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Near whiteout causes serious Indiana truck accident, but is weather really to blame?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 12th, 2014

15 semi-trucks and 15 vehicles were involved in a terrible truck wreck leaving three dead, despite that FMCSRs require truckers to cease operating when winter weather becomes  dangerous

Indiana semi truck accident

I recently came across a very sad story about a terrible semi-truck accident in Indiana from Guardianlv,com, “Semi Trailers, Auto Pileup – Tragedy Highlighting a Terrible Problem.”

While I’ve successfully litigated many horrible truck accident cases,  it was the winter weather conditions that caught my eye in the news reports about this latest tragedy in Indiana.

This occurred during the extreme winter weather that’s currently gripping the nation, a multiple-vehicle accident.  This terrible crash involved 15 tractor-trailer trucks and 15 passenger cars on I-94. When the dust settled, there were three deaths and 20 people who suffered various degrees of personal injuries from the crash.

The on-scene coroner, John Sullivan, said that “there may be many more fatalities” and that “the clock is working against us.” Those who were injured are not entirely out of the woods yet, and may still succumb to their injuries sustained in the truck accident.

Because of the large scale of this accident, investigators are still working to determine exactly how it happened. It is expected that the winter weather played a role.

But is the weather an excuse? Can this semi-truck accident be chalked up to mother nature?


As I’ve discussed in the past, bad weather should never be an excuse for a serious truck accident. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has stabled in § 392.14 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), when hazardous conditions exist, “[e]xtreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised.”

The rule explains exercising extreme caution, and reads that “[i]f the conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.”

The only exception to this FMCSR is when a state has imposed a higher standard, which many states have done.

In this multi-truck accident in Indiana, reports suggest that it was near whiteout road conditions at the time of the crash. The snow was very heavy. So if visibility was low and the weather was so bad, why were these semi-trucks even on the road? This crash should not have involved 15 semi-trucks – it should have involved zero.

As a truck accident lawyer, I cannot understand why a professional trucker would not pull off of the road in near whiteout conditions. Not only are truckers required to do so by the FMCSRs when conditions become sufficiently hazardous, but it’s also a matter of common sense when you’re hauling an 80,000 pound load. Otherwise, you endanger every single person on the road. It’s like literally driving a moving brick wall, blind.

Our thoughts are with the victims of this Indiana truck accident and their families.

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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