Who is the responsible party when someone is injured in a commercial truck accident in Georgia? You may know them as big rigs, tractor trailers, semis, or 18-wheelers. These massive commercial vehicles congest Georgia’s roadways. They are everywhere. While most truck drivers operate safely, some do not, causing wrecks with horrific damages. This is a concern for all of us, particularly state and local police, legislative bodies, personal injury lawyers, and anyone involved with highway road safety.
In addition to catastrophic damages, truck accident cases present many complex challenges involving insurance, state and federal laws and regulations, damages, and liability. Successfully navigating these issues takes great care. Experienced trucking attorneys will work to overcome these obstacles and unravel tough liability problems, holding all negligent parties accountable.
Truck Accident Liability: Truck Driver
Commercial truck drivers are held to higher standards than that of the ordinary driver. They must follow specific state and federal trucking regulations that govern the safe operation of semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles. These regulations require that truck drivers pay particular attention to their surroundings as they are traveling our roadways, driving defensively and safely, always on the look-out for potential hazards.
Common truck driver violations include the following:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Not keeping a proper lookout
- Driving too many hours without adequate rest
- Driving while tired and drowsy
- Distracted driving – especially from cell phone use
Again, it is not enough that truck drivers act with the care of a typical car driver. They must exercise far greater care, as the commercial vehicles they operate have the potential to cause massive damage to people and property. A truck driver who violates any law or regulation, or who is otherwise negligent in the operation of their semi tractor-trailer, is liable for all damages they may cause.
Truck Accident Liability: Trucking Company
Trucking companies are liable for the damages caused by their negligent drivers under the legal doctrines of employer liability and agency liability, or the more formal legal term, “respondeat superior.” Put simply, if a truck driver is operating a commercial vehicle in furtherance of a trucking company’s business, the company and the driver will both be liable for their driver’s negligent acts.
Real Life Scenario
For example, take truck driver John Doe who works for ABC Trucking Co. as a full-time regular employee. If driver Doe rear-ends a vehicle while making a delivery on his daily route for ABC Trucking Co., then both driver Doe and his employer, ABC Trucking Co., are responsible for the full measure of damages caused by the wreck.
Trucking Company Duties
Commercial trucking companies have duties they themselves must undertake. For instance, trucking companies have a duty to ensure their drivers are adequately trained and supervised. Trucking companies must also obtain a background check and driving history. This is important as it may reveal instances of unsafe driving, putting the trucking company on notice that the person is not fit to operate large commercial semi-trucks. Failure to properly satisfy any of these basic duties can serve as additional causes of action against commercial trucking companies.
Trucking companies are also required to perform routine inspection and maintenance of their commercial vehicle fleet. These trucks are constantly on the road racking up thousands upon thousands of miles, incurring substantial wear and tear that requires adequate inspection and maintenance to keep them running safely. Unfortunately, some commercial trucking companies and their truck driver operators take short-cuts here, all to save time and money.
Consequences for Breach of Duty
This is perilous and places all motorists at great risk. Trucking component failure, particularly the tires and brakes, can be the cause of horrific wrecks. If a trucking company does not satisfy their duty of providing adequate maintenance and repair, it is liable for the damages that follow.
An investigation managed by an experienced Georgia truck accident law firm can be vital to your case. Their hard work and experience may uncover significant negligence on the part of the trucking company that might otherwise go undiscovered.
Truck Accident Liability: Insurance Company
Insurance companies must take steps to ensure that the trucking companies and their drivers are operating as safe as possible. In fact, trucking insurance companies may be involved in the truck driver hiring process. In such situations, the insurance company has a duty to ensure that their truck driver applicants are competent and qualified to operate large commercial trucks covered on their policies. This includes confirmation of safe driving history. If an insurance company fails to satisfy their duties here, they can be held liable for the damages caused by the commercial truck drivers covered under their policies.
Here in Georgia, the trucking insurance companies can be sued directly as named parties along with the truck driver and the trucking company. This provides a huge advantage to the injured plaintiff because if the case goes to trial, the jury is made aware that an insurance company is left to cover the expenses. And, it goes a long way towards reducing or removing any sympathy for the semi-truck driver and its employer trucking company.
This is not true in a typical car wreck case. In those cases, the insurance company lawyers defend the case and pay the judgment, however, the jury is not allowed to know that insurance is involved in any way. Jurors may suspect it, as we all are required to have insurance; but it is prohibited from being introduced at trial. Fortunately, with trucking cases, jurors are more fully informed, allowing for larger verdicts that more accurately reflect the full measure of damages.
Truck Accident Liability: Manufacturer
If a trucking part fails that contributes to the cause of a wreck or other mishap, the manufacturer may be liable for any resulting damages. This will depend on whether they did something wrong during the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, this does happen. Companies get greedy and take short-cuts producing components and parts below industry standards. These manufacturing defects may not be discovered until the first time a semi-truck is involved in an accident.
Experienced trucking lawyers can hold these manufacturers accountable, making them pay substantial monetary amounts for the injuries and other damages they caused. This can, and often does, include jury awards for punitive damages as a form of punishment to prevent the wrongdoing truck manufacturers from engaging in any such future conduct.
Truck Accident Liability: Repair Facility
If a truck repair facility performs faulty maintenance or repairs that contribute to a wreck, they too are liable for damages attributable to their negligence. For example, a repair shop may perform negligent maintenance or repair work on the brakes, transmission, fuel lines, electrical system or one of the many other vital semi-truck components, critical to safe operation. Shoddy maintenance and repair work can have devastating results. Post-crash investigations undertaken by skilled professionals will help ensure that all evidence of negligence is adequately preserved, allowing your lawyers to hold all negligent parties accountable.
Contact our Firm for a Free Review of Your Case
If you or a loved one are injured in a truck accident in Georgia, it is important that you seek experienced legal counsel to protect your interests. At Scholle Law, our Duluth truck accident attorneys will work hard to get you the very best outcome possible and maximum compensation for your damages. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your case and answer any questions you may have.