Indiana Laws on Truck Accident Liability

Category: Truck Accidents

Article by Tuley Law staff

Indiana Laws on Truck Accident Liability

If you find yourself a victim of a trucking accident, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your options as soon as possible. One thing a truck accident attorney will help you with is determining which party or parties are responsible for the crash. 

Your attorney will investigate and review all of the available evidence. Trucking accident evidence may include police and accident reports, employer accident reports, medical records, and witness statements.

Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?

There are several potential parties that can be held responsible for a trucking accident. You may be able to receive compensation from one or more of them. Here are just a few of the potential parties that could be considered at fault for the accident:

  • The manufacturer of the truck or auto parts
  • The owner of the truck or trucking company
  • The truck driver
  • The cargo shipper or loader

If the truck driver is negligent, intoxicated, or driving recklessly, they will be held liable. However, other parties may be liable for damages if the driver is going the proper speed given their training and the truck tips over because it was loaded poorly or the trucking company is forcing drivers to drive past the regular limits, causing them to drive while tired.

Indiana Truck Weight Laws

Depending on the weight, cargo, and passenger capacity of the vehicle you are operating, there are three different categories of commercial vehicles.

  • Class A: Vehicles in Class A have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more and can tow over 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B: Vehicles in Class B are smaller trucks and buses that have a GVWR of 26,001 pounds and tow less than 10,000 pounds.

Class C: Vehicles in Class C are large buses that carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver, tow less than 10,000 pounds, and have a GVWR of less than 26,001; Class C also covers vehicles that transport hazardous materials.

Indiana Commercial Vehicle Laws

Trucking accident lawsuits differ from typical automobile accident claims. One reason for this is the amount of regulation involved in the trucking industry. Large commercial trucks are subject to certain rules and violations of those rules can lead to liability in an accident.

A variety of governing bodies help to regulate truck drivers throughout the country. The Indiana Motor Carrier Services, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance requirements, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) all have rules in place to try and keep drivers safe. 

Licensing Requirements

Indiana law requires that any driver operating a vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 pounds must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). If you want a CDL, you must have a social security security number, an up-to-date and valid Indiana operator’s license, and be either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You could also qualify for a non-domiciled CDL. 

Additionally, you must pass a physical examination administered by the DOT and submit a Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Medical Examination Report to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). 

You will also be required to pass an examination in a vehicle class for the specific truck you plan to drive, and obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) before getting your official CDL. 

Lane Restriction Laws

If your vehicle qualifies as commercial, it can only be driven in a limited number of lanes. In Indiana, commercial vehicles must use the far right lane on the interstate. If there are three or more lanes available, they can use the two lanes nearest to the right. They can only use the farthest left lane if they are avoiding a road hazard, entering or exiting the highway, or passing another vehicle. This helps regulate the flow of traffic by ensuring that faster vehicles can pass by easily.

Truck Driver Training Requirements

One organization responsible for many of the trucking regulations set in Indiana (and throughout the country) is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA has standards on drive time, maintenance, and driver training that must be followed by trucking companies. 

FMCSA requires all drivers to meet the following requirements before they can earn their CDL:

  • Drivers must possess a CLP for 14 days
  • Drivers must pass the Basic Controls Test
  • Drivers must pass the Road Test
  • Drivers must pass the Vehicle Inspection Test

FMCSA training requirements also include background checks and physical examinations, along with ongoing screenings to ensure driver health. This might involve drug tests, questionnaires, and more physicals. If the drivers are not trained to FMCSA’s standards, the company may be held liable in the case of a truck accident. 

Truck Drive Time Limitations

In an effort to prevent drowsy or distracted driving, FMCSA outlines the number of hours a commercial truck driver can legally drive all at once in their Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service. Below are some of the limits that drivers must abide by.

  • 11-hour limit: After a 10-hour rest period, a truck driver can only operate their vehicle for 11 hours before they must stop. After the 11-hour period, they can still do other work, but they cannot drive anymore.
  • 14-hour window: After a 10-hour rest period, a truck driver has a 14-hour window in which they can drive their truck. After that 14-hour period, regardless of how much of it was actually spent driving, they must take another rest period before doing any further driving.
  • 30-minute break: A driver must take an off-duty break for at least 30 minutes after eight consecutive hours have passed since the last rest period.
  • 60-hour limit: If your company does not drive every day of the week, you must not operate your vehicle for more than 60 on-duty hours over a rolling seven-day period.
  • 70-hour limit: If your company does drive every day of the week, you must not operate your vehicle for more than 70 on-duty hours over a rolling eight-day period.
  • 34-hour reset: This is an optional regulation that allows a driver to reset their weekly hours by taking a valid 34-hour rest.

Each of these limits applies to driving a commercial vehicle on a public road. You may still do paperwork for your company, drive on a private road, or drive non-commercial vehicles past these limits. 

It’s important to record the number of hours you drive and are on-duty. Sometimes, commercial vehicles have a data recorder that tracks necessary metrics for the driver. If the truck is involved in an accident, attorneys and insurance companies will want to see that data to ensure nobody was driving outside of their limitations. 

Maintenance Regulations for Commercial Vehicles

The FMCSA also requires regular maintenance of commercial vehicles. Many trucking accidents occur as a result of defective parts or worn tires. Essential components must be inspected annually—or more frequently—to ensure they are in good condition. 

Truck drivers must have an up-to-date inspection report in their vehicle at all times. These precautions keep trucks working properly and thus help to prevent tragic accidents.

Trucking Accident Liability and Fault in Indiana

The state of Indiana is considered an at-fault state. This affects how accident insurance claims are handled. In a no-fault state, the injured person would simply collect compensation from their own insurance company for the expenses incurred from the collision. Compensation would be paid by the injured party’s insurance company up to a certain point before involving the other party’s insurance company (when necessary).

In an at-fault state like Indiana, the injured party is responsible for pursuing the insurance company of the at-fault party for financial compensation. In such cases, hiring an attorney increases the odds of collecting fair compensation. An at-fault also requires the injured person to prove the other party was at-fault for the accident, which is another reason hiring a good attorney will help your case.

Comparative Fault System

Indiana also utilizes a comparative fault system in determining each party’s liability in the trucking accident. A comparative fault system assigns a percentage of the fault to each responsible party. 

In this situation, if the injured party is discovered to be more than 50% at fault, then they may be ineligible to receive compensation in court from the other party or parties involved with the accident. This can be devastating when an accident has left you with extensive medical bills and loss of income. That’s why it’s crucial to involve an attorney that can fight on your behalf to prove the fault of the other party and prevent you from being unjustly blamed for the cause of the accident.

Tuley Law Office Truck Accident Lawyers

Our Evansville truck accident attorneys will do what it takes to ensure that the liable party is held accountable for any damages in an Indiana truck accident case. If the truck driver responsible for the accident was ignoring any laws or regulations, we will identify who allowed it to happen. 

The driver could be lying about their driving records to meet certain deadlines. The company could be pressuring drivers to continue beyond driving limits to increase profit. Regardless of the reason for the accident, we will make sure fault is determined properly.

Do not let commercial truck insurance companies in Indiana take advantage of you, call our Evansville office directly at (812) 625-2053 or fill out the form on our website for a free case evaluation.

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