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Commercial Vehicle Accidents

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Michigan roads and highways are filled with all kinds of commercial vehicles, from semi-trucks to construction vehicles. Commercial truck companies and their drivers must maintain safe practices on the roads and highways to keep their trucks, cargo, and other passenger vehicles safe.

Despite this responsibility, commercial accidents are so common that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports commercial vehicle crashes are the top cause of work-related deaths in the country. When a commercial vehicle driver acts negligently and causes an accident, they should be held responsible.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a commercial vehicle accident, speak with the experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyers at the law firm of Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. Our skilled truck accident attorneys can hold negligent parties responsible for their actions and help you recover fair compensation for your injuries and medical treatment.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?

According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), commercial vehicles include heavy trucks, buses, and small commercial vehicles. They also include:

  • Heavy commercial vehicles that carry and transport goods. These include commercial trucks, dump trucks, and tow trucks pulling small vehicles.
  • Light commercial vehicles with at least 4 wheels and carry products. The OICA considers pickup and delivery trucks as light commercial vehicles.
  • Buses and coaches transport more than 8 passengers, excluding the driver, and weigh more than light commercial vehicles.

What are the Federal and State Commercial Vehicle Regulations?

The federal government characterizes a commercial vehicle as a self-propelled or towed motor vehicle that engages in interstate commerce for business purposes. For a vehicle to qualify as a commercial vehicle, it must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Weight of more than 10,001 pounds: A commercial vehicle can either have an actual vehicle weight rating or the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds.

A vehicle’s classification as a commercial vehicle is determined by the greater of these two weights. For instance, a vehicle can weigh up to 9,500 pounds, but the manufacturer’s sticker sets the gross vehicle weight rating at 10,500 pounds, making it a commercial vehicle.

  • Transportation of more than 8 passengers and the driver: Commercial vehicles can transport passengers up to 8 plus the driver for a commercial purpose.
  • Capacity of 15 passengers: A vehicle designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, is a commercial one. Compensation is not provided for the transportation of passengers.
  • Hazardous materials transportation: Most states classify vehicles that transport hazardous materials in large quantities and have a placard indicating that they are carrying hazardous cargo as commercial vehicles.

Michigan’s Commercial Vehicle Definition

All states follow federal regulations for commercial vehicles, and Michigan is no exception. The state of Michigan states that a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle used to transport people or property. Commercial vehicles must meet one of the following conditions:

  • There can be up to 16 people seated in it, including the driver
  • The gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight is 26,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater
  • A gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight, whichever is greater, of at least 26,001 pounds, including towed units weighing at least 10,000 pounds
  • A vehicle that carries hazardous materials and is required to display placards

Knowing the type of vehicle you’re involved with is crucial in the event of an accident. It affects the investigation, liability, and your rights to compensation.

How are Commercial Accidents Different?

Michigan’s no-fault laws allow drivers to collect PIP benefits from their insurance providers, regardless of who is at fault. However, the nature of commercial vehicle accident cases requires additional investigation. These collisions frequently have multiple liable parties, federal and state regulations, and seasoned insurance companies that make them more complex than passenger vehicle accidents.

A commercial vehicle’s size, weight, amount of cargo it can carry, and the hours of service regulations for its drivers are governed by federal and state laws. While it may be possible to identify the cause of your accident, it can take time to determine who is liable for your injuries. The trucking company likely has investigators and insurance representatives working on its behalf to build their case against you.

Working with an experienced truck accident attorney can help you review the liable parties involved in a commercial vehicle accident. They can perform a thorough investigation of the accident scene, understand the important regulations, and help you through the legal process.

What are the Leading Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

Some of the most common causes made by commercial truck drivers in accidents include:

Distracted driving

Distracted driving can happen any time a driver takes their eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel. CDC data shows that people who drive for work are more likely to be in a rush, tired, or use a cell phone while driving.

Other distracted driving behaviors by commercial drivers include using dispatching devices, eating, or adjusting the controls on their dashboards. Taking their eyes off the road to look at a billboard or building are all examples of outside distractions. Approximately 11,000 truck crashes nationwide involved distractions outside the trucks.

Speeding

Often, commercial vehicles go over the posted speed limits to meet the delivery deadlines of their cargo. When drivers travel quickly for the weather, such as thunder and heavy rain, they put everyone at risk of an accident. They may also drive too fast for road conditions, on uneven gravel, or in construction work zones.

Failure to see a hazard

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration considers it inadequate surveillance when a driver must look in a certain area to complete a move and either fails to look or looks but doesn’t see a hazard.

Inadequate surveillance may include moving into another traffic lane without checking the vehicle’s blind spots. It could also involve misjudging the distance between the commercial vehicles and other passenger vehicles on the highway. The lack of surveillance by commercial motor vehicle drivers contributed to 14% of large-truck crashes.

Driver fatigue

Traveling for a prolonged period leads to the likelihood of drowsy driving. Lack of sleep, long hours, and rigorous work-related tasks can make an overworked truck driver feel fatigued. Three out of four commercial motor vehicle drivers report making driver errors caused by drowsiness.

Unfamiliar roads

Commercial motor vehicle drivers may be unfamiliar with local highways and streets since they frequently travel to new cities and towns. They may not realize that they cannot drive their commercial truck on certain bridges and underpasses due to its height and weight. Some drivers may attempt an illegal maneuver on a missed turn, threatening the safety of other vehicles and passengers on the highways.

Following too closely

A commercial vehicle can follow another vehicle in its front so close that it may risk a collision. For semi-truck drivers, stopping safely or avoiding an accident requires more distance than a passenger car.

If the truck moves at speeds of under 40 miles per hour, every 10 feet of vehicle length must be given one second stop time. This results in a gap of 4 seconds between the semi-truck and the vehicle in front. When a truck fails to maintain a proper following distance, it can be dangerous and even deadly for the driver directly in front of it.

Gathering Evidence for a Commercial Vehicle Accident

When a negligent driver of a commercial vehicle causes an accident, an experienced lawyer can look through critical evidence to prove negligence. They may check black box data, maintenance records, and driver logs to see how many hours the driver has driven and whether they may have driven while fatigued.

The lawyer can also examine an accident report, photos, videos, and witness testimony to determine the liable parties.

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Who Can Be Held Liable for Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

Your commercial vehicle accident attorney can investigate the accident and may find any of the following parties liable for your injuries:

Professional driver

An accident may have been caused by a driver error, such as speeding, reckless driving, or distracted driving. If the driver is transporting cargo, they are also responsible for securing the load. If unsecured cargo caused the accident, the driver may be liable for your injuries.

Carrier

The commercial driver’s employer, such as a trucking company, may be liable for the driver’s actions and the safety of their commercial vehicle. It is the company’s responsibility to hire and train its drivers, including ensuring compliance with federal hourly regulations.

Your lawyer’s investigation may reveal that the employer encourages employees to cut corners with improper vehicle maintenance by circumventing federal maintenance and working hours laws.

Cargo shipper and loader

If the loading company exceeds its weight limit or disturbs the balance of the trailer, it could be held liable. The improper loading of cargo onto trucks can result in an imbalance, which can cause the truck to overturn or jackknife. Loading issues can cause dangerous tipping and strain a vehicle’s brake system, which increases the likelihood of an accident.

Manufacturers and suppliers of commercial vehicle parts

A defective component such as brake failure can lead to some commercial vehicle accidents. Big-rig accidents can occur if there are weak load straps that can make the cargo spill onto the road.

Both the manufacturing and trucking companies are responsible for being transparent about these defects and issuing recalls. These parties can be held liable for accidents caused by defective truck parts if they fail to address them.

Government entity

In situations where dangerous road conditions, such as large potholes or cracked pavement, contributed to the crash, the local or state government may be liable. A maintenance contractor working for the local government may also be held liable if their work resulted in an accident or if their work zone caused an accident due to the lack of warning signs.

The government claims process is more complex in these cases, so working with an experienced attorney is especially important.

Compensation After a Commercial Vehicle Accident

A skilled attorney specializing in commercial vehicle accidents can help you file a no-fault claim with your insurance company. They can go over the benefits you can claim and insurance policy limits. In addition, you can file a third-party claim for injuries against the negligent truck driver’s insurance company.

If the insurance company refuses to pay your benefits or denies your claim, your lawyer can start a commercial vehicle accident lawsuit. They can help you pursue compensation for:

Property damage

The recoverable costs for property damage include repair costs to your vehicle and its loss of value after the accident. Personal items such as broken glasses and damaged cell phones can also factor into the total amount of property damage.

Loss of income

Your claim can include the loss of wages if you need time off to recover from your injuries. The lawyer can also consider the loss of future earning capacity if you cannot work after the accident.

Pain and suffering

Psychological trauma, scarring, and disfigurement can factor into your damages for pain and suffering. Our senior partner, Eileen Kroll, is also an experienced registered nurse who can connect the severity of your physical pain and suffering to your accident.

Eileen understands the impact that injuries have on victims’ physical abilities and the emotional distress they can cause. She uses her healthcare background to interpret your medical records and prove damages for your commercial vehicle accident case.

Attendant care

No-fault benefits include attendant care of up to 56 hours completed by family members, household members, and friends. You can include attendant care costs in your claim if your injuries require family members to care for you and help you with daily activities like bathing, preparing meals, and laundry.

If you lost a loved one in the crash, your lawyer may help you file a wrongful death claim against the company and the driver. If you do so, you may cover the funeral and burial costs of your loved one’s passing and the loss of financial support.

Consult a Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorney if You’ve Been Involved in a Crash

The commercial vehicle accident attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable concerning the vehicle laws in Michigan. We understand how catastrophic and life-changing a commercial vehicle accident can be for the victim and their family.

When multiple parties are involved in a commercial vehicle accident, your Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. lawyers know how to negotiate with insurance carriers and will represent you in court if necessary. Our legal team won’t back down until we determine the guilty party or parties and maximize your compensation.

We believe everyone deserves to have their rights protected with excellent legal representation, so we operate on a contingency fee basis, ensuring you get the legal counsel you need to get the outcome you deserve.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at (1-866-642-4529) and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

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