Can I Sue Someone Personally After a Truck Accident?

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A trucking accident can be one of the most devastating events a person will ever go through in his or her lifetime. If you were recently involved in a big-rig accident, you know this all too well.

Due to the immense size and weight of big rigs, the injuries associated with trucking collisions are often much more severe than those associated with typical car crashes. In many cases, trucking accident injuries are disabling and life-changing. In the worst-case scenarios, they can be fatal.

Injuries aside, a trucking accident can take a huge toll on your finances and overall quality of life. Extensive medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation costs and other expenses may send you into insurmountable debt. Your injuries may also prevent you from engaging in activities that once brought you joy. Compounded, all these issues can cause you to experience significant stress and delay your recovery by months or even years.

Given the very real and life-shattering consequences of a trucking accident, you may wonder if you can sue the trucker for compensation. In many cases such as yours, the answer is yes. However, it is important that you understand Michigan’s car accident recovery rules, as they are unique and often situation-dependent. Our team at Mike Morse Law Firm is happy to meet with you during an initial, no-obligation consultation to assess the details of your case, inform you of your rights and explore your options.

Michigan’s No-Fault Rule

Michigan is a no-fault insurance state. What this means is that the state requires every vehicle owner to obtain certain amounts of coverage before it will issue license plates. At a minimum, every vehicle owner must have a basic no-fault policy. Such a policy has three main components:

  • Personal Injury Protection: PIP insurance will pay for all your reasonably necessary medical expenses. It should also cover up to 85% of your lost wages for up to three years from the date of the accident.
  • Property Protection: Property protection covers up to $1 million in damages that your vehicle causes to other people’s property, such as homes and fences. It will also cover the cost of damages your vehicle inflicts on parked cars. It does not cover any other type of vehicle damage.
  • Residual Liability: The purpose of residual liability coverage is to help insured individuals pay for judgments that stem from car accident claims. Though drivers have the option to pay for additional coverage, the minimum limits pay up to $20,000 per person who sustains injuries or dies in a crash; up to $40,000 per accident if several people sustain injuries; and up to $10,000 in property damage for accidents that occur out of state.

Regardless of the severity of your injuries, state law requires you to pursue compensation through both your and the trucker’s at-fault insurance policies before you may pursue a legal claim.

When You Can Sue Outside of No-Fault Insurance

There are two instances in which you may sue an at-fault driver outside the bounds of no-fault coverage. Those are as follows:

  • You Experienced Excessive Economic Loss: Michigan law recognizes that some accidents are so catastrophic as to result in excessive out-of-pocket costs that insurance cannot and will not cover. If your accident was one such accident, you may be able to pursue compensation via a third-party liability claim.
  • You Sustained Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, can be just as costly as economic losses. If you experienced a drastic reduction in your quality of life following your accident, the law may entitle you to file a claim for non-economic damages.

Bear in mind that the courts will only hear your claim if you can meet the stringent requirements for doing so. The most important requirement you must meet is the “threshold injury” requirement.

Michigan’s “Threshold Injury” Rule

The “threshold injury” requirement is unique to the Michigan auto accident claims process. Per this requirement, you, as a truck accident claimant, must show that your injuries are serious enough to warrant a legal claim against the at-fault driver. In other words, you must demonstrate that you sustained what the law refers to as a “threshold injury.” Michigan law defines a threshold injury as one that results in “serious impairment of bodily function,” “permanent serious disfigurement” or “death.”

Though it is fairly easy to discern what classifies as “permanent serious disfigurement,” the legal community has struggled to interpret the meaning of “serious impairment of bodily function.” Over the years the meaning has changed, and while it will likely continue to do so, the currently accepted definition is as follows:

  • An injury that is objectively manifested, meaning other persons beside you can visibly see and perceive your condition and/or symptoms
  • The objectively manifested injury is one that greatly hinders an important bodily function, or a function that has great significance, value or consequence on your life
  • The impairment prevents you from leading a normal life

Per recent court rulings, there is no rule that states for how long the serious impairment must last for it to warrant a third-party legal claim. Moreover, courts must make rulings on a case-by-case basis rather than an injury-by-injury basis. To do this, deciding parties must review the unique circumstances surrounding each case and conduct a comparison of a person’s life before and after the accident.

Who You Can Sue Following a Truck Accident

Meeting Michigan’s threshold injury requirement is difficult and may require the help of an experienced and knowledgeable trucking accident attorney. If you and your legal team can establish that you sustained a threshold injury, though, you may be able to sue one or all of the following three parties.

The Trucker

The trucker who caused your accident is the most obvious party to sue for your injuries. Truckers have an immense responsibility to drive and haul their cargo safely. They may breach this duty in one of several ways, including by speeding, violating the hours of service regulations and/or failing to properly secure their cargo. If a trucker’s negligence causes an accident that results in non-economic damages and/or a threshold injury, you may sue for compensation outside of no-fault insurance.

The Trucking Company

Trucking companies have a legal obligation to ensure their truckers have proper training in everything from driver safety to the proper methods for loading and unloading cargo. If a trucker causes an accident, regardless of the reason, the trucking company may assume all or partial liability thanks to the concept of vicarious liability.

The Trucking Manufacturer

Defective or faulty truck components can and do cause accidents. When an accident is the result of a faulty and/or improperly maintained truck part, several parties may assume liability. Those include the truck or part manufacturer, the trucking company for failing to properly maintain the truck, and the trucker.

Retain an Experienced Trucking Accident Attorney With a Track Record of Success

The best way to determine if you have a trucking accident claim is to consult with a knowledgeable trucking accident lawyer in Michigan. An experienced attorney can assess the viability and value of your case and advise you of what you need to do to recover the maximum amount of compensation. If you or a loved one was involved in a truck accident, and if you sustained severe or disabling injuries, contact Mike Morse Law Firm to discuss your next steps. We offer free initial consultations that require no obligation on your part.


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