The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest accessible crash data reveals that Indiana was among the states that had a high percentage of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2020. All in all, 1,254 large trucks, or 11.8% of the state’s total vehicles, were part of numerous deadly crashes that year. 153 fatalities were recorded, with 112 of them being occupants of other vehicles.
The common causes of truck crashes and collisions included driver errors, fatigue, inexperience, improperly loaded cargo, and speeding. In some cases, drivers' impairment from alcohol or drugs contributed to accidents, while other factors included businesses' failure to address lingering mechanical issues in their trucks.
Considering the serious nature of trucking accidents and the grievous losses that potential victims can incur, Indiana has imposed laws and regulations focusing on mitigating crashes and collisions. Such laws include ordinances on truck weight, vehicle conditions, and a driver’s service hours. The state also has mandates that inform accident victims of the limitations, factors, and guidelines involved in filing a claim or lawsuit to recover damages.
Indiana Truck Weight Limits
To prevent possible accidents on state roads due to factors such as overloading, Indiana enforces various weight limits for commercial trucks, depending on how many axles a truck has. These are:
Single axle - 20,000 pounds
Tandem axle - 34,000 pounds
Tri-axle - 50,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight - 80,000 pounds
In addition to these limitations, a truck’s tires must not exceed 800 pounds per inch of their width when measured between the rim flanges. Steering axles must also fall under a maximum weight limit of 12,000 pounds. If a vehicle exceeds a given weight limit, its operator or carrier must obtain a permit from the Indiana Department of Revenue and meet specific requirements.
Vehicles transporting farm commodities from the point of production to their first point of delivery, where they would be weighed, are allowed to have a gross vehicle weight of up to 88,000 pounds.
Indiana law exempts certain vehicles from size and weight limits, though they cannot travel on interstate highways. These vehicles can include farm drainage machinery, firefighting equipment from a volunteer fire department or political subdivision, and farm vehicles loaded with agricultural products (including unprocessed leaf tobacco).
Indiana Commercial Truck Service Hours
Because of incidents in which commercial truck drivers cause accidents as a result of fatigue from overworking, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the total number of service hours that a driver can work. Any employer who forces a driver to work beyond the specified limits can be penalized and held liable if the driver causes a crash or collision.
Under the FMCSA’s regulations, truck drivers can only work up to a maximum of 11 hours after staying off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. They also cannot go beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty in the wake of a 10-hour off-duty period.
Additionally, being off-duty does not allow a driver to extend a 14-hour service period. However, a driver can work up to two hours beyond the FMCSA’s specified limits if bad weather, traffic conditions, or unforeseen road closures impede service operations.
Another exception applies to short-haul trips, where truck drivers remain within a 150-air-mile radius of their work reporting location and do not work beyond 14 hours of duty. A driver must stay within the designated radius and return to his work reporting location within 14 hours for this exception to apply.
Indiana Truck Maintenance Regulations
The FMCSA dictates that all trucking companies must ensure the regular maintenance and repair of commercial trucks operating interstate. If a truck driver causes an accident due to a defect in a truck’s system or parts, the company can be held liable in a resulting claim or lawsuit for failing to detect and address the defect.
While the FMCSA’s regulations mostly apply to interstate trucks, Indiana is one of the states that have adopted such mandates into their own laws. This means that any commercial trucks that operate within the state must adhere to the same vehicle inspection, maintenance, and repair guidelines imposed by the FMCSA.
Prior to any trip, companies must check that the following parts of their trucks are in good condition:
Service, parking, and trailer brakes
Emergency equipment (fire extinguishers, early warning devices, etc.)
In addition to pre-trip inspections, a company must thoroughly evaluate a truck’s working condition yearly. Reports from such an inspection must be documented and kept inside the vehicle.
An inspector working under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program may also inspect a truck roadside. This is to make sure that trucks on the road are working properly. In some instances, drivers may also be subjected to a random roadside examination to check if they are engaging in unsafe practices or exhibiting bad behavior behind the wheel.
Once a roadside inspection has been completed, drivers must submit the report to their employer, who will have a maximum of 15 days to address any violations that have been documented before returning the report to its indicated address. The employer must also retain a copy of the report on file for up to 12 months from the date of the inspection.
Indiana Speed Limits
Indiana has laws in place for both basic and absolute speed limits. Under the former, all vehicles must move at speeds deemed safe based on any present or potential conditions and hazards on the road. For example, drivers navigating a slippery road must move at a lower speed than when driving on a dry road.
On the other hand, absolute speed limits refer to exact limits specified by state law, and those who exceed any of them will be deemed guilty of a speeding violation. Unless specified otherwise, the absolute speed limits within Indiana are as follows:
15 miles per hour in alleyways
25 miles per hour in residential areas
30 miles per hour in urban areas
60 miles per hour on divided state highways that have more than four lanes and are located beyond urban areas
65 miles per hour on highways under the jurisdiction of the Indiana finance authority
70 miles per hour on the majority of interstate highways
Those who violate Indiana’s speeding laws will be fined at least $100 and receive between two and six demerit points on their license. Repeat violations can result in the suspension of their license. Those who exceed speed limits at an unreasonably high rate can be charged with reckless driving.
Indiana DUI Law
Under Indiana’s DUI law, drivers who operate a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than 0.08% will be charged with driving while intoxicated. The state has stricter limits for commercial drivers and those under 21, who are charged with DUI if they have a BAC of 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively.
Those found guilty of driving while intoxicated may be fined between $500 and $5,000. They can also spend up to 60 days in jail and have their license suspended for at least 180 days. Additionally, any motorist with a BAC of 0.15% or more will be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor, which results in harsher penalties.
Indiana also follows implied consent regulations, meaning that drivers who operate a vehicle within state limits automatically consent to a blood and/or breath test to measure their blood alcohol concentration. Those who refuse a test can face a license suspension lasting at least one year, depending on whether they have prior convictions.
Indiana Commercial Truck Insurance Requirements
The FMCSA requires all trucking companies to obtain primary liability insurance coverage for their trucks before they can operate. As such, trucks in Indiana must have between $750,000 and $1,000,000 in liability coverage, which is used to pay for the costs of medical care and damaged property if a commercial driver causes a crash or collision. Companies will be barred from putting their trucks on the road if they do not have the required minimum of $750,000.
The FMCSA also requires motor carriers and freight forwarders that haul household goods to have cargo insurance worth $5,000 per vehicle and $10,000 per occurrence. Additional federal requirements include surety bonds and trust fund agreements equal to $75,000 for freight forwarders and brokers.
For trucks that have a gross vehicle weight of over 10,000 pounds and operate within Indiana, their companies must get an intrastate-only USDOT number and the following liability coverage, depending on their freight:
$300,000 for household goods
$750,000 for general cargo
$1,000,000 for oil transport
$5,000,000 for hazardous materials
Indiana law also requires commercial vehicles to have auto liability insurance policies, with the limits depending on the type of vehicles involved. In general, the minimum coverage required by state laws follows the 25/50/25 format, or:
$25,000 for injuries per person
$50,000 for injuries per accident
$25,000 for property damage
In addition, commercial vehicles must carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which can be used to pay for damages caused by another driver with insufficient or no insurance. The minimum requirements for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in Indiana follow the 25/50/25 format.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in Indiana
Indiana imposes no caps on the total economic and non-economic damages that truck accident victims may recover in a lawsuit or claim. However, the state’s modified comparative fault law can reduce the damages a plaintiff can receive based on their liability in an accident.
Punitive damages are also occasionally awarded in Indiana truck accident cases if it is proven that a driver acted with intentional or malicious conduct in an accident. Indiana law limits punitive damage awards to $50,000 or three times the amount of a victim’s total compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
Additionally, Indiana states that plaintiffs can only recover up to $700,000 in damages in a lawsuit against a state, county, or local government agency. This applies to accidents that are caused by an agency’s failure to maintain roads under its jurisdiction or install necessary traffic signs or devices.
Lastly, for wrongful death lawsuits involving an unmarried victim aged 23 or older with no dependents, the victim’s estate can only obtain a maximum of $300,000. The state has no damage caps on other types of wrongful death cases.
Indiana is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
Indiana is classified as an at-fault or tort state for accident insurance claims. This means that the offending driver in a truck accident will pay for the losses of any victims using insurance coverage. Victims can also file lawsuits to recover compensation under the state’s at-fault laws.
In addition to obtaining settlements from an at-fault driver, a plaintiff can utilize other types of insurance to cover their losses after an accident. These may include comprehensive insurance, which covers damages caused by non-accident factors such as theft and hazards, and collision insurance, which pays for repairs on the plaintiff’s damaged vehicle.
Indiana Is a Modified Comparative Negligence State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Indiana follows modified comparative negligence rules in awarding damages to truck accident victims, meaning that the court can deduct a percentage of a damage award based on a plaintiff’s contributory fault in an accident. For example, a plaintiff awarded $100,000 in damages but also 20% liable for a motor vehicle crash will receive only $80,000.
The state also follows the 51% bar rule, meaning that if a plaintiff’s fault in an accident exceeds 51 percent, they will be barred from recovering any damages. The same rule applies if a victim’s fault exceeds the other parties' fault in a case involving multiple defendants.
To help victims prove the liability of an offending truck driver in an accident, they can use:
Photographs and videos documenting the crash and resulting injuries
Medical and police reports
Footage from surveillance and traffic cameras
A company’s logs on the truck and driver involved
The truck’s black box, a device that records data concerning the truck’s speed, location, seat belt status, and general state at the time of the accident
Indiana Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
According to Indiana law, truck accident lawsuits in the state must be filed within two years from the date of the accident. This is to give sufficient time to all parties involved to prepare documents and evidence that will support their respective arguments. Any plaintiffs who miss this deadline will likely have their lawsuits dismissed in court.
If a truck accident victim dies due to his or her injuries, dependents or relatives may file a wrongful death claim within the same period of two years. In these cases, the statute of limitations begins on the date of the victim’s death instead of the date of the accident.
There are certain exceptions to Indiana’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury matters in specific scenarios:
For a claim or lawsuit against the government, a plaintiff must file a tort claim notice within 180 days
For at-fault individuals who leave the state before a lawsuit can be filed, the person’s period of nonresidence will not count toward the statute of limitations
For at-fault individuals who conceal their liability in an accident from a victim, the statute only begins once the period of the person’s concealment ends
Average Settlement for Indiana Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Truck accidents involve numerous factors, ranging from a driver’s negligence and a truck’s size and weight to the type of injuries that a victim can suffer as a result of a crash. Because of this, there is no fixed average settlement that Indiana plaintiffs can receive in a truck accident lawsuit or claim.
To help victims determine the potential settlement they can receive, a lawyer can assist them in evaluating their losses based on the following:
Present and future medical care
Rehabilitative treatments for long-term disabilities caused by injuries
Permanent scarring or disfigurement due to injury
Lost wages due to a victim’s inability to work or find a new job
Damage to a victim’s car and other property
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship or quality of life
A plaintiff’s pain and suffering are often calculated by multiplying the damages caused by an injury by a number between 1 and 5, depending on the injury’s severity. Usable evidence may also include the report of a mental health professional and testimonies from family members and friends, along with a victim’s prescription records.
Legal Resources for Indiana Trucking Accident Victims
The Indiana State Bar Association has partnered with CloudLaw to help residents of the state find a lawyer who can handle their cases through its online directory. Potential plaintiffs can use the guide to search for specific lawyers based on their practice area and the location of their firms within the state. The association also has a Get Legal Help section that offers access to external legal resources for servicemembers and veterans, as well as families that seek assistance in mediation and individuals with low income.
The Indianapolis Bar Association’s Legal Line program caters to residents of the city who wish to obtain free legal advice from local lawyers concerning various matters, including personal injury. The program can be reached at 317-269-2222, and it is open every second Tuesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET. The website also shows the program’s planned dates for the current year to help citizens choose which day to call.
Through its collaboration with LexisNexis BuyCrash, the Indiana State Police allows citizens of the state to obtain copies of motor vehicle accident reports online. The ISP’s website has a section that redirects to the BuyCrash portal, where individuals can look and request specific reports based on the location and date of an accident.
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