One of the most dangerous aspects of Atlanta area highway travel is the potential for truck accidents and the injuries that they cause. An accident that involves a tractor-trailer or large truck is much more likely to result in catastrophic injuries that are more severe than those that result from car crashes that involve passenger vehicles.
Commercial trucks (also called Mack trucks, 18-wheelers, and semis) weigh many times more than what an ordinary passenger car or pickup truck weighs. In a collision, that weight translates to increased force that can literally crush a smaller vehicle. The result is often very serious injuries or even death for the people inside the passenger vehicle, SUV, or pick-up truck.
If your injuries prevent you from visiting any of our office locations, then we can schedule a time for an attorney to travel to your home or other location to meet with you or your family.
If you or someone you love is a victim of a serious tractor-trailer accident, please do not agree to be recorded, sign documents you don’t understand completely, or accept any money from a trucking company representative. First, talk to our Duluth trucking accident attorneys.
Why? Any of the above factors could limit your right to sue the trucking company later after you have had a chance to see a doctor and fully understand the injuries and financial costs the accident caused. Speaking with a lawyer allows you to enter into these conversations with a better understanding of your legal rights.
Were you injured in a truck wreck? Contact a truck accident lawyer at Scholle Law Firm now for a free consultation.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, large trucks were involved in 12% of all traffic fatalities in recent years, even though they accounted for only seven percent of all vehicle miles traveled.
And in multi-vehicle trucking accidents, a staggering 94% of truck crash victims were not riding in the truck, regardless of who was at fault. This means that the truck driver and others in the truck are far less likely to be harmed in a truck collision. Trucks are regulated by the federal government and trucking companies and their drivers are required to maintain their trucks under strict guidelines.
What To Do After a Truck Accident
Right after a truck accident, it’s hard to think clearly. Even if you’re conscious, the shock and adrenaline may change your reaction or make it difficult to think of what to do next. But as you recover, there are a few things you can (and should) do to protect your legal rights and lay the groundwork for the best possible recovery.
Step 1: Seek medical attention
First, make sure you get medical attention. That may sound obvious, but there is a lot to do after an accident. People who were not badly hurt may not think of going to the doctor while they are handling the aftermath of the crash. They also may not notice pains or changes in their bodies right away, thanks in part to the adrenaline rush of the accident itself. Some injuries are not immediately obvious.
As a result, victims may turn down medical attention at the scene, only to realize later that something is wrong.
We strongly recommend that you follow up with a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. There are several reasons to see a doctor, even if you still feel fine. One is to be sure to let a professional make decisions about your medical needs. If you are injured, getting seen right away can also help you get on the road to recovery sooner.
In addition, seeing a doctor is important because it gives your insurance or legal claim the best possible start. Insurance companies make money by not paying claims. Delaying medical attention can give them the excuse they need to deny your claim, providing “evidence” that suggests you may be making up the injury or were hurt in another activity.
Ultimately, this could result in losing financial compensation entirely or fighting an avoidable court battle to get it.
Step 2: Notify auto insurance
For similar reasons, you should make sure to notify your auto insurance company as soon as reasonably possible. This may not be the first thing you think of, especially if there was a serious injury. However, delaying filing an insurance claim can give your own insurer, or the truck driver’s insurer, a reason to doubt that the accident was serious. This can hurt your chance of collecting fair compensation for your injuries.
Keep this report as factual as possible. Don’t offer your opinion or apologize because either can be taken as an admission of fault. The law enforcement officers who came to the scene and likely wrote an accident report are in a much better position to decide who was at fault.
If you are unsure of your medical diagnosis, avoid discussing this with the insurance company right away. You can make a report about the damage to your car or truck and other property right away, but you can wait up to two years to report your injuries. Sometimes, doctors need weeks or months to accurately predict your medical needs. If you report an incorrect prognosis sooner, the insurance company may assume that you are lying if you change your story later.
Step 3: Obtain accident report
Another very important thing to do after a wreck is to obtain the accident report and other paperwork. If law enforcement officers came to the scene of the crash, which is likely in serious accidents, they will have written an accident report.
That report is the main basis upon which insurance companies decide who was at fault, along with the drivers’ statements. Officers at the scene may have told you how to get a copy, but if not, you can get a copy from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). GDOT also offers motorists an opportunity to submit their own reports if law enforcement did not come to the scene of the crash.
Similarly, you should save all other documents that came from the crash. This includes hospital forms, auto repair estimates, insurance and contact information for the other driver, and anything else related. If you have the name and contact information of witnesses who were at the scene, definitely keep that.
You should also consider taking photos of the damage to your car and your body if you can. These probably are not memories you would like to keep, but the pictures could be important later if you need to prove the extent of your injuries to an insurance company or jury.
Step 4: Avoid talking to the trucking company
Finally, you should never talk to the trucking company or its insurance company. As we said, insurance companies make more profit when they deny claims. Sometimes, they will try to minimize what they owe through unethical tricks.
For example, they might offer accident victims a small amount of money right away for a quick settlement. What these companies will not say is that the law gives you only one chance to collect compensation from any one defendant. For that reason, taking the money could make you ineligible to claim any more compensation later, when doctors have had the time for a full diagnosis and prognosis.
Trucking company representatives might also ask you to make a recorded statement or sign papers which would later be used to show that you “admitted fault,” even if that is not what you said. You might be tempted to agree because you want to set the record straight or feel that saying “no” is rude. But to protect your rights, it is best to avoid the trucking insurance company entirely.
That is especially true if you think they are trying to pressure you. You have no legal obligation to talk to them, so you are free to politely turn them down.
If you hear from a trucking company or its insurance company right after a crash, consider telling them you are not ready to talk about it, or that you are still waiting to find out what doctors think of your injuries. Both of these are likely to be true within the first few weeks after a crash.
If you hire an attorney, they will handle the insurance companies for you. In fact, it is illegal for an insurance company to contact you directly if they know you have legal representation.
Step 5: Call a Duluth truck accident lawyer
Charles Scholle and the Scholle Law team have fought large companies for their clients’ rights for over two decades. We work exclusively with injured people and bereaved families and have substantial experience with the special issues raised by truck accidents causing catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths – legal, medical, and personal.
Our law firm understands that seriously hurt trucking accident victims are anxious and eager to see justice done, which is why Scholle Law takes the time to fully explain the case and its legal issues to each client, and keep clients updated on each new development. In this way, we lift the burden of dealing with a catastrophic accident and allow clients to focus on healing.
If you have been seriously hurt in a tractor-trailer accident in Georgia, Scholle Law would like to help. From our main office in Duluth, we represent victims throughout Atlanta and Georgia. To set up your free consultation, send the firm a message online or call toll-free at (678) 831-9645 or in Atlanta at (770) 717-5100.
What is the truck’s “black box” and what does it track?
“Black Box” is a generic term that can refer to a few different elements of the computerized systems usually installed in a commercial motor vehicle:
Electronic Control Modules
Electronic Control Modules (or ECMs) are the “computers” that run modern engines. It’s usually a system consisting of multiple separate computers and sensors that monitor and control various elements of engine and vehicle performance such as fuel injection timing, transmission function, anti-lock brake systems, traction control, and other functions.
ECMs are typically responsible for signaling a “check engine” light to come on and are the system that generates “fault” codes that mechanics can access for diagnostic purposes when trying to identify or fix an engine problem. They record information such as engine speed, temperature, tire pressure, emissions, oxygen ratio, transmission temperature, and battery information, just to name a few.
Electronic Logging Devices
Electronic Logging Devices are systems that help monitor the driver’s hours of service. Where drivers used to rely exclusively on handwritten logs, electronic logging devices now record information about when the engine is running or the truck is moving and how far it travels so that accurate information is recorded about whether the drive was complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service requirements.
Event Data Recorders
Event Data Recorders are what most people think of as the “black box” in a commercial motor vehicle. It is an electronic system that monitors certain information and records data about the vehicle from the moments before an “event” is detected.
While there are different designs, it usually records things like sudden deceleration, airbag deployment, sudden braking events, seatbelt tensioner activation, and other indicators that a crash may have occurred.
When triggered by such an event, they preserve a recording of information such as speed, cruise control status, brake application, clutch application, and wheel turning. This information can be used later to prove exactly what the commercial motor vehicle was doing at the time of the crash and in the seconds leading up to it.
Why Commercial Truck Black Boxes Are Crucial for Tractor-Trailer Accident Victims
There is a great incentive to fight hard and put up a lot of money to make the plaintiff go away. Insurance companies have response teams that go onsite to every truck wreck and will get lawyers out to the scene within hours. They often try to lobby the police officer to not issue citations.
The “black box” or Event Data Recorder (EDR) can be erased and with it all the data from the accident like the truck speed, braking, and trip history. An experienced trucking lawyer knows how to make the trucking company preserve all this data, which could mean the difference between winning and losing.
Commercial truck black boxes are crucial because they usually contain the best evidence of what the truck driver was doing wrong or what may have been malfunctioning on the truck itself. The data can show that the driver was speeding, failed to brake before a collision, when the exact moment of collision occurred, and what the truck did after the fact.
The black box contains objective proof of what happened and helps prevent the trucking company from rewriting the narrative about what really happened.
Contact us to speak with a lawyer about your accident.
Guidebook for people who suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one after a bad accident with a large commercial truck
Back on the Road
What to do after a serious semi, tractor trailer or truck accident in Georgia
Guidebook for people who suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one after a bad accident with a large commercial truck
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
There are many types of truck accidents. They can range from those involving smaller vehicles ending up underneath the truck itself to those involving a side-swipe of another vehicle. Because of their weight and size, along with velocity during travel, they can cause serious or fatal injuries.
Some types of truck crashes include and can be categorized as follows:
- Bald tire and blowout truck accidents – Accidents caused by bald tires that blow out and tire debris from a truck.
- Brake failures and rear-end collisions – Truck collisions caused by malfunctions or following too closely.
- Driver fatigue accidents
- Falling debris truck accidents – Truck accidents caused by debris falling from the cargo portion of the truck.
- Improper maneuvers
- Overloaded, improperly loaded trucks and cargo shifts – Truck accidents caused by overloaded or improperly loaded cargo.
Common Types of Truck Accident Injuries
The dangers involved in trucking crashes include the seriousness of the injuries that can result. This is due to the size and weight of trucks in comparison to smaller vehicles on the road. After a truck accident, it is crucial that victims get medical support.
Common injuries resulting from truck accidents can include:
- Back injury – Whiplash or spinal cord injuries are commonly seen in big trucking accident cases.
- Brain injury – Injuries caused by impact or trauma to the head or brain can result in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some head trauma and brain trauma cases require extensive future medical care that could last the lifetime of the injury victim. At the very least, anyone involved in a trucking accident that is experiencing headaches should see a doctor to rule out a concussion or something more serious.
- Burns – Fires are a consequence of serious motor vehicle accidents. It only takes a short amount of exposure to extreme heat or flames to cause significant burn injuries. Burn injuries can require extensive medical care including hospitalization and skin graft surgeries.
- Children injuries – Small children are always at risk of being injured in any accident scenario, including accidents involving large trucks. It is a best practice to make sure that children are always secured in their appropriate seats based on their age, weight, and height.
- Head injury – Head and facial injuries can result when the head jerks backward or forward on impact. In some cases, broken bones in the face can result from airbag and steering wheel injuries.
- Neck injury – Whiplash is an injury caused by a severe jerk to the head, typically in a motor vehicle accident. In more serious cases, neck herniations can occur requiring surgical treatment.
- Paralysis and Spine injury – Spinal cord injuries – the spinal cord is a thick cord of nerve tissue contained and protected by our spines and vertebrae. It serves as the brain’s control and communications center and can perform many basic physical functions without consulting the brain at all. When it is injured, communications with the brain are lost, sometimes forever.
- Wrongful death – In Georgia, claims for wrongful death can be brought by the appropriate legal representatives of the deceased party. These types of cases are incredibly complex and involve a significant amount of legal expertise. There are many issues and types of damages to consider after the loss of life due to someone else’s negligence.
- Coma – In cases involving head injuries or other very serious injuries, accident victims can be placed into medically-induced comas or they may happen because of the traumas themselves. These types of cases require extensive medical care. They are what we would consider catastrophic injury cases even if the accident victim makes a full recovery.
- Fractured bones – Broken bones from serious car accidents are not uncommon. These can range from moderate injuries such as broken or fractured ribs to more serious injuries such as broken arms, legs, and injuries of the cervical and lumbar spine.
- Internal injuries – Internal bleeding in the abdominal region is not an uncommon complaint for accident victims and is usually caused by seatbelts and airbags. Never assume that these are minor injuries that will heal on their own. It is possible to have internal organ damage, bleeding, or even a collapsed lung and not even know it.
- Scars requiring plastic surgery – Scars from burns, lacerations, or post-accident surgeries are common in serious truck accident cases. Many clients will generally speak to a plastic surgeon for a consultation to discuss the possibility of having revision surgery. Even if you decide not to go through with the surgery, it is still a very good way to document the injury and the related damages.
How much does it cost to hire a truck accident lawyer?
At Scholle Law, there are no up-front fees to hire us to represent you. We understand how difficult and expensive it is to deal with the injuries from a trucking accident and we want to help, not add even more expense.
The final cost will depend on how complex the case is, whether we have to file a lawsuit, and how long it takes to resolve. But we never receive a fee for our services unless we win your case. The amount our clients receive is usually significantly greater than it would be if they simply accepted the insurance company’s first offer.
What is the average truck accident settlement in Duluth?
To accurately calculate how much your claim is worth, we need to know and investigate ALL the details surrounding your crash. Ultimately, the settlement amount you may be entitled to depends on many factors, including the type and severity of your injuries, damages you suffered (like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.), insurance policy limits, and if you have legal representation, to name a few.
What damages can I collect in a truck accident?
Economic damages are the losses you have suffered which cost you a provable amount of money. Economic damages include losses like medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, property damage, and other monetary damages.
The biggest category of economic damages is usually medical expenses. These expenses include:
- Ambulance services
- Hospital facilities
- Emergency department physicians
- Physical therapy
- Surgery centers
- Surgical neuro-monitoring
- Diagnostic studies
Non-Economic damages are losses suffered which are not easily quantifiable in financial terms. Non-economic damages include losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
Changes to a person’s life as a result of the accident, such as not being able to participate in their favorite recreational activities or never being able to sleep through the night, are not “monetary” losses but still warrant compensation.
Punitive damages are a type of damages that can be awarded by a jury or court when certain types of aggravating factors have been proven, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These damages are not meant to compensate a victim, but rather to punish a wrongdoer for especially egregious behavior.
Who can be sued in a truck accident case?
As with all auto accident cases, you may be able to sue to recover damages after a truck accident. The difference with truck or 18-wheeler crashes is that there are more options in who you can sue. Determining which party you should sue will depend on the individual circumstances surrounding your case, such as how the collision happened, who the truck driver works for, or if they are an independent contractor.
A majority of truck accident lawsuits in Duluth and the metro Atlanta area involve the following defendants:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The owner of the truck
- The manufacturer of a truck or truck part
- A third-party maintenance company
In some cases, you may even be able to sue multiple parties for your damages. This is why it’s best to consult an accident lawyer who successfully handles commercial vehicle accident cases.
How Our Duluth Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help You
Our services include:
- Investigating the accident scene and evidence to determine fault
- Calculating your full damages for economic losses (medical treatment, lost wages, property damage, etc.) and non-economic losses (pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, etc.)
- File all the necessary paperwork to get your benefits sooner
- Negotiate with insurers and the trucking company to ensure you get a full and fair settlement offer
- Represent you in court (if necessary)
Maximum Results for Truck Wreck Victims
Our team has successfully fought large companies for our client’s rights for over two decades. We work exclusively with injured people and bereaved families. Our substantial legal experience with the special issues raised by truck accidents causing catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths – legal, medical, and personal – helps us build a strong case for maximum compensation.
Trucking accidents are different because they involve commercial vehicles with commercial interests. In a serious accident between two passenger cars, both victims and their families are likely to be overwhelmed but unlikely to have much experience with the legal and medical issues they will face.
By contrast, accidents are a part of the trucking business, which means trucking companies and their insurance companies know exactly how the process works and how to limit their financial obligations. Trucking companies typically have engineers, investigators, lawyers, and accident reconstruction experts on the scene within 24 hours.
They secure evidence, take measurements, interview witnesses, and talk to the police officers, all in an attempt to gain the advantage in denying a victim’s claim or in minimizing any money they may have to pay out.
In fact, it is not unusual for Georgia tractor-trailer accident victims to receive phone calls from trucking companies within a day of the accident, discussing financial offers or fault, often before the victims are remotely ready to think about those things.
Trucking companies must adhere to safety regulations intended to prevent trucking accidents. The tires, lights, cargo, and other aspects must be followed for the safety of those sharing the road with trucks. In addition, truck drivers must follow strict guidelines and logs that keep track of the hours they have driven and rests they have taken. This helps avoid fatigued drivers who are more likely to be involved in or cause a truck crash.
When a driver has been driving for too many hours and has failed to take a break, the logs should reveal this. Truck drivers who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to cause a fatal or serious truck crash, either colliding with another truck or smaller vehicle.
Our law firm understands that seriously hurt trucking accident victims would like to move on with their lives. This is why we take the time to fully explain the case and its legal issues to each client. We always keep clients updated on each new development.
There is no fee and no commitment required for your initial consultation. We’ll simply look at the details of your case and inform you of your legal options so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your family. If you decide to proceed with your claim, we’ll start working immediately. We’ll secure the best possible outcome for you.
Truck Accident Questions and Answers
What can I do to protect my rights after a truck accident?
Hire an experienced trucking accident attorney. Trucking accident cases can be very complicated and trucking companies are extremely aggressive in protecting their own interests. An experienced attorney can advocate for you and make sure you receive the maximum compensation possible for your injuries.
What should I do if someone from the trucking insurance company calls before I’ve picked a truck accident lawyer?
If you or someone you love is a victim of a serious tractor-trailer accident, do not talk to the insurance company or the trucking company without first speaking to an experienced trucking attorney. If you do speak to them, please do not agree to be recorded, sign any documents, or accept any money from a trucking company representative before you talk to our Duluth trucking accident attorneys.
Doing any of that could limit your right to sue the trucking company later. Having a lawyer on your side protects your rights and adds value to your injury case.
What should I tell the police on the scene of a truck accident?
Tell the police exactly what happened. Make sure that the officer is 100% clear on how the accident occurred and exactly what the truck was doing when the accident took place. If it seems like the officer doesn’t fully understand or misunderstands, explain it again.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a truck wreck?
Georgia accident victims have two years to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim, including car, truck, and motorcycle accident claims. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations and is laid out in Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33). The clock starts ticking from the day your crash happens.
There are only a few, rare exceptions to this deadline. If you don’t file your claim before the two-year deadline expires, then you will most likely lose your chance of ever getting reimbursement for your injuries and damages.
While two years might seem far off, don’t make the mistake of waiting too long. Memories fade, witnesses move away, and important evidence can be lost. Contact our Duluth truck accident lawyers as soon as possible to start working on your claim.