In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, approximately 132,000 people were injured in large truck and bus crashes in the United States. In Georgia alone, 144 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks that same year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
With so many commercial vehicles on the road and their drivers under pressure to perform as quickly and efficiently as possible, truck accidents are an unfortunately common occurrence. For the victims injured in those crashes or the surviving families of those killed, the road to recovery can be long and frustrating. Victims are left to recover from their injuries or manage their grief while still trying to maintain the financial stability they enjoyed before the accident. This is often a difficult task, as injuries can prevent victims from working or the death of a loved one can leave the rest of the family without an income provider.
The law, however, does allow victims to pursue justice and compensation from those responsible for the accident. In car crashes, it’s often simple to determine who is at fault—one driver made a choice that impacted another driver. In cases of commercial truck crashes, however, the situation can be much more complicated, with a number of parties playing a role in the operation of the vehicle. So, what can a victim do? Who can be held accountable for the accident?
Who Is Responsible for a Truck Crash in Georgia?
There are a number of parties who may be held liable for a commercial truck accident in Georgia. Deciding just who to name as responsible depends on a number of factors, including the details of the accident and the relationship among the parties involved with the truck. In general, it is possible that victims can pursue a claim against:
- The driver. Just like the drivers of other vehicles on the road, commercial drivers have a responsibility to act safely on the road and follow all traffic laws. When a driver’s negligence and bad decisions lead to an accident, he can be held accountable for his actions.
- The trucking company. In general, businesses are responsible for the behavior of their employees while they are working. Additionally, it has been shown that shipping companies often place pressure on their drivers to deliver their goods and services as quickly as possible, sometimes encouraging their drivers to ignore federal regulations in order to do so. These practices are illegal, and the company can be held liable.
- The cargo company. Improperly loaded or unsecured cargo is often a factor in truck crashes. If the cargo shifts during transit, it can make the large vehicle unstable and difficult to control even in good weather and on well-maintained roads.
- Truck manufacturers. If the design or production of a truck does not meet safety standards, the company that produced the defective part can be held liable. Bad tires or braking systems are common causes of truck accidents. While commercial vehicles can overcome some issues, sometimes even minor problems can be exaggerated due to the large weight and height of the trucks.
Determining Fault After A Georgia Truck Accident
It is possible that more than one party holds some responsibility for the accident. How is a victim to know who should be held accountable? A skilled attorney can help victims examine the details of their case and decide how best to move forward. Experienced injury attorneys have pursued these claims in the past, and they understand what is necessary to mount a successful case. In truck accident cases, this is especially important.
In some cases, the responsible parties will try to shift blame onto others, sometimes even including the victim. As a general rule, companies are responsible for the behavior of employees, but not those whom they hire as independent contractors. Additionally, the company can only be held liable if the employee was operating within the scope of the job and if the act was not intentionally done against a specific person. So, determining and proving the relationship between the trucking company and the driver can be critical.
The other parties may also try to point fingers: the manufacturer blames the driver for lack of maintenance, or the cargo company claims the trucking company affected the way the cargo was secured. Sorting through every version of events can be time consuming and frustrating.
Finally, the state of Georgia follows the rules of comparative negligence. In short, if the courts determine that the victim holds some degree of accountability for the accident, it could affect any settlement or judgment awarded. All these factors will determine just who can and should be held responsible for an accident and for the injuries of the victim.
At Rechtman & Spevak, we’ve worked with accident victims to successfully pursue justice and fair compensation for their injuries, and we may be able to help if you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident. Call our truck accident lawyers to learn more about your rights and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.