If you spend any time on the road in and around Atlanta, you know that a lot of commercial trucks pass through the area. According to a 2020 report from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), three of the 10 worst bottlenecks for truck drivers are in the Atlanta metro area. These include:
- I-285 at I-85 (North)
- I-75 at I-285 (North)
- I-20 at I-285 (West)
ATRI’s top 100 list includes four additional Atlanta locations.
And that was before the pandemic. In December, Georgia’s Commissioner of Transportation said the pandemic had brought truck traffic on Georgia highways to an all-time high. So, it’s more important than ever that those sharing the roads with large trucks understand how truck accidents differ from other motor vehicle accidents in how they occur, how dangerous they are, and how an injured party can secure compensation after the collision.
Atlanta Truck Accidents: Before, During and After
Avoiding Commercial Truck Accidents
While many of the tips for avoiding truck accidents are the same as those that help you avoid collisions with passenger vehicles, large trucks require a bit of extra care. Many of the most significant steps you can take to minimize the risk of a commercial truck accident involve space.
- When you follow a large truck too closely, the driver won’t be able to see you and may not know you’re there. A good general rule is to never get so close that you can’t see the trucker’s side mirrors.
- Leave a good buffer when changing lanes or merging onto the highway in front of a large truck. Because of the much greater weight of the vehicle, it takes significantly longer to slow down and stop.
- Give trucks a wide berth when they’re turning. A semi-trailer or other large commercial vehicle typically has a much larger turning radius than a passenger vehicle.
It’s also important to remember that large trucks won’t be able to adapt quickly if you do something unexpected on the road, so it’s all the more important to use turn signals appropriately, make lane changes cautiously and generally not make any abrupt moves.
Commercial Truck Accidents are Often More Serious
Commercial trucks are obviously a lot larger and heavier than passenger vehicles. Still, it may not be readily apparent just how dangerous that difference is.
The average mid-sized passenger car weighs about 3,300 pounds, and the average pick-up truck between 5,000 and 7,000 pounds. Even an empty semi-truck with a trailer attached weighs about 35,000 pounds, and a loaded truck may weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Needless to say, a car, light truck, van, SUV or motorcycle involved in a traffic crash with a large truck usually gets the worst of the impact. In fact, more than 80% of those killed in commercial trucking accidents are outside the truck: drivers and passengers of other vehicles, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. About 68% are occupants of other vehicles.
Truck Accident Claims Can Be Complicated
In some ways, truck accident cases are similar to car accident cases. But, they can be much more complicated, for a variety of reasons.
Interplay Between State and Federal Law
Personal injury cases are typically governed by state law, and tried in state courts. But, commercial truckers are subject to federal regulations that drivers of passenger vehicles are not. That means examining evidence that would not be relevant (or even exist) in a motor vehicle accident between two passenger vehicles, such as hours-in-service logs. A car accident lawyer who is not experienced in commercial motor vehicle accident cases may not be aware of this type of evidence, or how to obtain and use it effectively.
Liability May Be Complicated
The responsible party may vary depending on the nature of the arrangement between the driver and the company he is driving for. Some drivers are employees of the company doing the shipping. Others are employees of trucking companies that are paid by other companies to carry their loads. And, still others are independent owners who contract either with the original shipper or with a shipping company. When the negligent driver who causes an accident is an employee, the company is typically liable. If the driver is a contractor, he may be personally liable. But, the company that contracted with an independent driver may be liable, or share liability, if their actions directly contributed to the accident. And, there are other parties who may be responsible as well, such as the manufacturer of the truck or a part that contributed to the accident.
Responsible Parties May Be Out of State
Because commercial drivers often travel long distances on the job, the driver who caused the accident may be from outside the state. And, the company the driver works for or contracts with may be in yet another state. Out of state defendants add procedural and logistic hurdles, including interstate service of process and coordinating access to evidence and witnesses.
The bottom line is that commercial truck accidents can be more serious, cause greater injury and damage, and be more complex when it’s time to pursue compensation. The sooner you get information and guidance from an experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney, the better.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of commercial truck accidents. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.