At Craig, Kelley & Faultless, LLC, our truck accident lawyers move quickly to secure trucking company records after being contacted by truck accident victims who have been seriously injured in commercial truck accidents. We have extensive experience representing injured victims of large truck crashes. We understand that accidents involving trucks frequently involve serious injuries because of the size and weight of large trucks and trailers compared to other vehicles on the road. We work to gather evidence that shows who is responsible for a truck accident and ensure that our clients are fully compensated for their injuries and other losses.
Indiana truck accident attorney David W. Craig has successfully represented hundreds of clients in claims resulting from commercial vehicle accidents in Indianapolis, Batesville, Richmond, Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana. If you or a loved one of yours has been injured in an accident attributed to a truck’s trailer hitch failure, contact Craig, Kelley & Faultless for experienced, compassionate and aggressive representation today.
What is Hitch Failure?
When a trailer hitch fails, the trailer separates from the hauling vehicle (such as a commercial truck cab). That can allow the trailer to crash into oncoming cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Cargo that spills from the loose trailer can cause additional accidents, injury or property damage.
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules, a full trailer must be equipped with a tow-bar and a means of attaching the tow-bar to the towing and towed vehicles. In a fifth-wheel assembly, the lower half of a fifth wheel mounted on a truck tractor must be secured to the frame of the vehicle with properly designed brackets, mounting plates and properly tightened bolts of adequate size to provide security. The upper half of a fifth wheel must be fastened, and every fifth wheel assembly must have a locking mechanism.
In other words, FMCSA regulations address what is required of tractor-trailer coupling devices and towing methods. Truck drivers and trucking companies that put tractor-trailers on the road are legally responsible for complying with the regulations.
Most Common Causes for Hitch and Towing Accidents
Truck trailers may become unexpectedly decoupled from semi-trucks and other big rigs for a variety of reasons, including:
- Failure to recognize improperly “dropping” trailer when coupling to cab
- Failure to properly attach safety chains
- Inadequately sized safety chains, bolts and/or brackets connecting the towed trailer and hauling vehicle
- Manufacturing or design defects in the coupling mechanisms
- Malfunctioning locking mechanisms
- Tow bar failure
- Sudden weight and/or center of gravity shifts in the big rig, caused by unsecured cargo, sharp turns, abrupt braking, steep grades, hitting a curb or loss of traction in hazardous road conditions.
Typically, a tractor-trailer coupling failure is caused by an error when hitching a cab and trailer or a failure of components in the coupling assembly due to wear and tear or a manufacturing flaw. Negligent driving can also lead improper or worn couplings to separate.
Who is Liable on a Tow Hitch Accident?
After an accident caused by a truck’s hitch failure, there are many parties involved that may be responsible for the accident.
First and foremost, the truck driver and truck owner – typically a trucking company – are responsible for ensuring a commercial truck can be safely operated on public roads. This includes proper maintenance of coupling systems and daily inspections conducted by the truck driver. The trucker is also responsible for his or her operation of the truck.
Trucking companies often hire independent truckers to make deliveries. As a result, the trucking company and truck driver may have separate insurance policies in the event of an accident.
There are often third-party vendors involved in shipping cargo cross-country or across Indiana. Motor carriers may hire third parties to maintain their trucks or to load cargo. These third-party vendors may be held liable for negligence that leads to an accident, including the negligence of truck drivers and others they employ.
In cases in which a component of a tractor-trailer coupling system has failed due to a design or manufacturing flaw, the manufacturer may be held liable for the design or manufacturing defect if it can be shown that it caused the accident.
Indiana law (IC 34-6-2-45(b)) refers to finding “fault” in a claim seeking compensation for personal and property losses. “Fault” is defined as an act or omission that is negligent, willful, wanton, reckless or intentional toward the person or property of others.
As your trailer hitch failure attorneys, Craig, Kelley & Faultless would investigate to determine how the accident that injured you occurred and which parties were at fault. We would move promptly to secure records and then obtain and analyze driver logs, maintenance records, personnel records, vendor contracts and other pertinent documents to determine who may have had a role in a hitch failure that caused your accident.
Our attorneys gather your medical bills and other expenses and losses and calculate the full extent of your damages in the accident. We work aggressively to recover all of the compensation you are due from any and all parties at fault.
Can I Recover Damages from A Hitch Failure Truck Accident?
Indiana allows the injured in truck accident claims to recover economic and non-economic compensation. Economic damages include monetary losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages refers to intangible losses, such as pain and suffering.
In a typical truck accident claim, we would seek compensation for our client for:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity (future lost wages)
- Property damage, such as to a motor vehicle
- Pain and suffering
- Effect of the injuries on our client’s ability to function (temporary or permanently disabling injuries).
In addition, Indiana allows juries to award punitive damages in cases where the defendant acted with actual malice or gross negligence. For example, punitive damages may be awarded if the truck driver who caused the accident was driving while intoxicated.
However, Indiana caps the amount of punitive damages available at the greater of three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or $50,000. Additionally, the person to whom punitive damages are awarded receives only 25% of the punitive damages award while 75% of the award goes to a state fund for compensating victims of violent crime.
Further, Indiana’s comparative fault laws say that any compensatory damages you receive in an accident claim will be reduced proportionately by the percentage of responsibility the jury assigns to you for the accident. For example, if you were speeding and therefore are found to be 25 percent responsible for causing the accident and the jury awards $100,000 in damages, you would be entitled to $75,000. The reduction is applied up to 50 percent, cutting the compensatory damages you receive by up to half. If you are found to be 51 percent or more responsible for the accident, you will not be awarded compensation.
Most truck accident cases are settled out of court through negotiations. The truck accident attorneys at Craig, Kelley & Faultless will seek a just settlement that makes you financially whole after your terrible ordeal.
Please Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer in Indianapolis, IN
Our Indianapolis trailer hitch failure accident lawyers will respond immediately to your call about injuries suffered in a commercial truck accident in Indiana. Indiana trucking accident attorney David W. Craig has put together an emergency response team, including legal partner Scott A. Faultless, a private investigator, a mechanical expert, an expert qualified to download the commercial truck’s black box and an accident reconstructionist.
We will determine what happened to you and why. We will hold all at-fault parties accountable for your injuries and losses.
Craig, Kelley & Faultless investigates truck accidents thoroughly, and we prepare each case as if it is going to trial. Our dedicated legal team has the experience and skills to prepare a solid claim that allows us to negotiate aggressively for the full compensation you deserve.
Please contact us today by telephone or online for a free consultation about your accident. We will come to you if you are unable to come to us.