Truck Accidents in Savannah GA
Each year, thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed in truck accidents in Georgia. Though a coastal city in Georgia, Savannah has a variety of interstates and highways that run through it, including but not limited to I-95, 1-16, and I-516. Commercial trucks of all sizes must pass through Savannah on a daily basis, with accidents resulting when truck drivers are negligent.
In May 2015, a truck driver fell asleep driving 60 mph on I-16 when he struck a line of vehicles, killing 5 people. Incidents such as this show how dangerous a truck and car collision can be. Due to the size and mass of these large vehicles, truck accidents more often result in fatal crashes compared to typical car crashes. A fully loaded 18-wheeler truck can weigh about 80,000 pounds and range from 70 to 80 feet long.
Savannah residents can rely on The Eichholz Law Firm as a credible Savannah GA truck accident law firm. By hiring the services of one of our experienced attorneys, you will have someone who can act as a shield to investigators, help guide you safely past the dangers of dealing with insurance companies and get you the compensation that you are entitled to.
How Do Truck Accidents Occur?
Automobiles and trucks are inherently dangerous, and it comes as no surprise that automobile accidents are the leading cause of injury in the United States. Truck accidents are different from car accidents in a number of important ways. When trucks are involved, severe injury and casualty risks are much higher. This is because trucks weigh tremendously more than cars, leading to devastating impacts on drivers and passengers. Permanent injuries are common in trucking accidents, and people who are involved in these types of accidents can have life-changing consequences. 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
What to Do After a Truck Accident in Savannah GA
If the driver is alert and is relatively unharmed, they should make all possible efforts to remain calm. While it is undeniably traumatic to experience an accident with a truck, it is vital to take the right steps to help ensure future legal success. The most important thing to do is never admit to any liability regarding the accident and refrain from trying to argue the case with the other driver. Also, make sure never to talk to the other driver’s insurance at the scene of the accident.
The Difference Between a Truck Accident and a Car Accident
Truck accident lawsuits may be different than car accident lawsuits since accident victims may not be dealing with the other driver’s insurance company as they would in a car accident. There will still be an insurance company involved, but it may be that of the company which employs the truck driver, which means the insurance company will be operating under a different set of rules. The company will likely have lawyers on retainer so it is essential to contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Dealing with Truck Accident Insurance Companies
In the event that there is another insurance company to deal with, these companies have been known to employ every trick in the book to reduce the amount that they have to pay out in a settlement. Many drivers who have just gone through the trauma of a truck accident are not wise to the insurance company’s tactics and are vulnerable to being taken advantage of during this time. The sooner that a lawyer is retained, the better off a victim will be in navigating the post-accident demands.
Proving that the Truck Driver was Negligent
In order to receive a settlement or a jury verdict in a truck accident lawsuit, a plaintiff must show that the truck driver was negligent. There is no law or statute that precisely specifies what constitutes negligence. Instead, negligence is determined by considering the facts and circumstances relating to a truck accident and applying a four-part test that has been established over hundreds of years of case law.
- Proving Negligence
The first part of proving negligence is demonstrating that the driver owed a duty of care to the injured driver. This duty of care is essentially a requirement not to do anything that could harm another person. For those driving a truck, it is relatively easy to prove that they have a duty to not operate their vehicle in a manner that can injure other drivers on the road.
- Breach of Duty
The second part of this test is that the driver of the truck breached the duty of care referenced above. This element is one that will require a truck accident lawyer to go to great efforts to prove true. In order to establish a breach of duty, the truck accident lawyer must prove that the truck driver did not act as a reasonable truck driver would under the circumstances. This involves demonstrating the usual professional care that a truck driver would exhibit and comparing it to what this particular driver did. For example, a truck driver that speeds or cuts off another driver is not acting as a reasonable driver would and could be considered to have breached their duty of care.
The third step in a truck accident lawsuit is the establishment of injury. This will generally be apparent and is the easiest element to prove.
- Cause of Injury
The final step in a truck accident lawsuit is proving that the truck driver was the proximate cause of the injury. In other words, the injury must have occurred as a result of the truck driver’s actions. For example, if a third party pulled in front of a truck driver and then the truck hit another driver, the truck driver may not be the proximate cause of the injury. Instead, the proximate cause of the injury would be that the third driver cut off the truck. However, if a truck was driving aggressively and ran another driver off the road, the truck driver would be the proximate cause of the injury.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
Assuming that negligence is proven, the next step in a truck accident lawsuit is to examine the actions of the injured driver to see if they were partly to blame for their own injury. For example, the driver could have been struck by a speeding truck when they were making an illegal turn. Only a few states bar the injured driver from any recovery if they are partly at fault. This is called contributory negligence.
Most states, including Georgia, will reduce the amount of the driver’s recovery by the percentage that they were negligent. For example, if a jury decided that a driver was 20 percent negligent, they could only recover 80 percent compensation for their injuries. This is known as comparative negligence. Some states will not allow any recovery when a driver is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident.
Filing a Truck Accident Lawsuit Against the Driver’s Employer
One of the key areas where truck accidents are different than car accidents is the possibility that the truck driver’s employer can be added to the lawsuit as a defendant. Drivers who operate motor vehicles for personal use may not have many assets after insurance coverage. Truck drivers, however, are usually employees of (and driving for) a business entity unless the truck driver is an independent contractor. A truck accident lawyer may have the opportunity to show that an employment relationship exists even though the company refers to the driver as an independent contractor.
The Respondeat Superior Doctrine
When the truck driver is an employee, the driver’s employer can be found liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. A Savannah GA truck accident lawyer will have to show the following in order for the employer to be liable:
- The company has the power to direct the actions of the truck driver.
- The actions of the truck driver were committed within the scope of their employment.
- The driver’s actions were negligent and were not intentional.
- The employer was benefiting from the driver’s actions.
The truck accident lawyer will likely have to devote some time and effort at trial to establish that the driver’s actions were within the scope of their employment. Here are some of the considerations for deciding whether the truck driver’s actions that caused the accident were within the scope of employment:
- The driver was operating the vehicle for the employer as opposed to personal use.
- The accident occurred during a time when the driver was employed by the company.
- The truck driver was carrying a shipment at the time of the accident.
- The driver’s route was one that could be reasonably expected by the employer.
Assuming that the employer can be held legally liable in a truck accident lawsuit, the injured party will have access to significantly greater assets than those of only the driver. This will increase the size of a truck accident settlement.
Even if the trucking company is not liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, there are other ways in which a truck accident lawyer in Savannah GA can argue that it is responsible. This could relate to several areas where the company has failed as an employer.
- The company may have failed to maintain the truck in proper working order, such that the truck was a danger to others on the road.
- The company may have negligently hired the driver, either failing to check the prior safety record or whether the driver had the required licenses and certifications.
- The driver’s schedule or delivery requirements may have been unreasonable or the driver was not allowed to take proper breaks
Finally, the company or the driver may have been fulfilling all of their legal responsibilities, but there may have been a problem with the truck itself that caused the accident. For example, the brakes on the truck may have failed and there was nothing that the driver could have done to prevent the accident. In that case, the company that either manufactured the truck or the brakes may be found responsible in a product liability lawsuit.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Get Legal Help Now
Winning a truck accident lawsuit in Savannah GA is not easy for an individual to do on their own. It requires questioning witnesses, presenting evidence, and reconstructing the entire accident. In order to have the best chance of a successful claim, a truck accident lawyer in Savannah GA is a must. It is best to retain this lawyer as early in the process as possible if one intends to file a truck accident lawsuit. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help with the following:
- Dealing with insurance companies
- Interacting with the lawyers from the company employing the other driver
- Negotiating any medical bills that are not covered by insurance
- Preparing and filing a lawsuit if a settlement agreement cannot be reached
The truck accident lawyer will act as a counselor throughout the process. The Eichholz Law Firm has years of experience in helping victims file their lawsuits in Savannah and surrounding areas. They work on a contingency basis, meaning that they are not paid unless the claim leads to financial compensation for the victim.
Call us at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.
- 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.