Large trucks, including tractor-trailers and big rigs, regularly operate on highways and other roadways located throughout the state of Georgia. According to statistics provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), these vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded with cargo and operating on the road. When a large truck or tractor-trailer is involved in a collision with a smaller vehicle, the resulting injuries can be extremely harmful and debilitating.
Those injuries, which can vary widely and even be fatal, can lead to the need for significant and costly medical treatment, piling medical bills, and missed time from work. In most instances, the driver and occupants of the smaller vehicle(s) in the collision end up suffering the most serious injuries.
As you can imagine, large trucks and tractor-trailers (just like their smaller counterparts) have blind spots. However, given the large size and length of these vehicles, big trucks typically have much larger blind spots than smaller vehicles, like cars and pickup trucks. When it comes to large trucks, these blind spots are often called the no-zone area. When a car or other comparatively small motor vehicle is present in the no-zone, the tractor-trailer driver may not see the other vehicle and may switch lanes into the smaller vehicle’s path, causing an accident.
In some instances, no-zone-area truck accidents occur because of negligence on the part of a truck driver or a trucking company. When that is the case, you might be in a position to file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver. An experienced Georgia truck accident lawyer near you could assist you with filing your claim or lawsuit against the appropriate parties and seeking monetary compensation on your behalf. If the truck driver or trucking company’s insurer refuses to fully and fairly compensate you for your truck accident injuries by way of a settlement, a knowledgeable Georgia truck accident attorney could file a lawsuit on your behalf, seeking the damages that you need and deserve.
What Is a No-Zone?
All large commercial vehicles have one or more no-zone areas. Generally speaking, the larger the motor vehicle, the wider the area of the “no-zone.”
The no-zone of a large truck includes blind spots located directly:
- Behind the truck or tractor-trailer, going back nearly 200 feet
- In front of the tractor-trailer for about 20 feet
- Along the sides of the truck (on both sides)
In general, the no-zone of a truck located on the right-hand side is larger than the no-zone on the left-hand side. This difference is because the driver is sitting on the left side of the truck when they are operating the truck on the roadway.
Types of No-Zone Accidents That Can Occur
Driving a motor vehicle in a truck’s no-zone area can be extremely dangerous. When a motor vehicle (and, in particular, a small car) is driving in a truck or tractor trailer’s “no-zone,” the truck driver cannot see the smaller vehicle. Consequently, if the truck unexpectedly changes lanes, a serious collision with the smaller vehicle could occur that results in the truck running the smaller vehicle off the road.
In some no-zone accidents, the truck collides with the rear of a vehicle operating in front of the truck. The sheer force of the impact could cause the driver or occupant of the smaller vehicle to strike something in the vehicle, such as the window, console, steering wheel, or headrest, and suffer one or more serious injuries. The force of the impact might also cause the accident victim’s body to be thrown around and about inside the vehicle, causing the accident victim to suffer a serious soft tissue sprain, strain, or muscular contusion.
At other times, driving in a truck’s no-zone area can lead to an underride accident. The smaller vehicle becomes caught in the undercarriage of the truck, often despite safety guards, causing the top of the smaller vehicle to shear off and can result in the vehicle occupants suffering serious injuries and even death.
Finally, in cases where a truck driver has to stop their vehicle quickly, the passenger vehicle might rear-end the truck, causing the vehicle occupants to suffer one or more serious injuries.
How Truck Drivers Can Cause or Contribute to a Truck No-Zone Accident
There are several ways that negligent, reckless, or careless truck drivers might contribute to a no-zone truck accident. In some instances, the truck driver may not look at their rearview or side-view mirrors the way they are supposed to.
At other times, the truck driver may be engaging in distracted driving, such as by looking at a cellular phone or another electronic device while operating their truck. During the time that the driver is distracted, they may fail to see or appreciate an approaching passenger vehicle from the side, cutting the vehicle off in the flow of traffic.
Finally, a truck driver may fail to use a turn signal when switching lanes, and in the process, fail to alert other nearby drivers of the impending lane change, bringing about a serious collision with the smaller vehicle.
To recover monetary compensation for injuries that an accident victim suffers in a no-zone truck accident, the accident victim must show fault on the part of the truck driver or the trucking company that employs the driver. Specifically, the accident victim must demonstrate that, under the circumstances, the truck driver operated their vehicle unreasonably and that this failure to act appropriately caused the accident that led to one or more physical injuries and damages.
In the case of a trucking company that employs a negligent driver, the trucking company could be vicariously responsible for the accident under an agency theory, assuming that the truck driver was operating their vehicle while on the job and within the scope of their job duties.
Trucking companies can also be responsible for negligently entrusting their vehicles to known problem drivers, as well as for negligently hiring, retaining, training, or supervising known problem truck drivers. For example, if the truck driver has a history of driving citations (about which the trucking company knows), yet the trucking company continues to employ the driver, then the accident victim could bring a potential negligent entrustment claim against the employer trucking company.
Injuries That Victims of No-Zone Truck Accidents Might Suffer
Truck accidents in general, and in particular truck no-zone accidents, can lead to serious and traumatic injuries. Those injuries can include the various forms of paralysis, internal bleeding, internal organ damage, traumatic head injuries, dislocated and fractured bones, severe lacerations, or the need for amputation of a body part.
When accident victims suffer one or more of these injuries in a truck accident, they might need to incur a significant amount of costly medical treatment.
Medical treatment for serious truck crash injuries can involve:
- Emergency transportation and emergency room treatment
- Surgeries and surgical aftercare
- Medications and medical equipment
- Physical and other forms of rehabilitative therapy
- Specialist visits
Some severe injuries might require ongoing medical check-ins and care for the rest of the accident victim’s life. This might include the purchase and replacement of prosthetics, home healthcare, and other assistance for those with permanent disabilities.
In addition to the potential for mounting medical bills, severely injured truck accident victims often have to miss time away from work, incurring a significant amount of lost wages. When truck accident victims sustain permanent injuries, they may even have to switch to a different job or career altogether.
If you or someone you love has suffered one or more of these injuries in a truck accident that a negligent truck driver or trucking company caused or contributed to, an experienced Georgia truck accident attorney in your area could assist you with filing the proper claim or lawsuit within the appropriate deadline.
Filing a Claim With the Truck Driver or Trucking Company’s Insurer
Truck drivers and trucking companies typically maintain commercial insurance policies. The good news about these policies is that they typically have very high limits of coverage, often more than $1 million. However, just because the at-fault truck driver has a large motor vehicle insurance policy in place does not necessarily mean that your case is worth the full value of the policy’s limits.
The value of your truck accident case typically depends upon a variety of factors, including the specific injuries that you suffered in the accident, the nature and extent of your medical treatment, the cost of your medical treatment, and whether or not you suffered one or more disabilities or permanent injuries because of the accident.
When a trucking company’s insurer goes to evaluate your case, the insurance company adjuster will typically review all of your medical records and bills, any lost wage documentation that you have provided, photographs of the property damage and your injuries (if available), copies of investigative reports (including police reports), and any victim impact statement that you might have prepared following your accident.
The accident victim typically writes out a victim impact statement in which they describe how the accident occurred, the injuries the accident victim suffered, and the overall impact that the accident had on the accident victim’s overall life and well-being.
Once the truck driver or trucking company’s insurer has reviewed all of this information (and assuming it has accepted fault for the accident), the adjuster will likely make a settlement offer on the case. In cases where an accident victim has suffered a serious injury that resulted in the accident victim’s untimely death, the insurance company might extend an offer equal to the policy limits in question.
At other times, the insurance company’s initial offer may be very low. More often than not, insurance companies will offer far less than the full value of the truck accident claim, at least to start with, just to see if the accident victim is in a hurry to settle (and will therefore accept a lower offer). In most cases, it will take several rounds of negotiations between the accident victim’s lawyer and the insurance company’s adjuster to reach a settlement that is full and fair to the accident victim. If these negotiations fail, the accident victim’s lawyer always has the option of filing a lawsuit against the negligent truck driver or the trucking company employer in the state court system.
Litigating a No-Zone Truck Accident Case in the Georgia Court System
Filing a case in the court system begins the litigation process. During litigation, the parties will typically engage in various forms of written and oral discovery, including interrogatories, document requests, and depositions. Interrogatories are questions directed to the accident victim about how the accident occurred, the injuries they sustained, and the permanent impacts of the accident.
A request for production of documents asks for various pieces of written documentation, including copies of the accident victim’s medical records, medical bills, photographs, and investigative reports, pertaining to your accident.
A deposition is an oral proceeding where the at-fault driver or trucking company’s attorney asks the accident victim questions about the accident and its aftermath. During a deposition, the accident victim’s testimony is taken under oath, just as if they were testifying on the witness stand in open court.
In some instances, once the parties to the case have completed all discovery, the insurance company may offer additional money to settle. At other times, the parties will reach an impasse, and the case may need to go to trial or alternative dispute resolution.
A Georgia truck accident lawyer near you can help you decide whether you should accept a particular settlement offer that the insurance company places on the table. If you decide to reject the offer and take the case to trial or alternative dispute resolution, your lawyer will be by you every step of the way, advocating for your legal interests and pursuing monetary damages on your behalf.