Filing a Trucking Accident Claim
Motorists injured in a trucking accident or a crash involving a semi-truck may bring a negligence claim against the driver, corporate owner, and insurer of the semi-truck to recover noneconomic damages, which are typically referred to as “pain and suffering” damages. The motorist may also be entitled to collect “excess economic damages,” which includes the value of any wage loss he or she may suffer beyond the three year period provided for in the individual’s PIP benefit compensation.
Despite the similarities to other injured motorist claims brought pursuant to the Michigan no-fault laws, there are a number of special issues regarding trucking accidents of which an injured motorist must be aware.
The Elements of a Negligence Claim
When bringing a negligence claim against a semi-truck operator, insurer, or company, an injured motorist must prove four basic elements:
- that the driver and/or owner of the semi-truck owed the injured motorist a legal duty;
- that the driver or owner breached that legal duty;
- that the motorist was injured; and
- that the motorist’s injuries were caused by the driver or owner’s breach of the legal duty.
Defining the Legal Duty
Defining the legal duty owed to the motorist is a crucial step in any negligence case. Normally, motorists have a legal duty to comply with traffic safety rules and regulations. However, semi-trucks are subject to additional rules and regulations created by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
These rules govern a number of critical issues regarding semi-trucks and their operation, including maintenance standards, the number of hours that drivers may operate a truck, and special safety precautions for the hauling of dangerous materials. These regulations help to define the particular legal duties which are owed to all motorists by semi-truck drivers, owners, and insurers.
Michigan has also adopted and codified the federal guidelines as part of the “Motor Carrier Safety Act.” MCL 480.11 et seq. In many cases, the failure to comply with these state or federal rules may amount to legal negligence.
The Threshold Injury Requirement
You should understand that the third element regarding a motorist’s injuries is limited to certain types of injury. Not every injury is compensable. Rather, the injured motorist must show that his or her injuries amounted to a “threshold injury.”
Under the Michigan no-fault law, a threshold injury is met if the injured motorist suffered a “serious impairment of a body function,” “permanent serious disfigurement,” or death. The definitions of the types of injuries which will meet this threshold are frequently the subject of reinterpretation by the Michigan courts, and injured motorists are encouraged to contact an attorney to discuss this matter.
Insurance Issues related to Semi-Trucks
Injured motorists should be aware that there are often a number of complex insurance issues regarding semi-truck accident cases. These issues must be resolved quickly in order to identify the proper defendant in the case and preserve the injured victim’s claim.
Many semi-trucks carry multiple insurance policies. There may be one policy insuring the truck, while another policy insures the driver. Additionally, some companies employ separate policies to insure the trailer. The goods contained inside the truck’s trailer may also carry their own individual policy.
Determining which policies may provide coverage for a motorist’s injuries can be tricky, but is essential to obtaining the benefits to which an injured motorist is entitled. If the proper defendants and liability policies are not identified, the injured motorist may miss recovering compensation to which he or she is entitled.
If you’ve been injured in a semi-trucking accident, you are strongly encourage to contact an attorney who can assist you with investigating the insurance coverage which might be involved.