Who Pays in a Semi Truck Accident?

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Michigan’s No-Fault insurance laws are confusing enough in a 2 car collision case. But in a semi-truck accident, the question of who gets sued can be even murkier.

In a car accident, each person can recover from his or her own auto insurance up to certain limits. If a person is seriously injured, he or she can also collect from the other driver’s insurance.

But when one vehicle is a tractor-trailer, things get more complicated depending on the business arrangement behind the trucking itself. As a recent Michigan Supreme Court case illustrates, who should be sued can sometimes require a trial all its own.

Who Gets Sued

In Hunt v. Drielick, a truck driver was in a multiple-vehicle accident on his way to pick up a trailer full of goods. One person died and 2 more were seriously injured. But the courts couldn’t figure out which insurance company was responsible. That is because a commercial trucking company, Drielick Trucking, had leased its semi-tractors to another trucking company, Great Lakes Carriers Corporation (GLC). But it wasn’t clear whether the driver had been dispatched by the carrier company directly or simply brought on as an independent owner-operator.

What does it matter? If the driver was independent he had to cover his own no-fault insurance. But if he was dispatched by GLC, their insurance would apply.

Which Policy Applies

Even when it’s clear who to sue, it can sometimes be confusing which policy applies. Commercial trucking companies often use so-called “bobtail” policies to cover the semi-tractors when they are not hauling trailers. In Hunt the driver was on the way to a hauling job, but the trailer was not yet attached. The Court of Appeals said the business-use policy applied, but the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed. Because the trailer wasn’t attached yet, the bobtail policy applied instead.

When commercial vehicle is involved in a crash, it can be very difficult to understand who to sue and what may be covered. You need an expert to help you maneuver through the insurance companies’ red tape. The experts at Christensen Law have represented victims of trucking accidents for years. They can stand up to the insurance companies and help you get the recovery you need. If you’ve been hit by a commercial vehicle, contact David Christensen and his team today.