WHY TRUCK ACCIDENTS ARE DIFFERENT

It’s easy to assume that trucking accidents should be handled in the same way as any other motor vehicle accident. After all, if the accident caused serious injuries, the driver should be held responsible. However, trucking accidents are very different from accidents involving cars, motorcycles, and other smaller vehicles. At Butler Tobin, we understand the differences and know how to build the strongest trucking accident case.

STATE AND FEDERAL TRUCKING LAWS

All Georgia drivers must obey the traffic laws outlined in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-1 et al. However, truck drivers are held to a higher standard. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for enforcing regulations related to trucking safety. If a truck driver violates one of these rules, you may be able to file a claim based on negligence per se, which is a legal doctrine that says certain acts are negligent because they have violated a law or regulation.  That means that when a truck driver breaks a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule, the driver is responsible for his actions no matter what.

Tractor-trailer drivers are supposed to go through formal education and training before they ever step into the driver’s seat.  They should study for and earn a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”), and should obey the rules that govern commercial drivers.  For instance, they should look and be aware of what is occurring 12 to 15 seconds ahead of them.  While most cars weigh around 3,000 pounds, a loaded semi-tractor can weigh over 80,000 pounds.  The training and education that truck drivers receive is supposed to teach them how to safely operate these giant vehicles.  Sometimes drivers don’t receive the proper training.  When that happens, the company can he held responsible for negligent hiring or training.

ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

Many trucks have advanced computer equipment with GPS receivers, sensors, and other components that tell trucking companies where their drivers are and what those drivers are doing. In some cases, computer equipment can determine if a driver is speeding or maneuvering the vehicle in a reckless manner. All of this information is extremely valuable in a trucking accident case.

The more evidence you have, the better off you are if your case goes to trial. That’s why it’s important to take action as soon as possible after your accident. The longer you wait to file, the more likely it is that valuable evidence will be destroyed. Some trucking companies remove parts from damaged trucks and use those parts on other vehicles, making it difficult to collect evidence later on. If a truck operator disconnects any electronic components, for example, it may be impossible to gather crash data.

Our attorneys know exactly what to do when you come to us after a trucking accident. We often start our investigation by sending a letter to the trucking company called a “spoliation letter” where we demand preservation of all evidence including the following documents:

  • Annual driving reviews
  • Black box data
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) certificates
  • Hours-of-service logs for several months before the date of the crash
  • Fuel card records
  • DOT drug test results
  • Employment applications for any driver involved in the crash
  • Truck inspection reports
  • Maintenance records
  • Satellite data

 

Trucking companies know good and well that this evidence is important.  Even without receiving a spoliation letter, a responsible truck company will save all of this evidence, especially if the trucking company anticipated litigation.  In particular, a responsible trucking company will save the electronic and GPS information that proves where the truck has been, how long the driver had been on the road, and how fast the truck was going.

If a trucking company chose not to save this electronic and GPS information, that tells you something.

Even though this trucking company anticipated litigation over the collision in which our client was injured, the trucking company failed to save the electronic and GPS evidence that could have shown how fast the tractor-trailer was going.  In this cross-examination of the trucking company president, Butler Tobin asked about that failure to preserve evidence.

ACCIDENT SEVERITY

Large trucks weigh anywhere from 10,000 to over 80,000 pounds, so they are more likely to cause severe injuries and fatalities than smaller vehicles. Because of their weight, trucks are also more likely to be involved in multi-vehicle accidents. If a heavy truck crashes into a smaller vehicle, the force of the impact can crush a smaller vehicle or push it into a dangerous place, such as an intersection or guard rail.

LIABILITY ISSUES

If you are involved in a trucking accident, several parties may be liable for your injuries. For example, if an accident occurs due to a faulty truck part, the manufacturer of the part and the retailer that sold the part may be liable. It’s also important to consider whether any distributors or suppliers played a role in your accident. Our attorneys have the experience needed to consider additional parties and pursue everyone responsible for your injuries.

Truck Accident Lawyer

When it comes to taking truck accident cases to court, experience is essential. Our attorneys know how to review crash data, find expert witnesses, track down witnesses, and build a winning case.  If you’ve been injured by a tractor-trailer or some other large vehicle, ask your lawyer to give you specific examples of cases he has handled like yours.  While many personal injury lawyers say they can handle a trucking accident, some lawyers are better than others.  Call us for a free consultation.

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