At Wagner Reese, we have been fighting for the rights of injured individuals and their families throughout the state of Indiana for more than two decades. Our Indianapolis truck accident attorneys have more than 150+ years of combined legal experience and are prepared to fight for the justice and recovery you and your family deserve.
To learn more about how we can help with your big rig or semi-truck accident claim, call our office at (888) 204-8440 for a FREE case evaluation.
Who Is Liable for a Trucking Accident?
In Indiana, trucking accidents often occur as a result of negligence. However, even if a big rig driver acts negligently, he or she may not be the only one liable for the accident. This is because truck drivers operate these vehicles while in the employment of truck companies. In many cases, these companies are liable for the actions of their employees.
For example, if a truck driver is pressured to meet an unrealistic quota, he may violate hours-of-service laws or even take stimulants in order to continue driving and make his schedule. If the company that employs the truck driver turns a blind eye to these actions, or even encourages such behavior, it may be liable for any accident the driver causes.
Depending on the unique circumstances involved in your case, any of the following parties (or a combination thereof) may be liable for your truck accident:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The company that owns or leases the truck
- The person or company responsible for conducting truck maintenance
- The truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of a certain truck part
Because of the potential for multiple liable parties, truck accident claims are often complex. It is important that you discuss your rights with an experienced truck accident lawyer.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit in Indiana?
The time limits for taking legal action will vary by state, and may also be affected by the language in your own insurance policy if you need to bring a UM or UIM claim. The nature of your injuries may even change the amount of time you have to bring a claim.
Typically, truck accident victims will have two years to file a lawsuit in Indiana.
Wagner Reese can help you take swift legal action by conducting a prompt investigation. We can research the safety record of the truck company and driver, review the driver’s logbook, interview witnesses, and hire an accident reconstruction expert if needed.
Determining the Value of Your Truck Accident Claim
A large number of semi-trucks in Indiana and many other states carry $1 million or more in insurance coverage on their rigs (note: under federal law, semi-trucks and other types of commercial vehicles are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage).
Sounds like a lot, right? Certainly enough to cover the injuries you sustained, any lost wages, as well as your pain and suffering. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
The value of a semi-truck accident claim generally involves four factors:
- Liability for the accident
- Injuries and medical treatment
- Whether or not a death occurred
- The amount of available insurance money
It is critical to understand that the only true way to determine what your semi-truck accident case is worth is to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer in Indianapolis who has handled and tried cases of this nature throughout the state of Indiana.
Liability: Was the Semi-Truck Driver at Least 50% at Fault?
Every state has different laws with regard to contributory negligence. This simply means that, depending on how much fault is assigned to you, there is a possibility that your overall compensation will be reduced or your entire claim will be denied.
Under Indiana’s comparative fault law, you must be able to prove the truck driver was at least 50% at fault, or you risk being denied a single dollar for your case.
One of our goals for these claims is to assign 100% fault on the truck driver. That said, it will be a fight, as insurance companies are extremely aggressive with accidents involving semi-trucks. Why? Because of the large amount of money and exposure involved.
In an attempt to lessen the amount of money they owe a victim, insurance companies may resort to questionable tactics and interpretations of state and federal laws. If they are about to pin fault on you, you stand to lose a large percentage or all of your claim.
You should never accept the insurance company’s interpretation of how you were partially or fully to blame for the accident. Instead, you should talk to an attorney that understands semi-truck liability. Our legal team can evaluate your accident report and perform an independent investigation that may help you escape any fault, increasing the value of your semi-truck accident claim.
Injuries & Medical Treatment
Because there is a large sum of money at stake, your injuries and medical treatment will be heavily scrutinized by the insurance company. Consequently, the severity of your injuries and related medical treatment represent the most significant part of your case.
While some people try to wait-out their symptoms, this is never a good strategy. You should ALWAYS be checked out by a doctor after a semi-truck accident.
Most of our clients suffer severe injuries, but we also represent clients that incurred soft-tissue injuries (neck and back pain) that aren’t as easily detectable. In these instances, it’s imperative that a person visit the ER immediately after the accident so that they can be evaluated by a doctor and begin to have a documented source of treatment.
Soft-tissue injuries like whiplash often get worse before they get better, and it’s not uncommon for the first signs of pain to develop several days after the accident. If you wait to be seen by a doctor, the insurance company may deny or reduce the value of your case, claiming that real injuries would have required an immediate trip to the hospital.
Additionally, it is vital that you do not miss a doctor’s appointment and follow any instructions given to you by your doctor. This includes going to therapy, seeing specialists, and doing any home exercises that are assigned. Missing an appointment creates a “gap in treatment,” which insurance companies can use to reduce the value of your case.
Ultimately, the more severe your injuries, the more valuable your case. A person who incurs $200,000 in medical bills and has permanent injuries is going to collect a larger settlement than someone who is rear-ended by a truck and only has $12,000 in medical bills.
Do You Have Prior Injuries?
It is not uncommon for the insurance company to request medical records prior to your accident in an attempt to uncover any related health conditions or previous injuries that they can attribute to the pain you are currently experiencing. One of the first steps Wagner Reese will take as your attorney is to revoke the insurance company’s request for priors and ensure that all prior medical documents are coordinated through our office.
Was a Death Involved?
The size and force of a semi-truck simply increase the odds that a crash with a big rig will result in fatal injuries. Each year in the U.S., thousands are killed in semi-truck accidents, ultimately leading to wrongful death lawsuits. Every state has specific laws regarding wrongful death lawsuits and the damages that can be recovered.
In Indiana, the general guidelines regarding the amount of money that can be recovered in a semi-truck wrongful death lawsuit are as follows:
- If the victim is 23 or older, single, and without dependents, Indiana law limits the recovery to $300,000. This money can be recovered by surviving parents or adult children.
- If the victim is married or has children who are financially dependent on them, then a jury is not confined by a wrongful death cap.
- Indiana also does not limit the number of damages if a child is killed by a semi-truck accident. That said, Indiana defines a “child” as someone under the age of 20, or between 20 and 23 and enrolled in an accredited school/university, etc.
It’s also important to note that Indiana does not limit the amount of medical bills a person can recover for in a wrongful death accident involving a semi-truck.
How Much Insurance Money Is Available?
You should NEVER attempt to investigate semi-truck insurance policies without the help of an experienced truck accident attorney. Why? Because there is the possibility that “multiple policies” exist and the adjuster or trucking company may never inform you.
A large number of semi-trucks will carry at least $1 million in coverage; however, there is also a possibility that less or more exists, depending on state and federal regulation.
One of the first actions we take on behalf of our clients is to investigate available insurance coverage. If we uncover more than one policy, a much larger amount of money may be available and victims with severe injuries are more likely to be fairly compensated.
When does more than one policy exist for a semi-truck? The most common example of a truck having more than one insurance policy is when the cab is insured under a different policy than the trailer. This is not as uncommon as some people may believe.
If you don’t have an experienced lawyer investigate this on your behalf, it’s possible you could be losing out on an additional $1 million in potential compensation.
Call Wagner Reese for Your Free Consultation
If you have suffered a severe injury, or your family member was killed in a semi-truck collision, contact Wagner Reese as soon as possible. Our truck accident lawyers in Indianapolis can help you fight for the maximum compensation you are owed.
While financial recovery cannot undo the suffering you have experienced, it can help with the cost of medical bills, lost income or wages, and pain and suffering. A personal injury or wrongful death claim can also be used to hold the negligent party accountable.
Call us today at (888) 204-8440 to speak with our Indianapolis truck accident attorneys. Wagner Reese offers a FREE consultation to get you started.