Is a Truck Accident Different from a Typical Car Accident Case?
The short answer is yes, truck accidents may be handled very differently from the generic car accident case. This is not to say that truck accidents are more important than ordinary car accidents – it simply means that there may be more issues and factors to consider when pursuing your claim. Here are a few instances where truck accidents and car accidents differ.
There are certain laws that only apply to trucks and motor carriers involved in motor vehicle accidents in Michigan.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations cover trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds. In Michigan, the regulations that apply specifically to these trucks have been adopted by the Michigan Department of Public Safety, meaning that they apply to all trucks driving on Michigan roads. The following are just a few of the many topics and regulations covered by the Administration.
- At minimum, the trucks that are subject to the regulations (generally those weighing more than 10,000 pounds) must carry, at minimum, $750,000 worth of insurance on the individual truck. That number may be as high as $5,000,000, depending on what is being transported.
- Motor carriers may not operate without obtaining at least the minimum amount of insurance required by the regulations.
- Passenger carriers are also subject to insurance requirements – those capable of carrying sixteen (16) or more passengers must carry $5,000,000 of insurance; those that seat less must carry at least $1,500,000.
- Knowingly violating the regulations may result in a civil penalty of no more than $11,000 per violation; if a violation spans more than one day, each day constitutes a separate violation.
- Employers must keep records of its alcohol and substance use and/or prevention programs.
- Records that must be kept for at least five (5) years include the following:
- records of driver alcohol test results showing an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or higher;
- records of driver verified positive controlled substances test results;
- documentation of refusals to take required alcohol and/or controlled substances tests;
- driver evaluations and referrals;
- calibration information;
- records related to the administration of alcohol and controlled substances testing programs, and
- a copy of each annual calendar year summary as required by regulation.
- Records concerning alcohol and controlled substances collection processes must be maintained for at least two (2) years.
- Records of negative and canceled controlled substances test results and alcohol test results showing a concentration of less than 0.02 must be maintained for a minimum of one (1) year.
- The following are some of the records that must be maintained by the motor carrier employer:records related to the collection process:
- records related to a driver’s test results;
- records related to violations of regulations;
- records related toe valuations;
- records related to education and training; and
- administrative records related to alcohol and controlled substances testing.
Record Retention Periods
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations provide that certain records must be kept for the designated minimum retention periods. However, depending on the type of record, a company may exercise its discretion in determining how long to keep it. In this regard, the regulations state that, “Companies shall exercise reasonable care in choosing retention periods, and the choice of retention periods shall reflect past experiences, company needs, pending litigation, and regulatory requirements.”
There may be more liable parties in a Michigan truck accident.
If you are involved in an accident involving a truck, it is not just the truck driver who may be at fault. The truck manufacturer, distributors, suppliers, or retailers providing defective parts that might have caused or otherwise contributed to the accident may also be at fault.
Truck accidents are more likely to cause serious personal injury.
This is true largely due to the sheer size of a number of these trucks. Technically, for our purposes, a large “truck” weighs more than 10,000 pounds, but many of the ones you see out on the highways can exceed 80,000 pounds. Even if a truck is empty, it generally requires a greater stopping distance compared to a standard motor vehicle. An inattentive truck driver who takes his or her eyes off the road for even the shortest period of time may cause a horrific rear-end collision, leaving the occupants of smaller vehicles seriously injured, or worse.
Something else to consider: because these large trucks require a substantial amount of room to turn, the high center of gravity makes them prone to tipping. Without exercising the proper amount of caution, a truck may end up crushing a smaller passenger vehicle, causing severe injury or even death.
In addition, even though regulations dictate the maximum number of hours truck drivers may be on the road, the reality is that there are too many drivers who, for one reason or another, drive in excess of what is permitted. There are also a number of truck drivers who consume alcohol or drugs and are frankly in no shape to drive and are a danger to those traveling around them. Being on the road for too long and/or being under the influence of some mind-altering substance (whether it be drugs or alcohol) means that those truck drivers lack the alertness and awareness to fully control their trucks and behave in accordance with the conditions under which they are driving, posing a danger to not only themselves but the general motoring public.
As you can see, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when dealing with a truck accident. What was described above barely scratches the surface of the rules and regulations that apply to these large trucks. For this reason, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Michigan truck accident attorney who can help you navigate the complexities in the laws governing this area.
In this video, Grand Rapids semi-truck accident attorney Tom Sinas discusses how crashes involving semi-trucks differ from other types of motor vehicle crashes.