When semi-trucks crash, they can cause massive damage. Most commercial vehicles weigh over 30,000 pounds. A big rig can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. With that much mass, truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. Your family can end up reeling in the fallout of such a catastrophe. If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of negligence by a truck driver or trucking company, you have the right to receive fair compensation for your losses. A well-funded insurance company, however, stands between you and your rights. You do not have to go through this fight alone. The truck accident attorneys serving Battle Creek at Matz Injury Law have years of experience representing accident victims in injury claims and lawsuits. Call 866-226-6833 or complete our online contact form so we can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Personal injury law includes a wide variety of cases that involve bodily injury or property damage. Some may seem fairly simple, while others are quite complicated. The legal theory of negligence is one common thread in many personal injury cases. To prove negligence, you must demonstrate that someone breached a duty of care that they owed to you, resulting in your injuries.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals owe a particularly strict duty of care to their patients, who may rely on them for their very lives. A breach of this duty can result in serious injuries or fatalities.
Drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely. A driver who breaches this duty, such as by driving while intoxicated, running a red light, or texting while driving may be liable for the injuries that result if they cause an accident.
Property owners have a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises for visitors. A property owner who fails to clean up a spill, repair a hazardous condition, or warn about the danger could be liable for injuries to people who slip and fall.
Dog owners are responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, even if they did not know that their dog might bite someone. Some states only hold a dog owner liable for injuries if they already knew their dog could be dangerous to others. Michigan uses a “strict liability” standard, meaning that a dog owner is responsible for the damages caused by the dog’s first bite.
As mentioned above, some semi-truck accidents are the result of unsafe driving by others on the road, not the truckers involved in the crashes. Truck drivers can also be responsible for collisions, of course, for a variety of reasons.
Michigan law defines “reckless driving” as the operation of a motor vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This definition applies to the actual offense of reckless driving, which could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the harm caused. In truck accident cases, “reckless driving” includes a wide range of unsafe acts like speeding, running red lights or stop signs, and trying to pass another vehicle unlawfully.
Michigan prohibits texting and other uses of handheld mobile devices while driving. Even before cellphones, though, distracted drivers caused auto accidents. Truck drivers are no different. They can take their eyes or minds off the road to do things like look at a smartphone or tune a radio.
Poor road conditions can cause all kinds of motor vehicle accidents. Debris on the road could cause one vehicle to swerve into another. Inadequate road maintenance could create potholes and other hazards.
Michigan is no stranger to bad weather. Rain, snow, sleet, and other bad weather can cause visibility problems and make the road extra dangerous. Tractor-trailer wheels can throw water and ice onto vehicles behind them, creating further hazards.
Many 18-wheeler accidents are the result of improper cargo loading:
Either situation can cause severe car accidents.
Trucking companies expect truckers to keep tight schedules, often resulting in long hours on the road. Driver fatigue can be a serious danger to others. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers that limit the total amount of time they may drive before they must rest. Unfortunately, many trucking companies and drivers ignore these rules.
Michigan law sets a time limit for when you can file a truck accident lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations. You must file a lawsuit within three years of the date of the accident. If you do not file by this deadline, the court will dismiss your case and you may have no other options.
Michigan’s no-fault law, which allows you to recover compensation from your own insurance company no matter who was at fault in the accident, also sets a time limit. You must make a claim within one year of the accident in order to receive no-fault insurance benefits from your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
After a truck crash in Michigan, you may be eligible to receive two types of damages, depending on your case: economic and non-economic damages. These are both types of “compensatory damages,” since their purpose is to compensate you for the losses you have suffered.
Some states also allow accident victims to recover punitive damages in order to punish a defendant for serious wrongdoing. Most truck accident cases involve negligence, however, and state law does not allow punitive damages in negligence cases. It only allows plaintiffs to claim punitive damages for injuries that result from a defendant’s “malicious,” “willful,” or “wanton” conduct.
Economic damages compensate you for your economic losses. You may recover many of these losses from your PIP insurance coverage. If the amount of damages exceeds your insurance policy’s PIP limits, you may be able to recover the rest from a truck driver, trucking company, or other at-fault parties.
Examples of economic damages resulting from a truck accident may include:
You can prove economic damages fairly easily by producing documents like medical bills and wage statements.
Non-economic damages are more subjective than economic damages. They attempt to compensate accident victims for the effects their injuries have had on their quality of life.
“Pain and suffering” is a common type of non-economic damage. It provides compensation for both physical and emotional pain resulting from truck accident injuries. Many forms of physical pain can endure long after your medical care, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and other forms of treatment are complete after an accident. You may experience emotional or psychological pain, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An accident that caused disfigurement or scarring can cause both physical pain and psychological distress.
This kind of damage is not something you can put on a bill or invoice. Proving non-economic damages often requires the assistance of a skilled Michigan truck accident lawyer who can tell the jury a story about how a truck driver’s negligence caused you millions of dollars of pain and distress.
Truck accident cases are usually based on the legal theory of negligence, discussed in more detail above. You must prove that the truck driver breached a duty of care, such as by operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner, that this caused your injuries, and that you suffered damages as a result.
Michigan uses the “comparative negligence” standard, which allows you to recover damages even if you were partly at fault for the accident. Your share of the fault must be less than 50% in order to receive a damage award.
If a jury finds that you were partly at fault, it will reduce your damage award by the percentage of your fault. If it finds that you were 25% at fault, and assesses damages of $100,000, it would reduce the award by 25%, to $75,000. If the jury finds that you were 51% at fault, you would receive no damages.
You can talk to the trucking company’s insurance adjuster after the accident. That is to say that no law prohibits you from speaking to one another. Remember, though, that the insurance adjuster’s job is to get you to either:
Neither of these options benefits you. There is a better way to handle it.
While you and the insurance company are legally free to speak to one another, you do not have to speak to them. You will eventually have to make a statement as part of the insurance claim process, but you have time to speak to an attorney first.
Insurance companies know many ways to avoid paying the maximum compensation owed to accident victims. Given the chance, they will try to trick you into saying something that sounds incriminating in order to make it look like you are to blame for the accident. The more you appear to be at fault, the less the insurance company has to pay. If they can establish that you are more at fault than the trucker — i.e. that 51% or more of the fault is yours — they will not have to pay you anything under Michigan law. You can avoid their traps by not speaking to them.
If you do speak to the insurance company before you have hired a personal injury attorney serving Battle Creek, keep your comments to them simple and short. Do not apologize for your part in the accident or speculate about what might have happened. All you need to tell them is that you either have an attorney or you will be retaining one soon.
Your attorney, once you have hired them, can handle communications with the insurance company. They can present the evidence that supports your claim and negotiate with the adjuster to try to reach a settlement agreement. If they cannot come to an agreement, your lawyer will know how to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have suffered injuries in an 18-wheeler accident, dealing with insurance companies and truck accident claims is probably one of the last things on your mind. You might still be receiving medical care and worrying about how you can pay your bills after missing so much work. You might still be feeling traumatized by being involved in a car crash with a big rig, and you are in no place to try negotiating with an insurance adjuster.
You might have been too injured after the accident to gather evidence at the scene, collect contact information from witnesses, and take other steps to prepare for a personal injury claim. Even if you are feeling better now, you might not know how to start collecting evidence.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you. They know how to obtain evidence like police reports, witness statements, and medical bills. They can act as the go-between for you and the insurance companies to protect your legal rights while you focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back to your life.
Truck accidents can cause severe and debilitating injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, disfigurement, and more. You need a law firm with extensive experience helping truck accident victims recover the maximum compensation owed to them under Michigan law. You need a personal injury lawyer who will fight for you at the negotiating table and, if necessary, in the courtroom. Matz Injury Law is the law firm that you need.
Ready to discuss your case? Talk to a lawyer for Battle Creek truck accident victims by calling 866-226-6833 or complete our online contact form, and we’ll be in touch immediately!
The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.
We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.
We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.
All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.
At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.