Georgia Tractor-Trailer Accident Frequently Asked Questions
A fully loaded semi tractor-trailer can weigh in excess of 80,000 pounds, but is far less responsive than a 3,000 pound passenger vehicle in terms of it's ability to brake, accelerate, and maneuver. This unfortunate combination of factors results in approximately 500,000 accidents involving semi-trucks each year. A collision involving a commercial big rig results in a person being killed or injured every 16 minutes. The enormous weight disparity between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles result in a disproportionate number of fatal accidents when a semi-truck is involved. One in eight motor vehicle fatalities involve a commercial truck.
At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing those seriously injured or killed in tractor-trailer accidents for over 35 years. If you or someone you love is involved in a semi-truck accident, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible so that valuable evidence is not destroyed or lost. We have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about semi-truck accidents.
Who may be liable in a trucking accident case?
Any party whose negligent conduct contributes to the trucking accident and resulting injuries may be liable for damages. This may include some or all of the following parties, and potentially others as well, depending on the facts of the facts of each case:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Maintenance company that services the truck
- Company that loads the truck
- Company that supplied a load containing an unmarked hazardous substance
- Owner of the tractor
- Owner of the trailer
- Facility that loaded the trailer
- Manufacturer of the truck, trailer or and truck parts
- The driver, owner, or manufacturer of another vehicle involved in the accident
- A public entity that failed to design, construct or maintain a safe roadway
- The manufacturer of the truck
- The manufacturer of parts used in the truck
An experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyer must be careful to include all relevant parties who contributed to the accident, to ensure that the maximum compensation is received. A trucking accident is often complex because there may be so many parties that contribute to the accident. An Attorney who does not have a lot of experience and knowledge in this area of the law could easily miss making a claim against one of these parties. At Montlick & Associates, our experienced attorneys will carefully investigate the accident to determine who should be included as a defendant in any lawsuit.
Do I need a trucking lawyer or can I simply work things out with the trucking company?
In our experience, the worst thing a person injured in a trucking accident can do is try to negotiate on their own with the trucking company, the trucking company's insurance company, and it's lawyers. Trucking company lawyers are experts at fighting these kinds of cases and may use the information you provide to justify denying your claim or minimize the amount of your recovery. You should never sign anything or talk to representatives from the trucking company until you have obtained advice from an experienced trucking lawyer who can help you level the playing field.
How soon after a trucking accident do I need to consult an attorney?
The answer is that it is impossible to hire a trucking attorney too quickly. Trucking companies have investigators and attorneys on call who will be dispatched to an accident scene when it occurs. Critical evidence such as data maintained in on board computers, log book data, and the condition of the truck itself can be altered or conveniently disappear. The sooner you hire an attorney the sooner the attorney can send notice to the trucking company that the black box data and condition of the truck are the subject of litigation and must be preserved without change (referred to as a "spoilation letter").
Is the trucking industry subject to state and federal regulations?
Trucking companies are subject to an extensive array of federal and state regulations designed to protect those that share the road with semi-trucks. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations provide detailed regulations that limit the hours of service a truck driver may drive without resting. These hours of service rules are designed to prevent fatigue which is a common cause of trucking accidents. Truck drivers must also keep on board computers and log books that track important information including compliance with hours of service requirements. Driver fatigue is a probable factor in 20-40% of all trucking accidents. Federal regulations also require commercial trucks to carry more insurance.
Does alcohol or drug use play a significant role in trucking accidents?
Trucking regulations prohibit a truck driver from reporting to duty with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.02 or after taking any drug that may affect driving. These strict rules against alcohol and drug use are virtual zero tolerance policies. A driver also violates federal regulations if the driver consumes any alcohol within eight hours before an accident. Despite these regulations, one study found one or more drugs detected in 67% of fatally injured drivers.
What are common causes of trucking accidents?
There are many common causes for trucking accidents. Here are some examples:
- Overloaded truck
- Failure to properly train a driver
- Inadequate truck maintenance
- Driver fatigue from violation of hours of service rules
- Unsafe roads or failure of traffic control signals
- Traffic violations such as speeding or failure to yield
- Unsafe speed given weather conditions and visibility
- Load shifting due to improper loading of truck
- Drug or alcohol use
- Aggressive driving
- Unreasonable delivery schedules
- Failure to inspect vehicle
- Lack of mirror for blind spots
- Driver inattention including use of a cell phone
There are really an unlimited number of causes that may contribute to a truck accident but these are common factors that are involved in many commercial truck accidents.
Will experts be needed in a trucking case?
Experts may be utilized in many serious trucking cases because they can provide accident reconstruction and analyze the onboard computer data, log books, safety inspection records and provide opinions on what caused the accident and how it might have been avoided.
What is the statute of limitations for a trucking accident in Georgia?
Typically, a person must initiate a lawsuit within 2 years, but the time to initiate a claim can be much shorter if a public entity is one of the defendants (it can be as short as 6 months if the claim is against a government entity in Georgia). The rules regarding the statute of limitations can be complicated, so it is important to retain an attorney as soon as one is involved in a trucking accident. If a claim is not initiated before the statute of limitations has expired, a person's claim will be permanently barred regardless of the seriousness ones injuries.
Why do I need a 18 Wheeler attorney to handle a case like this?
A Georgia 18 wheeler accident attorney will be familiar with the detailed state and federal regulations, such as, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and Regulations, that govern trucking companies. A violation of these rules can themselves be the basis for imposing liability. Trucking lawyers will also know how to preserve and analyze on board computer data, driver log books, and other industry standards and practices. A trucking attorney will also be familiar with fleet maintenance procedures.
A trucking accident is a complex case in terms of understanding the trucking regulations and industry standards. If you or someone you love has been serious injured or killed in a Georgia trucking accident, it is important to seek immediate legal advice. Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, have been representing trucking accident victims for over 35 years. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller and rural towns in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away.