Because Georgia is a gateway for interstate commerce, drivers in our State share the road with big trucks and tractor-trailer rigs. When there is a driving mistake, the result is often catastrophic.
Tractor-trailer wrecks are not like common passenger vehicle wrecks. In addition to state traffic laws that apply to all vehicles, tractor-trailers are subject to other state and federal laws and regulations designed to protect the public from the unique dangers presented by the giant rigs. For example, tractor-trailers must be properly maintained. All the systems, such as brakes, brake lights, the engine, and all mechanical parts should be routinely tested to ensure they are operating properly. Trucking companies are also required to keeping accurate inspection and maintenance records. Rules limit the amount of time truckers are permitted to continuously drive and also require drivers to take regular rest breaks.
Tractor-trailer Collisions can occur because of:
- Distracted Driving – Distracted driving is a huge problem for truck drivers because of the massive pieces of machinery they operate on the roadways and highways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned texting while driving a large truck and may soon ban cellphone use by truck drivers unless a handsfree device is used.
- Alcohol Use – The use of alcohol is strongly monitored and regulated in connection with the operation of commercial vehicles. In fact, the FMCSA precludes the use of alcohol for a number of hours before operation of a big truck. Alcohol testing of truck drivers is mandatory in many post-accident scenarios, regardless of whether the responding police officer believes that alcohol played a role in the wreck.
- Commercial Driver Fatigue – Driver fatigue or “tired driving” is an issue which has become increasingly important in recent years. The FMCSA actually sets rules and regulations pertaining to whether a driver is even allowed to operate a tractor-trailer when he or she may be tired.
- Stopped or Disabled Tractor-Trailers – A stopped or disabled car on the side of a road or highway may present a problem for passing motorists. When a huge tractor-trailer is disabled on the roadway, the vehicle presents a grave danger for those in the area, particularly if visibility is limited. The truck and trailer usually outweigh passenger vehicles by tens of thousands of pounds.. If a passing car collides with the tractor or trailer, there is usually a terrible consequence. The FMCSA has set numerous rules which a driver must follow if his truck becomes disabled in or around the roadway.
Due to trucks’ size and the tons of cargo they often carry, car and tractor-trailer collisions can be extremely devastating. The injuries and damages these wrecks cause can leave an individual or family facing extensive recovery as well as expensive medical bills.
Common Tractor-Trailer Collisions:
- Left Turn Wrecks – When a tractor-trailer makes a left turn in front of another vehicle, a substantial collision often results. The length and weight of most commercial vehicles create a situation where any collision is likely to yield significant injuries. This is particularly true in left turn cases where the vehicle which has been cut-off is traveling at a substantial speed.
- Underride Collisions – Underriding is when a vehicle will actually go underneath the trailer portion of the truck. This collision often results in severe injuries or worse because the oncoming vehicle suffers roof and windshield damage.
- Stopped Tractor-Trailers – Tractor-trailers frequently stop, or become disabled, on the roadway or the shoulder of the roadway. This is a very dangerous situation for motorists. Federal law requires that commercial drivers place warning markers (usually reflective triangles) at various distances behind the stopped truck in order to alert oncoming drivers that they are approaching a large, stopped commercial vehicle.
- Rear – End Collisions – This type of collision is the most common. Truck drivers are often speeding, in a hurry, inattentive, texting, talking on a cellphone, or otherwise distracted. These conditions result in the truck driver failing to stop the tractor-trailer in time and causing a rear-end collision with the vehicle in front of it.
- Improper Lane Change – Tractor-trailer drivers often operate their trucks negligently by changing lanes when it is not safe to do so. The most frequently-seen collision is when a truck driver moves his truck into a lane and space already occupied by another vehicle.
It is important to understand that Georgia, and most other states, impose their own rules on commercial drivers and vehicles. Generally speaking, the FMCSA rules are the most important for lawsuits involving truck claims. The Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) regulates motor carriers which operate within the state of Georgia only. In practice, the GPSC has adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as the law for motor carriers in Georgia.
In Georgia, any party that contributed to a collision can potentially be held liable for the resulting damages. This issue becomes particularly complex in commercial trucking collision cases. There are many different parties that might bear liability for the crash; further, two different parties might even split liability in some cases. Common liable parties include:
- The truck driver;
- The truck driver’s employer;
- The company that owned the truck;
- The company that leased the truck; and
- The company that manufactured any part on the truck or the trailer.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a tractor-trailer crash or collision because of another party’s negligent or reckless conduct, let us help. Our goal is to secure the compensation you deserve so that you can focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Contact us today.