Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers, Dekalb County, GA
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 vehicle accidents. Due to their sheer size and weight, eighteen-wheelers are capable of causing tremendous destruction. These horrible wrecks occur on Georgia highways and interstates.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP lawyers have the knowledge and experience to handle truck accident cases effectively. If you or a family member was injured in a truck accident, turn to our experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyers for representation you can trust.
Why are Tractor-Trailers so Dangerous on the Road?
How can we help?
- Why you need an experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer
- What causes truck accidents in Atlanta?
- What are common examples of trucker negligence?
- What are common injuries sustained by Atlanta truck accident victims?
- Are there federal safety standards for commercial trucks?
- Do you have a truck accident lawyer near me?
Why you need an experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer
Harris Lowry Manton LLP has 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 in Atlanta is vital.
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 build a case.
What causes truck accidents in Atlanta?
Tractor-trailer trucks weigh tons even when empty. When carrying a load, the weight increases. 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 higher.
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:
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. Federal rules 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.
Overload spills can cause damage in two key ways. The first is 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 also harder for the driver to control, which could lead to trucks rolling over and causing 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, making 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.
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.
Inadequate 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 Harris Lowry Manton 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 no 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.
What are common examples of trucker negligence?
Truck driver negligence and error are leading causes of accidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. This negligence can take the form of:
Reckless and aggressive driving
Aggressive driving accounts for 7% of all traffic crashes, according to a study done by the Insurance Information Institute in 2020. 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 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.
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 passing is not allowed
- Failing to obey traffic signs and signals
- Illegally using the shoulder of the road
- Making improper turns
Speeding is the #1 cause of fatal truck accidents. In an attempt to cover enough ground before their federally mandated rest periods, many truck drivers will speed or engage in other negligent behaviors behind the wheel.
The aggressive driving problem is so severe that the federal government has designed a Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT) program to reduce reckless driving accidents.
The US government reports that, in 2021, there were 57,605 distracted driving incidents. 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.
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.
- 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.
- This extremely dangerous activity causes drivers to take their eyes and attention off of the road for extended periods.
- Grooming. This is another outrageous activity that happens all too often and requires a driver to take their eyes and hands 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.
According to the NHTSA, an average of 32 people die every day as a result of a drunk driver. Drunk drivers caused 353 deaths of Georgia residents in 2019. 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.
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.
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.
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.
What are 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 NHTSA, 234 people were killed in Georgia in 2020 in accidents involving a tractor-trailer or 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.
Are there federal safety standards for commercial trucks?
The 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 for interstate commerce.
The FMCSA enacts these laws, along with guidance from the NHTSA, based on decades of research regarding trucking incidents. Truck accidents are often deadly or serious because of the size, dimensions, and weight of trucks.
Some of the key issues our Atlanta truck accident lawyers use to show liability are:
- Licensing. Drivers of semi-trucks, buses, vehicles that transport hazardous waste, and other qualifying large trucks must obtain a CDL. This license is separate from the standard driver’s license. Shipping companies must make sure their drivers have a valid CDL. A CDL 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 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 or more than 14 hours daily. 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 spill their cargo.
- Drunk driving laws. Most drivers can be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol if their 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 at a minimum before driving their truck again.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for truck drivers transporting 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.
Commercial truck driving standards
Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle is required, by state and federal law, to possess a commercial driver's license. To obtain this credential, drivers must pass both a road test and a written test to ensure he or she has mastery of the skills required to safely operate a commercial vehicle. Truck companies must ensure that any driver who operates their vehicle has a valid CDL upon entering their employ. Additionally, truck companies should stay abreast of any changes to a driver’s CDL status.
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 insufficient 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 operating commercial vehicles in the state of Georgia must complete the Georgia Required Safety Education Seminar.
Regulations for loading trucks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also regulates truck safety nationwide. We use violations of these laws to prove negligence and cause. Some of the applicable regulations include:
- Truck shipments should be secured with dunnage bags, tiedowns, cradles, and other safety equipment.
- Trucks carrying large objects like pipes, concrete, steel, wood, and industrial equipment must comply with specific FMCSA rules because, if these items fall into the road, the accidents are 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.
Do you have a truck accident lawyer near me?
Harris Lowry Manton LLP serves the greater Atlanta region; our office is located at 1418 Dresden Drive, in Brookhaven, Georgia, with plenty of local parking just a short walk away. We have an additional office in Savannah.
We serve clients throughout Georgia and offer other options for initial consultations if you cannot make it to one of these locations.
Contact a 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 Harris Lowry Manton LLP diligently work to secure high-value outcomes for clients. Call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Brookhaven, Dekalb County Office
1418 Dresden Dr NE
Brookhaven, Georgia 30319