Tractor-trailer collisions too often prove deadly for people in smaller cars, with an average of 165 large truck crash fatalities occurring every year on Georgia roads. The victims who survive these crashes commonly require months of rehabilitation and time off work—and many suffer permanent disabilities as a result of the accident. If you have been struck by one of these vehicles, you need someone fighting on your side, holding the trucking company accountable for the full extent of your injuries.
At the Champion Firm, we have seen the damage that high speeds and heavy loads carried by large trucks can cause, and we know the barriers to compensation that injury victims must overcome. We also know that you need this time to heal, so we work on your behalf to get you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed under the law—and we do not collect any payment from you unless we succeed in your case.
A Commercial Truck Crash Case Is Different From a Car Wreck Case
Although car wrecks and 18-wheeler crashes are both considered personal injury cases, there are major differences that can affect the outcome of the case. One of the biggest differences is that a commercial vehicle crash involves not only a driver, but the company that owns and operates the fleet of vehicles. While victims are struggling to recover from their injuries, the trucking company will be working to protect its own interests, placing victims who do not have attorneys on their side at a disadvantage.
Truck accidents are also different from other crash cases because they may involve:
- A greater potential for deadly injury. The increased size and weight of tractor-trailers or box trucks have the potential to cause devastating injuries to the passengers of smaller vehicles. Spinal cord injuries and paralysis are common after semi-truck accidents, and many families are forced to grieve the wrongful death of a loved one.
- Liability of multiple parties. Truck drivers may be to blame for causing an accident, but they are not the only party that can be sued after a crash. The company that owns the truck, the company that loads and unloads the shipment, and the company that performs maintenance on the vehicle could be separate entities, and each one could be negligent depending on the facts of the case.
- Commercial insurance carriers. Trucking companies must be covered under commercial insurance policies. While this could mean that more funds are available to an accident victim, there also is a greater likelihood that the commercial insurers will hire lawyers to minimize their exposure.
Commercial Vehicles That May Be Involved in Truck Crashes
There are many types of large trucks, and each one is bound by different standards and requirements. Some drivers need commercial licenses and undergo mandatory training, and each vehicle must adhere to specific safety codes.
Vehicles that may be bound by commercial trucking laws include:
- Semi-trucks. An 18-wheeler may travel unloaded or attached to a trailer, and each one poses a risk of colliding with smaller, lighter vehicles.
- Delivery vehicles. Delivery services can include those bringing mail (such as UPS or FedEx), furniture, or goods to consumers, but also catering trucks, refrigerated trucks, and vans bringing large orders to corporate clients.
- Box trucks. Many companies use box trucks (also called straight trucks or cube trucks) to haul loads and make deliveries. Moving vans are a common form of box truck and may not require a commercial license to drive.
- Tow trucks and haulers. A tow truck combines the weight of two vehicles, while a car carrier stacked with vehicles can be deadly if the cars are not properly secured.
- Service vehicles. Utility companies rely on heavy vehicles such as garbage trucks, power company vehicles, fuel tankers, and other transport that can be hazardous in a crash.
- Oversized load trucks. Vehicles carrying lumber, industrial materials, or whole houses may encroach into other traffic lanes or spill cargo weighing several tons.
- Heavy equipment. Road construction carries a risk of collision with dump trucks, excavators, cement mixers, and other machinery.
Types of Collisions Large Trucks Can Cause
The heavy weight and high profile of large trucks make them especially deadly when they collide with smaller vehicles. Types of collisions between trucks and passenger cars include:
- Head-on collisions that occur when the front end of a car and the front of the truck’s cab collide.
- Side-impact crashes (also called T-bone accidents) that occur when the front of the truck collides with the side of a passenger vehicle.
- Rear-end crashes that result from a trucker striking the back of a car because the truck was following too closely or not paying attention.
- Sideswipe accidents as the truck merges without warning or drifts into the other lane.
- Jackknife accidents that result from a trucker’s sudden braking, causing the trailer to swing to the side and cab and trailer to fold up like a jackknife.
- Underride accidents that occur when a car becomes wedged under the back or side of the trailer.
Common Causes of Big-Rig and Large Truck Accidents
Every truck driver has the potential to engage in unsafe or illegal behaviors behind the wheel, and some fleet operators may cut corners on safety in order to increase their profits. While only a thorough investigation into your case can reveal the exact cause of your crash, there is a good chance the driver or the trucking company could have done something to prevent it.
Big-rig accidents are most commonly caused by one or more of the following:
- Drowsy driving. Commercial truckers spend long hours behind the wheel, and many do not get proper rest when they are off-duty. Even drivers who are not required by law to take breaks may drive drowsy due to working overtime or late shifts.
- Impaired driving. Drinking and driving, taking illegal drugs, or even relying on prescription medications can alter a driver’s concentration and reaction times.
- Distracted driving. Although truckers are forbidden to text, check email, use social media, or talk on cell phones while driving, some indulge in distractions to fill the long hours behind the wheel.
- Speeding and aggressive driving. Truckers may feel pressure to drive faster to make their deliveries more quickly. Unfortunately, studies have continually found that speeding increases accident rates and makes crashes more severe.
- Driver errors. Truckers who enter the roadway without using flashers, merge or turn without using signals, or fail to check blind spots are all in danger of colliding with smaller cars.
- Improper loading. All cargo must be evenly weighted and properly secured to prevent loads from shifting during travel. Otherwise, cargo may fall to one side during a turn, pulling the truck down in a rollover crash.
- Poor maintenance. Trucking companies have a duty to inspect and repair all of the vehicles in their fleet before sending them out on the roads. The rig that hit you should be inspected for bald tires, worn-out brakes, faulty electrical equipment, and other signs of equipment failure.
You Should Speak to an Attorney Immediately After a Tractor-Trailer Accident
It is vital that injury victims speak to an attorney as soon as possible after a large truck crash. One reason is that trucking companies are only required to keep driver logs and other evidence after a crash occurs for a limited time. After this time limit expires, companies can dispose of the information, making it more difficult for a victim to prove negligence. In addition, insurance companies may try to minimize their losses by offering an early settlement to a victim that is thousands of dollars less than his or her claim is worth.
Only an experienced truck wreck attorney can accurately estimate the full costs of the accident and offer the legal advice you need to put the accident behind you. If you or a loved one was involved in a commercial truck accident in Georgia, contact us today to schedule a confidential and free case evaluation.