Atlanta Trucking Wreck Attorneys

Georgia Trucking Accident Attorneys

If you are ready to hire an attorney for your trucking accident, click here to complete our personal injury intake form.  This is the fastest way to get started.  If you would like to learn more about our firm and what rights you have after a car accident involving a tractor trailer, read on.

Georgia Trucking Accident Attorney Matt Wetherington is committed to protecting the public from dangerous cars and trucks.
Georgia Trucking Accident Lawyer Matt Wetherington.

Serious injury or death is significantly more likely in a accident when a tractor trailer is involved.  A fully loaded tractor trailer can weight up to 80,000 pounds.  In comparison, the average car weighs 4,000 pounds.  Due to the size and weight difference, a tractor trailer will always cause significant damage to a car and its occupants when the two collide.  Simply stated, tractor trailers pose a great risk to other vehicles and they must be operated safely.  This is why tractor trailers have special rules to minimize the risks they create.

Most trucking companies and private owner-operators take safety seriously.  The Wetherington Firm has successfully represented dozens of owner-operators in cases involving defective vehicles.  But some companies ignore these rules to maximize their profits.  For example, truck drivers are required to inspect their truck before every trip to confirm that the truck is safe.  This includes checking the brakes and tires.  Brake failure is one of the top causes of trucking accidents and the failure to inspect the brakes endangers the public.

After a accident with a tractor trailer, choosing a lawyer can be difficult.  This is because every “car accident” law firm in the United States claims to handle trucking accident cases.  The truth is that very few firms can handle a complex trucking accident case.  Especially when catastrophic injuries or wrongful death claims are involved.

The firms that advertise on buses, billboards, and billboards are built to handle many small personal injury claims.  These are called volume law firms.  Most volume law firms use case workers with no legal training.  They generally do not have the specialized training that is required to navigate a serious trucking accident case.

Trucking accident cases involve important federal and state regulations.  They also require incredible attention to detail and the ability to get to the accident scene quickly with the proper experts.  Finally, trucking accident cases require an ability to take the case all the way through trial.  Therefore it is important to hire a firm that has the knowledge, training, and resources to pursue a trucking accident case.

The Wetherington Law Firm focuses on trucking accident cases with serious injuries.  And we handle them exclusively on contingency.  That means that we advance all expenses and you do not pay anything unless and until we win.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer After a Trucking Accident

Many trucking accident cases involve amputation, paraplegia, brain injuries, or broken bones.  You might expect trucking companies and their insurers to take responsibility for these serious injuries and do everything possible to make it right.  But the opposite is true.  It is much harder to obtain full compensation in cases with catastrophic injuries.

It is common knowledge that insurance companies do not have the best interests of trucking accident victims in mind when they adjust claims.  However, most people are shocked at how effectively insurance adjusters minimize injuries and deny valid claims.  We do not fall for their tricks.  At the Wetherington Law Firm, every trucking accident victim receives a dedicated team of lawyers and supporting staff who will do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on your health.  Our clients know that we do everything possible to obtain full value for their injuries.  When you hire us, you can expect us to take the following steps immediately:

  • Preserve all evidence, including the vehicles involved in the accident immediately;
  • Perform a download of the black box data of the truck;
  • Travel to the accident scene and preserve the physical evidence at the scene;
  • Identify and interview all witnesses to your incident;
  • Identify all possible defendants;
  • Identify all insurance policies;
  • Develop the evidence necessary to determine the correct standard of care for each defendant;
  • Fully document your current medical condition;
  • Work with your physicians to understand your future medical needs and how much they will cost; and
  • Negotiate your medical bills;
  • Keep you informed every step of the way.
Every case receives a dedicated team of experience medical malpractice lawyers and supporting staff who will keep you informed throughout the case.
Every case receives a dedicated team of experience medical malpractice lawyers and supporting staff who will keep you informed throughout the case.

Who Can I Sue After a Trucking Accident in Georgia?

There are several potential people and businesses that you can sue after a trucking accident in Georgia.  This is a complicated area of law and where many lawyers make mistakes.  At a minimum, the following parties must be considered:

The Truck Driver

When a truck driver causes or contributes to a accident, the injured parties can assert a claim against him or her.  Georgia requires truck driver to carry insurance.  Depending on the type of work the truck driver was engaged in, the minimum amount of insurance a truck driver must have in case of a accident ranges from $300,000 to $5,000,000:

Transporting Household Goods: $300,000

Transporting General Goods: $750,000

Transporting Oil:  $1,000,000

Transporting Hazardous Materials:  $5,000,000

These coverages are the minimum amounts required.  “Legitimate” trucking companies carry higher coverages.  Under certain circumstances, if the injury damages exceed the policy limits, the at-fault driver can be held personally responsible for the difference.  In other circumstances, the insurance company can be responsible for the full value of injuries.

The Owner of the Tractor Trailer

In every state, including Georgia, you may have a claim against the owner of a tractor trailer, even if the owner was not driving the car at the time of the accident.  This claim is called negligent entrustment.  In a negligent entrustment claim liability arises from the negligent act of the tractor trailer owner in providing the tractor trailer to a driver, with actual knowledge that the truck driver is incompetent or habitually reckless.  This theory commonly arises in drunk driving cases where a person has a history of DUIs and tractor trailer accidents where the company knew that the driver was a bad driver.

Where the owner of the vehicle is a large corporation, there is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered.

The Trucking Company

If at the time of the accident the truck driver was within the course and scope of his or her employment, the trucking company is liable for the truck driver’s negligence.  Where the truck driver is using the truck company’s vehicle, there is a presumption that the truck driver was working in the course and scope of his employment.  Most trucking companies have a Safety Director who is responsible for training and oversight of the safety operations for the trucking company.  Some safety directors take their role seriously.  Others consider it their job to protect the driver and company from admitting fault, no matter how egregious the negligence.

The Company Responsible for Loading the Trailer

Most commercial trucks are not loaded by the driver.  Third party shipping facilities and/or distributors are responsible for loading the trailer.  Regardless of whether it is an open bed truck carrying logs or a closed trailer carrying consumer goods, the shipping facility has a responsibility to safely load the trailer.  If the trailer was not properly loaded and a load shifts or falls off of the trailer, the company responsible for loading the truck may be responsible for any injuries or damages caused by the ensuing accident.

The Manufacturer of the Tractor Trailer

If a tractor trailer component causes a accident, such as a brake failure, you may be able to assert a claim against the truck manufacturer.  This is commonly referred to as a defective vehicle claim.

Even if the accident was caused by a negligent truck driver, you may still be able to assert a lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer if the injuries in the accident were made worse by the failure of a vehicle component.  For example, a defective seatbelt may prevent the occupant from escaping the vehicle if the accident results in a fire.

There is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered from a vehicle manufacturer in Georgia.

The Manufacturer of the Tractor Trailer’s Tires

If a tire fails and causes a accident, the manufacturer of the tire may be responsible.  The Wetherington Law Firm has filed suit and won against major tire manufacturer from around the world.  Tires fail for a variety of reasons.  One of the most common failure modes is due to the failure to include reasonable design features that would make the tire safe.  This includes things like belt wedges and cap plies.  These defective tires are a threat to the safety of every person who shares the road with the tires.

There is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered from a tire manufacturer in Georgia.

The Repair Shops That Serviced the Tractor Trailer

Once a vehicle is sold, it requires regular maintenance. As vehicle systems, including tires, become more complex, the ability of consumers to perform self-maintenance is decreasing. As a result, most consumers must trust service centers to keep their vehicle and tires safe.  Unfortunately, some service centers cut corners to save time or money and consumer lives are placed at risk. When a service center agrees to service a vehicle, the service center assumes a duty to identify and warn of dangerous conditions and to perform repairs and maintenance in a safe and professional manner.  The failure to do so can subject the retailer to liability.

The Contractor Responsible for the Design or Maintenance of the Road

If the accident was caused by a hazardous condition on the roadway, such as a large pothole, the contractor or government entity responsible for monitoring and repairing the roadway may be responsible for any injures caused by the hazardous condition.  Similarly, if the design of the roadway makes it more prone to accidents or serious injuries, such as failing to install a warning sign for a significant change in the road angle, the responsible government entity or contractor may be responsible for the accident.

Your Insurance Carrier – Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

If the truck driver or the company that hired him or her does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries, it may be possible to recover from your own insurance coverage through underinsured motorist coverage.  There are special rules when it comes to underinsured motorist coverage and they change state to state.  Because this is a complicated area of law, it is important to have a competent attorney confirm that you are receiving the full benefit of the coverage that you have purchased.

Your Family’s Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In Georgia, all underinsure insurance policies provide coverage for all resident relatives of the family home.  If you live in the same house as a family member, but have different insurance policies for your vehicles, you may be able to recover some insurance benefits from your relative’s carrier after you have exhausted all coverage on your own uninsured/underinsured policy.

Your Employer – Worker’s Compensation

If you are injured in a trucking accident while in the course and scope of your employment, you may be able to recover Worker’s Compensation benefits.  In some cases, it is possible to recover from both Worker’s Compensation and liability insurance after a trucking accident.

How To Win a Trucking Accident Case

Although the application of the law in each trucking case is very different, all trucking accident cases come from the same rules.  To recover for personal injuries after being struck by a tractor trailer, your trucking accident attorney must establish the basic elements of a tort:

  1. The existence of a duty on the part of the truck driver to act a certain way or abstain from doing a certain thing;
  2. The failure of the driver to perform that duty;
  3. Actual injuries; and
  4. Proof that the injuries were proximately caused by the driver’s negligence.

We have written detailed articles on each of these elements that you can read here.  The important thing for you to know is that the first element, duty, is very import in a trucking accident case.  In Georgia, all truck drivers have the responsibility to drive in a safe manner and avoid causing harm to others.  “Driving safely” generally means driving in a manner that a reasonable truck driver would under similar circumstances.  Under most circumstances, a reasonably prudent driver will:

  • Drive the truck at a reasonable speed;
  • Maintain a lookout for hazards and pedestrians;
  • Drive in the far-right lane when possible;
  • Stop or slow for others when necessary; and
  • Maintain the truck and trailer in a safe condition.

When a truck driver does not drive in a reasonable manner, he or she is deemed “negligent.”  Simply driving in a negligent manner does not allow someone to file suit against the negligent driver.  For example, if someone is speeding, driving on the shoulder, and almost hits several vehicles – the “almost hit” car owners generally would not have a valid claim against the negligent driver.  Here is an egregious example:

If the tractor trailer in the above video had actually caused a accident, the truck driver would likely be liable for damages and injuries he or she caused.  Whether a person has operated a vehicle in a negligent manner is generally a question that is submitted to a jury.

Distracted Driving – A Growing Epidemic

There is a growing problem on our roadways – truck drivers using telephones and other media while driving.  The Wetherington Law Firm has seen a dramatic rise in serious injury cases where tractor trailer drivers are distracted.  This trend has to stop.  This is why Matt Wetherington supported the ban on using cell phones while driving in Georgia.  Here is a recent news report on this growing problem and how the Wetherington Law Firm is fighting back:

Special Rules – Negligence Per Se

In addition to the general rule that a tractor trailer driver must act reasonably, there are rules of the road that every truck driver must comply with.  Unlike ordinary negligence principles, when a truck driver violates one of these rules and causes a accident, the injured person does not prove that a reasonable person should have acted differently — the conduct is automatically considered negligent.  In Georgia, these rules include the following:

  • Traveling Too Close to Other Vehicles – OCGA 40-6-49
  • Driving While Intoxicated – OCGA 40-6-253 and 40-6-391
  • Running Stop and Yield Signs – OCGA 40-6-72
  • Speeding – OCGA 40-6-181
  • Using a Phone While Driving – OCGA 40-6-241
  • Failing to Yield to Pedestrians – OCGA 40-6-91, 40-6-92, 40-6-93, and 40-6-96
  • Failing to Yield to Other Vehicles – OCGA 40-6-70 and 40-6-73
  • Failing to Obey a Traffic Official – OCGA 40-6-2
  • Driving on the Shoulder, Gore, or Other Prohibited Areas – OCGA 40-6-50
  • Failing to Stop First Before Exiting a Parking Lot – OCGA 40-6-144
  • Road Rage – OCGA 40-6-397
  • Drive Too Slow in the Fast Lane – OCGA 40-6-184
  • Failing to Slow and Exercise Caution in Construction Zones – OCGA 40-6-188
  • Parking a Vehicle in an Unsafe Place – OCGA 40-6-202
  • Obstructing an Intersection – OCGA 40-6-205
  • Failing to Secure all Loads – OCGA 40-6-248.1 and 40-6-254
  • Driving Recklessly – OCGA 40-6-390
  • Intentionally Striking and Killing a Person with a Vehicle – OCGA 40-6-393
  • Causing Serious Injury by Vehicle – OCGA 40-6-394
  • Failing to Follow Pedestrian Traffic Signals – OCGA 40-6-22
  • Running a Red or Yellow Traffic Lights – OCGA 40-6-20, 40-6-21, 40-6-23
  • Failing to Change Lanes to Give Space for Parked Emergency Vehicles and Construction Workers – OCGA 40-6-16 and 40-6-75
  • Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road – OCGA 40-6-40 and 40-6-45
  • Failing to Maintain One Lane – OCGA 40-6-40 and 40-6-48
  • Passing Another Vehicle Improperly – OCGA 40-6-42, 40-6-43, 40-6-44, and 40-6-46
  • Going the Wrong Way on a One-Way Road – OCGA 40-6-47 and 40-6-240
  • Going the Wrong Way in a Roundabout – OCGA 40-6-47
  • Driving a Tractor-Trailer or Bus in the Far-Left Lane(s) – OCGA 40-6-52
  • Turning the Wrong Way at an Intersection – OCGA 40-6-71 and 40-6-120
  • Making an Improper U-Turn – OCGA 40-6-121
  • Failing to Use Turn Signals – OCGA 40-6-123
  • Failing to Exercise Due Caution Near Railroad Crossings – OCGA 40-6-140 and 40-6-142

If there is evidence that a truck driver committed one of the above violations, the jury will likely be read the following instruction:

The plaintiff contends that the defendant violated certain laws or ordinances. Such violation is called negligence per se, which means negligence as a matter of law. It is your duty to decide whether such violation took place or not.

What this means is that if the you successfully prove that the alleged trucking violation took place, then negligence is established, and you only must prove that your injuries were caused by the negligent act.

How Can You Lose a Trucking Accident Case in Georgia?

After a car accident, proof of an injury does not automatically create liability on the other driver.  People are injured in car accidents every day and do not receive any type of compensation.  In other cases, the injured person does not receive the compensation they were likely entitled.  There are many reasons why people lose car accident claims.  Here are the most common ways that a case is lost.

Failing to Bring a Trucking Accident Claim in Time Can Result in a Complete Bar of the Claim

Georgia has a two-year statute of limitation for most personal injury lawsuits after a trucking accident.  A statute of limitation provides the maximum period in which a civil lawsuit must be started, or it is forever barred. Some states have even shorter statutes of limitation.  It is important that any claim be asserted as soon as possible to avoid losing it by failing to meet a deadline.

The Doctrines of Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault Can Limit Recovery After a Trucking Accident

Contributory negligence is a common defense used in car accident cases.  The defense of contributory negligence claims that you failed to keep an adequate lookout of your surroundings or otherwise did something that contributed to the accident, and you should be disqualified from recovering. If a defendant is successful in a contributory negligence defense, you will not recover any damages.  The contributory negligence doctrine is extremely harsh and intended to be cruel to injured people.  It is currently only used in North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Most states, including Georgia, have adopted a “comparative negligence” system.  For states that have adopted comparative negligence, the jury compares the plaintiff’s negligence to the defendant’s negligence and applies percentages to each.  Depending on the state, the Court either reduces the total recovery by the percentage assigned to the Plaintiff or rules in favor of the Defendant if the percentage assigned to the Plaintiff is over a certain amount.

Georgia’s comparative negligence rule is developed in two code sections:

O.C.G.A. § 51-11-7: Effect of plaintiff’s failure to avoid consequences of defendant’s negligence

If the plaintiff by ordinary care could have avoided the consequences to himself caused by the defendant’s negligence, he is not entitled to recover. In other cases, the defendant is not relieved, although the plaintiff may in some way have contributed to the injury sustained.

O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33: Reduction and apportionment of award or bar of recovery according to percentage of fault of parties and nonparties

Where an action is brought against one or more persons for injury to person or property and the plaintiff is to some degree responsible for the injury or damages claimed, the trier of fact, in its determination of the total amount of damages to be awarded, if any, shall determine the percentage of fault of the plaintiff and the judge shall reduce the amount of damages otherwise awarded to the plaintiff in proportion to his or her percentage of fault. … [T]he plaintiff shall not be entitled to receive any damages if the plaintiff is 50 percent or more responsible for the injury or damages claimed.

Alternatively stated, if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more negligent when compared to defendant(s), then he is barred from recovering anything in Georgia.  Here is an example:

Famous Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz is looking for a parking spot.  He encounters an open parking spot and prepares to turn into the spot.  Unfortunately, another Atlanta rapper, Big Boi, approaches from the opposite direction and wants the spot.  Both drivers see the other and know that proceeding will cause a accident.  Nonetheless, they both attempt to turn into the spot, and they crash into each other.

If 2 Chainz attempts to sue Big Boi, it is likely that the jury will determine that he is equally at fault for the accident.  If so, 2 Chainz would be 50% at fault for the accident and will not be entitled to recover anything.  However, if the jury determines that 2 Chainz is only 40% responsible for the accident because he arrived at the spot first, 2 Chainz would be entitled to recover 60% of his damages (100% minus 40%).

Assuming the Risk of Injury Bars a Recovery After a Car Accident

Assumption of the risk is another defense frequently seen in car accident cases.  Like comparative negligence, assumption of the risk is very difficult to prove.  A defendant asserting an assumption of the risk defense has the burden of establishing that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the danger, understood and appreciated the risk, and voluntarily exposed his or her self to the risk.  Actual knowledge is required to show an assumption of the risk.  Even where there is evidence to show that one party could or might have discovered and avoided the risk, the defense cannot be presented to the jury.  This is because the knowledge requirement does not refer to an injured persons’ comprehension of general, non-specific, risks that might be associated with such conditions or activities.

Nonetheless, if the fact finder finds that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the hazard and voluntarily assumed the risk of injury, then that is a complete bar to the plaintiff’s recovery.  Here is an example from a recent case in Georgia:

Wilson has prior knowledge that her neighbor’s dog, Baby, had previously bitten one of her neighbors.  Wilson also has years of experience with dogs.  In the past, to avoid injury, Wilson had broken up dog fights using a stick.  Despite this knowledge, Wilson attempts to break up a dog fight between Baby and her own dog with her bare hands.  While attempting to break up this fight, Wilson was bitten by Baby and seriously injured.  Because of Wilson’s prior knowledge, and because Wilson voluntarily engaged in an obviously dangerous activity, Wilson has assumed the risk and cannot recover for her injuries as a matter of law.

Saulsbury v. Wilson, 348 Ga. App. 557, 561, 823 S.E.2d 867, 870 (2019)

Government Entities are Sometimes Immune from Liability

This is an area of law that is too broad to be covered in this article.  However, please know that where there is a possibility that a government employee or entity was partially responsible for a accident, special rules apply.  There are different deadlines for presenting claims, different rules for filing suit, and limits on who can be sued.

What Damages (Money) Can You Recover After a Trucking Accident?

The main public policy purpose for tort law is compensation. Compensatory damages are money damages awarded to compensate the plaintiff and make the plaintiff whole. The system is not perfect. A lawsuit cannot bring back a loved one or restore the health that a person once had. However, compensatory damages are a means of attempting to place the plaintiff in the same relative position that he or she was in before the loss by way of monetary compensation.  Compensatory damages are categorized as either general damages or special damages.

You Can Recover “General” Damages After a Trucking Accident

General damages are “non-economic” losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental anguish, all of which have no specific, itemized value.  The monetary value of general damage is determined by the jury, and jury verdicts are not consistent.  A broken ankle in one courtroom could be worth $10,000 in pain and suffering.  In another courtroom, it could be worth $100,000.  Matt Wetherington tried a case in Fulton County that resulted in a $2.8 million verdict for a broken ankle.  You can read about that case here.  However, it is important to know that jury verdicts and settlements vary widely, even for the exact same injury.  The variance is due to the individual plaintiff, the jurors at the trial, and the effectiveness of the injured person’s attorney.

You Can Recover “Special” Damages After a Car Accident

Special damages are “economic” losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or the cost of hiring household help, all of which do have a specific itemized value and can be more easily determined or calculated on a simple mathematical basis – once you have obtained the necessary records to prove that the expenses were incurred.  It is important to note that only medical expenses “proximately caused” by the accident itself can be recovered.  If you would like to learn more about how proximate cause is determined, click here.  For simplicity sake, you should know that proximate cause is often highly contested.

If the Trucking Accident Results in a Death, Special Rules Apply

When a trucking accident results in a death, the case turns into a wrongful death claim, instead of a personal injury claim.  To learn more about wrongful death claims, click here.

The Wetherington Law Firm Has Recovered Millions for Clients Involved in Trucking Accidents

Our attorneys are highly skilled in trucking accident.  In many cases, settlement is not possible until a judge rules that the proper defendants have been named, the claims asserted are valid, and there is enough evidence to proceed forward to a jury trial.  By that point, it is too late to fix problems in the case.  It is important that you start with an attorney that has the experience and resources necessary to put your case in the best position possible.  Our attorneys have literally spent months in the court room presenting personal injury cases and obtaining record breaking verdicts.  We also have attorneys that have spent years working for defense firms and know the traps that are set by corporations and their insurance companies.

How to Hire the Best Trucking Accident Lawyers in Atlanta

Hiring a trucking accident injury lawyer is one of the most important financial decisions you can ever make.  There are a number of attorneys who hold themselves out as “experts” who have never tried a case or even settled a case involving catastrophic injuries.  It is important that you ask any prospective attorney about his or her experience with personal injury lawsuits, specifically with regard to car accidents and the injuries that you sustained.

If you are ready to hire an attorney for your car accident, click here to complete our personal injury intake form.  This is the fastest way to get started.  If we accept your case, it will be on contingency.  That means that you do not pay anything up front and only pay us if we win your case.  If we do not accept your case, we will help you find a lawyer who can.  We generally only accept cases involving significant injuries.  However, we know many good attorneys and will make sure that you do not have to search around for someone to accept your case.

You Can Make a Lasting Difference in the Lives of Others by Hiring the Wetherington Law Firm For Your Trucking Accident Case

Obtaining full and complete compensation for our clients is the most important service we provide to our clients.  Protecting the general public and making sure that other people are protected is part of obtaining justice.  We frequently work with law enforcement, local government officials, state legislators, and federal agencies to understand the root cause of dangerous conditions.  This often leads to uncovering dangerous trends or patterns of behavior that must be changed.  Many of our clients have chosen not to be defined by their injuries, and instead choose to serve as a beacon of hope to others.  Whether through legislation, refusing to settle unless changes are made, or simply sharing their story, our clients’ efforts have helped save MILLIONS of people from serious injury or death.  If you can help prevent even one other person from being hurt or injured by the same problem, it will help make every day of your recovery a little bit better.  We care about you as a person and will work with you however you want to help make the world a safer and better place.  Call us now to get started.

Talk to a Trucking Accident Attorney Today

The Wetherington Law Firm focuses on trucking wreck cases with serious injuries. And we handle them exclusively on contingency. That means that we advance all expenses and you do not pay anything unless and until we win.

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Why Hire Us?

Reputation matters. Our firm only pursues high value, meritorious lawsuits. The insurance companies may not like us, but they respect the work we do and results we obtain for our clients. When a case moves into litigation, the defense attorneys know that we have properly investigated the claims, know the applicable law, and are preparing the case for trial.

There is no risk when hiring our firm.

We do not charge attorney fees for obtaining property damage or medical payment coverage for our clients. Other firms charge for this service.

We have saved our clients millions simply by negotiating medical bills and fighting invalid medical liens.