Tractor-Trailer Attorneys in Georgia Representing the Rights of the Injured
Anyone who has driven on interstate highways or other major multilane roadways knows that 18-wheel tractor-trailer rigs pose a hazard to passenger car traffic simply by virtue of their size. Nonetheless, trucks and cars travel the nation’s roads and highways at the same time every day, often without incident. But, when cars and trucks collide, no one has any doubt that the people in the cars are unlikely to come out ahead. Because tractor-trailers always enjoy a significant size and weight advantage over passenger vehicles, when injuries and deaths are likely to occur, it is considerably more likely that the occupants of the smaller vehicles will be the victims.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 there were 3,903 people killed and an estimated 111,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks. Nearly three-fourths of the deaths and injuries in those crashes were passenger vehicle occupants—73 percent were occupants of passenger vehicles rather than the drivers of the trucks involved. Fatal crashes involving trucks are going up, as are the number of injury-involved accidents where large commercial trucks are involved. The rate of fatal truck crashes rose in 2015 over 2014.
Truck Driver Negligence Often Is a Significant Factor in Accidents
Truck drivers often drive tens of thousands of miles each year. While federal regulations limit the number of hours per day truckers are allowed to drive and mandate rest periods, commercial truck drivers are behind the wheel for far longer than most people drive every day. People who are driving to a distant vacation destination, or on a business trip, might occasionally match the hours put in driving by over-the-road truckers, but on a regular basis, truckers almost invariably spend more time behind the wheel at a stretch than do people who do not drive trucks for a living. Long periods of driving obviously provide more opportunity for negligence by truck drivers. The kinds of negligence by truck drivers that result in accidents can include:
- Fatigue: Federal statistics indicate that 13 percent of truckers and other commercial drivers, including bus drivers, were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash. Other studies have shown that lack of sleep could be a contributing factor in as much as 40 percent of crashes involving large commercial trucks.
- Alcohol or drug use while driving: As with other drivers, impaired driving is a possibility and can result in disastrous consequences.
- Speeding: It is no different for operators of tractor-trailer rigs than it is for drivers of passenger vehicles: speed kills
- Improper lane changes, failure to check mirrors, failure to check blind spots: Almost everyone who has driven for any amount of time has had a scare from a vehicle in a blind spot that they didn’t see. Truckers driving tractor-trailer rigs are no different and, in fact, have much larger large blind spots to deal with. Those spots are behind the vehicle, to both sides and even in front, depending upon the design of the truck. These blind spots can make lane changes and turns extremely dangers for truckers who do not adequately check their blind spots.
Despite Regulations, Vehicle Maintenance Remains a Cause of Accidents Involving Tractor-Trailer Rigs
Some studies put the blame on mechanical failures as a factor in about 12 percent of all auto accidents. In general, these mechanical failures are simply the result of routine wear and tear on a vehicle that is not corrected because of a lack of proper routine maintenance, such as replacing worn tires, repairing worn brakes, and the like.
Other studies have put that percentage much higher, however. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, about 20 percent of all traffic accidents are caused at least in part by poor maintenance or a complete failure to perform routine maintenance. No matter which number is correct, it is clear that proper maintenance is critical in preventing accidents.
Because of the differences in size and weight between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles, accidents caused by equipment failures that involved tractor-trailer rigs are far more significant. Occupants of passenger vehicles are dramatically more likely to be killed or injured in such accidents. While statistics detailing poor truck maintenance as an accident cause are sparse as opposed to such statistics regarding all traffic accidents, it seems clear that, because of the disparity of impact from accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs versus accidents that involve only passenger vehicles, particular care must be taken to ensure that faulty maintenance of commercial trucks is not a factor in causing accidents.
Victims of accidents involving large commercial trucks often suffer far more serious injuries. Passenger vehicle occupants involved in such accidents are far more likely to be injured or killed than are the occupants of large commercial trucks. Because of the size and weight differences, truck accident victims are likely to suffer considerably more costly damages in such accidents, including:
- Higher medical expenses from more severe injuries, including future medical costs
- Other damages that include lost wages, loss of future earning ability
- Damages arising from their injuries that can include pain and suffering, permanent disability or disfigurement, and even death.
Such extensive and consequential injuries frequently are at stake in accidents involving large commercial trucks. You should ensure you have the right team to protect your legal interests under such circumstances.
Who is Liable When a Truck Driver is at Fault for an Accident?
In the past, liability for tractor-trailer accidents was muddied by a number of issues, mainly stemming from motor carriers’ use of “independent contractors.” These truckers own or lease their own rigs, buy their own insurance, pay for their own fuel, repairs, and fees necessary to operate their vehicles, and decide which loads they will take. Motor carriers claimed they were not liable for damages caused by independent contractors. Fortunately, the federal government changed the regulations governing the liability of motor carriers for accidents caused by the negligence of “independent contractors.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations put in effect by the Department of Transportation do away with the distinction between “independent contractors” and “employees.” Under current regulations, all drivers for a motor carrier company, including independent contractors, are considered to be “statutory employees” of the motor carrier. This puts the ultimate liability for an accident in which its drivers are at fault squarely upon the motor carrier.
If You Are in an Accident with a Tractor-Trailer, Consult a Georgia Truck Accident Lawyer Now
Attorney David Brauns is an experienced truck accident lawyer who is committed to representing the rights of the injured. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (404) 418-8244 or contact us online.