Truck Accidents in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta, the capital city of Georgia, has a network of highways, including three major interstate highways (I-20, I-75, and I-85). Commercial trucks must pass through Atlanta each and every day to reach their destinations It is fair to say that this large city has experienced its fair share of truck and car collisions. In May 2019, a fatal truck accident on I-75 killed four people and shut down all lanes going northbound.
Atlanta has also experienced a poorly maintained cargo accident where an 18-wheeler truck lost part of its load and hit a police SUV and another car. Regardless of the type of truck accident, Atlanta residents can protect themselves and their loved-ones by searching for credible Atlanta, GA-area lawyers on the State Bar of Georgia website. However, Atlanta residents can also be connected to a professional Atlanta, GA personal injury lawyer through the Eichholz Law Firm.
What Causes Truck Accidents in Atlanta, GA?
There are several common causes of truck accidents. Some of these are a result of driver error, passenger vehicle driver negligence, or unavoidable circumstances such as environmental causes.
Below is a list of common causes of truck accidents:
- Overloaded or improperly loaded trucks
- Unreasonable schedules and driver fatigue
- Lack of driver experience or training
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Defective equipment
- Negligent drivers
- Defective roadways
- Dangerous weather conditions
Why Should a Truck Accident Lawyer Be Retained?
Accident victims should retain a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. The truck driver’s employer will likely have their own attorney already on retainer. An accident victim will need an attorney immediately for several reasons:
- Dealing with Car Insurance Companies
Immediately after the incident, automobile insurance companies will be calling for details about the accident. If the victim has suffered an injury in the accident, they may not be able to aptly deal with the insurance companies and will need an experienced lawyer to communicate on their behalf. Insurance companies rarely have the best interest of accident victims in mind, so an accident victim can greatly benefit from the aggressive legal representation a lawyer provides.
- Recreating the Events of the Accident
Many of the facts surrounding the accident will need to be established. The accident scene is only preserved for a limited period of time. After that, witnesses will need to be interviewed and experts may need to be retained. A truck accident lawyer will need to establish a timeline of the incident along with a recreation of the actions of everyone involved.
- Negotiating a settlement
A truck accident lawyer will need to negotiate a settlement if possible. Insurance companies and other parties to the accident will typically not give their best offer at first. In fact, they will try to lowball their settlement offers if they make one at all. A truck accident lawyer will know if the settlement offer is reasonable and if an agreement can be reached with further negotiations.
- Completing Lawsuit Paperwork
If it is necessary to file a truck accident lawsuit, the attorney will draft and file the complaint. Courts have stringent requirements for how the paperwork must be filed and will not necessarily be lenient on those requirements for claimants who do not have a truck accident lawyer.
- Expert Legal Advice
Accident victims need wise counsel throughout the entire process. Hopefully, the incident is the first and only time that the victim has been in an accident with a truck. An Atlanta, GA truck accident lawyer has helped many victims under similar circumstances and has the experience necessary to provide advice not just about legal matters, but about handling the accident as well.
- Dealing with Medical Insurance
The high likelihood of injury in truck accidents means that there will probably be medical bills to tend to. Attorneys can help the victim deal with medical insurance in the event that there are uncovered medical expenses.
Different Types of Truck Accident Lawsuits
A truck accident lawsuit in Atlanta, GA can take on a number of different forms. The most common type of truck accident lawsuit occurs when a driver’s vehicle is hit by a truck. However, a truck accident lawsuit can also be filed for reasons similar to these:
- Someone is a passenger in a truck that has an accident.
- A truck driver files a workers’ compensation claim after an accident.
- A truck accident was caused by a defect on the truck (such as the brakes) that did not work properly. In this case, a product liability lawsuit could be filed.
Holding the Truck Driver's Employer Legally Responsible
The best approach in a truck accident lawsuit is to file a legal claim against the employer as the employer’s assets will be significantly greater than that of the truck driver. There will likely be a settlement from the insurance company, but even that is limited. The high-dollar truck accident settlement and verdict collections come when there is a corporate defendant who has a greater ability to pay.
There are several prerequisites that must be met to enable a lawyer to file suit against the truck driver’s employer. The legal theory that allows for a truck accident lawsuit to proceed is called the respondeat superior doctrine. This doctrine originates from the fact that the truck driver is an agent of their employer and any actions that they do as a result of their job is representing their employer.
Of course, many truck drivers work as independent contractors, which makes it more difficult to file a truck accident lawsuit against the employer. The fact that a truck driver is an independent contractor does not make it impossible to sue their employer. If the company has the right to direct the driver’s manner of performance, including their routes and times of delivery, then they may still be a defendant in a truck accident lawsuit.
There is a multi-part test to establish that a company is responsible for the actions of its driver. Here are the three parts of the respondeat superior analysis:
- The truck driver must have been an employee of the company at the time of the accident. As mentioned above, even if the truck driver was an independent contractor, it does not entirely preclude the possibility of finding the company liable for the driver’s actions.
- The driver must have been engaged in an activity on behalf of the company at the time of the accident. This means that if the driver was on a “frolic and detour,” the truck accident lawyer may have difficulty holding the company accountable. In other words, the driver’s actions must be within the scope of their employment. If the driver was taking the company truck to run a personal errand, then the company may not be responsible unless it knew about and sanctioned this activity.
- The actions of the driver were of benefit to the employer. For example, the driver may not be conducting “official business,” but they were doing something that helped out their employer. If the driver was out in the company truck with no particular purpose, then the company may not be liable.
Each case may be different depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case. Those who have been injured will need a truck accident lawyer to establish what the facts are and present the necessary evidence to the court.
Proving the Truck Driver Was Negligent
In order to successfully prove the claim in a truck accident lawsuit, the claimant must demonstrate that the other driver was negligent in their actions. There is no bright-line test to determine if a driver is negligent. Instead, there is a four-factor inquiry that each court will apply to determine whether there has been negligence. This test results from hundreds of years of case law and is applied to every situation in which potential negligence is involved. The elements of the test are as follows:
- The first question to be answered is whether the truck driver owed a duty of care to other drivers on the road. Usually, the answer to this question is an obvious yes. A truck driver cannot do whatever they please behind the wheel, especially as it impacts other drivers.
- Next, the court will determine whether the truck driver breached their duty of care. This question is framed as whether the truck driver acted as a reasonable truck driver would under the circumstances. This does not require absolute perfection, just that the driver did not act unreasonably under the circumstances. This part of the test is usually met if the truck driver broke a traffic law. For example, a reasonable driver would not travel at an excessive rate of speed or make illegal turns on the road.
- If the first two parts of the test are met, the court will look at whether the victim suffered an injury. So long as there is some sort of damage, this part will likely be met.
- Finally, the court will examine whether the truck driver’s actions were the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. This is not always the case. For example, a truck driver can collide with another car as a result of another driver cutting off the truck. The question is “but for” the actions of the truck driver, would the victim’s injuries have occurred?
Even if the truck driver was negligent, there is another factor to consider. The court will then look at whether the victim was to blame in any way for the accident that caused their injury. In a handful of states, the victim may not recover anything at all if they shared even part of the blame. In Georgia, that is not the case. Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence test. This means that a party who was partially responsible for the accident may still recover for their injuries. For example, if the victim bears ten percent of the blame, their damage recovery is reduced by that amount. However, the law states that any party who is more than fifty percent responsible for the accident may not recover anything.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
Once the victim has established that the truck driver was negligent and bore more than half of the blame for the accident, damages can be calculated. The damage award includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Pain and suffering from any injuries
- Medical bills for treatment not covered by health insurance
- Damage to physical property such as the victim’s car
- Lost wages for time missed from work
- Loss of consortium for the spouse
Speak with an Atlanta, GA Truck Accident Lawyer Today
The Eichholz Law Firm has years of experience representing truck accident victims across the State of Georgia. We have seen a wide variety of truck accidents and have extensive experience in guiding victims through the entire litigation process.
Call us today at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation. Find out how we can help file a claim for financial compensation and the process that must be followed in order to recover money from those who were responsible for the accident. The consultation is free and The Eichholz Law Firm will not be paid unless there is a financial recovery.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2017. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Nolo. “Trucking Accidents: Common Causes & Liability”, Nolo, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/trucking-accidents-common-causes-liability-30156.html. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- FindLaw. “Truck Accident Law: What You Need to Know”, FindLaw, https://injury.findlaw.com/car-accidents/truck-accident-law-what-you-need-to-know.html. Accessed June 21, 2019.