the people currently working those jobs have to pick up the slack. As a result, in 2023, truckers will tend to be more fatigued, overworked, and distracted, which has lead to more accidents.
Alternatively, you can prove strict liability if a manufacturing defect led to your injury. If the truck that injured you did so because it was defective, then the company that built and distributed that truck could be to blame. Your attorney can help you determine which party is at-fault and assist in proving liability.
You Have the Right Not to Speak to the Trucking Company’s Insurance Adjuster
Legally, you aren’t required to speak to any other driver’s insurance adjuster — and often, it’s more beneficial not to. Remain calm and polite but insist on letting an attorney handle the negotiations for you. Your attorney will be able to make decisions based on their experience with insurance adjusters and guide the case to the best outcome for you.
What Should You Do After Your Accident to Protect Your Rights?
An accident can be stressful, but it’s important not to panic. Keep the following in mind to help your claim proceed smoothly.
Move Your Vehicle to a Safe Place
If you’ve been in an accident with a large vehicle, the first priority is to ensure your safety. If you are able to move without injuring yourself, try to get out of your vehicle and get out of the road. If it’s safe to do so, you can move your vehicle to the side of the road to prevent further accidents and urge the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the crash to do the same.
Assist Others and Gather Evidence
You’ll want to notify emergency services and help anyone who is seriously injured. Take pictures, request the name and employer of the truck driver, talk to witnesses, and gather evidence. When speaking to police and emergency services, do not admit fault for the accident. Avoid apologizing for the crash or blaming any other drivers involved. Instead, give an objective account of the events, and be honest if you aren’t sure what happened.
Request Medical Attention
Seek medical attention as soon as reasonably possible to make sure a doctor treats your injuries. Remember, even if you do not feel injured, it is still important to consult with a medical professional to protect your health. Some injuries can remain hidden and become more severe if they aren’t treated swiftly. Seeking prompt medical attention will also support your claim later.
Speak to an Indiana Truck Accident Attorney
Reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. You’ll need to file within a certain time frame to take advantage of your rights; an attorney can assist you.At Stewart & Stewart, we have experience dealing with trucking industry cases. Call 1-800-33-33-LAW or fill out our contact form to speak to a truck attorney.