Challenges in Georgia Trucking Accident Claims


September 27, 2010

Trucking accident litigation poses an interesting paradox in that these cases often result in the most serious injuries, however, there are often unique challenges to overcome prior to recovering compensation for injuries. The trucking industry is heavily regulated by both federal and state governments because the huge difference in weight between a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle often results in catastrophic injuries including traumatic brain injury, spinal chord injury, paralysis, and fatalities.

While most truck drivers are well trained and have the best of intentions, unfortunately accidents happen. Despite the many regulations that govern the trucking industry, there are still many challenging obstacles that must be overcome while pursuing a lawsuit resulting from a trucking accident. At Montlick and Associates, we have over 25 years of experience in handling semi-truck cases. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in a tractor-trailer accident, we are ready to represent your interests in the face of the unique obstacles posed by trucking litigation.

One of the biggest obstacles in trucking cases is the tendency of evidence to be "lost" or destroyed. All big rig trucks have an onboard computer referred to as a black box. This electronic monitoring system records a wealth of information including critical information regarding vehicle maintenance issues, such as tire pressure. The data recorder will also record important information related to the truck driver's actions including speed, sudden braking, following distance and hours of service. The black box devices may also contain email correspondence between a driver and the trucking company addressing mechanical or fatigue issues or similar issues that may be relevant to establishing fault. Fatigue is such a common cause in trucking accidents that there are extensive rules to govern rest periods, referred to as "hours of service rules." Data from black box recorders is often conveniently erased following an accident. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we will send a letter to the trucking company making it clear that the black box data is to be preserved.

Another type of evidence that may be critical, and that may be altered in trucking accident cases, is a driver's log book. Truck drivers are required by federal regulations to keep a log book to substantiate that they are complying with hours of service rules. A driver trying to keep an unrealistic schedule set by the trucking company may falsify the log book. The practice of falsifying information in log books is so prevalent these incidents are referred to in the trucking industry as "lie logs." The steps we take to preserve black box data provides an alternate way to verify the log book records. The point is that trucking industry records and evidence are often distorted or destroyed, so it is a good idea to retain an experienced trucking attorney as soon as possible to make sure critical evidence of fault does not mysteriously vanish.

An issue that is closely related to the preservation of evidence is the speed at which the investigation process in a trucking accident tends to move. A trucking company will typically have experts and investigators available 24/7 who will be immediately dispatched to an accident. This means that the trucking company gets access to the evidence as soon as the trucking accident occurs. The truck may be moved and altered, meaning that critical evidence disappears. Therefore, if you are involved in a trucking accident, ideally you should contact a trucking accident lawyer before you even leave the scene of the accident.

Another common challenge in trucking litigation is the issue of agency. Truck drivers are often classified as independent contractors as opposed to employees. Trucking companies may structure their relationship with a truck driver this way to avoid liability in the event of a serious accident. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we know that the characterization of the relationship between a driver and a trucking company is often nothing more than a ruse or a trick to avoid liability.

While a number of factors are relevant in establishing an employment relationship, the bottom line is that if the trucking company exerts a significant degree of control over the driver a court will often find an employment relationship despite how the company and driver characterize the particular relationship. Even if no employment relationship exists, a trucking company may still be liable for negligence in hiring, retaining or training the driver. At Montlick and Associates we will obtain and carefully review all company and public records to determine if the trucking company should have known that they were entrusting an 80,000 lb vehicle to someone who should never have been trusted to be behind the wheel of a big rig.

Trucking accident cases are typically complex and expensive to litigate. Trucking companies have enormous resources and experts at their disposal. A trucking accident victim may be ill-advised to retain a law firm that primarily handles routine ordinary auto accidents. A trucking accident victim needs a law firm behind it with extensive knowledge and experience of trucking regulations, trucking industry practices, and trucking litigation defense strategies.

The Georgia tractor trailer truck accident attorneys of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, have been representing people throughout the State of Georgia who are seriously injured or killed in commercial trucking accidents for over 25 years. If you or someone you love is involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, we are available to begin investigating and pursuing compensation on behalf of a trucking accident victim immediately. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, 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, and we will even come to you.

Category: Truck Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.