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Alpharetta, Georgia Trucking Accident Attorney - Legal Duties of Trucking Companies and Drivers

An accident involving a truck is very different from one only involving passenger vehicles, and an experienced Alpharetta trucking accident attorney will handle it differently from the outset.

Georgia and Federal truck laws

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for promoting and enforcing federal trucking laws and regulations. These regulations apply to trucking companies that are involved in interstate commerce. Federal laws regarding tractor trailers and operators are strict and carry severe penalties for violations. Federal law includes regulations for drivers, vehicles, companies, and hazardous materials.

Regulations regarding drivers include drug and alcohol testing programs, special training and licensing requirements, and hours of service limits. Vehicle regulations include tractor trailer maintenance, required safety equipment, loading guidelines, and accurate and thorough record keeping. Trucking company regulations include a number of safety programs and procedures. Regulations are even stricter if the tractor trailer is transporting hazardous materials.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD) promotes and enforces trucking regulations. The MCCD has adopted most federal laws concerning safety, maintenance, alcohol and drug testing, transportation of hazardous material, and insurance requirements for trucking companies and drivers. Above and beyond federal regulations, MCCD requires that all truck drivers and companies maintain all vehicles and parts in safe working condition, keep and periodically submit accurate and detailed records, and report all accidents to the commissioner of transportation.

Negligence in trucking accidents

Most trucking accidents involve some form of negligence. Negligence happens when an individual or company fails to use reasonable care. Using reasonable care means acting in a way that a reasonably prudent person would act under the same circumstances. This means adhering to all trucking laws and regulations as well as all traffic laws. Negligence is a legal concept that may become complex without the aid of and experienced Alpharetta trucking accident lawyer.

To prevail in a civil suit against a truck driver or company, plaintiffs must prove the four elements of negligence:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care
  2. The defendant breached that duty
  3. The defendant’s breach of that duty caused the accident, and
  4. The plaintiff suffered personal or property (or both) damage from the accident.

In most trucking accident cases, the first element is easy to prove. Federal and state trucking regulations clearly outline the duties that trucking companies and drivers owe to the general public. Any violation of federal or state motor carrier regulations usually establishes the first two elements of negligence.

In addition to the duties of tractor trailer drivers imposed by federal and state law, tractor trailer drivers must also use reasonable care. The standard of reasonable care for tractor trailer drivers is that of the reasonably prudent tractor trailer driver under similar conditions. This means that at the very least, tractor trailer drivers who text or talk on their cell phone while driving, drive while intoxicated, or act reckless in any way, satisfy the first two elements of negligence.

The last two elements of negligence are proved through witness testimony, accident reconstruction, medical records and testimony, photographs, and specialist testimony.

However, theories of negligence vary depending on who caused the accident and what duty they owed the victim. Often, in more complicated trucking accidents, there may be several theories of negligence involved. For example, in addition to the negligence of the tractor trailer driver or company, there may be another negligent driver involved in the accident. In other cases, the road may have been negligently constructed or marked, and the government may share liability with the trucking company. In yet other cases, the tractor trailer may have a manufacturing defect that could or could not have been discovered by the company or driver. In these cases, the tractor trailer manufacturer may be at fault. In complex cases, it is especially helpful to have an experienced Alpharetta trucking accident attorney that will identify and pursue all the negligent parties.

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