With more than one liable party and no cap on damages, truck accident lawsuits can have large payouts
Truck accidents are a fear of many highway drivers in Georgia. The size and weight of commercial trucks often cause serious injuries and death to the driver and passengers involved in a wreck. Victims of truck accidents have substantial legal rights as the both the driver and the driver's employer are typically liable for compensation. Thus, a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney is encouraged.
What vehicles qualify as "trucks"?
From a legal standpoint, truck accidents involve large commercial freight carriers. Any of the following terms constitute a "truck":
- Delivery truck
- Commercial truck
- Oil or gas truck
- Big rig
- Tractor trailer
- Box truck
- Dump truck
- Tow truck
- Refrigerated truck
Trucks vary in size and purpose, but the effects of a truck accident are largely the same for most crashes. A tractor trailer weighs between 70,000 and 80,000 pounds, while a typical sedan or family vehicle varies between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. A collision with a truck will likely destroy the passenger car and cause serious injury or death to the victim. As a result, large medical bills, loss of employment wages, funeral expenses and other consequences are all possible considerations for pain and suffering damages.
Accidents caused by commercial truck drivers
Truck drivers are responsible for adhering to state and federal highway safety laws as well as those concerning truck maintenance and cargo distribution. Commercial drivers are at fault when they:
- Overload their truck with too much cargo
- Drive with an unbalanced truck due to improper cargo distribution
- Drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Speed or drive recklessly
- Drive while texting or distracted
- Fail to notice or tend to mechanical failures
- Ignore the sleep/rest requirements provided by their employer
- Drive in an aggressive manner such as tailgating
- Fail to use caution with improper road conditions
- Ignore cautionary signs for hazards such as curves, hills, intersections, etc.
Any of the above actions can lead a judge or jury panel to find a commercial driver guilty of negligence and responsible for paying damages to the accident victim and their family in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.
Freight and shipping companies can be held liable for truck accidents
Commercial truck drivers are employees, and most accidents happen on the job. Because of this, employment law principles apply liability to the trucking or freight company. As a result, the company that hired the truck driver is typically responsible for paying damages to accident victims and should be named as a defendant in personal injury cases.
Commercial drivers are hired to transport goods and cargo. The truck driver could be a full-time employee, a subcontractor, etc. The varying career statuses of truck drivers force the trucking company, shipping company, or retailer to pay a percentage of the damages that correspond with the truck driver's specific career status. The business' payout also depends on whether the trucking company owned or leased the truck.
The commercial truck company may escape liability depending on the actions of the truck driver. If the truck driver wasn't driving an authorized vehicle or if the driver was breaking company rules or committing a crime, for example, the trucking company may not be held accountable. Negligent hiring and supervision, however, are still possible claims against the company, so don't try to settle with the trucking company until you've consulted with a personal injury attorney.
Fault in truck accidents in Georgia
Insurers and truck companies often try to escape liability for truck accidents in an effort to reduce costs. They may attempt to blame the accident on the plaintiff and try to give as little financial compensation to the victim as possible. Georgia, however, is a state with modified comparative fault. As long as the plaintiff was less than 50% at fault for the crash, they are still able to recover damages.
What to do after a truck accident
After an accident, the most important step is to check yourself for injuries. You may be in shock, but try to be aware of what you're feeling. Scan your body and try to see or feel if anything's bleeding or broken. If you're unsure, remain calm and wait for the paramedics. Verbally communicate with your passengers but don't move to check on them if you feel like you're pinned down or can't move easily. Be sure to alert the emergency team if there were children or animals in the vehicle.
Once the most important details have been managed, follow these steps:
1. Call the police. When you call the police, be sure you aren't in the middle of the road. Move your car as far away from the flow of traffic as possible. If you can't move your car or you are too injured, put on your hazards as you wait for the police. The police report is the official record of the accident, and the report is typically very detailed. Be sure to point out any facts or damage that may not have been readily apparent. Your insurance company will ask for these details too.
2. Exchange information. Don't say more than your name and your insurance information to the truck driver because anything and everything can be used against you when you try to recover damages. Make sure to get their name, contact information, insurance information, trucking company information, license plate, truck make and model, and driver's license number. Don't sign anything without an attorney reviewing the document. Though the driver may seem friendly or concerned, their career and money are at stake.
3. Photograph the scene and injuries. Personal injury attorneys appreciate when clients follow this step. Injuries may heal before the lawsuit starts or be hard to see, and the police photos might may not be the best for evidence purposes. Use your phone and take photos of anything that you think might help your case – cuts, bruises, the cars, property damage, the weather, the truck, license plates, etc. Your lawyer will tell you what is unnecessary, so go ahead and photograph as much you can.
4. Write down witness information. This is a crucial step that helps preserve your potential for a lawsuit or even a settlement. Many witnesses are willing to speak with the police or accident victims, but then may move away or be unreachable for a trial or deposition. By saving a witness' contact information, your attorney will be able to contact them when necessary.
5. Get medical attention. Obtaining medical attention is critical for a host of reasons. Though you may feel fine, injuries such as whiplash or concussions may not have symptoms initially. Let your primary care physician or an ER doctor be the one to assess if you are truly "fine". Immediate medical attention is also important because insurance companies often use a "gap" between the accident and the doctor visit as a way to argue that the injury wasn't caused by the accident. The sooner you can visit your doctor, the better your chances of recovering for all the injuries that you sustained.
6. Contact your insurance company. Though you shouldn't accept any funds or restitution untilyou speak with any attorney, you should still let your insurance company know that an accident occurred. Keep all accident-related documents in one place and write down the names/titles of everyone you talk to. Consider using these free Enjuris resources to keep track of everything:
7. Speak with an attorney. Personal injury consultations are usually free, and it's important to make use of this opportunity. Attorneys will offer advice and analysis of important factors such as your degree of fault and they can also advise you if you don't have a case. Should a lawsuit be your best option, the attorney will help you start the process. Lastly, a settlement may be your best option, but let a legal expert be the one to help you evaluate the offer.
Are you ready to take the next step in your truck accident case? Enjuris puts a directory of top personal injury attorneys in Georgia at your fingertips.
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A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more