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What Happens When a Truck Driver Causes an Accident?

November 10, 2022 / Truck Accidents

When an accident involves a semi-truck, the results are often tragic. Did you know that the operators of these powerful machines have a higher duty of care on the road than other motorists? Because they drive such large and powerful vehicles, the consequences of their negligence can be much more catastrophic and more often fatal than the negligence of a normal motorist.

Sadly, truck accidents caused by truck drivers are not uncommon. Over 500,000 are reported to the authorities each year. Fortunately, there is a process in place that allows accident victims and their loved ones to seek recompense for the losses occasioned in many of these accidents.

How Truck Drivers Cause Accidents

Semi-trucks weigh tens of thousands of pounds and are much larger than standard passenger vehicles and other smaller commercial trucks. They are less maneuverable and require much greater stopping distances than the typical vehicle. Hence, truck drivers must meet higher operational standards than their motorist counterparts. It is when a truck driver falls below these and normal traffic standards that accidents occur.

Normal Traffic Standards

All drivers, commercial and common motorists, must obey the run-of-the-mill traffic mandates everyone should know. These basic rules prevent traffic accidents and keep people safe. When they are violated, people get hurt. When a trucker violates them, the injuries are typically more severe and the chance of dying rises.

Common ways truckers violate basic rules of the road include:

  • Driving while texting or otherwise distracted
  • Driving while tired
  • Failure to yield or stop
  • Speeding and reckless driving
  • Aggressive driving.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is also common with truck drivers and can result in significant criminal liability.

Commercial Driver Standards

Commercial driver standards require truckers to engage in stringent safety measures to prevent accidents. Violating any of them is dangerous and causes serious accidents and injuries on Indiana roadways. These standards include:

  • Obeying time-on and time-off rules of commercial vehicle operation
  • Maintaining a logbook of hours of service
  • Performing daily pre-trip inspections of the truck
  • Maintaining the vehicle in a safe driving condition
  • Obtaining required permits and endorsements.

Failure to follow these and other commercial driver standards leads to accidents and may form a strong basis for liability.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident in Indiana?

Determining who is liable for a truck accident in Indiana requires a close look at the specific cause of the accident as well as a determination of the employment status of the truck driver. As stated earlier, truck driver negligence is a common cause of accidents. However, other causes exist that can lead to accidents. They include:

  • A negligent employer, fleet manager, or mechanic
  • An error made by a vehicle parts manufacturer or designer
  • A trucker’s cargo load that is negligently secured by someone else
  • Poor highway conditions.

As far as the employment status of the trucker, if they are an independent contractor and were negligent, it is likely that a victim’s claim for compensation will be solely against the driver. However, if the truck driver is an employee, then the question of who is liable for a truck accident in Indiana takes on a new dimension.

What happens when a truck driver causes an accident and they are an employee? Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a truck driver’s employer may be on the hook for losses caused by their driver. However, liability can fall to the employer only when the truck driver did not intend to cause the accident. If they did intend the crash, the employer can likely escape liability.

Additionally, the truck company can dodge liability if the truck driver caused the accident off the clock or while engaged in activities outside the scope of their normal employment duties. For example, if a trucker causes an accident while driving their truck to a baseball game for fun, the employer is likely safe from liability.

What Happens After an Accident Caused by a Truck Driver?

After an accident caused by a truck driver, the police will usually get involved — all injury accidents and accidents with $1,000 or more in damage must be reported. If there are injuries, first responders will be on the scene to stabilize the victims and transport them to a medical facility.

The importance of calling the police and seeking medical treatment cannot be overstated for a claim for compensation. Both courses of action generate official reports that will be used to prove liability and verify the nature, cause, and extent of your injuries.

In some cases, a truck driver who causes an accident must undergo a blood test for drugs and alcohol, but not in every case. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Indiana state law, the following accident situations require post-accident drug testing:

  • An accident that involves a fatality
  • An accident where the truck driver was cited and a person was taken for treatment
  • An accident where the truck driver was cited and a damaged car was towed.

The results of these tests are important for both criminal and civil actions against the trucker and other potentially liable parties. If it turns out that the truck driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they could face significant criminal and civil liability.

Once liable parties have been identified according to the evidence, the personal injury attorney of the victim will proceed to file a claim for the compensation their client deserves. As you would imagine, truck accident claims with an employer facing liability may provide more compensation for injury victims than claims where the truck driver is the sole defendant in the suit.

How to Report Unsafe Truck Drivers

Knowing how to report unsafe truck drivers will help keep not only you safe but others as well. Various methods of reporting are available, each of which creates an important record of a trucker’s performance.

Calling 911 is the most immediate and effective course of action in these situations. It is appropriate to do so when a truck driver represents an imminent and continuing threat to others. For example, a drunk truck driver swerving in and out of lanes should be reported to 911 immediately.

But aside from 911, it is not always readily apparent how to report unsafe truck drivers. Some trucks have signs hanging on them advertising numbers to report unsafe driving, but many do not.

The FMCSA can receive complaints of problematic truck driving in two principal fashions. The first is by dialing 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238). You can also file a complaint online via the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Website. Keep in mind that complaints to the FMCSA are for past events and not for violations occurring at the moment of the call. Emergency and ongoing situations must be reported to 911.

Why Choose Stephenson Rife?

Call Today to Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer

If you have been in an accident caused by a truck driver, you deserve to have a professional looking after your interests. At Stephenson Rife, we have extensive experience helping those who have been injured in truck accidents.

Contact Stephenson Rife today at (317) 680-2350 to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer to learn more about what happens when a truck driver causes an accident and what you can do about it.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, just to name a few. Mike is a proven advocate and trial attorney. He has served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and has handled litigation in 18 states. [ Attorney Bio ]

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