Truck Accident Multimillion-Dollar Settlement.

"M.A.," a 30-year-old man, was driving to work in New Mexico. Suddenly a commercial truck veered across the center line and struck his vehicle head on. M.A. died at the scene. The McNeely Stephenson firm was hired shortly after the crash to represent the family of the deceased.

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Truckers Can Suffer from Distracted Driving in Indiana

By now, we all know that distracted driving in passenger vehicles is a genuine problem. During 2015, 3,477 persons died in distraction-related crashes—around 10 percent of traffic deaths nationwide—with approximately 391,000 persons injured.

But distracted driving isn’t limited to passenger vehicle drivers, and in recognition of that fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created rules regarding what is permissible for large truck drivers while they are behind the wheel.

Large Truck Fatalities

Large trucks were involved in 3,981 fatal crashes during 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While large trucks made up only 4 percent of all registered vehicles that year, they contributed to 9 percent of all vehicles in deadly crashes.

Some of the fatal crashes that have occurred while large truck drivers were distracted are:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Definitions and Rules

The FMCSA has defined distracted driving with strict guidelines that are short and sweet:

  • No reaching
  • No dialing
  • No holding
  • No reading
  • No texting.

The FMCSA defines a mobile device as needing at least one hand to hold it (“no holding”) to make a call and needing to press more than a single button (“no dialing”) to make a call. Because of this definition, mobile devices must be hands-free, close enough to the driver to prevent leaning out of his or her seat (“no reaching”) and must require no more than one button-press to be activated.

“No texting” is defined as pressing more than one button on a cell phone to initiate or end a call or to enter data on a dispatching device. The exceptions are in an emergency situation or when contacting any law enforcement agency.

While camera phones were not mentioned, it is safe to assume that taking a picture while barreling down the interstate behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck would be considered “unsafe” by the FMCSA.

A Deadly Danger

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s research discovered that cell phone usage by large truck drivers is a huge danger to the rest of us on the road. The report revealed that a crash was more likely when a trucker engaged in one of the following activities:

  • Listening or talking on a phone: a crash was 1.3 times likelier
  • Dialing a phone: a crash was 5.9 times likelier
  • Reaching for a phone: 6.7 times likelier
  • Looking at a map: 7 times likelier
  • Text messaging on a phone: 23.2 times likelier.

When a driver types in a phone number or text message, their eyes leave the road for at least 4 to 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that means traveling more than the length of a football field without having your eyes on the road. This fact is true whether you are in a subcompact car or an enormous tractor-trailer.

Eating or drinking while driving can be even riskier than talking on a phone. In a May, 2008, Wisconsin crash, a driver smacked into a stopped school bus because he was drinking a soda. Fourteen children ended up being taken to the hospital.

Penalties for Distracted Driving in Large Trucks

Truck drivers caught “driving while distracted” face substantial penalties from the FMCSA per incident:

  • Driver fines can reach $2,750.
  • Distracted driving citations are considered “serious traffic violations” by FMCSA. Two violations within three years will earn the driver a disqualification (unable to drive) for 60 days. Three violations within three years will disqualify the driver for 120 days. Drivers can also be fined.
  • A driver’s employer can be fined if they allow or require a driver to use a hand-held device while behind the wheel. Fines can reach $11,000. An employer’s Safety Measurement System ratings will also be adversely affected by such violations.

Any driver who transports cargo across state lines or otherwise engages in interstate commerce must abide by the FMCSA’s distracted driving rules, regardless of state laws that might be in conflict.

Has a loved one been seriously injured or killed in a crash with a large truck where you believe the driver was distracted? It could be in your best interests to seek legal counsel.

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

Indiana truck accident cases can be complex legal claims that require thorough investigation and demand aggressive litigation to secure the best possible outcome for the plaintiff. While monetary compensation can never undo the damage done as the result of a truck accident, a financial recovery can ease the financial burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer, whether empty, full, or involving only the tractor portion of the truck, we suggest you talk with Indianapolis truck accident lawyer Mike Stephenson. With more than three decades of experience, substantial financial resources to commit to your case, and a commitment to the highest standards of client care, you can count on Mike at McNeely Stephenson. Contact him today by calling 1-317-825-5200 for a free accident consultation, or use our online contact form.

real-life cases

“B.K.” was driving on a two-lane road one Sunday afternoon with his mother in the front seat and his brother and sister-in-law in the back seat when his life was forever changed. B.K. was struck head on by D.C.

D.C. had spent the day drinking with a friend and had stopped at a restaurant less than five miles from the point of the accident where D.C. had been served several drinks. D.C.’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

As a result of the terrible wreck, B.K. received devastating injuries, which included multiple broken bones, facial fractures, and loss of vision. B.K.’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed in the accident.

As one would anticipate, D.C. had virtually no insurance. Stephenson, through his thorough and detailed investigation, was able to prepare claims against the restaurant and those that provided the alcohol.

Stephenson pursued dram shop claims against those responsible CASE SUMMARY

D.H. was a competitive bicyclist who was riding in preparation for a cross-country fundraising ride. In the spring of 2010, D.H. was riding across an old steel-grated deck bridge in Shelby County when he hit a hole in the bridge and flipped over the handlebars of his bike. The impact to the bridge decking caused severe injuries to his face, teeth, tongue, and elbow.

Through the investigation, they were able to learn as early as 1998, the bridge inspection reports showed the bridge in question needed to be replaced. The county never authorized additional inspections. The county obtained $844,000 in funding for the replacement of the bridge in 2000, but the Historical Society and adjacent property owners wanted the bridge repaired rather than replaced.

This crash could have been avoided if the inspectors and county had done their jobs. CASE SUMMARY

Our client (“D.W.”) was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a UDF truck making deliveries. D.W. received broken arms and legs, as well as internal injuries. Stephenson was retained by D.W.’s personal counsel to prepare and try the case. Discovery determined that the UDF driver had multiple driving violations. Stephenson retained numerous experts to show the jury the devastating effects of the injuries. Before trial, the defendant’s company stated that a jury in a small southern county in Indiana would never return a verdict for $1 million in this case.

The defendant was correct; the verdict was twice that amount. CASE SUMMARY

Moving Your Case Forward

By choosing to talk with McNeely Stephenson, you will benefit from over 30 years of experience, significant investigative and financial resources, and high standards of client care. Let our Truck Accident Lawyers work for you.

With more than three decades of experience, substantial financial resources to commit to your case, and a commitment to the highest standards of client care, you can count on Mike. Contact him today by calling 1-855-206-2555 for a free accident consultation, or use our online contact form. At McNeely Stephenson, we believe justice matters.

Personal Injury Lawyer
March 29, 2019 / Premises Liability, Wrongful Death
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