Skip to Main Content

Call US now 404 LAW-FIRM

Is a Truck Driver Always Responsible for a Collision with a Passenger Car in Georgia?

The typical passenger car, truck, or even minivan is no match for an 18-wheeler in terms of size and weight. So when there is a trucking accident, it is almost always the persons in the smaller vehicles that suffer the more serious injuries. And it is often the case that negligence on the part of the person operating the commercial truck is ultimately determined to be the primary cause of the accident.

At the same time, you should never assume that a judge or jury will see it that way. The driver of the semi-truck is not automatically responsible for an accident as a matter of law. As with any personal injury claim, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish four elements: duty, breach of that duty, causation, and damages. Put another way, the victim must prove the truck driver acted in a manner that was reckless and caused demonstrable harm.

Georgia Appeals Court Reinstates Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Fatal Trucking Collision Near Savannah

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Wang v. Duke, demonstrates how these principles apply in practice. This tragic case involves a 17-year-old woman who died after her minivan collided with a commercial truck. The fatal accident took place in December 2015 at an intersection in Rincon, Georgia, just outside of Savannah.

The victim drove her minivan eastbound on Fort Howard Road. There was a single stop sign controlling traffic at the intersection of Fort Howard Road and Old Augusta Road. The large truck traveled southbound on Old Augusta Road. The two vehicles collided in the intersection and the victim died as a result of her injuries.

The victim’s parents subsequently filed their wrongful death lawsuit against the driver of the truck and the company that owned the vehicle. Both sides dispute the sequence of events leading to the collision. The truck driver testified in a deposition that he saw the victim pull out from the stop sign and into the intersection. The truck driver said he tried to apply his brakes to avoid a collision but there was nothing he could do.

A police investigation found that the front of the tractor-trailer hit the driver’s side of the victim’s minivan. The police concluded that the defendant driver swerved from the southbound lane into the northbound lane just before impact. The truck driver insisted in his deposition, however, that the impact occurred while he was still in the southbound lane. In other words, he believed the victim ran the stop sign too quickly and pulled out in front of him, leaving him no chance to respond and avoid a collision.

In response, the victim’s parents produced a report from an expert witness, a professional engineer, who signed an affidavit stating that based on his analysis of the accident, the defendant “negligently steered to the left” towards the median in the road and caused the accident. The trial judge deemed the expert’s affidavit unreliable and refused to consider it as evidence. The judge also granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, effectively dismissing the parents’ wrongful death lawsuit without a trial.

The Court of Appeals said that was a legal error. The appellate court said that even excluding the expert witness affidavit–which the appellate court said was within the trial judge’s discretion–the remaining evidence showed there was still a disputed question over whether or not the defendants were negligent. Specifically, there was an open question over whether the truck driver left his lane of travel and entered the median before hitting the victim’s minivan. The court noted there were “brake marks, pictures of the scene, witness statements, [and] measurements” from the police accident report, among other evidence. At a minimum, there was enough to submit the case to a jury.

The Role of Comparative Fault in Georgia Truck Accident Cases

In any trucking accident, the truck driver and the trucking company may try to shift blame onto the victims. This is often a savvy legal strategy because of Georgia’s comparative negligence laws. Comparative negligence–also known as comparative fault–is a key legal principle applied to all Georgia personal injury claims. The idea behind comparative fault is that a jury (or a judge, if the case is tried without a jury) must apportion fault among all parties to the accident.

This is done in terms of percentages. For example, a jury might decide that both the truck driver and the other driver are each 50 percent at-fault. Or the jury could say the truck driver was 80 percent at-fault and the other driver was just 20 percent responsible.

The plaintiff or victim’s percentage of fault is then taken into account when awarding damages. To put it simply, the negligent truck driver or trucking company only has to pay for its share of the fault. And under Georgia’s “modified” comparative fault rule, if the injured party was more than 50 percent at-fault, the defendants do not have to pay any damages.

The modified comparative fault rule, therefore, gives defendants in trucking accident cases a strong incentive to put the victims on trial. Even a finding of partial fault can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in the amount of compensation paid to a victim or their family. And if the victim is found to be 51 percent or more responsible, the defendants can walk away scot-free.

Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys Today

Trucking accidents are often far more complex in terms of the facts and legal issues involved than the typical car accident. For one thing, trucking companies are often large, well-funded businesses that are used to litigating accident lawsuits. They are prepared to fight a victim and their family every step of the way. So you must be prepared to do the same.

The Atlanta trucking accident attorneys at Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys are here to help victims and their families seek just compensation for their losses. Call us today at (404) 529-3476 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.

Free Case Evaluation


We are more than ready to help.

We fight

for your justice.

award-winning Atlanta personal injury law firm