Trucking accidents are unique in many respects. They often present complex and challenging legal issues, including comprehensive federal regulations, impaired drivers, falsified driver log books, hazardous loads, excessive weight, and equipment failures. Trucking cases are defended aggressively. Our experience proves that intense case preparation often results in our clients obtaining significant out-of-court settlements, thereby allowing them to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of a trial.
Accidents involving large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) are among the most serious and deadly in the United States. Large trucks — also called semis, Mack trucks, 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers — are so much heavier and longer than a passenger car or truck they can exert many times the force of other smaller vehicles in an accident. In a high-speed crash between a large truck and a family vehicle, the smaller vehicle will almost always be crushed by the sheer force of the truck’s weight and speed. For the occupants of the smaller vehicle, the result is likely to be death or permanent disability from a serious head, spine or internal injury.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of these large trucks collide with other passenger vehicles with horrific results. Thousands of those collisions result in death. Accidents involving large trucks account for a significant percent of all the traffic fatalities and catastrophic injuries on our roads and highways. The unique factors and dynamics of these accidents make them very different than other vehicle collisions, and require specialized knowledge and experience in dealing with them.
At Ripper Law Firm PC, we know that handling these cases requires a thorough understanding of commercial vehicle regulations on both the federal and state level. Because large trucks can be so dangerous, trucking companies are required to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations concerning equipment and drivers’ hours of service. In Georgia, the department of motor vehicle safety is also charged with adopting regulations regarding the safety of motor carriers. O.C.G.A. § 40-16-2.
Unfortunately, these regulations are often ignored by companies and drivers more interested in making a profit than public safety. Some may falsify their logs and keep driving without getting enough sleep. Some may even turn to illegal stimulants to stay awake. Some drivers haven’t even obtained a valid trucking license, posing an additional danger to themselves and all other drivers on the road with them. When poorly trained, under-regulated, sleep-deprived or impaired drivers and their companies make mistakes, the results can devastate a family physically, emotionally and financially.
Trucking companies often encourage or require their drivers to operate beyond allowable limits. As a result, driver fatigue is a common problem, as hours of service regulations are routinely violated. Careful examination of records after an accident often shows serious and even fraudulent violations of those safety regulations. Notably, trucking companies are only required to maintain certain records for six months. Without obtaining those records before they are destroyed, the injured person or survivors of a person killed in a truck collision has a much more difficult time proving the trucking company’s negligence and misconduct.
Highway crashes with large trucks are life-altering events for most drivers, but for trucking companies, they’re just part of doing business. After an accident, trucking companies or their insurers may send representatives to speak with victims right away. Their job is simple: to minimize the company’s legal and financial responsibility for the accident. The representatives may offer what they call a “fair” cash settlement to encourage accident victims to sign away their legal rights in exchange for a quick payment before they consult with an experienced attorney. Typically, there is nothing “fair” about these offers at all, and they only benefit the trucking company and its insurer.
We strongly advise accident victims to decline these offers and contact us to protect your rights. If accepted, these supposedly “fair” cash settlements can prevent accident victims from pursuing valid claims in court and recovering all compensation allowed by law for their injuries. Instead, accident victims should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to protect their legal rights. Rest assured, the trucking and insurance companies have lawyers working to protect their interests.
We encourage you not to delay seeking legal representation, as personal injury cases must be brought within the statute of limitations and can be lost forever if not pursued timely.