Experience Matters More in Trucking Cases

Truck accidents tend to be far more complex and involve more severe injuries than ‘regular’ car accident claims. Attorney Bruce Millar and our team of attorneys have received Top Results in commercial truck crash cases for over twenty-six years.

Some recent examples of the compensation that our firm has recovered through recent trucking case settlements and verdicts include:

  • $750,000 — refrigerated tractor-trailer truck rear-end crash (policy limits) on I-285 in Atlanta, Dekalb County.

Lawyers Handling Commercial Truck Accident Claims Should Be Specialists

Truck accidents are different: A truck accident is not just a larger car accident case. Handling a trucking case requires a truck accident lawyer and his or her law firm to know the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), industry standards, and how to properly investigate to determine not just what happened, but how and why the crash happened.

How to choose the best Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyer for your truck accident case: It is important to carefully screen your truck accident lawyer to make sure he or she has actual experience in handling tractor-trailer crash cases. Some truck accident lawyers who lack experience in commercial truck cases do not know the steps to be taken to find and preserve the evidence needed to prove all parts of the case. They may settle every claim out of court. Has your attorney or law firm settled every trucking case without filing suit? Or has he or she filed suit, gone through discovery, and taken a trucking case to trial?

Truck accidents are system failures: Many truck accidents happen as a result of poor safety and training practices. Even though the crash happened on a road or highway, the cause of a truck accident may have begun with the trucking company itself. Was the driver sleepy due to overwork or the company’s failure to audit his or her driver’s logs? Was the truck properly and safely maintained? Was the company taking steps to ensure their drivers safely operate?

What we have learned in twenty-six years: After a serious wreck, the first thing a trucker usually does is call the dispatcher, risk manager, or owner of the trucking company. The trucking company immediately responds, often by hiring a truck accident lawyer and investigators who may claim that any investigation by the company is privileged information. They may ensure that the company’s books, records, and logs are in order and if not, are corrected or updated.

Because the company is likely to take steps to protect itself, starting your own investigation as soon as possible is key. Knowing what evidence should exist, and in which formats, is critical to proving not just what happened but what caused the wreck. Experienced investigators know the formats; they are familiar with the GPS data, electronic communications, logs, and daily inspection reports, and how to ensure this information is preserved.

There is a big difference between a rear-end crash caused by a trucker not paying attention to traffic and a big-rig brake-failure due to improper maintenance.  Ask questions.  Make sure your truck accident lawyer knows the difference.

We are locally based in Georgia and have REAL trial experience: Some law firms that advertise heavily on TV and along the interstate highways in Atlanta are not even based in Georgia or have little to no actual trial experience. Many of the cases they take on are simply farmed out to local truck accident lawyers or settled for less than full value.

Insurance defense truck accident lawyers and commercial trucking companies know which law firms file suits and take cases to trial, and which truck accident lawyers refer out cases or settle for less than full value. The Millar Law Firm has been filing lawsuits, trying trucking cases, and achieving top results for a quarter-century.

Our attorneys have special training and experience in Large Truck, Van, Bus, and other Commercial Vehicle cases. We do not handle other areas of law, such as criminal, bankruptcy, or family law. We believe in specialization. Which is why year after year we attend the cutting-edge trial and injury-case legal seminars and hire the top experts to achieve top results.

Your Right to Fair and Complete Compensation

When you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, you have the right to bring a claim against the trucker, the trucking company, and the insurance company. Georgia allows you to recover medical bills and expenses, lost pay if you have been or will be unable to work, and compensation for past and future pain and suffering, and for property damage to your vehicle and its contents.

truck accident infographic

Many Trucking Accidents Begin with Negligent Trucking Companies

Negligent operators (companies) are often the cause of serious crashes: While driver-error is almost always a factor, many trucking and bus accidents happen because the owner or operator negligently allows certain violations to occur. This includes allowing drivers to work beyond the maximum hours allowed by law, hiring un-qualified drivers, or keeping poor maintenance. Broken rules are among the most common underlying causes of truck accidents.

Using federal regulations to prove your case against a trucking company: Federal safety regulations apply to commercial trucks and vehicles weighing at least 10,000 lbs. and transporting people or property from one state to another, known as interstate commerce.

In almost every trucking accident case, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations should be examined and used to determine whether the trucker or the company complied with or violated these critical safety rules. Some courts have found that violations of the FMCSR can be used to prove negligence.

Negligent maintenance causes many truck accidents: It is not uncommon for an investigation to determine that the cause of a large-truck accident was the result of brake failure, worn tires, or other safety failures. It is, therefore, important to have the truck inspected by an expert who can determine the mechanical condition of the truck. Company records should also be reviewed. In one case, even though the tires mysteriously disappeared, our firm was able to determine from company records that the 50,000 mile tires had not been replaced for over 85,000 miles, supporting a state patrol report indicating that the tires were bald.

Failure to train and supervise drivers: Trucking companies are required by law to hire only properly qualified and trained truck drivers. Carriers must maintain a driver qualification file showing that the driver has been trained and tested on how to safely operate their vehicles.

Additionally, trucking supervisors and safety directors are to monitor and audit driving logs to ensure that drivers are not routinely speeding or exceeding the legally-allowed driving hours for safe operation. Failure to monitor driving practices is surprisingly common.

How Our Firm Investigates and Builds a Strong Case

Our firm has been hired within hours or days of a trucking accident, or as long as many months later. If we are hired shortly after an accident involving a serious catastrophic injury or death, we often immediately send highly qualified experts to the scene. These experts are usually retired law-enforcement officers, who take measurements and photographs and preserve the available physical evidence.

Proper Documentation: In all serious trucking, bus, and large commercial vehicle cases, we review law enforcement records, interview witnesses, inspect the vehicles (when available), and send notices to the owners and operators to preserve and turn-over records.

Thorough Investigation: In almost all serious trucking cases our firm has the trucks and other involved vehicles examined by an expert, as well as the relevant data from GPS, communication devices, and—when available—dash cameras or recorders. Receipts, manifests, and other records are gathered to verify whether the trucker’s driving logs conform to where the driver actually claims to have been before the wreck. Other contributing factors such as fatigue, truck inspections, and driver training are all examined.

Causes Determined: Justice for your family may not be complete until it is determined whether the trucking company itself, instead of simple truck driver error, is the underlying cause.

Did the company know of a history of accidents or reckless driving? Was the truck properly cared for and maintained? Was the truck improperly loaded or over the legal weight limit?

It is unfortunately common for the trucking company to be at least partly responsible for how and why the accident happened.

Negotiation, Settlement, or Trial: Fair compensation in your trucking case can usually only be determined once all the facts and your final medical condition are known. Although most cases can be settled at this point, to receive the best settlement it is important that the defense be presented with a strong demand package, demonstrating that your truck accident lawyers are prepared to take the case to trial, if necessary.

Therefore, after consultation with our clients or family, a demand presentation is usually prepared and sent to the company and its insurance carrier. Attempts will be made to settle for a fair amount, and only with your consent. If negotiation is not successful, the case may be filed or prepared for trial.

Rules and Regulations Controlling Atlanta Area Truck Accident Cases

Who regulates trucks in and around Atlanta?

Currently, the large tractor-trailer trucks you see on the roads and highways in Atlanta and all-over the state of Georgia are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA publishes a Field Operators Training Manual and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Interstate trucking on public roads is also overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT), while truck operations on private property are generally controlled by the employer or operator.

A Few Common Terms Used in Trucking Cases and the Industry:

  • Motor Carrier: This is the person or company being paid to transport goods or passengers for compensation. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.
  • Freight Broker: A company or person, other than the motor carrier, that arranges for and assigns transportation of property to a motor carrier. In some cases, the freight broker may have liability or an additional layer of insurance coverage. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.
  • US DOT: The U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
  • Commercial Truck or Vehicle: A motor vehicle used for interstate commerce that weighs more than 10,000 pounds or is used to transport more than eight passengers for pay, or more than fifteen people for any reason. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.
  • Interstate Commerce: This means trade or transportation or traffic that crosses state lines or the United States border. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.
  • Truck Tractor: A commercial vehicle designed or used mainly for pulling other vehicles. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.
  • Semi-Trailer: A trailer designed so that some part of its weight sits upon the tow vehicle. FMCSA 390.5, Definitions.

Truck — Georgia law defines a “truck” as a vehicle with more than six-wheels, except for a bus or motor-coach. O.C.G.A. 40-6-52.

Truck Operating Lanes — On any road, highway or street with three or more lanes in the same direction, a truck must drive in one of the two right lanes, except when making or preparing to make a left turn or when actually passing (overtaking) another car, truck or bus. O.C.G.A. 40-6-52.

Atlanta Trucking, Bus, and Commercial Vehicle Laws

The City of Atlanta has certain laws (municipal ordinances) that relate to trucks and other commercial motor vehicles. These include:

Atlanta truck traffic is not allowed inside the I-285 perimeter O.C.G.A. 40-6-51. By Georgia law, trucks traveling on interstates 75, 85, and I-20 must take I-285 around Atlanta unless making a pick-up or delivery inside Interstate 285, going to a repair shop, or the driver is going to or from his or her home. O.C.G.A. 40-6-51.

Stopping, standing, or parking on sidewalk or public right of way Atl. Sec. 150-99. A vehicle with a trailer or semitrailer with two axles or six or more tires with a gross weight of 36,000 pounds or more may not be stopped or parked, even attended, on any part of a sidewalk or public right of way except to comply with law enforcement. Atl. Sec. 150-99.

Trucks prohibited on some streets Atlanta Sec. 150-240. A truck tractor or semitrailer may not be operated on streets with signs prohibiting trucks, except when making a delivery or picking up cargo and by traveling the most direct route to and from the location. Atlanta Sec. 150-240.

Restrictions for trucks, buses Atl. Sec. 150-97(a). A truck or other freight-carrying vehicle larger than one-half ton may not park on a public street or highway for longer than one hour during the day. Atl. Sec. 150-97 (a).

Attendant required Atl. Sec. 150-97(b). A truck or bus more than eight feet wide or ten feet tall must have a driver or attendant present while stopped on any street or public place. Atl. Sec. 150-97(b).

Common Causes of Truck Driving Accidents In and Near Atlanta

Distracted Driving In Stop-and-Go Traffic: We have handled cases where truck drivers were eating, texting, or streaming videos or other media instead of paying attention to traffic coming to a stop ahead on I-285, I-85, I-75, I-20 and other state roads and interstate highways. Such negligence can be proven using cell phone records and onboard electronic data recorders.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Use: Both prescription and other common legal drugs can affect a driver’s perception, reaction, and judgment. Bad reactions to even over-the-counter drugs can lead to dangerous driving situations.

Too Fast for Conditions: As “professional drivers,” some truckers over-estimate their skill. Even a highly experienced trucker must slow down in rain, fog, or icy conditions. Unfortunately, due to over-confidence, being in a hurry, or improper training, some truck drivers do not slow down and cause otherwise avoidable collisions.

The speed of a tractor-trailer at and just before the time of a crash can often be determined by downloading data from onboard computer systems. These systems can provide information such as speed prior to impact, engine rpm, exactly “when” (how many seconds or milliseconds) before the crash the driver hit the brakes, and other important information.

Driver Awareness and Fatigue: A trucker’s hours are strictly regulated by FMCSA regulations. This is because it is well known that sleepy and tired truckers are known to cause wrecks. It is important to examine a trucker’s electronic and paper logs, as well as the company’s dispatch and other records to check compliance with the federal regulations.

Improper Cargo Loading and Over-Sized Loads: Over-weight trucks take longer to stop, or may not be able to stop in time to avoid striking a car or truck stopped in traffic. In some cases, the cargo has not been properly secured and shifts, causing the truck driver to lose control, or even falls off the truck, causing other traffic to crash. Industry experts or engineers can help determine if negligent loading was the cause of an accident.

Aggressive Driving and Following Too Closely: The laws of physics tell us that trucks take longer than cars to stop. In and around Atlanta many truckers drive aggressively, get frustrated with slow-moving traffic, and follow too close. They are unable to stop when traffic suddenly slows.

Truckers will often try to blame you or other cars for suddenly slamming on brakes. However, truckers have a duty to follow at a distance that allows them to safely stop, even if you or other traffic slows in front of them. The speed of truckers compared to other traffic can sometimes be proven by downloading information from the ECM (electronic control module) in each vehicle.

Health Issues: Truck drivers are required to pass periodic physical wellness examinations. A trucker’s driving file can be examined to determine whether he or she has health issues, such as sleep apnea or a history of passing out, and whether the company has required the driver to undergo a physical exam.

Brake and Tire Failure: When trucks are unable to stop or they lose control, factors other than driver error should be examined. A trucking operator or company is required to keep the truck, especially tractor-trailers, in proper and safe condition.

Repair, general maintenance, and inspection records should be requested and examined. A good accident reconstruction expert may also be able to determine whether tire or brake issues were the proximate (primary) cause of the crash.

Underride Collisions: This is a specific-type of accident that can occur when a truck is unexpectedly blocking the roadway and is struck by an oncoming car. Injuries in these crashes are often severe, sometimes involving death by decapitation, as the victim usually does not see the truck until the last-moment, if at all. The critical evidence is usually whether the truck had proper reflective taping, safety lights, and reflectors.

Atlanta Resources After a Truck Accident

One of the first things that your truck-accident law firm will do is obtain the police report and other investigative records. But, you can do some of this on your own. To help you with this, here is a list of helpful legal resources:

How to Request and Obtain a Police Report: If you have been involved in a crash with a truck in or near Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia, state law allows you to request and receive a motor vehicle accident report if:

  • You have a personal or business connection to the accident.
  • You are an owner or have an interest in the property damaged.
  • You were injured or a witness to the accident.
  • You are an insurance company or law enforcement officer. O.C.G.A. 50-18-72 (a)(5).

BuyCrash.com: This website allows you to request accident reports without going through your local law enforcement agency. Not all reports are available on BuyCrash.com, but it is a good place to start.

Fulton County Police Reports for Trucking Cases: Fulton County’s Records and Reports Office is located at 141 Pryor Street SW, Atlanta, GA, 30303, and the telephone number is 404-613-5700.

Atlanta Police Department, Central Records Unit: The APD Central Records Unit is where all traffic and incident reports created by Atlanta’s police officers are maintained. Police reports can be requested and received at Atlanta Public Safety Annex, 3493 Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy NW, Atlanta, GA, 30331. The telephone number is 404-546-7461.

GSP (Georgia State Patrol) Records for Atlanta: When your accident was investigated by a Georgia State Trooper (aka State Patrol), you may request a crash report from Georgia Department of Public Safety, Open Records Unit, P.O. Box 1456, Atlanta, GA, 30371, telephone number 404-624-7591.

Georgia State Patrol Offices Near Atlanta: Georgia has fifty-two GSP Troop and Post locations across the state. We won’t list them all here. Post 48 services Atlanta inside of I-285 and Clayton, Dekalb, Cobb, and Fulton Counties. It is located at 4005 Fulton Industrial Blvd, Atlanta, GA ,30336, phone number 404-699-4368.

Georgia’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team, Atlanta: After a highway fatal accident (wrongful death), the GA State Patrol sends a group of highly trained officers known as SCRT (Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team) to the accident scene to investigate. It is important to get the full report any time that the SCRT team is involved in an accident investigation. SCRT reports can be obtained through the GA State Patrol using the Georgia Open Records Act.

Put Our Truck Accident Lawyer to Work for You

Because we have practiced law here in Atlanta for over twenty-six years, The Millar Law Firm has established relationships with top Atlanta trucking accident reconstruction experts, law enforcement, economists, and medical providers. We also have expert, experiential knowledge of the Atlanta and Fulton County Court Systems.

Your truck accident case is too important to be left to chance. Hiring a law firm that is unfamiliar with Georgia or the metro Atlanta area could put you at a strategic disadvantage, as you are likely to be faced with insurance adjusters or defense truck accident lawyers who are familiar with the judges and jury pools in the Atlanta area.

No Attorneys Fees Will Be Charged Unless We Recover Money

Trucking cases can be expensive due to the need to investigate not only what happened at the scene, but the trucking company itself and other things such as vehicle maintenance records. At the Millar Law Firm we do not charge any attorneys’ fees unless your truck injury case results in a recovery of money for you.

Finding the Best Atlanta Attorney for Your Trucking Accident

Atlanta has many personal injury attorneys, but only a few (including The Millar Law Firm) specialize in Truck and Large Commercial Vehicle cases. We recommend that you ask your friends and family for a referral to an attorney experienced in truck accident cases or that you research and read online reviews. Please do not choose an attorney at random or based solely on television advertisements.

Truck Accident Injuries We Have Handled in the Atlanta Area

Examples of some of the injury claims we have handled in metro-Atlanta include:

Hand injury to a delivery-room nurse: One of our clients was a delightful young nurse who worked in the hospital delivery ward. When she was hit by a truck, she suffered an unfortunate hand injury that left her unable to safely hold new-born infants. Our law firm was able to recover the trucking company’s policy limits, which allowed her to seek re-training for a new nursing position.

Wrongful death of a local fire-fighter: A local fire-fighter was killed when a large pick-up truck owned by a manufacturing company hydroplaned and struck his car head-on. Investigation determined that the truck had bald tires and had been driven 30-40,000 miles beyond the recommended distance. The firm recovered multi-million dollars for the client’s family.

Neck disk-replacement surgery, truck under-ride collision: In this case a tanker-truck pulled out of a business entrance in front of our client’s small truck. The trucking company tried to blame our client for failing to stop; however, investigation determined that tanker-truck was missing important safety reflective tape. Our client underwent disk-replacement surgery at C4-5. Shortly before trial the case settled for several hundred thousand dollars.

These are just a few examples of our successful cases. Feel free to ask us about our experience.

Free Consultations for Trucking Accident Cases

If you have questions or are interviewing Atlanta truck accident lawyers for your truck accident case, call and speak with us at no charge. Our initial telephone and in-person consultations are free. You will speak with an attorney committed to helping you recover full compensation for your injury claim.

Find out how to win and how much your truck, van, or bus accident case could be worth. Contact us today. 770-400-0000.