A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to drive a commercial vehicle, such as a bus or a semi-truck. Because these vehicles are larger and harder to operate, a regular license is inadequate for public safety. Georgia’s requirement that drivers have a CDL makes sense.
To obtain a CDL in Georgia, an applicant must meet all the requirements for a regular driver’s license but also pass a CDL knowledge exam and road test. Many applicants also take a driving course, similar to driver’s ed that we all took in high school.
Unfortunately, CDL drivers can get into an accident just like anyone else, and the results are often tragic because of the size of the vehicles they are driving. If a CDL driver struck you, then your case will in many ways be similar to any other wreck. However, some things are different. To learn more, contact one of our lawyers today to discuss how best to negotiate a favorable settlement or file a lawsuit.
Negligence Rules Still Apply
All motor vehicle accidents in Georgia are analyzed according to fault. Basically, this means the motorist who failed to use reasonable care is to blame if they caused the accident. There are many examples of negligent driving, including failure to yield and failure to check a blind spot. Other behavior is more reckless, like speeding or tailgating or driving while intoxicated. But reckless behavior makes a motorist at fault just as well.
If you are involved in a wreck with a CDL driver, we need to analyze what happened in the moments leading up to the crash. We would do this in any accident, CDL driver or not. For example, was the truck driver going too fast? Crossing the center median? Taking corners too quickly? Did the truck roll over because of some defect or because the driver made a sudden movement?
In some cases, the driver is not to blame. Instead, the cargo in a semi-truck could have shifted, causing a rollover. The company that loaded the cargo is at fault for the wreck—or at least partially to blame.
Comparative Negligence Also Still Applies
Georgia recognizes that sometimes victims contribute to the accidents that injure them. Our clients sometimes failed to use a turn signal or sound their horn when entering a truck’s blind spot. Other motorists drove recklessly themselves in the lead up to the collision.
When both parties have been negligent, Georgia law requires that we assign fault. And O.C.G.A. §51-12-33 states that a person cannot bring a negligence lawsuit if they are 50% or more responsible for their injuries or losses. In practice, this means that you can only be up to 49% responsible for the wreck—but not a smidge more.
Swap Personal & Insurance Information
At the scene of a wreck, you should take all the steps you would normally take after a fender bender with a four-door sedan. Steps include swapping personal information, such as name, contact number, and address. You should also get the driver’s license number.
Swap insurance information as well. Federal regulations require that truckers driving a general freight truck have at least $750,000 in insurance, so get contact information.
Another key step is to obtain information for the trucker’s employer. We like to see a name, address, and phone number. This makes it easy to get in contact with the employer to find helpful information on the driver, such as his driving record and the results of any chemical tests the employer should perform after the wreck. Don’t settle for the driver claiming he is an “independent contractor” or is an irregular employee. He’s driving someone’s truck. Get the name of the company who he is driving for.
A Driver Can Lose His Job or License
After any accident, a trucker will need to take a drug test. If it comes back positive, showing any alcohol or illegal drugs, then the driver will probably be fired quickly.
If the driver was not impaired, then a company will look at other circumstances. Any driver who flees the scene, fails to render assistance, or kills someone recklessly will probably also lose their license and their job.
Otherwise, the trucking company will decide whether to employ a driver on a case-by-case basis. One minor accident probably will not result in termination. A driver with many accidents and tickets, however, is vulnerable to receiving a pink slip.
As an injured victim, you might wonder why you should care if the driver loses his job. After all, you are primarily focused on getting compensation for your injuries. But the driver’s history matters for a couple reasons. If the driver already has multiple accidents on his record, he might fear losing his license and could refuse to tell the truth about your wreck. A trucker afraid of losing a job could also doctor the logbooks or other information.
The trucking company is also trying to protect itself—hence the drug testing. However, our clients can use this to their advantage, since much more evidence is available to show that a driver was at fault for a collision.
Employer Involvement In A CDL Employee’s Accident
An accident with a CDL driver is different in another way. If the driver is employed, then injured victims can often sue the employer as well as the driver for compensation. Of course, this is true regardless of a person’s license. But most CDL drivers are working a job when they get into a collision.
In Georgia, many trucking companies have tried to escape liability by claiming their truck drivers are “independent contractors.” Unlike with employees, companies are not automatically liable when an independent contractor is negligent, which is why they raise this claim often.
In reality, employers often misclassify a worker solely to escape liability. In other words, the driver really is an employee in all but name. The attorneys at MG Law are skilled at properly identifying the driver’s status with a trucking company. We can push for a court to recognize the driver as really an employee, which can make suing a trucking company possible.
For this reason, trucking companies take accidents very seriously. They will investigate everything thoroughly—and even investigate you. Truck company investigators have been known to comb through victim’s social media accounts and even spy on victims to see if they are too injured to leave their homes.
Report Safety Violations (If You Want)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has primary regulatory authority over interstate trucking. They can fine companies that employ dangerous drivers or who try to falsify logbooks and cover up safety regulations. In extreme cases, the FMCSA can prevent a company from running trucks across state lines.
The FMCSA has a website that collects consumer complaints. if you witnessed a safety violation on the road, decide whether to complain about it. Of course, the agency has limited staff and funds, so it will not launch a full-scale investigation of every accident. However, the agency might notice a pattern of violations over time involving the same company, so chipping in with your complaint could protect public safety in the long run.
Has A CDL Driver Injured You? Call Us
The team at MG Law knows how devastating truck accidents can be. In addition to dealing with physical injuries, many of our clients are depressed, anxious, and worried about their finances.
Give us a call. One of our truck accident lawyers can review how you were hurt and whether the truck driver or some other entity is to blame. Our consultations are free and confidential.