Macon, Albany, and Warner Robins tractor-trailer lawyers explain how to determine fault in a truck wreck
Given the sheer size and mass of commercial trucks, especially when traveling on high-speed interstates and highways, victims of trucking accidents in Georgia are likely to suffer life-changing injuries or even death.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2017. This number was a 9 percent increase from 2016 and a 42 percent increase since 2009. An estimated 107,000 large trucks were involved in injury crashes in 2017.
A majority of truck accident victims are the drivers and passengers of other small vehicles, but truckers frequently get hurt as well. In fact, trucker deaths are at their highest level in more than 30 years, according to data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
If you or a loved one were involved in a truck wreck, we understand that no amount of compensation can fully repair the serious injuries, property damage and heartache you are experiencing right now. However, compensation can provide the financial resources you need to obtain the best medical treatment, deal with lost income during recovery and provide your family with financial stability now and into the future.
What is a “truck”?
In legal terms, a “truck” typically refers to commercial transport vehicles and freight carriers — not pickups. According to the NHTSA, a large truck is defined as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds.
On average, most commercial trucks weigh 35,000 to 40,000 pounds, which is 7 or 8 times heavier than the average passenger vehicle, and they are 20 times larger than most motor vehicles. Other commonly used names for large commercial trucks include heavy trucks, tractor-trailers, semis and 18-wheelers.
Here are some of the most common types of large trucks found on Georgia roads and highways:
- Concrete (cement mixer) trucks
- Dump/garbage trucks
- Log carriers
- Refrigerator trucks
- Tractor units
- Tank trucks
- Mobile cranes
- Tow trucks
- Box trucks
- Delivery trucks
Who can you sue for truck accident damages?
Pursuing compensation for a truck accident is much more involved than filing a claim following a car wreck or any other motor vehicle accident. This is because the damage is more extensive, the insurance limits are higher, the causes of the accident can be more complex and there can be multiple potential avenues of financial responsibility.
Depending on the circumstances of the tractor-trailer accident, you may be capable of pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against any or all of the following:
- The truck driver. Speeding, driving too many consecutive hours (and lying about it in logbooks), failing to properly inspect the vehicle and driving while distracted or fatigued are just a few of the things truckers do that can lead to serious accidents. When a truck driver’s negligence or recklessness causes or contributes to an accident, the truck driver can be held financially liable for injuries and/or fatalities.
- The trucking company. Negligent corporate policies may contribute to an accident. For example, paying truck drivers by the mile is a policy that, by its very nature, influences truckers to speed and ignore federal restrictions about how long a trucker can drive consecutively without rest. Trucking companies can also be held responsible for negligent hiring practices, inadequate training, poor truck maintenance and negligent driving of its truckers.
- The insurance company. The law requires that trucking companies carry a minimum amount of insurance that is much higher than that of passenger vehicles. This insurance comes into play when the trucking company is sued for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit following an accident. However, unlike lawsuits following any other type of motor vehicle accident, the trucking company’s insurance company can be sued directly for compensation following a serious or fatal trucking accident.
- The manufacturer of a defective part. Though the trucking company is responsible for performing routine maintenance on the truck, a manufacturer of a part or the vehicle itself can be held liable if a design or part defect was to blame for the crash. This type of case falls under product liability, and the manufacturer can be held strictly liable for paying the accident victim. Common examples of truck-related product liability claims include defective brakes, tire blowouts, steering problems, hydraulic failures and defective trailer hitches.
- The truck or trailer rig owners. Some truckers are independent contractors. They own their rigs and lease their services to several different companies. In cases such as these, the owner of the truck could be held liable for an accident involving their vehicle.
- The cargo loading company. There are federal regulations specifying how trucks should be loaded and how much they can safely carry. Certain materials also have special loading restrictions, such as when a trucker is hauling hazardous materials. If a load isn’t properly balanced, secured or is too heavy, which causes the truck to rollover or crash, then the shipping company responsible for loading the truck can be held liable.
Other truck accident resources
Our Georgia truck accident lawyers have over 50 years of experience
Were you or a loved one involved in a truck accident in Georgia? We can help you hold the at-fault driver responsible for your losses and damages. View our proven results and learn how we can put our experience to work seeking the best possible results in your case. Talk to our semi-truck accident attorneys to discuss the potential of filing a truck accident lawsuit and what steps you should take next. Your initial consultation is 100% free.