U.S. trucking companies employ some 3.5 million drivers who operate some 15.5 million trucks – roughly 2 million of those being 18-wheelers. These powerful rigs fuel our economy, but these highway behemoths are extremely dangerous.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports there were nearly 4,900 fatal large truck and bus crashes in 2017, a 9 percent increase from the year before and a 42 percent increase since 2009. Some companies have adopted new crash avoidance and mitigation systems, but despite intense debate, they are not mandated by federal regulators.
It’s important to consult a lawyer after an 18-wheeler accident in Georgia because pursuing monetary damages against those responsible can be an outsized task.
Complications of Georgia 18-Wheeler Accidents That Necessitate Attorney Involvement
For starters, determining who was at-fault, to what degree, and why is a challenge.
There are often numerous defendants. Sometimes this is because several vehicles were involved in the crash. It can also be because of the trucking industry’s complex (some might say convoluted) structure. The driver may be an independent contractor (complicating or nixing a claim against the truck owner for vicarious liability). The truck’s owner/carrier is likely separate from the shipping company that owns the cargo itself and there may be a logistics/warehousing company responsible too.
Secondly, the sheer size of these trucks means Georgia 18-wheeler accident injuries (occurring most often to the occupants of other vehicles) are too frequently catastrophic or fatal. That means any monetary pre-trial settlement or verdict is likely to be significant. Trucking companies know this – and tend to fight these claims hard.
Many times, the root cause of these crashes is trucking company mismanagement, poor policies and lack of oversight. Successful resolution requires the involvement of a skilled 18-wheeler accident attorney in Georgia.
Legal Theories in Atlanta 18-Wheeler Accidents
The legal theory on which your Atlanta 18-wheeler accident attorney uses will depend greatly on the circumstances of the crash – some factors set in motion weeks or even months prior.
Although driver fatigue, impairment and speed are considered some of the most common catalysts in trucking crashes, but contributing factors can include improper loading, failing to adequately vet or supervise employees or negligent design/manufacture/maintenance of the truck itself.
Some of the legal theories that may come into play include:
- Respondeat superior. Latin for “let the master answer,” this is theory upon which trucking companies, carriers, logistics firms, and others may be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. That means if the truck driver was negligent, the trucking company that employed him/her may also be deemed legally responsible.
- Negligent entrustment. As noted in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 390, a person who supplies directly or via third-person a “chattel” (which can mean a vehicle) for the use of someone else whom the supplier knows or has reason to know to be likely to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of harm to that person or others, they can be held liable for resulting damage. One may have reason to know the risk of harm unreasonable by way of that person’s inexperience, youth or lack of training. In the 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling in Zaldviar v. Prickett, the state adopted the 2nd Restatement of Torts without exception, where previously the Georgia Court of Appeal had ruled actual – rather than constructive – knowledge was required. So if a trucking carrier entrusts their vehicle to a driver they knew or should have known had a poor driving record.
- Driver negligence. This is probably the most common form of recovery, as 18-wheeler drivers (like all others) are compelled by law to not only follow the rules of the road but also to use reasonable care in doing so. Truck drivers are also bound by the regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which for example has very specific rules on how long a driver can be on the road, with the purpose of preventing fatigued driving.
If you have been involved in a Georgia 18-wheeler accident, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss which theories might apply in your case.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.