Truck Accident Liability in Atlanta: What Does the Law Say?

When traveling through Atlanta, Georgia, or if you just live there, it can sometimes be frightening to be sharing the same road with a truck that is usually more than twice the size of regular motor vehicles.

However, according to the Atlanta truck accident attorneys, truck drivers are liable for a different class of laws on top of regular motor vehicle laws to properly govern them on the roads and protect other citizens from liabilities. Here are laws that govern truck drivers.

Safety regulations of motor carriers

Truck drivers are regulated by both federal and state laws. The Federal Government laws are known as “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation” or just “FMCSR.” These rules apply to multiple states throughout the country, including Georgia. Georgia, too, adopted these laws, and the only difference is naming them within the state. The responsibility for enforcing these truck driving laws lies with the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

Both the federal laws and Georgia laws define a “commercial motor vehicle” as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle that is used on a highway for all intrastate or interstate commercial purposes to transport either people or property if it:

  • Has a gross vehicle rating, Gross combination rating, Gross vehicle weight, or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Is either designed or used to transport at least eight people, including the driver, for compensation.
  • Is designed to transport more than 15 people, including the driver but is not used to transport people for compensation.
  • Is used to transport materials that are determined to be hazardous by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation of the United States of America as defined under 49 U. S. C section 5103 and transported in a quantity that would require placards prescribed under the regulations of 49 C. F. R subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter C.

Commercial vehicles that are classified as lightweight

Considering the above regulations, some motor vehicles might not be classified as commercial vehicles, but they would still be subject to many of the safety regulations of motor carriers. These types of vehicles are known as “Lightweight commercial vehicles” as defined under OCGA § 40-1-1

If a truck is used to transport property or people for compensation other than being a taxicab, a wreaker, or a tow truck operated by a Georgia business, such truck would be classified as a “Lightweight commercial vehicle.” Nevertheless, these lightweight vehicles, too, are liable for the same laws as heavy vehicles.

Difference between filing a lawsuit for a truck accident from one for a car accident 

For a typical car accident, you are not allowed to identify the name of the defendant’s insurer in court, even if they are the ones paying all the defense bills of the defendant. Truck accidents are a different scenario. You are legally obligated to identify the truck driver, their employer, and their insurance in the title of your lawsuit. The Georgia employer and the insurance company are responsible for hiring, training, and supervising the driver that caused the accident.

Inc. v. Zegel, 304 Ga. App. 672 (2010) has this information in detail.

Where do you file a truck accident lawsuit?

When met with a truck accident, the county in which one files for a lawsuit is known as the lawsuit’s “venue.” You can file your lawsuit in the county where the truck driver’s company has a registered agent within the state of Georgia, where the truck driver lives, or where the wreck happened.

According to some legal precedents, such as Coe v. Carroll & Carroll, Inc., 308 Ga. App. 777, 785-86 (2011); Fouts v. Builders Transport, Inc., 222 Ga. App. 568, 570 (1996), it is the responsibility of the trucking company to hire honest and competent drivers and also keep their trucks in proper condition, and most trucking companies do comply with these legal responsibilities.

Laws and responsibilities of truck Drivers in Atlanta, Georgia

All truck drivers are regulated heavily by the state of Georgia and also under federal law. This makes trucking companies extra responsible for operating their business in the right and safest manner. OCGA § 40-2- 140(d)(4) Allows a plaintiff to name both the motor carrier and its insurance carrier in the same suit. This means that when you file a lawsuit, you can file it against not just the at-fault truck driver but also against their employer and their employer’s insurance company as well. These laws are applicable throughout Georgia and in Atlanta as well. This forces trucking companies to hire only capable and qualified drivers to drive their trucks to ensure as few accidents as possible.

The FMCSR requires that the trucking company that leases a truck and the hired driver have exclusive control, possession, and use of the leased vehicle. This allows the courts in Georgia to hold the trucking companies liable for the negligence of their drivers. The courts have also held the trucking companies liable due to negligent hiring, entrustment, or retention. Negligent hiring is when the company should never have hired the accident-causing driver in the first place. It is the courts’ view in Atlanta, GA that the company is responsible for the faulty hiring of such person(s). Negligent entrustment is similar to stating that the trucking company was negligent in entrusting this particular class of truck to the driver in question due to their lack of experience or ability to operate the truck safely.

Documents required in case of a truck accident

As long as a driver was working within the scope of the employment given to them, the hiring company can be held responsible for their actions. This is determined by first accessing the Driver Logs and checking the timings requested by the trucking company. The driver logs and other important documents exist to protect the drivers from their employers with unreasonable hours of work and the trucking companies from overzealous drivers that wish to make more money.

Conclusion

There are several laws under the federal structure and the state structure alike to govern and regulate the business of trucking across the state of Georgia, including Atlanta. Moreover, we even have many precedents that ensure the safety of all people from any negligence of truck drivers. These laws clearly and singularly define commercial trucks and the circumstances they can be held liable for road accidents. For more assistance on truck drives liability, contact Atlanta personal injury attorney today.

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