Here in Cobb County along I-75 and along the other roads and highways, big rigs, 18-wheelers, tractor trailers and tankers can be some of the most dangerous vehicles on the highways particularly in bad weather. It is self-evident that wrecks involving big trucks are far worse that crashes involving cars and small trucks. The sheer mass differential causes that. As we discussed here, in 2013, nearly 10 percent of the fatal collisions on Georgia highways involved large trucks.
But there are other important differences that are salient with respect to auto accident and personal injury litigation. In this article, we discuss five important differences between big rig collisions and those involving normal-sized vehicles.
Big Truck Accidents in Kennesaw — Five Important Differences
- Federal and State Rules and Regulations
Because of their size, large trucks are more difficult to maneuver and cause much greater damage when they are involved in a wreck. For these and other reasons, large trucks are subject to rules and regulation by the US Department of Transportation (“DOT”) through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Indeed, drivers need a special driver’s license to operate a big rig. These rules and regulations impact personal injury and car crash legal cases because they impose more duties of care on the drivers and the trucking companies. The commercial drivers license is one example. Others include:
- Heightened standard for proper maintenance
- Inspection by transportation authorities
- Weight limits
- Route restrictions
- Enhanced insurance requirements
- More stringent laws with respect to alcohol and/or drug impairment
- Sleep and rest requirements for drivers
- Proper loading and weight distribution
- Regulations with respect to load security
- Extra required safety equipment
- Carrying hazardous materials restrictions and regulations;
When a lawsuit is brought against a big truck driver and the trucking company, a violation of any of the rules and regulations can form the basis of the negligence claim. Negligence requires proof of four elements: duty, breach, causation and injury. Aside from the standard duty of care imposed on all drivers by Georgia law, commercial truck drivers have all the additional duties imposed by the DOT rules and regulations.
- The Driver’s Employer Is Often Liable — Doctrine of Respondeat Superior
In a typical car or small truck collision, there is usually only one person who is sued for negligence: the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident. However, because big trucks are almost invariably owned by large companies and businesses, those companies and businesses can be held liable under theories of employer liability. Under Georgia law, this is called the doctrine of respondeat superior which provides that an employer is responsible for the negligence of its employees. This is codified in the Georgia Code at OCGA § 51-2-2 which states: “Every person shall be liable for torts committed by his … servant by his command … and within the scope of his business, whether the same are committed by negligence or voluntarily.”
In general, two conditions are necessary for the doctrine to apply: (1) the employee must be acting within the scope of his/her employment and (2) must be acting in furtherance of the employer’s business. Typically, both conditions are met with respect to big rig wrecks on the roads and highways of Georgia.
- Other Bases For Employer Liability — Employer’s Own Negligence
In addition to being held liable for their driver’s negligence, the trucking companies can be held liable for their own negligence. Some examples include:
- Negligent hiring and/or retention
- Failure to properly train
- Failure to properly supervise
- Negligent maintenance and repair — see here
- Failure to remediate driver violations of safety regulations
- Disregard of driver health issues
- Falsification of driver logs and other paperwork — see here
- Provision of or tolerance for electronics and other devices that might create distractions for drivers
- Big Rigs, Big Insurance Companies, Big Lawyers and Big Court Fights
For many reasons, commercial truck wrecks typically generate big court fights. Partly this is a result of the severity of the injuries typically caused by big truck collisions. Fatalities are common. As such, the victims are filing wrongful death actions and, for severe injuries, the victims are expecting and entitled to large recoveries to fully compensate them. This is one reason that the DOT regulations require the trucking companies to carry enhanced insurance coverage. With the large amount of money at stake, the insurance and trucking companies are invested in fighting the case. The insurance companies, in particular, are in the business of making profits and desire to pay as little as they can after an accident. See here for a discussion of dealing with insurance companies.
- Injuries More Severe — Often Life-Altering
As noted, if death does not occur, injuries are often catastrophic with commercial truck collisions. As we discussed earlier her,e even a small “bump” can cause severe injuries.
Often, these are life-changing injuries like amputations, brain damage and/or other injuries causing partial or permanent disability. As noted, this increases the required level of compensation to make the victim whole. But it also dramatically changes the nature of the litigation. Multiple medical experts are often required in addition to other experts such as economists, accident reconstruction experts, and those who prepare life medical care plans. Talented and skilled big truck accident and personal injury lawyers know the importance of presenting the right evidence to prove the full extent of the damages sustained by the victim(s).
Big Truck Accidents in Kennesaw — The Need For Experienced Auto Accident Attorneys
As can be seen, wrecks involving big trucks require experienced attorneys who know Georgia law and understand the complexities of big litigation. For the victims and their families, the involuntary journey is a tough physical and emotional one. Good attorneys can provide a small amount of solace — they deal with the stress of litigation while you recover.
Kennesaw Big Truck Accidents Lawyers: Contact the Roger Ghia Law Offices
If you have been injured in a big truck collision, contact the Kennesaw accident and personal injury attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. We provide legal services for the residents of Cobb County including the communities of Kennesaw, Acworth, Marietta and the surrounding areas. Click here to schedule your consultation.