Georgia Truckers - With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
These days, most of the tractor trailers that you see on the roads are used for commercial purposes. Because of this, the federal and state governments hold the drivers and the companies that they work for to a higher standard. Despite the fact that truck drivers are some of the most responsible drivers on the roads of America, there are still many truck accidents that occur annually. A tractor trailer, which is a very large vehicle, consists of the tractor (the engine and the cab) and a trailer (which is towed by the tractor and where the cargo is loaded). A tractor trailer can have a single trailer or can be a multiple tractor trailer having up to three trailers (piggybacking). Thus, a tractor trailer can be as long as 75 feet, with weights in excess of 80,000 pounds. Tractor trailers are huge pieces of machinery, and their drivers are responsible for being able to control all of the power and loads they carry to prevent injury from other drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) trucks are involved in only 3% of all car accidents nationwide, but they are involved in 13% of all fatal crashes. A semi-truck is 20-55% more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a passenger car. In Georgia, one in every six fatalities from traffic accidents involves a tractor trailer. While there are cases where the passenger vehicles are the cause of these accidents, this is not the norm. Some of these can be due to trucker error; while some are caused by other factors such as road conditions, weather, or objects/animals in the road. Even with so many factors at play, usually it is the actions of the truck driver that causes these accidents. In fact, according to the Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Department:
"A focus group for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advises that commercial vehicle accident statistics show that moving violations cause the greatest number of truck-at-fault accidents. In any event, most at-fault commercial vehicle crashes evolve from driver error."
And, according to the Associated Press--
"A new U.S. safety study shows that hundreds of thousands of truck drivers who qualify for full federal disability payments also carry valid commercial driver's licenses. Truck drivers who "suffered seizures, heart attacks, or unconscious spells" while driving have caused many fatal truck crashes. This poses a serious risk to highway travel."
What Constitutes Driver Error?
The driver of a semi can be at fault for many reasons. In fact, if he knows that he is lacking skills to properly operate the equipment or to operate the tractor trailer as loaded, then, simply getting behind the wheel of the truck is driver error. Overloading, driving under the influence, failing to consider road conditions, speeding, failing to obey all traffic laws, and experiencing fatigue are all examples of driver errors. While a failure to yield in your Honda is dangerous, a failure to yield with a machine that could weigh as much as 80,000 pounds is deadly. Speeding in a vehicle that size can make it difficult to stop and turn safely and failure to adjust for adverse road conditions can be disastrous. Overloading a semi can result in weight shifting that makes the tractor trailer more difficult to control, or dropping cargo in the path of other vehicles.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety's Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD) promotes and enforces safety regulations including maintaining all vehicles and parts in safe working order, keeping and submitting periodically accurate and detailed records, and reporting all accidents to the commissioner of transportation. Georgia has also adopted most federal laws concerning safety, maintenance, alcohol and drug testing, transportation of hazardous materials, and insurance requirements. After an accident involving a commercial vehicle, all of those things are checked and records are consulted to determine if there is a pattern with a particular driver or company, as well as to make certain that the law has been followed.
If You Have Been Injured or Lost a Loved one in a Trucking Accident
If you have lost a loved one due to a trucking accident, then no amount of money will bring them back or provide comfort in your loss. However a wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial security for the family of the victim and act as a deterrent to truck drivers and trucking companies for practicing unsafe driving. In the state of Georgia, the law provides that any person operating a vehicle upon the state highways is responsible for all injuries resulting from negligence or careless operation of a vehicle. In the instance of a trucking accident, depending upon the circumstances, compensation may be sought from the driver, the company he was driving for, the manufacturer of the truck itself, and even the company that is shipping the cargo being carried by the truck during the accident.
If you were injured in an accident with a semi, then you may recover several types of damages under Georgia law including all medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses, lost wages (as well as loss of future wages), property replacement, and pain and suffering. In some cases, a victim can also recover punitive damages depending upon the details of the case. However, accidents involving semi-trucks involve different legal issues and considerations than passenger car accidents, and it is in your best interest to consult an attorney who is experienced with these types of cases to protect your interests. As with any personal injury case, it is important that you obtain legal representation quickly - there are certain steps that your attorney must take to ensure that evidence is preserved to be used when you present your case.
With the number of accidents involving these large commercial vehicles, it is no surprise that trucking companies and truck drivers carry substantial liability insurance. However, insurance companies that represent the trucking industry have no interest in paying out a high settlement amount. They will do everything within their power to diminish or even deny claims. Immediately after an accident, lawyers for the insurance company will begin investigating possible causes for the crash. They will consider the causes discussed above (mechanical failure, driver error, etc.). The insurance adjusters will want to talk to you. They will attempt to get you to give a statement and if you are confused or if you are not careful, you may make statements that they can later use against you. It is important that you not speak with them without your own attorney or at the very least a representative from your own insurance company present. No matter how sympathetic they may seem, these people do not work for you and they are not on your side. Your needs are not their concern. They will want you to sign "standard forms" that will ultimately be medical releases or statements about the accident. Do not sign anything until your attorney has reviewed it. They are out to protect their clients and their company's profits. It is their job to minimize the liability faced by the truck driver and the trucking company.
The Law Offices of Casey W. Stevens has experience with trucking accidents in the state of Georgia from both sides - he spent ten years as an insurance claims adjuster before he received his law degree and until 2001, he worked as a defense attorney in the insurance industry. Mr. Stevens handles every case that comes to our office personally and we limit our practice to just personal injury and wrongful death law to better serve our clients. He represents those seriously injured and the families of those killed in accidents involving tractor trailers all over North Georgia. He offers free case evaluations and would be happy to meet with you in any of our six metro Atlanta offices. However, if your circumstances prevent travel, call our office and Mr. Stevens will come to you.
Contact us for a free case evaluation TODAY! 770-408-6364