A recent tractor trailer accident near Atlanta caused vehicle damage to ten cars and minor injury after the rig crashed and rolled over in a gas station. At the time of the crash, the tractor-trailer was hauling nine rolls of paper weighing about 5,500 pounds each. There are times when truck accidents occur and the loss of cargo, or excessive weight load is obviously the problem leaving debris, or toxic liquid to spill over busy highways, causing quick reaction times of other unsuspecting drivers and increasing accidents.
Other times when the cause is not as obvious, insurance carriers for trucking companies may express that the accident itself was the reason for the shift or cargo spill. In all truck accident cases, where cargo is a mitigating factor, an independent investigation will need to take place with competent knowledgeable truck accident specialists including experienced lawyers, who can analyze the crash situation, secure and review trucker’s cargo inspection records, bills of lading and other records that might suggest load shifting or cargo securing problems on a big rig were a root cause of the accident.
Georgia driver restrictions for trucks carrying property cargo are limited to maximum hours driven; minimum hours off duty; and required rest breaks. 49 CFR 397.5 mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in break if no other duties performed.
Cargo load hazards.
Cargo is an important safety consideration for trucking companies, and is often dependent solely on the people who load and/or drive these large trucks that already have limited maneuverability in certain traffic patterns. If an accident is caused by poorly or overloaded cargo, under vicarious liability, other parties besides the driver may be held responsible, impacting the assessment of damages.
A trucking company may overload cargo to avoid making more than one trip that would cost more road time and fuel but causes accidents because:
- the added weight requires longer stopping distances and if an emergent stopping situation arises, rear-end collisions may result;
- tires may not be able to support the extra weight and cause blowout situations making a driving situation hazardous as a driver tries to control the truck;
- mechanical components may not be able to bear the weight increasing downhill speeds of truck and decreasing uphill speeds causing roadway problems for other motorists.
Inadequately secured cargo may shift during the course of travel causing a truck to jackknife, rollover or become difficult to steer or stop in a sufficient amount of time to avoid impact with other vehicles. Cargo that is not secured correctly may spill on a roadway causing a multi-vehicle damage situation, or damages to highway structures including bridges and tunnels.
Georgia is a Comparative Fault State which enables plaintiffs to seek damages up to 50% if they were partially responsible. The plaintiff shall not be entitled to receive any damages if they are 50 percent or more responsible for injury or damages claimed. Legal action can be initiated when the elements of negligence are present. They include an owed duty of care; a breach in the duty of care; and the breach caused the injuries or loss. Wrongful death claims are based on the ability to prove negligence.
Damages that victims can sue for include: 1) compensatory damages which are those damages causing economic and non-economic loss to victim; and 2) punitive damages meant to punish the persons being sued.
Tractor trailer truck accidents involve multiple complex factors that require specific knowledge of the commercial trucking industry and experience in civil injury laws so it is wise to contact an experienced lawyer to discuss a truck accident.