Michigan uses a no-fault insurance system, which means that if you are hurt in an accident, you will have to collect economic damages through your own insurer's no-fault coverage first. Truck accidents are subject to the no-fault rules. If you are in a car and collide with a commercial vehicle, you may be able to recoup medical costs, medical mileage, replacement services, and other economic damages through your own insurer first. However, truck accidents often involve significant, even permanent injuries to drivers and passengers of smaller cars, which may allow you to sue the at-fault party.
In Michigan's no-fault system, you start by collecting no-fault benefits from your own insurer, regardless of whether you or a truck driver were at fault. Benefits include certain economic damages, such as unlimited lifetime coverage for allowable expenses, replacement services, and the value of 85% of your gross income, subject to a monthly cap, for the three-year period from the injury date.
However, if you suffer permanent serious disfigurement, seriously impaired bodily function, or death, these are considered threshold injuries that permit you to recover damages for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, through a third-party lawsuit against the at-fault party. Most of these lawsuits allege that a truck driver, trucking company, or other party was negligent.
To prevail in a negligence lawsuit and recover noneconomic damages, a plaintiff will need to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the truck driver owed a duty of reasonable care and breached that duty. Also, the breach must have directly caused the plaintiff's injuries, and actual damages must have resulted. Sometimes a plaintiff can use negligence per se, a doctrine in which the standard of care is established by a law, regulation, or ordinance designed to protect people in the plaintiff’s situation.
Michigan has adopted provisions related to trucks from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, which cover trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds. Among other things, these regulations require trucking employers to keep records of any alcohol or substance use and prevention programs. Employers of truck drivers are required to keep records that show a driver tested with an alcohol concentration of .02 or higher for a certain number of years, among other things. They must also keep records related to a driver's training, any violations of regulations, and other administrative records. Often, these records contain valuable evidence showing that the trucking company failed to use reasonable care in either hiring or supervising a driver.
In some cases, truck accidents are the result of defective vehicles or components. When this happens, it may be appropriate to sue the manufacturer or distributor in a product liability lawsuit.
Truck accidents are often devastating to people in smaller vehicles. In the event that you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, contact the experienced truck accident attorneys at Neumann Law Group for a free consultation.