Trucking Lawsuits: Commercial Drivers’ Licenses, Commercial Trucks, and Injuries from Trucking Accidents
Large, profit-seeking companies send heavy commercial vehicles over America’s roads every day. These companies have a right to use public roads, but that right comes with a responsibility. Because commercial vehicles are usually larger and heavier than regular automobiles, the companies that own and operate them must obey certain regulations about who can drive the vehicles and how they can be operated. Truck accident injuries are oftentimes catastrophic which is why it is imperative that truck drivers follow the rules.
If the truck companies or their drivers violate federal regulations, they can be held accountable. Our truck accident lawyers have handled truck accident cases, and we know what it takes to win these types of personal injury cases.
The Georgia Department of Driver Services requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate vehicles matching the following criteria:
- Combination vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more,
- Single vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more,
- Any vehicle requiring hazardous materials placards, or
- Single vehicles designed for the transportation of more than 16 people.
A good trucking lawyer knows to investigate not only the collision, but also the truck driver. In this video clip, we cross-examined a company vice-president about the driver that this company put on the road. See what this vice-president admitted at the end!
Drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 are eligible for commercial licenses, but they are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles outside of Georgia. This restriction is lifted once a driver turns 21.
Before obtaining a CDL, a driver must take a written-knowledge examination, pass a road test, and undergo a thorough medical examination as required by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Special endorsements are required for drivers who operate school buses or vehicles transporting hazardous materials.
Georgia Driver’s License Classes
In Georgia, commercial licenses are classified according to vehicle weight and vehicle type.
Class A licenses are issued for tractor-semi trailer or truck trailer combinations with a combined with of more than 26,000 pounds and a towed vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class A license is allowed to operate Class B and Class C vehicles, but additional endorsements are required.
Class AP is an instructional permit issued to drivers who are learning how to operate commercial vehicles.
Class B licenses are issued for single vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds with a towed unit that weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
Class BP is an instructional permit issued to drivers who are learning to operate Class B vehicles.
Class C commercial licenses are issued for vehicles designed to transport sixteen or more passengers, or to vehicles used to transport hazardous materials in quantities large enough to require a hazardous materials placard.
Types of Commercial Vehicles
Tanker trucks are designed to transport gasoline, chemicals, and other hazardous products. These trucks are especially dangerous because they usually carry flammable materials, increasing the risk for fires and explosions if the tanker is involved in a crash.
Tractor-trailers are among the most recognizable vehicles on the road. A typical tractor-trailer weighs approximately 80,000 pounds, which means even a low-impact crash can cause significant injuries. Most tractor-trailers are anywhere from 70 to 80 feet long if you include the cab.
Not every commercial truck has a trailer attached to it. Some have flat beds to carry hay bales, logs, and other cargo that doesn’t fit inside a standard trailer. With flatbed trucks, it’s especially important that the driver knows how to and secure cargo properly. Otherwise, cargo can fall off the back of the flatbed truck, obstructing the roadway and increasing the risk for a serious accident.
Although they’re smaller than tractor-trailers, delivery trucks—often called “box trucks”—are big enough to cause serious harm if they’re not driven carefully. Companies that operate box trucks and other delivery vehicles must hire only safe drivers, properly train those drivers, and continue to monitor the drivers during the years that the driver works for the company. Unfortunately, some companies prioritize speedy deliveries above the safety of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, which puts the driving public at risk.
Anyone involved in a truck accident with a truck is at risk for a serious injury. The reason should be obvious—a much heavier vehicle is colliding with a much smaller vehicle. Brain injuries are often the most severe injury because a brain injury can affect learning, memory, and other high-level functions. The victim of a truck accident may sustain severe brain injuries such as a concussion, diffuse axonal injury, skull fracture, or coup-contrecoup injury.
- Concussion is a brain injury that occurs when rapid movement causes the brain to move around inside the skull. Striking the steering wheel can cause a concussion.
- Skull fractures are breaks in the bones of the skull. Basilar skull fractures affect the base of the skull, compound fractures cause splintering of the bone, and depressed fractures cause the fractured piece of bone to push toward the brain.
- Coup-contrecoup injuries occur when the force of an impact is so great that the brain moves to the other side of the skull, damaging tissue in two places.
After a brain injury, a truck accident victim may need surgery to relieve swelling or repair damage to the blood vessels. During a ventriculostomy, a specialist cuts a hole in the skull and uses a plastic tube to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. This relieves pressure and reduces the risk of complications. If the truck accident victim’s intracranial pressure—the pressure inside the skull—is too high, the surgeon may have to remove part of the skull to reduce the pressure and protect the brain from damage.
Back and spine injuries are also serious, especially when caused by commercial vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or more. Truck accidents often lead to vertebral fractures and herniated discs, both of which may require surgical intervention. Vertebral fractures are breaks in the vertebrae, which are the small bones that form the spinal column. If a fracture does not heal properly, a surgeon may have to fill the damaged vertebra with a material similar to cement (vertebroplasty). In a procedure called kyphoplasty, the surgeon uses a balloon to move the broken pieces of bone and create an opening within the damaged vertebrae. The cavity is filled with cement-like material as a means of stabilizing the fractured bone.
Disc herniation occurs when the jelly-like material in the center of a disc leaks through a crack in the disc’s exterior. This type of injury can cause difficulty walking, loss of bladder or bowel control, and numbness or weakness in the legs. If symptoms do not improve, a surgeon may need to remove the damaged portion of the disc or remove the disc entirely (discectomy).
The spinal cord helps transmit messages from the brain to other parts of the body. If the spinal cord is damaged in a commercial vehicle accident, the victim may be unable to walk (paraplegia) or unable to use both arms and both legs (tetraplegia). Paraplegia and tetraplegia have devastating effects on an accident victim’s life. In the most severe cases, the injury damages the nerves responsible for breathing, leaving the victim unable to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator.
Truck accidents involving commercial vehicles must be handled by an experienced truck accident lawyer who knows the laws relevant to truck accident cases. Some commercial vehicles are equipped with recording devices that can give a personal injury lawyer valuable information about what happened at the time of the crash. You need a truck accident attorney who knows how collision reconstruction experts work, how to depose doctors, how to request the right information from the trucking company, how to figure out how the company operated, and how to present a powerful case to a jury. Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience holding truck drivers, trucking companies, and insurance companies responsible for serious accidents.