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Atlanta, Georgia Trucking Accident Attorney - Overview of Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Trucking accidents are road mishaps involving large semis and tractor-trailers, but also include large construction vehicles, school buses, and emergency vehicles, to name only a few. Most trucks and large vehicles in the U.S. and Georgia are used for commercial purposes, and they are a vital component of the country’s economic functioning, from delivering goods to transporting school children and delivering packages locally.

Accidents involving trucks involve different legal issues and considerations than passenger car accidents. An experienced Atlanta trucking accident attorney will investigate and pursue a trucking case in a different manner, involving the different legal and physical considerations described below.

Causes of trucking accidents and statistics

Because of their size, accidents involving large trucks or tractor trailers are far more likely to cause fatalities and serious injuries. Tractor trailers are nearly 20 times the size of a passenger car and are more likely to roll over or jackknife in an accident. Tractor trailers also have significantly longer reaction and recovery periods than cars. Even though trucks are only involved in 3% of all car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), trucks are involved in nearly 13% of all fatal crashes. Nearly 98% of the time, in fatal crashes involving semi trucks, it is a person in the passenger car and not the semi truck who suffers the fatality. According to NHTSA, a Tractor trailer is 20 to 55% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a passenger car.

In Georgia, one out of six fatalities from traffic accidents involves a tractor trailer. Unfortunately, Georgia ranks among the top five states in the U.S. with the highest number of trucking accidents. There are several causes for trucking accidents, including driver error, equipment failure, traffic law violations, and poor road conditions or design.

Legal duties and obligations of trucking companies and drivers

Most tractor trailers on the road today are used for commercial purposes. For this reason, federal and state governments hold trucking companies and drivers to a higher standard than those set for passenger cars and drivers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for promoting and enforcing federal trucking laws. Federal laws dictate how tractor trailers should be maintained, what safety features are required, how hazardous materials are transported, and how loads are to be tied down and stacked. The FMCSA also sets minimum training and licensing requirements for tractor trailer drivers, as well as hours of operation, load inspections, and the maximum amount of time an individual may operate a truck.

In Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD) promotes and enforces trucking regulations. The MCCD promotes safety regulations including maintaining all vehicles and parts in safe working condition, keeping and periodically submitting accurate and detailed records, and reporting all accidents to the commissioner of transportation. In addition, Georgia has adopted most federal laws concerning safety, maintenance, alcohol and drug testing, transportation of hazardous material, and insurance requirements.

Penalties in trucking accidents

In Georgia, depending on the circumstances and causes for the accident, a trucking company and driver may face criminal and civil penalties. Criminal penalties include fines and jail time for both the driver and company officials. Under Georgia law, violations of federal hazardous materials regulations carry even heavier fines and a potential jail sentence of up to five years.

Civil penalties include $15,000 for every willful violation of any law or regulation promoted by the Georgia Department of Public Safety, with an additional $10,000 for every additional day during which the violation persists.

Compensation and damages in trucking accidents

In Georgia, a trucking accident victim may recover several types of damages including all medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses, actual and prospective lost wages, and pain and suffering. A victim may even be able to recover punitive damages depending on the specific facts of each case. An experienced Atlanta trucking accident lawyer will help an individual identify and pursue all damages and compensation available.

Insurance and trucking accidents

Under federal law, trucking companies that move across state lines must carry a minimum amount of insurance, depending on the material transported. To carry non-hazardous material across state lines, a company must carry a minimum insurance of $750,000. For hazardous materials, the minimum insurance ranges from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. These minimum amounts also apply to foreign trucks entering the U.S. for commercial purposes as well.

However, if the truck company only does business in Georgia, the state minimum coverage requirements are much lower. Georgia only requires trucking companies to be covered up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 to $500,000 per accident. Considering the seriousness involved in most truck accidents, the minimum insurance coverage required by law is rarely enough.  If you or a loved one are injured in a trucking accident, it is very important that you contact a qualified Atlanta trucking accident attorney as soon as possible so that all of the complexities described above can be adequately addressed.

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