$48.5 MILLION

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.

our client results

Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents

When an accident takes place between two motor vehicles, determining who is legally responsible for paying for damages and injuries—that is, determining liability—is always necessary.

In cases where commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and passenger vehicles collide, those in the passenger vehicles have a higher likelihood of suffering severe injuries or death, because CMVs are usually much larger than passenger vehicles.

Determining liability in such cases can be quite complicated. However, it is especially critical to do so in order to ensure that the injured parties are made whole, to the best extent that the law can provide, when serious injuries or deaths occur. While severe damages such as a death or a loss of bodily function cannot truly be made whole, the law does provide for financial compensation. At McNeely Stephenson, we have the skills and experience to help struggling families after a crash involving a commercial motor vehicle such as a large truck, semi, tractor trailer or bus.

Indiana Statistics

In Indiana for 2014, the most recent year for which official statistics are available, fatalities concerning CMVs totaled 131: 124 fatalities involved large trucks; 6 involved buses; and 1 involved an unnamed variety of commercial vehicle. In previous years, the proportions of vehicle types were similar, showing that the most risk you face on the roads in your passenger vehicle arises from large trucks. Unfortunately, the numbers show fatal and incapacitating-injury accidents with CMVs are on the rise in our state. From 2010 to 2014, the increase in fatalities averaged 4 percent a year, but the increase in incapacitating injuries averaged 15.7 percent a year. (2014 saw a total of 357 incapacitating CMV accidents.)

Featured Article: Four Ways the Trucking Industry Can Make Roads Safer

By and large, truck transport companies seem to view safety regulations as a burden to be resisted when possible, and grudgingly endured only when active resistance fails. Rather than leading in safety, trucking’s default position is to oppose new regulations, usually decrying economic harm if they are required to add new safety devices to their trucks or to alter work practices to reduce driver fatigue.

While European truck manufacturers have added advanced safety systems for decades, only recently have North American carriers lessened their resistance to implementing them. And the irony is, the Europeans continue proving that safety is good for business.

Read More

Possible Kinds of Liability Involving CMVs

The trucking industry has changed a lot over the years. The days of trucking companies staffed by employees went out the window when the industry was transformed by deregulation. These days, the driver behind the wheel of a truck could be an employee, an owner-operator who drives his or her own truck, or an independent driver hired to drive the company’s truck.

In the current regulatory environment, liability for an accident could fall upon a number of responsible parties. Theories and scenarios of liability may point the finger of blame at one or more of the following:

  • The employer, when the driver is a regular employee of the trucking company. The accident would need to have happened when the driver was working “within the scope of his employment.”
  • The employer, when the driver was hired negligently, meaning that the trucking company should have known that the driver was incompetent or discovered the driver was incompetent at some point and did not dismiss them.
  • The business entity leasing the truck and driver. If the trucking company hires an owner-operator (an independent contractor who drives their own truck), and the owner-operator works exclusively for the trucking company, then the one doing the leasing/hiring is liable. However, these days owner-operators work for more than one trucking company, so in such cases the driver or owner-operator would be liable.
  • Insurance companies for negligent hiring. Often, small companies rely on an insurance company to determine whether an applicant is incompetent (meaning, whether or not the driver is “insurable”). Thus, if an insurance company deems that a negligent driver is all right, it’s possible that the insurance company could be liable.
  • The broker, or “middle man” between the shipper and the trucking company who arranges transportation. While the broker does not hire the driver, the broker can be liable for negligent hiring of a trucking company with a bad safety record. (Before hiring a trucking company, a broker must check, at minimum, the company’s safety evaluations and records.)
  • The shipper, or the one who loaded the trailer. If the shipper improperly or negligently loads the trailer, or if they have ultimate control over the process of transporting the load, then the shipper can potentially be held liable.
  • The driver, or owner-operator. When independent drivers (who do not own their own truck) or owner-operators (who do own their own truck) are moving a load, often liability shifts from the trucking carrier, the shipper, or the broker to the driver or owner-operator. Generally, if the driver is not an employee of the trucking company, then the driver shares in some of the liability of an accident. Drivers and owner-operators are responsible for a certain amount of maintenance and of checking the load and the truck for problems while in transit, another area that can create liability.
  • A combination of liable parties, if driver fatigue is determined to be a factor. Federal regulations prohibit trucking companies from pressuring drivers, whether employees or independents, from driving beyond certain specified daily time limits. However, if the driver decides on their own to drive beyond the legal limits and then has an accident, then the driver could be found liable instead of the trucking company or other hiring entity.
  • The maker of equipment that fails. If a part on the tractor or trailer is defective, causing a driver to lose control (such as defective brakes or steering), then the liability may lie with the company that manufactured the part.
  • Other drivers on the road. Sometimes other drivers cause an accident, such as when they cut off a tractor-trailer. Large CMVs cannot maneuver or stop as quickly as smaller vehicles and can jackknife or lose control while attempting to avoid an accident.

Suppose the Driver’s Actions Were Intentional?

Even if the driver were an employee of the trucking company, if the actions causing the accident were intentional, the driver will generally be liable. Verifying intent often triggers punitive damages, meaning reckless actions or deliberate actions caused the damages and injuries in question. Punitive damages can greatly increase a damage award.

When it comes to injuries arising from a CMV accident, it is essential to identify as many defendants as possible in order to secure compensation for damages and injuries. In accidents involving CMVs or other commercial vehicles, a victim often needs experienced legal help.

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

We believe justice matters.

We at McNeely Stephenson know that Indiana truck accident cases can be complex legal claims. Such claims 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 delivery 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. Contact him today by calling 1-317-825-5200 for a free accident consultation, or use our online contact form. Let us put our resources to work for you.

Updates
Personal Injury Lawyer
June 18, 2018 / Personal Injury, Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death
What Are the Real Reasons for Motor Vehicle Crashes?

Sometimes, establishing the reasons for a car crash is complicated. One factor that can make determinations even more imprecise is that state crash report forms used at the scene often lack the appropriate fields or places to enter codes that would explain the precise reason for the collision. Because each state uses its own form, no consistency exists. Compiling accurate national statistics becomes difficult, producing results that are just plai...

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Mike Stephenson is a Super Lawyer in Indiana along with many of his peers at McNeely Stephenson. This is one of the highest honors an attorney can achieve

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Our attorneys are proven advocates and trial attorneys. They have served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and have handled litigation in 18 states