Since the start of the pandemic, rates of traffic accidents have spiked. As of January 20, there were 38 fatal crashes in 2023, five of which involved semi-trucks along Illinois roadways.
Knowing what to do when you’ve been injured in a collision with a commercial truck can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Most personal injury claims can be resolved without going to trial. Whether the truck travels within state lines, like a garbage truck or delivery van, or is an 18-wheeler transporting hazardous chemicals across state lines, large commercial vehicles must follow specific regulations.
Most trucks on the highway fall under the regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, but commercial vehicles must also be aware of their local laws. If you’ve been injured in a crash with a commercial truck, review these resources before consulting an experienced attorney specializing in commercial truck accidents.
Vehicle Inspections & Emissions
Whether the vehicle is Commercial or privately owned, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) requires that carriers of property driving in Illinois are inspected according to state-specific regulations. Interstate carriers have a required annual inspection. While Intrastate carriers, who operate solely within the state of Illinois, have a biannual inspection. However, interstate carriers of passengers are subject to both annual and bi-annual inspections.
Diesel-powered buses and vehicles traveling within and outside Illinois’s state lines are subject to their Diesel Emission Inspection Program, which specifies that vehicle models of two years or older that weigh more than 16,000 pounds must be registered within the affected area. For more information on the affected counties, go directly to this page. Diesel-powered vehicles must pass an annual emission inspection test conducted at an official testing station or by an official portable emission testing company. Go here to find out more about recertification after failing an emissions test.
Legal Weights and Dimension
Large trucks and semi-trucks may suffer severe damage due to seemingly minor problems, such as objects falling off the vehicle or swerving in an attempt to avoid road debris. Knowing what to expect after a commercial truck accident can help increase the chances of receiving compensation. Large trucks and vehicles must abide by specific weight and length limits specific to the vehicle’s class and possible equipment or chemicals the truck carries. If you get into an accident with a larger truck, Illinois’s maximum legal dimension and weight rules, including access rules that dictate what days of the week and streets particular vehicles can drive on. Overweight and oversized trucks are required to get a permit from IDOT before they can hit the road. Federal holidays are a busy day of travel, so many states, including Illinois, have specific guidelines that require special permits for those days. You may be entitled to more compensation if you’re hit by a truck on a holiday.
Work zones are one of the biggest headaches for travelers and a frequent site of large truck accidents. In 2021, nearly 37.5% of fatal work zone crashes involved a heavy vehicle. Rear-ending a large truck is just as deadly as being rear-ended by one. Accidents often occur when motorists aren’t looking for heavy vehicles entering and leaving work zones. Semis need more time and space to slow down and speed up, and crashes in work zones are not always the heavy vehicle’s fault. Accidents caused by distracted driving or not adjusting correctly to road conditions can impact the processing of your claim and receiving benefits. Driving too fast through these zones is another big contributor to roadway accidents. If you get into an accident, it’s important to document the speed you were traveling and the posted road conditions. If the accident occurred in a work zone, knowing when and where you merged into traffic, and the speed you were traveling can aid in processing your claim. For a list of current work zones, you can check this map here, which is updated frequently to help travelers prepare for a slowdown.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a separate agency from the U.S. Department of Transportation founded in 1999, which creates and enforces commercial trucking regulations. The FMCSA’s primary goal is to decrease the number of large truck and vehicle accidents and minimize the number of injuries and fatalities they cause. Driver fatigue is one of the deadliest factors affecting commercial drivers during a long haul. To increase motorist safety and ensure drivers stay awake and alert, the FMCSA has strict limits on hours of service or the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty. According to the FMCSA, commercial truck drivers can operate eleven hours each day only after ten consecutive hours off the clock, while passenger trucks have a ten-hour drive limit. If the vehicle is transporting property, drivers are restricted to a driving window of 14 hours, whereas a passenger vehicle has a fifteen-hour limit. Drivers are expected to take 30-minute rest breaks. If you believe the accident was a result of driver fatigue or hours of service violations, this can significantly impact your claim.
Markings and Maintenance
Drivers and companies are expected to properly maintain their vehicles by performing systematic inspections and making necessary repairs to ensure the vehicle is safe on the road. Much like an airplane ready for takeoff, all truck parts must be in good working order to be on the road. Additionally, drivers must keep logs of their driving time and maintenance performed to adhere to state and federal regulations. A commercial vehicle must have the legal name or trade name of the company operating the vehicle and the FMCSA identification number. All hazard warnings and reflective markings must be unobstructed, in working order, and present to avoid accidents.
There are limitations to who can drive a large vehicle contingent on if the vehicle is intrastate or interstate. A driver in Illinois may operate a commercial vehicle within state lines at the age of eighteen but must wait until they’re 21 or older to operate an interstate vehicle, according to the FMCSA. Once a driver is 21, they may obtain their commercial driver’s license and operate trucks up to 80,000 pounds. When you exchange driver information, if you suspect the driver is using a false ID or is underage, contact the FMCSA and your local trucking agency to initiate an investigation.
Illinois Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
Due to the severity of truck accidents, commercial trucks have higher policy limits than small passenger cars and are required by law to have more than one policy. Under federal and Illinois regulations, commercial trucks must be covered by general/public liability insurance and trucking liability insurance. A driver’s general liability insurance must include bodily injury, property damage, and environmental restoration coverage. The FMCSA dictates how much insurance interstate commercial trucks must carry and the minimum policy limits vary based on the weight of the truck and the type of cargo it hauls:
$300,000 for non-hazardous freight in vehicles less than 10,001 lbs.
$750,000 for non-hazardous freight in vehicles more than 10,001 lbs.
$1 million for oil transported by for-hire and private carriers
$5 million for other hazardous materials transported by for-hire or private carriers
While a driver’s liability insurance is commonly used to cover personal and medical expenses, truckers might also carry other forms of insurance that are worth knowing. For a list of other possible insurance policies, visit this page, where you can find information on Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, Umbrella Coverage, Bobtail Insurance, and many others.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in Illinois?
In many states, there’s a cap for compensating damages in an accident and calculating certain types of financial compensation are more complicated. Unlike medical expenses, determining the worth of a non-economic loss, like a pain and suffering claim, involves considering a wide range of factors that can impact an individual’s compensation. Pain and suffering are among the most challenging claims because there’s no objective way to determine a specific amount. Luckily in Illinois, there is no limit to the amount you can sue for pain and suffering, but if you’ve been in an accident, you should be prepared to provide documentation as to the following:
The severity of the injuries
The duration of the pain & suffering
How the injuries have impacted the victim’s life
The Statute of Limitations in Illinois
In civil cases, plaintiffs have time limits in which to file a claim, also known as “statutes of limitations.” Statutes of limitations exist to verify that evidence remains intact and prevent a lawsuit in limbo that hangs over a defendant’s head indefinitely. Illinois’s civil statutes of limitations have a two-year time limit for personal injury and a five-year time limit for property damage claims. Generally, the time to file starts as soon as the injury is sustained. However, there are exceptions. For example, an emerging injury (or its cause) identified after the initial accident can extend the amount of time a plaintiff has to file based on when this injury was discovered.
Is Illinois a no-fault state?
Illinois is a fault-based vehicle insurance state, meaning that the driver who causes the accident is responsible for compensating the injured party who suffered harm as a result of the crash. In other words, the financial responsibility for injuries and other damages resulting from the accident is the obligation of the determined at-fault party.
Legal Resources for Illinois Trucking Accident Victims
If you’ve been in a trucking accident, an attorney who’s well acquainted with local and federal trucking laws is invaluable to have on your side. First and foremost, an attorney will be your best advocate in navigating the claims process and determining the amount of compensation. There is a vast amount of online resources that individuals can review to prepare themselves for speaking with an attorney. These resources provide information about state-specific laws and allow you to contact legal aid agencies. If the accident was due to negligence and you believe the driver poses a danger to public safety, there are legal avenues beyond retaining a lawyer. Filing a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or the Illinois Department of Transportation can initiate separate investigations that may be useful when building your claim.
Submit a Complaint with FMCSA
The FMCSA has an online National Consumer Complaint Database where consumers, drivers, and industry professionals can file complaints against truck companies, moving or bus companies, and more. To file a federal safety complaint, you can go to the FMCSA online portal and submit a complaint electronically or call their hotline at 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238). Please be advised that this system is only for investigating past events, so this resource is best for folks looking for help beyond the accident. If this is an urgent matter—call your local authorities to receive assistance immediately.
Reach out to ITEA
In 2009, retired suburban law enforcement officers who specialized in commercial vehicle enforcement founded the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association (ITEA). Together, they created a multi-disciplinary network of professionals who shared a vision to standardize and enhance professionalism in truck enforcement. Due to its partnerships with local law enforcement, leaders in the trucking industry, and civil attorneys, the ITEA is an excellent resource for folks looking for a knowledgeable attorney or learning more about Illinois-specific rules and regulations. You can reach out via their chatbot or download their ITEA app to contact them directly and search for attorneys in your area.
The Illinois Department of Transportation values driver feedback and aims to be proactive when it comes to highway safety. If you see a large truck that appears to pose a danger to pedestrians and fellow travelers, contact IDOT. Their website has an online form to submit feedback or ask questions. IDOT also has a form to report problems, such as potholes, discrimination, accessibility, and property damage.
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