Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers
Holding truckers and trucking companies in Georgia responsible for negligence
Every car crash is serious, but truck accidents often prove particularly tragic. Semi-truck accidents typically cause more catastrophic injuries and deaths than other types of vehicle accidents. Due to their sheer size and weight, eighteen-wheelers are capable of causing tremendous destruction. These horrible wrecks occur all too often on the highways and interstates of Georgia.
The lawyers of Harris Lowry Manton LLP have the knowledge and experience to effectively handle truck accident cases. If you or a family member was injured in an accident involving a truck, turn to our experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyers for representation you can trust.
Why are Tractor-Trailers so Dangerous on the Road?
- Understanding the complexities of truck accident cases
- What you should know about blind spots on trucks
- Why you need an experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer
- Common injuries sustained by Atlanta truck accident victims
- Atlanta truck drivers and truck companies must abide by federal safety laws
- Inadequate Truck Maintenance and Inspection
- Overloaded Trucks
- Intoxicated Truck Drivers
- Driver Fatigue
- Reckless and Aggressive Truck Driver Accidents
- Distracted Driver
- Poorly Trained Commercial Truck Drivers
Understanding the complexities of truck accident cases
Truck accidents often prove catastrophic due to the sheer size of the vehicle. Tractor-trailer trucks weigh tons even when empty. When carrying a load, the weight increases even further. Therefore, the impact of a crash is more intense than one involving two cars or average-sized vehicles. In addition, if the vehicle carries hazardous or flammable materials, the risk is even greater.
In addition to the physics involved, many laws and regulations govern the trucking industry. This makes the accident more serious in terms of insurance and legal issues. Our skillful Georgia truck accident attorneys provide effective representation in a variety of truck accident cases, including:
- Driver fatigue. Truck drivers must follow legal regulations regarding their time on the road. These laws seek to protect the driver and other operators on the highway. When drivers fail to follow these rules, serious accidents can result.
- Driver distraction. Drivers can be easily distracted when they spend long hours on the road. Fiddling with GPS units, chatting with other drivers and even “highway hypnosis” can cause a driver to stop paying attention to the act of driving.
- Speeding and negligent behavior. In an attempt to cover enough ground before their federally mandated rest periods, many truck drivers will speed, or engage in other negligent, even risky, behaviors behind the wheel. Speeding is the #1 cause of fatal truck accidents.
- Poor vehicle maintenance. Truck owners and operators have a duty to maintain these vehicles and keep them in a safe and reasonably operable manner. Failure to meet this duty may place injury liability on multiple parties.
- Defective truck parts. Faulty or defective truck parts can leave a driver unable to stop in time to prevent an accident, or to lose control of the truck. In these cases, multiple parties may be liable for any injuries you sustain, including the manufacturer of the defective part.
What you should know about blind spots on trucks
Another common cause of truck accidents has to do with blind spots: areas of limited-to-no visibility on large commercial vehicles. Because of how high the seats are, and how long the trailers are, drivers may have limited visibility in the spaces around their vehicles. These blind spots are often cited in cases where backing-up accidents have occurred.
What is important to note, however, is that all drivers and trucking companies are aware of this potential issue and are still responsible for ensuring the safety of their drivers, their cargo, and those who share the road with them. Back-up cameras, lane assist devices, vehicle detection systems, and blind spot mirrors can all help increase a driver’s visibility and decrease the risk of a wreck between the big rig and another object or vehicle. If a driver fails to utilize these systems and tools, he or she could be held liable. The trucking company could be held liable for failing to maintain its fleet (or the one truck) if these systems have been equipped, but need repairs.
Our knowledgeable Atlanta truck accident lawyers have successfully handled the numerous complexities of truck accident cases. We are ready to hold all responsible parties accountable for your injuries.
Why you need an experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer
We have extensive experience in the numerous legal issues surrounding tractor-trailer crashes. Our firm hires accident reconstructionists and medical experts to assist in building a case to maximize the likelihood of prevailing in court. Due to the many laws and regulations within the trucking industry, building a compelling case requires proper documentation and irrefutable evidence. That is why the right trucking accident attorney is vitally important.
To competently handle a lawsuit involving a trucking accident, a lawyer must master the regulations that govern the trucking industry. A case can change dramatically in favor of the plaintiff if the truck driver or trucking company is found to have neglected important safety measures. No matter what the cause of the accident, from auto defects to defective roadways, our firm’s accomplished Atlanta truck accident attorneys know how to proceed.
Settlement for woman who suffered serious injury in a trucking accident
Common injuries sustained by Atlanta truck accident victims
While the injuries resulting from a truck accident range from minor to severe, the likelihood of catastrophic injury is higher in a collision with a tractor-trailer. Some of the injuries frequently sustained in a Georgia truck accident include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Loss of limb
- Broken bones
- Damage to internal organs
- Back and neck injuries
Death is another tragic consequence of these accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,067 people were killed in 2015 in accidents involving a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck. If your loved one was killed in a truck accident, the compassionate Atlanta truck accident lawyers at HLM are prepared to bring a wrongful death suit for the pain and suffering due to loss of your loved one and any medical or funeral costs associated with his or her death.
Georgia truck drivers and truck companies must abide by federal safety laws
Truckers that drive on any Georgia highways, such as Interstates I-20, I-24, I-85, and I-95, must comply with federal regulations that are designed to make sure the trucks are safe and the drivers are competent. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency that regulates truck driving. It has the authority to regulate truck operations because most truck drivers operate their vehicles across state lines and are involved in interstate commerce.
Our attorneys understand which laws apply to commercial truck drivers, small truck drivers, and the companies that hire the drivers. The FMCSA enacts these laws, along with guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), based on decades of review of how and why such incidents occur. Truck accidents are often deadly or serious because of the size, dimensions, and weight of trucks. Our lawyers hold violators of these safety laws accountable by demanding they pay all the economic, medical, and personal suffering damages the law allows.
The core federal trucking regulations
Every truck driver and trucking or shipping company is required to know and follow the laws that apply to them. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and no defense for negligence on the road. Some of the key laws our Savannah truck accident lawyers use to show liability are:
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers of semi-trucks, buses, vehicles that transport hazardous waste, and other qualifying large trucks are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license. This license is separate from the standard driver’s license that regular drivers must have. Applicants must be 18 years or older, pass a physical test, and pass a test to show they understand how to drive their large vehicle. Shipping companies must make sure their drivers have a valid CDL. A CDL that is valid in Georgia is generally valid in all 50 states.
- Routine inspections. Each truck must go through a rigid inspection before it can be driven. The inspector should examine the engine, all movable and electrical parts, and safety features such as the mirrors, brakes, lights, and windshields. Trucks should not be allowed on the road until all necessary repairs are made.
- Driving hours. Commercial drivers cannot drive more than 11 continuous hours or more than 14 hours in a single day. Once they reach those limits, they must get off the road and rest or sleep. They cannot get back on the road until 10 continuous hours have elapsed. Truckers also cannot drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period.
- Weight limits. Each type of truck has a gross vehicle weight that the truck, loaded with cargo or not, cannot exceed. Trucks that are too heavy are likely to turn over or to spill their cargo, in addition to being extremely difficult to control especially at higher speeds.
- Drunk driving laws. Most drivers can be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or more. Truck drivers who have a CDL must meet a stricter .04 standard. The truck companies that hire the drivers can conduct random breath and blood tests. Truckers who have an alcoholic beverage must wait four hours or more before driving their truck again.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for truck drivers who transport hazardous waste. Drivers must be trained:
- In the health and safety risks
- The right way to use the equipment
- Work procedures for handling hazardous materials
Truck drivers must also obey the local traffic laws for each state they drive through, including Georgia.
Inadequate Truck Maintenance and Inspection
Georgia’s roadways see a massive number of tractor-trailers and other large trucks utilized in the in- and out-of-state transport of goods and products. Though the presence of these hazardous vehicles is unavoidable, truck drivers and the companies for which they work have a responsibility to do everything in their power to minimize the risk they pose. Much of this risk management involves proper training of drivers and ensuring that drivers adhere to regulations and traffic laws. However, failure to properly inspect or maintain a truck can cause or worsen an accident on the roadway.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP is a law firm with a proven track record of success in holding truck companies accountable to their duty to keep the roadways as safe as possible. Our skilled Atlanta truck accident attorneys fight to obtain just compensation for individuals whose lives are impacted by a collision with a truck. If you or your loved one was injured in a truck accident, our team is standing by to represent you.
Minimum requirements for truck maintenance and inspection
Truck companies must ensure that their vehicles are safe to traverse long distances without posing undue risk to drivers and passengers in proximate vehicles, and in the truck itself. When an accident happens, the qualified Atlanta truck accident attorneys at HLM consult all relevant maintenance and inspection records to determine whether the victims’ injuries were caused or worsened by the truck driver or company’s failure to meet upkeep requirements.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, part 396, require that tractor-trailer operators complete an inspection of their truck at the end of each day. Known as a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), this inspection should include careful examination of the following parts of the vehicle:
- Brakes and brake connections
- Tires, wheels, and rims
- Steering mechanism
- Windshield wipers
- Coupling devices
- Lights, mirrors, and reflectors
- Emergency equipment
Any malfunctions or deficiencies must be reported and remedied before the carrier returns to the roadway. The regulations also indicate that, before operating a tractor-trailer, the driver should review the most recent DVIR and inspect for any noticeable defects. Commercial vehicles are also subject to a mandatory annual state inspection, conducted by state personnel or authorized commercial facilities.
Although there are not specific requirements for preventive maintenance, many of the potential deficiencies and malfunctions uncovered in a DVIR or annual inspection can be avoided when certain measures are taken. These include, but are not limited to, regular:
- Replacement of parts and equipment, including brakes, tires, and other components
- Testing of various parts and systems
- Oil changes
- Tire rotation
Preventive maintenance can lessen the chances of deficient trucks causing harm to innocent victims, and should be an integral part of truck companies’ operating procedures.
Trucking businesses often try to put extra cargo into their trucks so they can make more profits by either using less trucks or delivering more goods. There are federal rules and local business requirements that regulate how much inventory can be put on a truck, how the loads should be secured, when the loads should be inspected, and what tools should be used.
Why overloaded trucks are dangerous
Overload spills can cause damage in two key ways. The first is the spilled loads can be thrown into the paths of other vehicles or directly through the windshields or on the roofs. The second danger is when cars try to avoid the spill and swerve or slide into other vehicles or roadway barriers. Overloaded trucks are harder for the driver to control as well, which could lead to trucks rolling over and causing bigger accidents with other cars. Some additional risks include:
- The truck axles may bear too much weight and crack or fall apart.
- Overloaded trucks have a different center of gravity than they should, which can make it easier for the truck to flip over or jackknife.
- Shifting loads can make it difficult for the truck driver to retain control.
If the driver loses control, the truck can crash into another vehicle, causing devastating injuries or fatalities. Spills can create havoc all over the highway.
Truck overload regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency that regulates truck safety nationwide. Our Savannah truck accident lawyers understand the latest FMCSA laws and use violations as evidence that a trucking company or driver failed to protect the driving public. Some of the applicable regulations include:
- Truck shipments should be secured with dunnage bags, tiedowns, cradles, and other safety equipment.
- Trucks that carry large objects like pipes, concrete, steel, wood, and industrial equipment must comply with very specific FMCSA rules because, if these items fall into the road, the accidents can be catastrophic.
- Visible warnings are required if loads are longer or wider than the truck dimensions, causing the load to overhang.
- Trucks must be lower in weight than the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) assigned to that type of truck. The GVWR usually factors in specifications set forth by the manufacturer of the various truck parts such as the suspension, powertrains, and truck frame.
Trucks should not have loads that exceed capacity. Due consideration should be taken for the type of substances being transported. Liquids, gases, and solids each pose separate risks.
Intoxicated Truck Drivers
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every three traffic fatalities in the country is due to an intoxicated driver. Drunk drivers cause an average of 370 deaths of Georgia residents each year. Many of these deaths involve people between 21 and 34 years of age. Drunk driving fatalities should be zero. There is no justification for a driver who has had too much to drink getting behind a wheel.
Drunk drivers are a danger because they have no control over their trucks or vehicles, and because other cars have no way to drive defensively because intoxicated drivers are erratic. Drivers who operate trucks while intoxicated are even more dangerous because the impact of a truck accident is often more catastrophic than a car crash.
We work with law enforcement that often determine through chemical tests whether the driver was intoxicated when the injury happened. We bring punitive damage claims because driving while drunk is so egregious. Our highly successful track record includes substantial settlements and verdicts against truck drivers and drunk drivers.
The relevant laws on driving under the influence of alcohol
In Georgia, as in all states, drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more are presumed to have driven their vehicle while intoxicated. BAC is usually determined by a breath or blood test. Drivers who have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), as drivers of semi-rigs and other large trucks usually do, are held to a higher standard. If someone with a CDL is found to have a BAC of .04 or more, they are presumed to have been driving while drunk.
Truck drivers are especially prone to drive while intoxicated because of the lonesome hours away from home. While a drink may relieve the boredom, truckers should refrain from driving until the alcohol is out of their system.
Who is accountable besides the driver?
Often the truck driver has minimal insurance or not enough insurance to compensate the victims or the families of those who lose their life because of a drunk driving crash. Our Savannah drunk driving lawyers often bring claims against one or more of the following irresponsible defendants:
- The owners of the truck. Vehicle owners are usually liable for the actions of the people they let driver their trucks.
- The trucking company that hired the driver. The business that hires the truck driver should routinely communicate with the driver and look for signs that the driver may be intoxicated.
- Irresponsible businesses that sell liquor. Taverns, nightclubs, liquor stores, restaurants, and any entity that sells alcohol can be held liable if they serve liquor to someone who causes a truck accident if that person was under 21 or was visibly intoxicated.
- Social hosts. In Georgia, party givers, families, homeowners, and employers can be held responsible if they give liquor to a minor or someone who they knew or should have known already had too much to drink.
Determining that the driver was intoxicated and that the intoxication caused the accident requires a great deal of investigative work and precise understanding of the laws.
Settlement for injuries sustained in rear-end trucking collision
Driver fatigue is a serious problem on the roadways. When individuals operate vehicles in a weary or exhausted state, they place themselves and everyone around them at a significant risk of injury. Unfortunately, this serious problem commonly affects specific industries, such as trucking and passenger transportation services. In these situations, the employer may be held liable for injuries caused by a fatigued driver.
Who is most likely to drive while fatigued?
At HLM, our lawyers have successfully advocated for victims injured by personal and professional drivers. Whether it is a taxi cab driver working to fit in as many fares as possible or a corporate salesperson driving to attend an early morning meeting, the stress and demands of these jobs can easily lead to the operation of a vehicle under a fatigued state. Some of our most high-value outcomes involved professional vehicle operators who drove in a fatigued state, in order to further the goals of a business employer. For example:
By law, professional truck drivers are limited in the amount of time they can operate their vehicles within a 24-hour period. These laws are put in place to promote adequate rest and prevent the inherent dangers of driving an incredibly large and heavy vehicle while exhausted. For employed truck operators, the employer and driver are responsible for ensuring compliance with these regulations. Failure to meet this duty can result in liability for both parties. For independent drivers, determining liability can prove challenging without the assistance of a knowledgeable lawyer.
Our Atlanta fatigued truck driver attorneys understand the complexities of these cases and we know how to identify all responsible parties for maximum compensation.
Trustworthy guidance through your truck accident claim
The motor vehicle accident claims process can quickly become frustrating. From speaking with insurance adjustors to collecting all relevant evidence, the numerous requirements can prove overwhelming. Our accomplished Atlanta truck accident attorneys have the knowledge and experience to effectively and successfully walk you through the accident claim process. We speak with the insurance company for you and diligently work to investigate and gather all necessary documentation and witness accounts. If you have been involved in an accident involving a drowsy driver, trust us to guide through every step of your injury claim.
Reckless and Aggressive Truck Driver Accidents
Aggressive driving accounts for over half of all traffic crashes, according to a study done by the American Automobile Association in 2009. The study was based on aggressive driving definitions compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Aggressive or reckless driving is especially dangerous when trucks are involved. Driving a commercial truck, such as a semi-truck or 18-wheeler, is risky enough when the driver is cautious and obeying the traffic laws. When truck drivers speed, constantly shift lanes, or tailgate, they are likely to cause collisions that will result in death, permanent injuries, or the need for long-term care.
What conduct qualifies as reckless driving?
Almost everyone who has driven on Georgia’s interstates, state roads, or rural roads has experienced traveling in the slow lane at the proper rate of speed when a tractor-trailer gets so close, you can smell the fumes from the truck. The truck driver keeps pushing until you are forced into another lane or even onto the shoulder of the road. Alternatively, the truck passes you and begins to tailgate other drivers in the same way, causing fear among every driver on that stretch of the highway. If the truck gets too close, there is not enough room to pass, or there’s an emergency need to slow down, the truck can collide with you or another vehicle, causing deadly or catastrophic injuries.
NHTSA, through its Fatal Accident Report System (FARS), has developed a list of criteria that qualifies as aggressive or reckless driving. These factors include:
- Erratically changing lanes
- Failing to allow another vehicle to merge
- Failing to yield
- Passing too closely or too quickly
- Passing even when it is clear passing is not allowed
- Failing to obey traffic signs and signals
- Illegally using the shoulder of the road
- Making improper turns
Speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and distracted driving are the top three reasons for fatalities, according to the NHTSA.
The problem of aggressive driving is so severe that the federal government has designed a program known as Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT) to try to reduce reckless driving accidents.
Your rights when reckless truck drivers cause death or serious injuries
Our Atlanta reckless truck driving attorneys understand how to hold aggressive truck drivers liable for the harm they cause. We do not limit actions, though, to just the driver. For example:
- If the hiring trucking company put undue time pressures on their driver, we then seek to hold the company accountable.
- It the truck was owned by someone else, we may bring a claim against the owner of the truck.
- If the driver was intoxicated, then we may sue taverns, restaurants, and other businesses that served liquor to the driver if they reasonably knew he/she was intoxicated and likely to drive soon. We also demand that social hosts who served alcohol be held accountable.
In reckless driving cases, our Savannah reckless truck driver lawyers demand payment for the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering of the victim. In wrongful death cases, we demand payment for the economic loss and the loss of services and society the deceased loved one would have provided the family members. We also demand that the wrongdoers pay punitive damages to punish the driver for the malicious conduct and to deter the driver from ever driving recklessly again.
Distracted Truck Drivers
The US government reports that, in 2014, more than 430,000 people were injured in vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. In addition, at any given time, an estimated 600,000 drivers are operating their cars while using their cell phones or utilizing some type of electronic device. These disturbing statistics demonstrate the serious problem of distracted driving.
How is distracted driving defined in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, no driver may text – at all – while he or she is operating a vehicle of any kind. However, Georgia does not outlaw the use of hand-held mobile phones by drivers over the age of 18, not in emergency situations. Nor does it outlaw a number of other distractions that could lead to a crash or collision on the roads at any given time.
At HLM, our lawyers rigorously advocate for victims injured by distracted drivers. We have handled a variety of distracted driver situations, including:
- Talking to a passenger. This common activity can quickly become hazardous, especially if the interactions are emotional or contentious.
- Reaching for a moving object inside the vehicle. Reaching for an object requires the driver to take his or her eyes off of the road.
- Looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle. When people become distracted by events or objects outside of the car, they lose focus on the road and proper operation of the vehicle.
- Reading. This extremely dangerous activity causes drivers to take their eyes and attention off of the road for extended periods of time.
- Grooming. This is another outrageous activity, but one that happens all too often and requires a driver to take their eyes off the road.
- Talking on a cell phone. Speaking on a cell phone significantly distracts vehicle operators. While some believe that hands-free phones offer an increased level of safety, a report by the National Safety Council found that the cell phone conversation itself, whether hands-free or hand-held, is what causes distracted driving.
- Texting or emailing on a cellular device.This is arguably the most dangerous form of distracted driving, requiring the driver’s cognitive, visual, and manual attention.
Our knowledgeable Atlanta distracted driving lawyers have the skill and experience to secure compensation for such a reckless disregard for safety.
Poorly Trained Commercial Truck Drivers
Because they are operating vehicles with a high risk of causing injury or death, it is essential that truck drivers receive effective and adequate training before taking to the roadways. Operating a tractor-trailer requires in-depth knowledge and skills and is entirely different from driving a car or other smaller vehicle. Even the largest of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are nowhere near as complex to operate as a large commercial truck. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their drivers have the required credentials and have received necessary training. If they have failed to do so, and a driver causes an accident, both the driver and the truck company may be held liable for any resulting injuries.
Understanding the standard drivers must meet
Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle is required, by state and federal law, to possess a commercial driver license (CDL). To obtain this credential, drivers must pass both a road test and a knowledge test to ensure he or she has mastery of the skills required to safely operate a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle. Truck companies must ensure that any driver who operates their vehicle have a valid CDL upon entering their employ. Additionally, truck companies should stay abreast of any changes to a driver’s CDL status, which can result from traffic violations, accidents, or failure to renew their CDL.
Training for a CDL in Georgia covers the following topics:
- Georgia and interstate traffic laws
- Driver safety in all conditions
- Proper operation and maintenance of truck features and parts
- Safe transport of cargo
- Safe transport of passengers
- Air brake systems
- Combination vehicles
- Double, triple, and tank vehicles
- Hazardous materials
- Vehicle inspection requirements
Still, a CDL is not sufficient to ensure that a driver is properly trained and prepared to operate a truck company’s commercial vehicles. As such, companies should provide their own training and supervision, meeting federal requirements regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and state requirements regulated by the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD).
Additionally, all companies that operate commercial vehicles in the state of Georgia are required to complete the Georgia Required Safety Education Seminar.
Do not hesitate to contact a professional Georgia truck accident lawyer
Truck accidents can cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries to those involved. In addition, the resulting legal cases are often complicated and arduous. That is why it is important to be represented by an attorney with the skills to fight for you. The Atlanta truck accident lawyers of HLM diligently work to secure high-value outcomes for clients. Call us now at 404-961-7650 to schedule a free consultation. You can also complete our contact form.
- The Potential Perils of Sharing the Road with Big Rigs
- Negligent Maintenance Issues in Truck Driver Accidents
- Avoiding the Blind Spots of Large Trucks
- Fatigued Truck Drivers: Lack of Sleep Can Have Deadly Consequences
- Distracted Truck Drivers Pose Major Hazards on Georgia Roadways
- The Negative Effects of Fatigue Driving While Behind the Wheel of a Truck