Deciding whether you have a legal claim--and the potential strength of that claim-- is the first step in seeking relief. Review the questions and answers below to better understand your options.
2. What should I do if I'm involved in a commercial truck accident?
Briefly, there are several things you should do after a commercial trucking accident. Always seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Your health as well as the health and safety of others should ultimately be your first priority. The extent and seriousness of your injuries should determine what other actions you take. In Georgia, you are required to call the police for accidents involving any personal injury, death, and/or property damage of $500 or more. As a rule of thumb, call the police in all circumstances to document the accident. Collect contact information from the other parties involved and/or any witnesses to the accident. And finally, take a moment to write down events leading up to the accident while it's still fresh on your mind.
3. What is a "commercial truck?"
A commercial truck, commonly referred to as a "big rig," is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Unlike other trucks, however, commercial trucks require a commercial driver's license to operate and often serve a specific purpose. Examples include eighteen-wheelers, tractor trailers, tanker trucks, cement trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks.
4. How do commercial truck wrecks differ from other motor vehicle accidents?
Owners of commercial trucks as well as their drivers are much more regulated than owners and operators of other types of vehicles, due to their size and purpose. For instance, licensed drivers of commercial trucks are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations ("FMCSR"). The FMCSR's are intended, in part, to prevent driver fatigue and provide accountability. For instance, the FMCSR limits the total number of hours a truck driver can work each day and each week, which the driver is required to account for in a log book. Also, federal regulations require most commercial truck companies to carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage for a tractor-trailer. If the trailer contains hazardous materials then federal regulations require at least $5,000,000 in insurance coverage. Finally, most commercial trucks use an air brake system. An air brake system uses air pressure to increase braking force. Proper use of air brakes can help prevent a truck from sliding and jackknifing. If a brake system is unbalanced, it can affect the steering, control and stopping distance.
5. Must I report my commercial truck accident to the police?
In Georgia, you are required to call the law enforcement for accidents involving any personal injury, death, and/or property damage of $500 or more. Otherwise, it's generally a good policy to notify law enforcement for several reasons: they are trained to provide emergency assistance; they are trained to investigate accidents to determine liability; and they are trained to properly question witnesses and document their findings.
6. How long do I have to file a claim if I was injured in a commercial truck accident?
It depends. If you are filing an insurance claim with your car insurance company (i.e. uninsured or underinsured claim), there are often strict time limitations in the contract to notify the insurance carrier. As a general rule, notify your insurance company as soon as possible about the accident to preserve your right to pursue a claim in the future. If you are considering pursuing a legal claim individually, the time period you have to file suit is governed by the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for personal injuries like those arising out of a commercial trucking accident is two years.
7. I've heard that it's dangerous to drive in a truck's "No-Zone." What does that mean?
The "No-Zone" is a term used by commercial truck drivers to describe the blind spots behind and beside a commercial truck. These areas are where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility. The "No-Zone" is typically the left rear quarter, the right rear quarter and directly behind the truck
8. What is "jackknifing?"
Jackknifing is a term used to describe the accidental folding of a tractor trailor truck, resembling the acute angle of a folding pocket knife. Jackknifing may be caused by equipment failure, improper or immediate braking, or negative road conditions, such as a wet road surface. In many cases jackknifing will cause a rollover.
9. What are the most common causes of commercial truck accidents?
There are many common causes of semi-truck accidents. Due to their size, commercial trucks cannot accelerate, brake, slow down or stop as quickly as a smaller, lighter vehicle. Common causes for serious commercial truck accidents include: --- Lack of training on the part of the truck driver; --- Overloaded or oversized trucks; ---Poorly maintained truck brakes; --- Poor driving conditions (fog, snow, rain, or smoke); ---Inadequate safety systems, reflectors, lights, and other warning devices; --- Failure to install an under-ride protection guard; --- Negligent operation by the commercial truck driver
10. What are some examples of truck driver negligence?
A truck driver can be negligent during the operation of a commercial truck in several ways, including: ---Driving too fast; --- Driving too fast for conditions; ---Failing to keep a careful lookout; ---Failing to maintain proper control of their truck; ---Failing to stop, swerve, slacken speed, and/or maintain control of a truck when there is a reasonable likelihood of a collision with another vehicle; ---Driving a commercial motor vehicle in violation of state and federal laws and regulations; ---Driving a motor carrier in excess of the hours allowed pursuant to ?395.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; --- Failing to keep a current record of his or her duty status as required by 395.8 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; ---Driving a commercial truck when impaired through fatigue or likely to become impaired through fatigue in violation of 392.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; --- Leaving the scene of an injury accident in violation of state law; ---Driving in a careless and imprudent manner; --- Failing to slow or stop his vehicle to avoid collision with another vehicle; ---Failing to give a proper warning; --- Operating a motor vehicle in a defective condition; ---Failing to maintain his vehicle in a single lane of travel in violation of state law; --- Failing to yield the right-of-way; --- Failing to report an accident.
11. Who can be held responsible for injuries or death in a commercial truck accident?
The cause of the accident determines the potentially liable party. Liable parties in a truck accident lawsuit may include one or more of the following: --- The owner of the truck (trucking company, waste management company, construction company); --- The owners of the tractor-trailer cab and trailer; --- The owner of the freight; --- The driver of the truck; ---The employer of the driver; ---A parent company of the owner of the truck or employer of the driver; --- The manufacturer of the truck, cab, trailer or any truck part; --- A third-party maintenance company; ---The driver and owner of another vehicle; --- The manufacturer of another vehicle.
12. Can I pursue a legal claim even if I don't have insurance on my own vehicle?
If a commercial truck driver was at fault for your accident, your lack of insurance for your motor vehicle will not prevent you from pursuing a claim against the at fault driver
13. Are passengers in a vehicle entitled to pursue a claim?
Anyone injured in a commercial truck accident may be entitled to pursue a claim, especially passengers.
14. What type of damages can I recover?
Generally, you are entitled to pursue all damages that can be attributed to the commercial truck accident. The term "damages" encompasses all forms of compensation to which you may be entitled. Examples of damages you may be entitled to receive include: --- Current Medical Bills resulting from your accident; --- Estimated Future Medical Expenses; ---Lost Wages; ---Property Damage, including vehicle repairs and transportation costs; --- Lost Earning Capacity, if any; --- Pain and Suffering
15. What if I was partially at-fault for the accident?
In Georgia, the amount of money you recover from a legal claim will be reduced by your percentage of fault, if any. In legal terms, this is called comparative negligence. The defendant insurance company will attempt to put forth evidence to show that you were partially--if not wholly-- responsible for your injury. The value of your claim diminishes to the extent that evidence exists to prove your own responsibility.
16. Why is it important to get a copy of the driver's log after an accident?
Obtaining the driver's log is crucial in evaluating if fatigue contributed to the accident. As stated earlier, the FMCSR regulates the time a commercial truck driver can be on the road each day and each week. Truck drivers are required to keep logs of their time. An experienced attorney can take proper steps to preserve a truck driver's log before it's lost or destroyed.
17. A loved one was killed in a commercial truck accident--do I have a claim?
Sadly, commercial truck accidents result in a higher rate of death more than accidents involving other motor vehicles. When a family member is killed in a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased's estate. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if you qualify to pursue a wrongful death claim and the time you have to pursue a legal claim. Under the statute of limitation laws, the time period you have to pursue a legal claim may vary depending on your unique circumstances.
18. Will my health insurance coverage or paid sick leave limit my potential recovery?
The short answer is: No. Generally, your health insurance and paid sick leave are separate and distinct coverages that are independent of your right to compensation.
19. Who will pay my medical bills after a truck wreck?
There is often much financial uncertainty after a motor vehicle accident, and it may take a prolonged period to get compensation. Your own motor vehicle insurance will often contain a medical provision to pay for all expenses, ranging from X-rays to funeral costs. If not, we advise using your own health insurance to cover medical costs.
20. When should I seek help from an attorney?
However, for accidents involving commercial trucks, we advise you to seek legal advice as soon as possible for several reasons. Federal regulations require that certain essential evidence need only be kept by the truck company for a set period of time. For example, the critical truck driver's logbook can be destroyed after six months. Also, many commercial trucks are equipped with a black box that records important information including the speed, braking, and acceleration of the truck. If too much time passes after the date of the wreck before the black box data is requested, the information concerning your wreck could be erased.
21. How do I know I've found the "right" attorney?
The best advice here is to "shop" around by taking advantage of a free consultation from different commercial truck accident attorneys. An honest attorney will explain your options to you, including whether legal representation is likely needed. This way, you get the benefit of understanding your legal needs and future options. Additionally, you will understand which attorney(s) you can trust should you choose to seek legal representation.
22. Why should I seek help from Childers, Schlueter & Smith's commercial truck accident attorneys?
We stand on our reputation. Our goal is to achieve a timely resolution to your matter so that you may go back to the business of living your life. This includes understanding your individual needs and desires for legal representation, counseling you on your legal rights and the expectations of litigation, advocating on your behalf while assisting you achieve your ultimate goals, and seeking full resolution to your legal claims. We are much more than proven trial attorneys; we are legal counselors whom take pride in the individual attention we give to each of our clients.
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