Because of commercial trucks’ immense size and weight, truck accidents tend to be much more destructive and harmful than car accidents. But that’s not the only way truck and car accidents differ.
While car accidents are usually caused by driver error, truck crashes can be caused by any number of additional factors. Multiple parties could be at fault for a truck accident – each with their own insurance company. Higher coverage limits and more severe injuries put more money on the line. You can count on a fight from those at fault and their insurers.
In order to pursue financial recovery for losses following a truck accident, the injured party’s legal team may need to sift through an overwhelming number of documents and pieces of evidence to determine fault, calculate the full extent of your losses, and identify the sources of compensation that may be available.
The legal team at Butler Kahn has the experience, knowledge, and resources needed to pursue fair compensation following a truck or car accident. If you would like to learn more about how our car accident attorneys and truck accident attorneys can guide you through the legal process and seek the positive outcome you need, contact us for a free consultation.
Why Truck Accident Lawsuits are Not Like Car Accident Lawsuits
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 Kahn, we understand the differences and know how to build the strongest trucking accident case.
Differences Between Car Accidents and Truck Accidents
In many car accidents, there are usually two parties involved, the at-fault driver who caused the crash and the other driver who is the victim. If the victim is injured and suffers damages because of those injuries, they will likely file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, who will either settle the case or, if necessary, the case could end up in civil court to be decided by a jury in a personal injury lawsuit.
Many people do not realize that truck accidents are different from car accidents, for a number of reasons. The following is a brief overview of these differences. A truck accident attorney can provide more details and legal options based on the circumstances of your case.
- Time Sensitive: Although each state has set a statute of limitations for how long a victim has to file an accident claim – usually two to three years – filing a claim in a truck accident immediately is often critical to the success of the claim. This is because there is often evidence a truck accident attorney will use – such as truck driver logs, vehicle maintenance records, etc. – that could be lost or destroyed following the crash.
- Federal Regulations: One of the major differences between the two types of crashes is that the trucking industry is under the oversight of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This federal agency is in charge of setting rules and regulations that all companies are required to follow. When a trucking company – either through their driver or corporate action – fails to follow any of the standards the FMCSA sets and the result is a truck accident, the stronger a victim’s case is in proving liability for the crash. It is important to keep in mind, however, that when dealing with these regulations, it is crucial to have a truck accident attorney who is well-versed in federal trucking regulations handling your case. An attorney who is unfamiliar with these rules may be unaware of critical information that could help or hinder your case.
- Truck Driver Licensing Requirements: Another difference between a truck and other types of vehicle accidents is that truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, also referred to as a CDL. There are also stringent rules associated with a CDL, including training requirements, and random drug testing, and drivers must have physical exams on a regular basis to make sure they are not suffering from any medical conditions which could interfere with the safe operation of their vehicles. This licensing higher standard means that any infraction – such as one which causes a truck accident – could lead to a CDL suspension or revocation.
- Multiple Parties with Liability: There is usually more than one at-fault party named in truck accident cases. This can include the truck driver, the trucking company, the freight company that loaded the cargo being transported, the company responsible for truck maintenance, or a truck part manufacturing company. Your trucking accident lawyer will investigate your case and make the determination of who should be named in your truck accident injury claim or lawsuit.
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.
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.
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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 Kahn asked about that failure to preserve evidence.
Common Injuries Experienced in Car and Truck Accident Cases
Car and truck accidents can lead to various types of injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Internal organ damage and bleeding
- Lacerations and bruising
- Dislocated joints
- Broken bones
- Ligament sprains and tears
- Muscle and tendon strains and tears
- Herniated discs
- Nerve damage
- Head and facial injuries
Information You Need to Make a Truck Accident Claim
One of the most significant differences between car and truck accidents involves the larger volume of potential evidence. A car accident claim normally involves police accident reports, accident scene photos, surveillance or traffic camera footage, vehicle damage reports, and witness statements. While a truck accident claim may also use these pieces of evidence, other documents and information include:
- The truck driver’s logs – Most truck drivers must observe state and federal regulations limiting the number of hours they can spend on duty or behind the wheel. Drivers are required to log their hours, so these logs can show if a driver exceeded their hours-of-service limits and may have been tired at the time of the crash.
- The truck driver’s toxicology results – A truck driver may be required to submit to an alcohol/drug screen after an accident involving injury or death. The screen can show if a truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
- The truck driver’s employment and driving records – A truck driver’s employment records will demonstrate if they had the proper certification and training to operate their truck. Both employment and driving records may show if the driver had a history of causing crashes.
- The truck’s electronic data recorder logs – Many newer trucks are equipped with EDRs, a device similar to an airliner’s “black box,” which record information about the truck’s operation. Examples of the data include footage from an in-cab camera, the truck’s GPS position and speed, how long the truck’s engine had been running, and steering, braking, and acceleration inputs by the truck driver.
- The truck’s inspection and maintenance reports – Truck drivers and trucking companies must regularly inspect their vehicles. Inspection and maintenance reports can show if they deferred necessary maintenance and if issues with the truck went unrepaired.
- The load manifest – Cargo loads that exceed the truck’s capacity and improperly balanced or secured loads can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle.
These and other types of evidence could contribute to determining the actual cause of a truck accident. Unlike car accidents, which normally result from negligence on the part of drivers involved in the crash, the fault for a truck accident may lie with other parties. Examples of potentially liable parties include the trucking company, the freight company, the truck’s mechanic, and the manufacturers of the truck and its components.
Can You Sue If a Car or Truck Accident Happens Out of State?
If you are involved in a car accident or truck accident while traveling in another state, you likely need to file your lawsuit in the courts of the state where the accident happened. A lawsuit must be filed in a court that has jurisdiction over the parties to the lawsuit.
If you were visiting Georgia from another state when you were hurt in a car or truck accident, working with an Atlanta truck accident lawyer is your best bet. A lawyer from your home state likely lacks the authorization to practice law in Georgia. Even if they are admitted to the bar here, they probably do not have the local ties and knowledge that can make the difference in your case. A Georgia lawyer can deal with your legal matter while you recuperate at home. It may even be unnecessary for you to return to Georgia during the process.
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.
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 semi-truck accident lawyers say they can handle a trucking accident, some lawyers are better than others. Call us for a free consultation.
How a Car and Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You
When you want to pursue a claim for compensation for injuries and losses that you suffered in a car or truck accident, a lawyer can help you through each step of your case, including:
- Investigating the actual cause of the accident and identifying the party or parties who are responsible and can be held liable to compensate you for your injuries
- Documenting the full extent of your losses, including the cost of medical treatment, lost income, and pain and suffering
- Ensuring you understand your rights and options at each stage of your claim
- Filing your claims with the trucking and insurance companies
- Aggressively pursuing a negotiated settlement of your case that provides you with fair and full compensation
- Preparing your case to go to trial if a lawsuit becomes necessary to enforce your rights to compensation
If you have been injured in a car accident or a truck accident, consider discussing your situation with the attorneys at the Butler Kahn. Whenever you are ready, you can contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.