GEORGIA TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYER

Truck accidents have devastating effects; a Georgia truck accident lawyer on your side can at least help ease the devastation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hit by a truck owned by a Georgia company, or whether you’re hit by a truck belonging to an out-of-state company, you’ve been hit and you have questions. Our truck accident lawyers are here to help.

Tractor-trailers are big, heavy, and potentially dangerous. For that reason, they’re governed by certain rules that do not apply to normal cars. A Georgia truck accident lawyer handling a tractor-trailer case must understand both the rules that apply to tractor-trailer companies and the rules that apply to tractor-trailer litigation.

MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS

In order to keep other drivers safe, tractor-trailer companies are regulated by the federal and state governments. The federal government’s rules are called the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations,” or “FMCSR” for short. The FMCSR apply to motor carriers operating in multiple states. Georgia has adopted essentially the same set of regulations and applied them to Georgia- only companies. Virtually all of the regulations are the same. The differences are mostly in name. For example, if a federal rule is called 49 CFR § 390.4, the Georgia rule is called “DPS 1- 390.4.” The Georgia Department of Public Safety is the state agency responsible for enforcement of truck driving laws.

If a Georgia business decides to drive trucks, and it drives exclusively in Georgia, then it is operating in what is called “intrastate commerce” and must follow the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. One such rule is DPS 1-390.19(j)&(k) which requires that such a business register as a motor carrier and obtain a motor carrier identification number.

After an accident involving a truck, an experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer will work to determine what happened, why it happened, who is responsible, and what rules apply. In some cases both federal laws and state laws apply. In other cases, only Georgia truck laws are applicable. Georgia defines a “commercial motor vehicle” in O.C.G.A. § 40-1- 1 as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in intrastate and interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

Has a gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight, or gross combination weight of 10,001 or more pounds;

Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers, including the driver, for compensation;

Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or

Is used to transport material determined to be hazardous by the secretary of the United States Department of Transportation under 49 U.S.C. Section 5103 and transported in a quantity that requires placards under regulations prescribed under 49 C.F.R., Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter C.

LIGHTWEIGHT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

Some trucks don’t qualify as a commercial vehicle, but are still bound by many of the same rules. A good Georgia truck accident lawyer knows that these vehicles are called “lightweight commercial vehicles”. O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 explains that if the truck is used by a Georgia business to transport property for compensation; is used to transport passengers for compensation, other than a taxicab; or is a wrecker or tow truck, then the vehicle qualifies as a lightweight commercial vehicle.

FILING A LAWSUIT IN A TRUCK ACCIDENT IS DIFFERENT

In a car accident lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer is legally not allowed to identify the driver’s car insurance even though the driver’s car insurance is paying for the driver’s defense and paying for the driver’s coverage. Truck accidents are different. In a truck accident case, a Georgia truck accident lawyer knows that he can and should identify the driver, the truck company, and the insurance company that insures the trucking company in the title of the lawsuit.

We include the company because the company was responsible for hiring, supervising, training, and/or employing the driver who caused the crash. We call this responsibility “vicarious liability”, and say that the company is responsible under the doctrine of respondeat superior. When the driver was an employee of the company and was driving within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision, the company is liable for the driver’s actions. See Smith v. Hawks, 182 Ga. App. 379, 384 (1987).

A good Georgia truck accident lawyer also knows that he can name the insurance company under Georgia’s “direct-action” statutes. Georgia law authorizes direct actions in two places. O.C.G.A. § 40-2- 140(d)(4) permits a plaintiff to “join in the same cause of action the motor carrier and its insurance carrier.” O.C.G.A. § 40-1- 112(c) uses almost the same language—it permits a plaintiff “to join in the same action the motor carrier and the insurance carrier.”

WHERE TO FILE A TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWSUIT

We also investigate where to file the lawsuit. The county in which a lawsuit is filed is called the lawsuit’s “venue.” The details vary from case to case, but in general, a top Georgia truck accident lawyer knows to file a commercial truck case in the county where the trucking company has its registered agent, where the at-fault driver lives, or where the wreck occurred.

Trucking companies have a legal duty to hire honest, competent drivers and keep their trucks in good working order. Coe v. Carroll & Carroll, Inc., 308 Ga. App. 777, 785-86 (2011); Fouts v. Builders Transport, Inc., 222 Ga. App. 568, 570 (1996). Most trucking companies honor these responsibilities. Most hire competent drivers, maintain their trucks well, and ensure that their drivers stay rested. But some trucking companies don’t—and when that happens, the consequences can be tragic. Our Georgia truck accident lawyer have litigated against truck companies and taken them to trial, and we know how to hold trucking companies and their drivers responsible for the damage that they cause when they break the rules.

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