Trucking Accident Lawyer Fayette County
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. He is your trucking accident lawyer in Fayette County.
Commercial drivers operating in the Atlanta area and around the state of Georgia are frequently guilty of: speeding, failing to maintain their lane, following too close, running stop signs and red lights, driving while fatigued, driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and exceeding the maximum hours of service allowed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In addition, trucking companies are often negligent in: inspecting the trucks and cargo, repairing the trucks, maintaining the tractors, overloading the tractor-trailer, and falling to properly secure the load. Companies are also occasionally caught pressuring drivers to fabricate or destroy the driver’s logs and forcing drivers to exceed legal limits on driving hours.
In Georgia, the most frequently traveled highways, and therefore the highways with the most tractor-trailer accidents, are: I-20, I-75, I-95, I-85, I-285, I-575, and I-985.
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.
We encourage you to review our past results in trucking cases, review what our prior clients have said about our work, and then call our firm for a free evaluation of your trucking case. Our trucking accident lawyer in Fayette County is ready to help you today.
Law Offices of Andrew Goldner, LLC
Phone: (404) 869-1580