Georgia addresses the estimated over 500,000 U.S. truck accidents occurring every year by restricting truck drivers through limiting maximum hours driven; minimum hours off duty; and required rest breaks in accordance with 49 CFR 397.5. The restrictions are placed upon truck drivers to increase safe driving practices and reduce driver error. A distracted truck driver may not be skilled enough to react to the driving deficit cargo imposes, causing accidents such as the recent Macon Georgia overturned truck on an exit ramp.
Cargo must be a safety consideration to reduce trucking accidents, and is often dependent solely on the people who load and/or drive these large trucks. If an accident is caused by poorly or overloaded cargo, other parties besides the driver may be held responsible for accident losses. Overloading cargo is when a truck is carrying more than the specific maximum weight designed for the truck and may occur when a trucking company is trying to safe time, fuel and money. Accidents occur from overloaded trucks because: 1) the added weight requires longer stopping distances; 2) tires may not be able to support the extra weight and cause blowout situations; 3) mechanical components may not be able to bear the weight thereby increasing downhill speeds and decreasing uphill speeds of the trucks causing roadway problems for other motorists. If cargo is not secured it can cause a truck to jackknife, rollover or become difficult to steer. Hazardous cargo can significantly increase injuries and damages in an accident due to awkward weight shifting and the possibility of explosions or highway spills with toxic substances.
Driver distraction is broken down into three categories: 1. Visual, 2. Manual, and 3. Cognitive, all three types are present in the long monotonous driving work day of a trucker. 1. Visual distractions include taking the eyes off the road for texting, reading roadways signs, or paying attention to other drivers and/or accidents; 2. Manual distractions happen when hands or feet are removed from mechanical instruments that keep the truck safely moving on the highway and can be caused by something as simple as removing a shoe or reaching for food; 3. Cognitive distractions can include anything that clouds the mind of the driver and keeps them from paying full attention to the drive, such as daydreaming or a “to do” list.
Georgia is a Comparative Fault State enabling plaintiffs to seek damages up to 50 percent if they were partially responsible for the accident and no damages if they are 50 percent or more responsible. Georgia law follows federal guidelines for all commercial motor vehicles subject to regulations of the United States Department of Transportation, 49 C.F.R. part 387, mandating insurance amounts equivalent to minimum levels of financial responsibility.
Legal action can be initiated when the elements of negligence are present: an owed duty of care; a breach in duty of care; and the breach caused damage. Wrongful death claims are based on the ability to prove negligence. Compensation is based on the severity of injuries, damages and the percentage of fault assigned to the truck driver, trucking company or third party if involved in cargo matters. If either cargo load or driver distraction caused a truck accident and left damages and injury, negligence will have to prove the underlying cause.
Truck accidents involve commercial trucking industry knowledge, experience in personal injury law, and the ability to collect and analyze evidence to support a negligence claim. Contact an experienced lawyer if you have been in a truck accident in Macon Georgia.