A tractor-trailer slid into a Henry County police car as the driver tried to change lanes, sending the car hurtling off the highway.
The wreck occurred near Mile Marker 206 on westbound Interstate 75. According to police and witnesses, both vehicles overturned after they struck a guardrail. Both people in the police car, as well as the tractor-trailer driver, were rushed to nearby hospitals with serious injuries.
None of the names were released.
Injuries in Truck Wreck Claims
A fully loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. The weight of these vehicles greatly multiplies the force in a collision. The above story is a good example. When one car sideswipes another one, the result is often a non-injury fender bender wreck. But when the truck sideswiped the patrol car, the vehicle went barreling off the freeway.
Such accidents seriously injure thousands of people each year. Some of these serious injuries include:
- Severe Burns: Diesel and gasoline burn at different temperatures, and most large trucks carry hundreds of gallons of fuel. As a result, crash victims often sustain third or fourth-degree burns. These wounds always require extensive, and expensive, stays in specialty burn centers.
- Broken Bones: Frequently, victims are pinned under huge trucks until first responders arrive. So, their bones are often crushed instead of merely broken. Such wounds require metal pins, screws, and other parts during surgery. Later, victims must undergo extensive physical therapy to regain lost function.
- Head Injuries: Truck crashes combine all three kinds of head injury causes. Seat belts cannot possibly absorb all the force, so victims usually hit their heads on solid objects, like steering wheels. Furthermore, the sudden motion causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. Finally, the explosion-like noise creates a shock wave which disrupts brain functions.
Attorneys help victims meet the short- and long-term needs that these injuries cause.
Lawyers connect victims with car crash physicians. These professionals know how to diagnose and treat collision-related injuries. Furthermore, this care usually comes at no upfront cost. Most physicians agree to defer payment until the case is resolved.
The damages in a truck wreck crash include more than medical bill payment and compensation for economic losses. Substantial compensation might also be available for noneconomic losses, such as loss of enjoyment in life, pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), and emotional distress.
First Party Liability
Many vehicle collisions, like the one above, involve the negligence per se doctrine. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) might be responsible for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, such as changing lanes illegally, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
Alternatively, the ordinary negligence doctrine might apply. Drowsy driving is a good example. Most transportation companies pay truck drivers by the load and not by the mile. So, in order to make money and meet deadlines, these drivers must stay on the road as long as possible.
Driving while drowsy is clearly a breach of care. The victim/plaintiff has the burden od proof on this point. Evidence of fatigued driving includes:
- Time of Day or Night: Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night. It does not matter how much rest they had the previous night. Circadian rhythm fatigue is especially common among people who recently changes work shifts.
- Erratic Driving: Drowsiness impairs both judgement and motor skills. So, fatigued drivers cannot make simple determinations, like the distance between two vehicles.
- Tortfeasor’s Statements: When emergency responders ask what happened, many people admit they were tired, even if they do not admit falling asleep at the wheel. Generally, such statements make their way into the police report, so they are usually admissible in court.
Ordinary negligence is often easier to establish in commercial operator cases. Generally, these drivers have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers.
The negligence per se rule might apply in drowsy driving cases as well. Under federal law, can usually drive a maximum eleven hours, assuming they are coming off at least ten hours of rest.
Third Party Liability
Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for damages in a vehicle collision claim. Shipping companies might be liable as well. The respondeat superior rule usually applies if:
- Employee: Shipping companies and other employers are legally responsible for the negligent actions, or inactions, their employees commit. In this context, an “employee” is anyone the employer controls. That could be an independent contractor, owner-operator, or unpaid volunteer.
- Scope of Employment: The tort must have occurred with in the scope of employment. Georgia law also defines this phrase very broadly. Anything which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That includes driving an empty truck which has the company logo. Employers benefit from the free advertising.
Vicarious liability theories like respondeat superior are very important in truck crash claims. Because the aforementioned injuries are so serious, many individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation. Third-party liability gives victims an additional source of recovery.
The Last Clear Chance Defense
Marietta personal injury attorneys are committed to maximum compensation for victims. Insurance companies, on the other hand, are committed to minimum compensation. So, they look for any possible legal loophole to accomplish that end.
The last clear chance defense is a good example. This doctrine often comes up in rear end, sideswipe, and head on collisions.
Assume Paul makes an illegal turn and hits Dana. Emergency responders would almost certainly give Paul a ticket. But if Dana had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing lanes herself, she is legally responsible for the crash if she does not avoid the wreck.
Note that the Danas of the world must have the last clear chance to avoid the collision. That’s different from any possible chance. Weather, traffic, and other conditions often make emergency maneuvers difficult or impossible. Furthermore, these wrecks often happen so quickly that there is no practical way to avoid them.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer
Large truck collisions often cause catastrophic injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.