Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyer in Georgia
Our Georgia injury law firm has handled a variety of personal injury and wrongful death claims related to the negligent or reckless driving of a tractor-trailer/commercial truck operator. Mr. Goldner is a frequent invited speaker on Georgia trucking accidents and is someone upon whom other lawyers call for advice in handling trucking litigation.
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Injured in a Semi-truck or Other Commercial Vehicle Accident?
Unfortunately, many trucking companies and drivers place profits over people. Deliveries need to be made, regardless of bad weather, speed, truck maintenance issues, and driver fatigue. This reality is reflected in a company’s failing to hire qualified drivers, letting poorly trained drivers operate semi-trucks, and allowing the maximum hours for driving limits to be exceeded. The result of this profit over safety business model is serious personal injury to, and the wrongful death of, Georgia citizens. Our law firm has handled numerous trucking cases from all over the metropolitan Atlanta area, Dekalb, Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, and Henry Counties, and all over Georgia, which involve terrible conduct by CDL drivers and their employers.
Common Truck and Tractor-Trailer Collisions
In general, trucking claims usually result from one of the following types of collisions:
- Left Turn Wrecks – When a tractor-trailer makes a left turn in front of another vehicle, a substantial collision often results. The length and weight of most commercial vehicles create a situation where any collision is likely to yield significant injuries. This is particularly true in left turn cases where the vehicle which has been cut-off is traveling at a substantial speed. We have seen this type of collision occur when the tractor-trailer driver is in a rush to make a delivery or arrive at a destination at a particular time and, therefore, the driver attempts to “beat” oncoming traffic.
- Underride Collisions – Whenever a tractor-trailer blocks a portion of the roadway either because it has jackknifed, becomes otherwise disabled, or is inappropriately stopped, there is a danger that vehicles following the tractor-trailer will travel under the trailer. This type of collision often results in severe injuries or death because the oncoming vehicle suffers tremendous roof and windshield damage, placing the driver and passengers in grave danger. Trailers are required to have conspicuity tape (reflective marking that is intended to alert drivers to the presence of the vehicle) and under-ride guards (the metal bar which sits low under the trailer). Both of the safety devices are helpful, but neither are adequate in the face on negligent or reckless driving by the commercial vehicle operator.
- Stopped Tractor-Trailers – Tractor-trailers frequently stop, or become disabled, on the roadway or the shoulder of the roadway. This is a very dangerous situation for motorists. Federal law requires that commercial drivers place warning markers (usually reflective triangles) at various distances behind the stopped truck in order to alert oncoming drivers that they are approaching a large, stopped commercial vehicle.
- Rear – End Accidents – This type of collision is the most common. Commercial drivers are often speeding, in a hurry, inattentive, texting, talking on a cell phone, or otherwise distracted. These conditions result in the truck driver failing to stop the tractor-trailer in time and causing a rear-end collision with the vehicle in front of it.
- Improper Lane Change – Tractor-trailer drivers often operate their trucks negligently by changing lanes when it is not safe to do so. The most frequently-seen collision in this category is when a commercial driver moves his truck into a lane and space already occupied by another vehicle. Not surprisingly, this negligent action usually causes a severe collision, frequently sending the passenger car off of the roadway.
WHY ARE TRUCK ACCIDENTS AND CAR ACCIDENTS VERY DIFFERENT?
Accidents involving tractor-trailers, commercial trucks, and most types of “big trucks” are very different from ordinary car wrecks. Click here to see an example of an actual wreck report from a tractor-trailer collision that our firm handled. Attorneys handling truck wrecks in and around the Atlanta (and Georgia) area must have a solid grasp of the details which make these wrecks challenging. It is impossible to list each and every way a commercial vehicle wreck is different from a routine car accident; however, the list below highlights some of the rules and regulations which apply to truck drivers and companies and which are not generally applicable to drivers of automobiles.
THE FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (FMCSA)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the federal agency which is vested with the authority to govern the actions of drivers and trucking companies operating across state lines. This agency has set forth many rules and regulations designed to safeguard the motoring public from the actions of drivers in control of tractor-trailers which weigh many tons.
DISTRACTED DRIVING AND COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
Distracted driving is a large problem for people operating regular passenger cars. Distracted driving is a hugeproblem for truck drivers because of the massive pieces of machinery which they operate on the roadways and highways. The FMCSA performed an outstanding study of distracted driving and the operation of commercial trucks. The FMCSA has banned texting while driving a large truck and may soon ban cell phone use by truck drivers unless a hand-free device is used.
Truck drivers are required to have and maintain a Bill of Lading regarding the goods they are transporting. Why is this document important? The Bill of Lading contains all relevant shipment information – What is being hauled, by whom, where are the goods being delivered? This information may be vital if it is necessary to determine where a driver was, at what time, and whether the type of cargo he was carrying might have contributed to the accident. We have used Bills of Lading to show when a driver picked up a load of goods and prove that, relative to the time of the wreck, he was speeding throughout his route.
COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE (CDL)
Commercial drivers need a special license in order to operate large trucks. The license is called a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) . In order to get a CDL , a driver needs to pass certain tests and otherwise undergo more rigorous training than one who simply drives a regular passenger car. During litigation, it is important to investigate the truck driver’s CDL and determine whether there are currently, or have ever been, any suspensions or revocations on the license. Often, drivers have had CDLs in multiple states, so a thorough investigation is important.
RECORDS AND RECORD RETENTION FOR TRUCKING COMPANIES
The trucking company which employs the truck driver is required to maintain detailed records about the driver, his application for employment, his employment, his performance, and much more. A case may turn on what is contained within these vital records. A lawyer handling a truck wreck case should investigate the driver’s employment file in order to determine whether he should have been hired by the trucking company and in order to evaluate whether the driver’s performance merited continued employment. For example, if a driver had repeated wrecks while operating a tractor-trailer, one should investigate what sort of re-training, if any, the company gave to the driver. We have had numerous cases where the employee files of the truck driver dramatically increased the value of the case because we were able to show that the trucking company was employing an unsafe, and sometimes reckless, driver.
ALCOHOL USE BY TRUCK DRIVERS
The use of alcohol is, of course, regulated regardless of whether one is driving a car or tractor-trailer. However, the use of alcohol is strongly monitored and regulated in connection with the operation of commercial vehicles. In fact, the FMCSA precludes the use of alcohol for a number of hours before operation of a big truck. Further, alcohol testing of truck drivers is mandatory in many post-accident scenarios, regardless of whether the responding police officer believes that alcohol played a role in the wreck.
COMMERCIAL DRIVER FATIGUE
Driver fatigue or “tired driving” is an issue which has become increasingly important in recent years. The FMCSA actually sets forth rules and regulations pertaining to whether a driver is even allowed to operate a tractor-trailer when he may be fatigued. We have handled cases where various documents (the bills of lading, driver’s logs, and meal receipts) show that the truck driver had been driving for too long and was obviously drowsy, thereby causing a wreck.
HOURS OF SERVICE FOR TRUCK DRIVERS
Truck drivers are limited by the FMCSA with regard to how many hours they are allowed to operate a truck in a particular amount of time. These regulations are known as Hours of Service Rules for commercial drivers. Drivers are required to keep logs which document when they come on duty, when they rest, and when they return to duty. Not surprisingly, the purpose of these rules is to keep tired drivers off of the roads. Unfortunately, many trucking companies urge their drivers to make deliveries as quickly as possible in an effort to drive up profit margins. We have seen numerous cases of drivers exceeding the allowable hours of service and, sometimes, even forging log documents.
STOPPED OR DISABLED TRACTOR-TRAILERS
When a small car is stopped or disabled on the side of a road or highway, it may present a problem for passing motorists. When a huge tractor-trailer is disabled on the roadway, the vehicle presents a grave danger for those in the area, particularly if visibility is limited. The truck and trailer are usually massive pieces of machinery. If a passing car collides with the tractor or trailer, there is usually a terrible consequence. The FMCSA has set forth numerous rules which a driver must follow if his truck becomes disabled in or around the roadway. We have seen many cases of motorists colliding with stopped or disabled trucks which were not appropriately marked and did not have the necessary reflective triangles deployed.
RADAR DETECTORS ARE PROHIBITED FOR TRUCK DRIVERS
The FMCSA does not want to encourage commercial drivers to speed. Therefore, the agency bans the use of radar detectors .
INSURANCE AND TRACTOR-TRAILERS
The FMCSA understands that truck drivers get into wrecks frequently and these wrecks often cause significant injuries. Therefore, the agency mandates a “ Minimum Financial Responsibility for Motor Carriers ” (often insurance coverage). Generally, the minimum insurance required is $750,000 for general property carrying trucks and $5,000,000 for trucks carrying hazardous materials.
SYSTEMATIC INSPECTION, REPAIR, AND MAINTENANCE OF COMMERCIAL TRUCKS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that trucking companies and truck drivers inspect their vehicles frequently. The purpose of these inspections is to ensure that the trucks on the road are as free of mechanical defects as possible. Often, human error or mechanical defect is the cause of a wreck (sometimes, it is both). The FMCSA seeks to minimize the mechanical issues which may lead to a wreck, with these rules . The FMCSA takes these regulations seriously. In fact, truck drivers are required to inspect the truck before each trip.
It is important to understand that Georgia, and most other states, impose their own rules on commercial drivers and vehicles. Generally speaking, the FMCSA rules are the most important for lawsuits involving truck claims. The Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) regulates motor carriers which operate within the state of Georgia only (i.e., intrastate carriers ). In practice, the GPSC had adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as the law for motor carriers in Georgia.
TRACTOR-TRAILER AND COMMERCIAL VEHICLE WRECK RESULTS
C.C. $1,600,000.00 (Commercial Vehicle Wreck)
Our client sustained severe leg injuries as a result of a rear-end collision caused by the driver of a commercial truck south of Atlanta, Georgia. We filed and extensively litigated this case until it was ready for trial. After we deposed the truck driver, corporate representative, responding police officer, scene witnesses, and our client’s surgeon, the Defendants elected to resolve the case.
C.P. $900,000.00 (Tractor Trailer Wreck)
Our client, a 25-year-old mother of two children, was significantly injured when a commercial truck ran a red light and caused a major collision in Gainesville, Hall County, Georgia. Our referring lawyer was able to secure a $250,000.00 offer on the case and, to his credit, recognized that this was insufficient compensation for the client’s injuries. She suffered, among other things: a pneumothorax, five broken ribs, loss of her spleen, a fracture of her arm (requiring surgery), a clavicle fracture (requiring surgery), scarring, and chronic headaches. After our law firm filed and investigated this matter, we were able to position the case for early settlement discussions. We secured the client 90% of the available insurance policy.
P. Family $750,000 (Family of 4 injured in a collision with a commercial truck)
Despite a witness who was prepared to testify that our client was at fault for the collision, we were able to secure close to seven figures for a family in a collision with a commercial truck. Through discovery, we were able to show that the defendant truck driver presented inconsistent versions of how the collision happened.
D.J. $500,000 (Tractor Trailer Wreck)
Our client was on his motorcycle and stopped for a downed tree on Knox Bridge Highway in Cherokee County, Georgia. A tractor-trailer driver was operating his vehicle too fast for conditions and caused a chain reaction collision, knocking our client off of his motorcycle. Our client broke his foot and also suffered injuries to his back. His back injuries did not respond to physical therapy and ultimately required a fusion surgery. The Defendants initially claimed that our client was faking his injuries and that he was not actually thrown from his motorcycle as a result of the collision. Accordingly, little money was offered to resolve the case before suit was filed. Our law firm was associated to file and litigate the case. After we deposed the at-fault truck driver and trucking company owner, we were able to prove a number of safety violations that contributed to this wreck. We were also able to prove that the at-fault driver was not compliant with federally mandated post-collision drug and alcohol screening, which raised a number of questions about the driver’s behavior. Ultimately, the insurance company for the Defendants paid to resolve the case instead of trying it to a jury.
M.S. $475,000.00 (Tractor-Trailer Wreck)
Our firm represented a man who was seriously injured during a collision with a tractor-trailer in Dekalb County. Among other injuries, our client sustained a broken hip and foot, both of which required surgery. Our client was given a ticket by the responding police officer and found to be at-fault for the collision; however, through the use of an accident reconstruction expert and scene diagrams, we were able to convince the insurance company that the truck driver bore substantial responsibility for the wreck.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Big truck wrecks affect almost all of the victims tremendously; however, children and young adults are often experience the worst outcomes from these wrecks. Why? First, children are just generally more prone to injury in large vehicle wrecks. The impacts and crash dynamics are hard upon small, developing bodies and bones. We have handled cases involving major orthopedic, spine, and brain trauma as a result of trucking accidents, even those where speeds were not substantial. These injuries often require long-term follow up care with a medical team including orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and rehabilitation specialists.
Among the major injuries we’ve seen from trucking accidents are:
- herniated cervical and lumbar discs
- fractured tibia / fibula
- broken arms, elbows, and ankles
- fractures to the face, skull, and orbital socket
- scarring from burn injuries and/or glass
Injured in a Trucking Accident? Contact the Georgia Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Phone: (404) 869-1580