While many people know that trucking accidents frequently result in serious injuries and fatalities, they often are unaware that the legal issues in tractor-trailer lawsuits are unique and complex. Lawyers who do not regularly handle commercial trucking accident cases often treat them as though they are simply a car accident case with larger vehicles. This approach to a commercial trucking accident case can lead to an accident victim not being awarded the full legal compensation to which the accident victim is entitled.
Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been representing clients throughout Georgia in trucking accident cases for over a quarter of a century. We have provided this article to help explain some of the unique legal issues that are specific to tractor-trailer accident lawsuits.
Most people assume that prior driving history is important in all motor vehicle accident cases. While there are exceptions, Georgia courts routinely exclude past driving history in auto accident cases as irrelevant. The fact a driver was careless or was involved in prior accidents cannot generally be used to establish that a defendant has a character trait of being “a bad driver.” The court focuses on the driver’s conduct during the current accident. The fact that a driver has received 10 speeding tickets during the last month cannot generally be used to establish that a driver was likely speeding during the current accident. The jury isn’t told about prior driving history because it doesn’t have anything to do with whether the driver was negligent that day or the proper amount of damages. Common sense dictates that the information is probably relevant, but courts are afraid that juries will misuse or put too much emphasis on such evidence.
While past driving history is usually not admissible in a typical auto accident case, it is critical evidence in a commercial trucking accident case. In a commercial truck accident lawsuit, experienced truck accident lawyers generally bring a claim for negligent entrustment, hiring, or retention. This is a claim against the trucking company that owns the truck or the driver’s employer. The claim is based on the premise that the owner or employer was negligent because they knew or should have known that it wasn’t safe to allow the driver to operate their truck. This means that a trucking case involves extensive investigation regarding a truck driver’s past unsafe driving practices, driving employment history, moving violations and accidents. An experienced trucking lawyer will use a process called “discovery” where they can obtain personnel records and other documents and evidence of a truck driver’s unsafe driving history.
Another key legal issue that makes commercial trucking cases more than just an auto accident lawsuit “on steroids” is the challenge of establishing potential responsible defendants. Trucking companies typically characterize their relationship with drivers as independent contractor relationships to reduce the risk of being liable in tractor-trailer accidents. When a trucking company argues that they are not liable for a truck driver’s negligence, an experienced trucking lawyer will routinely develop a case to prove an employment relationship existed or some independent basis of liability, such as, negligent hiring, training, supervision or retention. The key issue is the amount of control that the trucking company exercised over the driver. Our experienced Georgia trucking accident lawyers will use the discovery process to seek evidence that the trucking company exercised a significant degree of control over the driver’s routine.
The bottom line is that tractor-trailer cases are not just another auto accident case. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a commercial trucking accident, you need an experienced trucking accident attorney. We have over 39 years of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involving tractor-trailer accidents and commercial vehicles. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24 hour Live Online Chat.