Commercial Truck Accidents: Understanding How to Hold Truck Companies Accountable in Georgia

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Fiery tractor-trailer accident that killed two in Georgia is a prime example of how dangerous these enormous vehicles can be

Day after day, trucking companies (for-profit trucking companies, at that), send out their fleets of large vehicles to drive hundreds of miles up and down the streets that you, your family, and your friends drive every single day. These vehicles—known as tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, commercial vehicles, 18-wheelers and more—have been lauded for their usefulness, delivering goods and products across the country quickly and, in most cases, efficiently.

But these vehicles are different. Just by looking at them, you can see how different they are. These 80,000, 80-foot tractor-trailers that are running the road are logistically incapable of performing like the rest of the vehicles on the road. Not only are they unable to stop quickly, but they’re also not logistically able to perform quick turns, make speedy reactions, and in most cases, they’re driven by professionals who have been on the road for hours—sometimes up to 10 hours at a time.

These for-profit trucking companies are privileged to use these roads—our roads—to make the profits they’re legally allowed to make. But here’s the thing—if trucking companies are going to put these massive vehicles on the road, they have a single obligation they must abide by, no questions asked—they must do everything in their power not to endanger private citizens.

And yet, every few days, we see reports of overturned semi-trucks streaming across our news channels, we see 18-wheelers on the sides of the road, and worst of all, some of us have been personally affected by the throes of a tragic or fatal tractor-trailer accident.

These vehicles can cause serious accidents. These vehicles can hurt people. These vehicles, run by for-profit trucking companies, can change lives in an instant.

At Butler Law Firm, we believe it’s vital that trucking companies are held accountable and are vigilant about how their 18-wheelers interact with the daily lives of private citizens.

The Complications Behind the 18-Wheeler Issue

Obviously, it goes without saying that accidents involving any type of vehicle are tragic—whether it’s a small vehicle, a bicycle, or a tractor-trailer, no accident is a good accident. Still, these massive vehicles carry with them more than just the weight of what they’re delivering for-profit—even without extra weight, these vehicles can be up to 100,000 pounds and stretch longer than 80-feet.

When driving down the road next to much smaller, much more reactive vehicles, these enormous 18-wheelers can be dangerous and deadly. Tack that onto the fact the employees who drive these vehicles are operating them at high speeds, for long periods of time, often without adequate rest.

Legally, it is a truck driver and the trucking company’s responsibility to abide by federal rules and regulations that are absolutely required for when a truck is stopped or on the move. According to The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (also called the FMCSR), truck drivers must abide by a specific amount of time that they’re allowed to be on the road. They’re required to take specific and allotted breaks before they’re able to begin driving again, and they’re also required to pay attention to what’s happening 12-15 seconds down the road so they can ensure they have enough reaction time to stop, turn, brake, swerve, and respond accordingly to traffic patterns. Further, if a truck is stopped, they must be in a parked location that will not endanger other drivers, passengers, or themselves.

Both federal and state laws confirm that should drivers not abide by these laws, the trucking companies are responsible for the repercussions. That’s why drivers of tractor-trailers are required by law to keep accurate logbooks that state when they’re been driving, that those hours do not go over the limits, and that a driver has had adequate rest before they take to the open road again. These regulations even take it a step further, stating that drivers are solely responsible for inspecting their trucks and are not able to consume alcohol or any intoxicating substance of any amount while on the job.

What’s more? Trucking companies are legally required to hire honest, competent drivers who keep their trucks in perfect condition and good working order. If not, legally, the trucking companies are supposed to pay the consequences.

And yet, despite these strict federal and state regulations, accidents still happen.

Case Study: Semi-Truck Accidents & Their Deadly Results

While there have been too many semi-truck accidents to count, a most recent and incredibly tragic occurrence near Atlanta, Georgia, best illustrates the danger of semi-trucks on the roads private citizens drive—and further can show just how wrong something can go if a driver and a trucking company do not follow their legal obligations flawlessly.

On February 1, 2020, a fiery, tragic crash on I-85 in Gwinnett County killed two people. According to the Gwinnett Police, the accident occurred between a fuel tanker and a passenger vehicle—a silver Volkswagen Passat, which was stopped in the second lane after having been involved in a different accident.

For unknown reasons, the truck, which was pulling a fuel tanker with 8,500 additional pounds of fuel approached the vehicle and was unable to stop, resulting in the fatal, fiery crash that shut down the highway for more than 10 hours and started a massive fire that burned for several hours. The cause of this accident has not yet been confirmed, but it also is a prime example of how dangerous these enormous vehicles can be. While it’s not yet determined if the driver was at fault, this perfectly illustrates the sheer power of a vehicle of this size—and the absolute need for drivers and trucking companies to take their federal obligations seriously.

At Butler Law Firm, we’ve found that, oftentimes, in the event of a crash, trucking companies move quickly to cover their tracks. They’ll hire investigators. They rush to the scene. They deny, deny, deny that the company has done anything wrong, but in several cases, we’ve dealt with personally, we’ve seen that these efforts to cover the truth won’t squeak by our diligence.

There are several other cases we’ve dealt with personally that illustrate how trucking companies don’t always do their best to retain those state and federal standards. In a case involving a tractor-trailer incident that was fleshed out in June of 2017, a safety director was being cross-examined about a collision where the company denied that their employee and their company had done anything wrong. Our representative, however, knew differently. He’d gathered a monthly newsletter from the trucking company (whose driver had crashed into our client) and learned that the company was under federal investigation for allowing their drivers to drive too many hours in a row. The safety director denied it. We were ready with the evidence that said otherwise.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Should you, a loved one, or someone you know unfortunately end up in the midst of a large vehicle accident—causing serious injury or not—it’s vital that you hire a firm that knows how to not only protect you, but also hold large trucking companies accountable.

What’s the vital difference in hiring a lawyer or firm who’s capable of protecting you versus one who isn’t? The knowledge and background needed to understand these federal regulations that are absolutely required. At Butler Law Firm, we’re not just well-versed in the federal restriction and regulations trucking companies and their employees must abide by, we know them backward and forward.

We firmly believe that trucking companies should strictly honor these obligations and responsibilities to the public sector, doing everything in their power to keep citizens safe. And we believe it’s our job to do everything we can to make that happen. The problem is, some trucking companies don’t operate under these standards, and when they don’t, tragic—and often fatal—accidents happen.

If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident or know someone who has, don’t hesitate to reach out to Butler Law Firm today. Not only can we help bring you the justice you deserve, but also, we can continue on our mission to ensure every trucking company is operating legally, responsibly, and with the private sector in mind.