Q: Determining Liability for a Truck Accident in Georgia
Determining liability for a truck accident in Georgia is sometimes more complicated than it seems. Ultimately, identifying the liable party or parties depends on the circumstances of your particular accident. In many cases, a truck accident attorney can discover liable parties that you may not have considered. Call attorney Jason R. Schultz today at 404-474-0804 to get started.
Is the driver liable?
Your initial reaction after a truck accident is usually to blame the driver, and this blame could be well placed. A driver who breaks traffic laws; drives while distracted, drunk, or fatigued; or is otherwise negligent, can be at fault for a truck accident.
In many cases, however, drivers have little wealth. For this reason, victims often file insurance claims and lawsuits against the trucking company. A legal concept known as vicarious liability means employers are responsible for damage done by their employees while they are on the clock.
Trucking companies must ensure their employees – especially drivers and mechanics – are well trained and capable of performing their job duties responsibly. Even when a driver is obviously negligent, such as driving drunk or falling asleep behind the wheel, the liability may still fall on the trucking company in most cases and its insurance company must pay out to cover your damages.
While this is the general rule, there are always exceptions, which may include:
- When the driver is self-employed (i.e., he uses the truck but may not actually work for the company)
- When the driver is not on the clock at the time of the accident
- When a defective truck part or a third-party caused the accident
What is third-party liability?
In cases when the driver was not directly negligent, liability may still lay with the trucking company, such as if the company forced the employee to drive longer than legally allowed. In other cases, however, liability for the accident belongs with a third party. Third parties that could be involved in a Georgia truck accident include:
- The truck manufacturer, if a parts defect or similar issue led to the accident
- The cargo owner/loader, if a cargo shift or spill caused the accident
- The mechanic, if a mechanical failure caused the issues
- Any party whose refusal to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations for inspection, maintenance and repair caused or contributed to the accident
Many truck accident cases have at least one third party who shares some of the blame with the negligent driver, or the trucking company. This makes these cases more complicated, but identifying all possible liable parties is key. This is one reason why you should never agree to a settlement offer after a truck accident without first talking about your case with an Atlanta truck accident lawyer.
How do I determine liability?
Once you enlist the help of an attorney after your Georgia truck accident, one of the first things he will do, after determining possible liable parties, is to begin gathering evidence and building the case against any and all liable parties. This process often includes consulting with medical expert witnesses, accident reconstruction specialists, and experts familiar with the trucking industry. Other evidence may include:
- Your medical records
- Photos of the accident scene
- Post-accident drug or alcohol test results
- Information from the truck’s electronic data recorder or GPS
- The driver’s hours of service log
- Employment and training records
- Company protocol
- The truck itself
Sending a letter of spoliation early on in this process is important and a skilled lawyer will draft this letter as soon as he identifies a potential liable party. This letter prevents the trucking company or other potential defendant from destroying documents or other evidence.
The testimony of anyone who witnessed your accident also bolsters your case and helps to establish liability. In some cases, witnesses may actually see the cause of the accident and can offer a perspective no one else can. For example, an eyewitness can testify that she saw the driver falling asleep and swerving right before the accident.
The Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C.
Attorney Jason R. Schultz represents the victims of truck accidents in the Atlanta metro area. We can help you identify the at-fault parties, prove liability, and get the compensation you deserve after a devastating injury. Contact us to schedule an appointment at our Peachtree City, Georgia, office today: 404-474-0804.