Commercial Trucks or 18-wheelers, as they are sometimes referred to, can weigh in excess of 80,000 lbs. That is 40 tons. The average full-size car or pickup truck weighs about around 5,000 lbs. That means that a tractor-trailer weighs more than 16 times as much as the average passenger vehicle.
When a commercial truck or tractor trailer collides with a passenger vehicle, the consequences are devastating. Serious and fatal injuries to drivers and passengers who are in the smaller passenger vehicles are likely due to the enormous difference in weight and size. It is simple physics. The passengers in the smaller vehicles are at a severe disadvantage if a crash or collision occurs.
Because commercial motor vehicles weigh so much more and are so much larger than regular cars and trucks, drivers are required to hold special Commercial Driver’s License Endorsements and the vehicles themselves are subject to extensive state and federal regulations.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a commercial vehicle contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. We have extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with the commercial vehicle and trucking industry and we will act quickly to make sure that evidence is preserved. We have achieved multi-million-dollar results on many commercial vehicle cases all over the state of Georgia.
There are specific laws and regulations that apply to cases involving commercial motor vehicles. You may think of a commercial motor vehicle as an 18-wheeler or a tractor-trailer, but what many people do not know is that there are many types of commercial motor vehicles:
According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety- Vehicles with a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 10,001 lbs. or more used as part of a business (including a non-profit organization) are considered commercial motor vehicles for purposes of most of the safety regulations. This applies to:
Single vehicles (trucks and vans)
Passenger carrying vehicles with more than 15 passengers including the driver and passenger carrying vehicles equipped for 15 passengers, including the driver.
Combinations of vehicles (such as a truck pulling a trailer or other equipment). At 26,001 lb. and above GVWR, additional requirements also apply (Commercial Driver's License and Drug and Alcohol Testing).
Vehicles that carry hazardous materials for a business purpose are considered commercial regardless of GVWR.
Drivers of commercial motor vehicles are obligated to follow and to abide by federal safety regulations and other specific state laws. If they fail to follow the federal or state regulations, accidents and injuries can result.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a Regulatory Guidance section on their website. http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrguide.asp?section_type=A
Causes of accidents can include:
Driving while fatigued – This can occur when a Driver exceeded hours-of-service limits.
Reckless driving – Especially during adverse weather conditions.
Defective Equipment or lack of proper safety equipment
Improperly secured loads
Distracted driving – Using a phone or electronic device is common
Other Common violations include:
Vehicle identification (Name and US DOT Number)
No medical exam certificate
Using a radar detector (radar detectors are prohibited)
No fire extinguisher
No stopped vehicle warning devices (reflective triangles)
Driver did not do a pre-trip inspection (need not be written)
Driver exceeded hours-of-service limits
No time records kept on driver
No annual mechanical inspection of vehicle
No post-trip inspection (must be in writing and is not required to be carried on board the vehicle)
Trailers not equipped with required brakes, lights, and reflectors.
Multiple factors can contribute to the cause of a trucking accident. An accident involving a commercial truck needs to be handled differently than those involving two passenger cars. The trucking company will act quickly and will likely have investigators and even lawyers come to the scene of the accident the day of the collision.
It is important that your attorneys act quickly to make sure that your rights and evidence related to the case are protected. At Starrett & Harris Law, we do not rely solely on the police investigation. We send our own accident response team out to preserve evidence by doing the following:
Getting a certified accident reconstructionist to the scene as soon as possible.
Getting video and photographic evidence
Inspecting the vehicles involved in the Collison
Preserving the “Black-Box” or ECM (Electronic Control Module)
Preserving and video from traffic cameras or nearby surveillances cameras.
Acting quickly can mean the difference between a quick settlement for millions of dollars versus years of litigation and waiting for trial.
We recently had a case where liability (the cause of the accident/ collision) was disputed by opposing counsel and the insurance adjuster for the commercial vehicle.
By getting to the scene as soon as we were hired, we were able to locate a nearby security camera on the gas station nearby that caught the whole collision on camera. These security cameras are often overwritten after several days and crucial evidence could have been lost forever if not for our quick response.
If you are injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle or truck, your primary concern should be your full recovery. You should be able to seek good medical care and not have to worry about who will pay the medical bills. We will work to hold the at fault company accountable and to get you the compensation you deserve to cover all of your medical bills, lost wages from work, rehabilitation, and other expenses
What compensation can I receive?
We will seek damages for:
Pain and Suffering
Past and future medical care including:
Emergency Room and Hospital Bills
Doctor and Specialists Bills
Orthopedic and Surgical Expenses
Rehabilitation and care
Lost Wages or lost time from work
Loss of enjoyment of life
Who is responsible for paying for the damages?
The company who owns the vehicle is responsible for the actions of their driver if the driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
The law in Georgia allows you to pursue the Company or Employer of the at fault driver under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The doctrine of respondeat Superior says that an employer can be held liable for negligent acts committed by its employees while they were within the “course and scope” of their employment. O.C.G.A. § 51-2-2.
Should I talk to the insurance company?
We recommend never talking directly with the insurance company without having legal representation. First, they will record the phone call and any statements you may make and will later use those statements against your interest to reduce their responsibility or to reduce the value of your claim.
Without an attorney, the insurance company will offer you minimal value to try to settle your claim that will most likely be insufficient to cover your loss and will most certainly be less than the amount of money they would pay if you had competent legal representation.
How much is my claim worth?
Every commercial truck accident case is different. Whether it involves a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, semi-truck, small box truck, cargo van, or any other commercially used vehicle.
The value of your claim will be determined by a multitude of factors including:
They type, nature, and extent of your injuries
The amount of your medical bills
The financial losses involved
Whether or not the injuries are permanent
Whether or not the at fault driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Whether or not the at fault driver was acting recklessly
Whether the at fault driver was violating federal regulations or any laws at the time of the accident.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
Every case has a statute of limitations which is the amount of time you have before you lose the right to pursue your claim or file a lawsuit in court.
The statute of limitations in Georgia the statute of limitations for a commercial vehicle or truck accident lawsuit is typically two years from the date of the accident.
O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33
Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues, except for injuries to the reputation, which shall be brought within one year after the right of action accrues, and except for actions for injuries to the person involving loss of consortium, which shall be brought within four years after the right of action accrues.
In other words, you must file your claim withing two years of the date of the accident. If the statute of limitations runs out, you may lose the right to pursue your claim.
In some cases, such as cases dealing with government entities, you may have even less than 2 years. For instance, if the vehicle was owned by a city or municipal government, you must serve them with an anti-litem notice within six months!
If it is a state or county government agency, you have 12 months to serve them with an anti-litem notice.
While there are some limited exceptions to the statue of limitations, such as for injuries to a minor, you do not want to have to rely on exceptions to the rule.
It is best to contact an attorney quickly after being involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle to protect your rights.
The commercial companies and their insurance company already have lawyers on standby. Don’t go it alone. Get experienced trial lawyers in your corner. We are standing by to help you!