Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Georgia
When involved in an accident with a large truck, smaller passenger vehicles and their occupants often suffer the greatest damage. Those who have suffered a wreck with a big rig already know how terrifying it can be.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 36,560 deaths caused by vehicle accidents in 2018 in the US, which is a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017. Of these there were 187 deaths in Georgia, which was a drop from the 228 that occurred in 2017. Unfortunately, this downward trend is not shared by accidents involving large commercial trucks, which rose by 0.8 percent in 2018.
The NHTSA reports that fatalities in accidents involving large trucks are the highest they have been since 1988. Fulton County is unfortunately the Georgia county with the most fatal truck accidents, making up about nine percent of all fatalities in Georgia, which is a two percent increase from 2017. In addition, the number of pedestrian deaths caused by large trucks also increased.
Causes of Large Truck Accidents
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, a landmark study of thousands of large truck accidents using federal data, was an attempt to understand what leads to accidents. The study found such accidents were most frequently caused by driver recognition and decision errors.
- Driver Recognition Error is defined as a situation where the driver did not recognize the dangerous conditions that led to a crash either by not paying appropriate attention, failing to adequately observe the situation, or being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle.
- Driver Decision Errors occur when the driver is driving too fast for the conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, following other cars too closely, or making false assumptions about the other drivers’ behavior or actions.
The Top Five Causes of Large Truck Accidents
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the five most common causes of an accident with a large truck were:
- Brake failure or other vehicle malfunction: Brake malfunctions were found in approximately thirty percent of large truck accidents. This is important because large trucks have much longer stopping distances and are more prone to rolling over, which puts other vehicles on the road at risk.
- Prescription or over-the-counter drug use: Many products that treat cold symptoms, allergies, and pain can have a significant effect on driver performance. Drowsiness is the most common side effect of these medications, and these effects can occur as quickly as shortly after taking the medication; some after-effects do not manifest until the next day.
- Traveling too fast for conditions: This occurs when trucks travel too fast on wet or otherwise slippery road surfaces or in inclement weather conditions that make it difficult for a large truck to stop.
- Driver is unfamiliar with the roadway: If the truck driver is unfamiliar with the roadway, they are less likely to know about upcoming sudden turns or areas of possible routine congestion in the roadway; this can lead to accidents.
- Inadequate surveillance: Occurs when the driver is not looking ahead in order to see and recognize conditions or hazards on the roadway, or they may have been engaging in hazardous behavior such as making a sudden lane change.
Sharing the road with commercial trucks means facing the risk of a tire or other flying debris coming off of trucks or getting in the roadway, especially as the trucks are usually traveling at high rates of speed, particularly on the highway. These pieces of flying debris can do serious damage to you and your loved ones.
Retread Truck Tires
Trucking is a business. The truck driver gets paid by the mile, so every mile a truck travels adds value to the company. A truck cannot cost its owner more money to maintain than it makes.
In an effort to cut costs, many trucking companies use what are known as retread tires. These are used tires whose original tread has been worn off and they have been refitted with a new layer of tread on the tire. These tires sell for far less than new tires.
Occasionally retread tires fail when a defect in the manufacturing—coupled with the weight of the truck and the weather—causes the tread to separate from the truck and go flying off. Surprisingly, this is a rare occurrence; according to a study by the University of Michigan, only about one percent of retread truck tires experience this phenomenon.
You may be wondering why the truck driver does not feel that the retread has separated from the rest of the tire and gone flying. This is partially because the truck has seventeen other wheels that are doing the job. They are very unlikely to feel or hear that the tire has blown, making the situation all the more dangerous.
Duty to Inspect and Maintain
After such an accident, an investigation must be conducted. Although the driver has the duty to conduct a pre-drive inspection of his tires and other parts of his truck before driving, he may not be the only person or entity responsible for inspecting and maintaining the truck. This is particularly important if the big rig is pulling a trailer, as the trailer and cargo are often maintained by an entirely separate company.
Therefore, it is critical to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney. They will understand the law surrounding this type of accident, who may be at fault, and how to clearly explain the situation to you.
Loss of Control
In addition to being subject to the same rules and regulations as other drivers, professional truck drivers have a greater responsibility to the general public because they operate a business. They must exercise every available precaution to keep their rig safe, not only for themselves but also for the safety of all other persons on the road. Mechanical failure can cause someone to lose control of the truck and swerve into your lane; however, these professional drivers have training so you expect them to be ready and responsible for their truck under all circumstances.
If you lose control of your car because a truck swerved into your lane, you may not be responsible for the accident. In fact, in an accident with a commercial truck you may have a claim against the truck driver, the trucking company, and/or any other parties responsible for loading and maintaining the truck. Any or all of these parties may be responsible for paying for your injuries and damages sustained during the accident.
Scotty’s Story: How a Truck Retread Tire Case Was Investigated and Won
Twenty-nine-year-old construction worker Arnie Scott—whose friends called him Scotty—was on his way to order sheet rock from the local lumber yard for a home his company was building in Marietta, Georgia. He was in the second lane of traffic when a semitruck on his right-hand side began to spin off pieces of tire tread. One of the chunks of retread tire hit Scotty’s windshield and shattered it. The tread came to rest in the cab of Scotty’s pickup truck.
Scotty attempted to maintain control of his vehicle but was blinded by the shattered safety glass, which had gotten into his eyes. He heard squealing tires and felt the impact as a third vehicle hit him from behind. This impact caused his vehicle to spin around and tip over onto its side. Scotty was terrified not only because he could no longer see but because his left arm—resting in the open driver’s side window—felt mushy, wet, and painful.
The driver of the big rig involved did not stop at the accident. Witnesses to the accident identified the logo on his truck, however, and he was later stopped down the highway and subsequently ticketed for leaving the scene of an accident.
At the hospital, Scotty underwent x-rays for his broken arm and a painful cleaning of the wound. He required skin grafts to replace the skin peeled away by the pavement. Doctors were optimistic that Scotty’s sight would return once the swelling and abrasions to his cornea healed.
However, Scotty did not have anyone at home to take care of him, so he was kept in the hospital for three days. Arrangements were made for a home health nurse to come to his apartment to take care of him. Scotty asked his boss to recommend a lawyer experienced with big rig truck accidents to help with the accident, and the lawyer met with Scotty a week after the accident at his apartment.
Who is Responsible When A Truck Tire Causes An Injury?
Scotty’s lawyer suggested not only suing the driver of the commercial truck but also the owner of the trailer. The lawyer would first conduct an investigation to determine who the responsible parties were, ensuring that Scotty would get as much compensation as possible for his injuries and that the responsible parties were held accountable.
The lawyer’s law firm obtained the police report and the vehicle maintenance record, including records of tire maintenance and data downloaded from the truck’s Black Box (Electronic Data Recorder). Black boxes are automatic recording devices used in commercial trucks and airplanes to record what happens during the journey of the vehicle.
The law firm also collected employee training manuals as well as specific information as to who was responsible for training the truck driver involved in the accident. If such information was not handed over voluntarily by the company or the people responsible, Scotty’s lawyer could file a motion to compel them to give that information over through the court’s subpoena and discovery process.
This information could allow Scotty to prove that the company was negligent in maintaining the vehicle’s tires. Perhaps the owner of the trailer was also negligent, or the driver of the truck was negligent in not properly inspecting the truck and its load before getting on the road. The owner of the truck may have also been negligent in not properly training the driver or in failing to notice the overly worn tires.
Finally, Scotty’s attorneys and their team of experts investigated and analyzed the truck’s tire, to determine whether the tire was defectively manufactured.
Scotty’s lawyers asked for the cost of the ambulance and hospital stay as well as the cost of providing a home health nurse during his recovery. Scotty could also ask for the lost income that occurred because he could not work for several months following the accident. The cost of replacing Scotty’s vehicle was also a part of the settlement or verdict, and Scotty was also entitled to compensation for his pain and suffering due to the accident and during his recovery.
There were no passengers in Scotty’s vehicle. In a case that does involve passengers who are injured, each are able to bring claims against the defendants for applicable damages, for example to cover the costs of:
- ambulance transport
- hospital stay
- a home health nurse during recovery
- lost income
- pain and suffering
Georgia Lawyers Who Specialize in Trucking Accidents
When you have been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, it is critical that you seek legal advice and representation as quickly as possible. If you decide to take on the trucking company on your own you may be less successful; therefore your recovery may be lower. You want someone who specializes in this type of law on your side to advocate for your rights.
Lawyers at the Millar Law Firm specialize in personal injury cases and understand the intricacies of commercial trucking law in Georgia. This knowledge gives them and their clients an advantage when seeking compensation and justice for their injuries.
At the Millar Law Firm, we have twenty-seven years of experience dealing with personal injury law. We know how the process works and how to conduct a proper investigation.
Start the Process
We offer a free, no-risk consultation of your case so that we can better get to know you and the circumstances surrounding your case. This also allows us to walk you through the various options you have in pursuing your case and what any potential consequences might be. This allows you to then make an informed decision about what is best for you and your loved ones.
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