When you see the massive commercial vehicles racing down I-80, I-75, and the numerous state and local roads surrounding Atlanta, you know that the risk of truck accidents is high. However, statistics from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GA DOT) reveal that crashes are a threat throughout the state. Every year, there are almost 25,559 total collisions involving semis, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and other large trucks. Around 230 people are killed and more than 8,600 victims are injured in these incidents. From the size and weight of a truck compared to an automobile, you can guess that most casualties are in the passenger vehicle.
Truck accidents generally follow the same legal process and rules as other Georgia traffic collisions, but there is one key factor that makes them more complex. With a crash involving a commercial vehicle, numerous parties contribute to putting the rig on the road. Any of them could be responsible for causing the truck collision.
While there are many additional complications with Georgia truck collisions, having multiple potential parties does present challenges. You can count on your Atlanta truck accident attorney to tackle them, but a few important points are useful.
Truck Drivers and Negligence
The most direct party to sue is the truck’s operator who caused the crash through careless acts. In the practice of law, the theory of liability that applies is negligence. To recover compensation, you need evidence showing that the collision happened because the truck driver did not exercise reasonable care. Examples of truck operator negligence include:
- Taking corners too fast;
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Running red lights or stop signs;
- Violating Hours of Service (HOS) regulations established by federal officials;
- Violations of cargo weight and type regulations; and,
- Distracted driving.
There are other parties beyond the driver that could be liable under the concept of negligence, but not for operating the truck. A person or entity could be responsible for causing a crash through improper loading of cargo, not making repairs to the truck, or failing to properly maintain and inspect the semi.
Vicarious Liability and Trucking Companies
There is another theory of liability that basically builds on the concept of negligence, but directs the claim against a party that is not the driver. Vicarious liability is based upon the employment relationship, and it dictates that an employer is liable for the negligent acts of its employee who is performing job-related tasks. When a truck driver causes an accident because of negligent acts, the trucking company could be a potential party.
Also, a trucking company might be accountable under the theory of negligence. The focus is on whether the employer failed to exercise reasonable care in hiring, such as not conducting a background check or checking the driver’s credentials.
Trucking Logos and Liability
With vicarious liability in truck accidents, you can probably expect what trucking companies do to protect their interests. They do not hire employees to drive their trucks, but work out an independent contractor agreement. Because there is no employer-employee relationship, the company shirks liability.
Anticipating this sneaky trick, federal officials impose restrictions on carriers who use independent contractors. All agreements must contain a clause that requires the trucking company to assume complete responsibility for the operation of the truck.
The regulations create a new theory to hold the appropriate parties responsible: Logo liability. When a company’s logo appears on the semi or trailer, you must consider pursuing the owner of the logo as well.
Manufacturer Liability for Defective Parts
Yet another potential party in a truck accident is probably located far from where the incident occurred, and the at-fault party may not even be located in the US. Manufacturers of the parts and components on a semi and trailer could be accountable for producing a defective product if it contributed to the collision. Examples include defective:
- Brakes and brake pads;
- Air braking systems;
- Steering systems;
- Auto emergency braking features;
- Cameras and sensors;
- Navigation systems; and,
- Tires and wheels.
Products liability is the concept that covers these cases, and most claims proceed on the basis of strict liability. You do not need to show fault by the manufacturer, but you must have evidence regarding the defect and how it contributed to the truck accident.
Insurance Companies and Truck Accidents
Despite this information on what potential parties are liable and how, you should realize that the party you will actually deal with after a truck crash with is the insurer. Truck drivers, commercial carriers, and any business that services the trucking industry will have liability insurance to cover accidents. This is where you start with the legal process.
You will file a claim with the insurance company, which is a demand package. In it, you will include the circumstances of the truck accident and detail all of your losses. After receiving your claim, the insurer will investigate and respond. In many cases, you will receive a denial or lowball counteroffer. Insurance companies are looking after their own bottom line, not yours.
If the insurer will not pay a fair amount as settlement, your next step is suing in court. The process includes filing a complaint, motions, court appearances, discovery, and depositions. Eventually, your case will be scheduled for trial if not resolved.
Monetary Damages for Truck Crash Victims
In a successful Georgia truck accident claim, there is a wide range of compensation you may qualify to recover, including:
- Medical expenses for emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, and other treatment;
- Lost income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional anguish;
- Scarring and disfigurement; and,
- Other losses that impact quality of life.
Speak to an Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyer About Your Rights
While it is comforting to know that compensation is available, you will need skilled legal representation when pursuing your rights in a truck accident claim. Our Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys are knowledgeable about the laws, so we will develop a strategy to pursue all potential parties. Please contact us today at (404) 529-3476 or via our website to set up a free case assessment.