Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents in Michigan
Being involved in a truck accident can be life-changing. Below, we have responded to a number of common questions you may have should you ever find yourself in such a situation.
For our purposes, what is a “truck”?
For the purposes of this subject, we are referring to commercial trucks, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, delivery vehicles, freight vehicles, dump trucks, etc. weighing over 10,000 pounds. Some of these trucks may weigh over 80,000 pounds.
How does Michigan auto no-fault law apply in a truck accident case?
In Michigan, we operate under an auto no-fault insurance system, which means that drivers involved in an accident, whether they are “at-fault” or not, may collect insurance benefits, no-fault PIP benefits, from their respective insurance providers. However, there are other insurance considerations that must be made when dealing with truck accident cases that do not typically arise when dealing with typical auto accident cases. For example, federal regulations dictate that these trucking companies must carry insurance worth at least $750,000.
How is a truck accident case similar to a typical car accident case?
As previously mentioned, no-fault would apply in a truck accident case. That being said, individuals involved in a car accident in Michigan, who have the proper auto insurance coverage, may pursue two claims: a first party claim and a third party claim.
First party claim: Individuals involved in a car or trucking accident in Michigan, who have the proper insurance, may file a first party claim against their own insurance company in order to recoup expenses such as medical expenses, in-home attendant care, replacement services, and special transportation and medical mileage. These are commonly known as no-fault PIP benefits.
Third party claim: Those who have been injured in a car or trucking accident in Michigan may file a third party claim against the other party or parties involved in the accident, alleging that those parties were negligent. With the third party claim, the individual suing may recover damages for pain and suffering. In filing a third party claim, however, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
In this video, Michigan semi-truck accident lawyers Jim Graves and Stephen Sinas discuss how trucking accidents differ from passenger vehicle crashes and the “team” approach that Sinas Dramis takes when representing victims of trucking accidents.
Who can be held liable for injury sustained in a truck accident case?
The parties who can be held liable is largely dependent upon the circumstances of the particular accident – every case is different. The parties who are most often held liable in truck accident cases are as follows:
- The truck driver;
- The vehicle owner, trailer owner, or trucking company;
- Manufacturers of defective truck parts;
- The party that loaded the truck;
- The shipper that retained the trucking company;
- Insurance companies;
- Any other party that may be deemed responsible for the crash.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in a truck accident case in Michigan?
Individuals have three years from the date of the accident in order to file their lawsuit.
How do I deal with the trucking company and its insurance company after being in a truck accident case in Michigan?
First and foremost, you neither provide any statements to nor sign any release forms provided by trucking company and/or its insurance company. If you are confronted with this situation, contact your attorney immediately, or seek the advice of legal counsel if you do not yet have one. It may even be prudent to consult with an attorney before signing any documents provided by your own insurance company to ensure that you are not inadvertently giving up valuable rights.
Which parties can sue if there was injury or wrongful death after being involved in a truck accident in Michigan?
If a trucking accident which results in injury or wrongful death, the injured party may sue the other party for pain and suffering damages. If the accident results in wrongful death, the deceased’s family members may also sue for pain and suffering. Children may sue through their parents or guardians if they lose one or both of their parents in a trucking accident. This is only the case if the other party involved was somehow negligent.
If I decide to bring suit, where should my truck accident lawsuit be filed?
The location where the lawsuit is filed is dependent upon where the accident took place and where the parties involved are from. Pursuant to Michigan law:
- The first location to file would be the county where the accident took place and where the defendant resides, if both are the same.
- The second location to file would be the county where the accident took place and the plaintiff resides, if both are the same.
- If neither of these apply, the case may be filed in the county where the plaintiff and defendant reside and conduct business, if those locations are the same.
- If neither of these three apply, then the plaintiff may file in the county where the accident occurred or in the county where the defendant resides.
If the defendant does not reside in Michigan, the case may be filed in federal court as long as the amount in controversy (the amount of damages claimed) exceeds $75,000.
What type of recovery is available for those injured or wrongfully killed after being involved in a Michigan truck accident?
In your first party case, you may be entitled to No-Fault PIP benefits, which would include wage loss, attendant care and replacement services, medical expenses, etc.
Survivors of those killed in these trucking accidents may receive certain survivor’s loss benefits, such as funeral costs.
In your third party case, pain and suffering and other non-economic damages are not capped – currently, there is no limit to the amount you may seek to recover from the opposing party. The insurance policies that cover trucking companies do have limits. For interstate trucking cases, the minimum policy limit is $750,000 as dictated by federal regulation.
What regulations, if any, are trucking companies subject to?
Interstate trucking companies are regulated by the federal government, and as such are subject to the regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
What type of insurance, if any, are trucking companies required to carry?
Interstate trucking companies are mandated by federal law to carry at minimum $750,000 of insurance for bodily injury and property damage. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations have been adopted in the state of Michigan, which means that those standards apply to all trucking companies doing business (i.e., traveling) in our state.
If I am a Michigan resident but am involved in a truck accident out of state, should I hire a Michigan attorney or an attorney from the state where the accident took place?
First, it is important to remember that in this situation, even though the accident did not take place in Michigan, you are still covered by your Michigan auto no-fault insurance policy. You are entitled to no-fault benefits even if you are involved in an out-of-state accident. Because Michigan’s auto no-fault system is so unique – and at times, is very difficult to navigate – it might be in your best interest to consult with a Michigan truck accident attorney who will be able to work through the complexities of both Michigan’s auto no-fault law and federal trucking regulations.