Improper Truck Maintenance
Semi-trucks and big rigs encounter more wear each day than many much smaller vehicles do. Accordingly, they also require more maintenance. All trucking companies should be conducting regular maintenance on their vehicles, but unfortunately both truck drivers and truck companies sometimes cut corners in order to save money or time. If you are injured in an 18-wheeler wreck in Atlanta or the surrounding area, you should consult truck accident attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert to investigate whether the crash may have been caused by improper maintenance.Establishing Liability for Improper Truck Maintenance
Federal law requires every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all motor vehicles and equipment under its control. The parts and accessories are required to be in safe and proper operating condition at all times. Every time a truck driver goes out with a commercial vehicle such as a big rig, he or she is required to inspect the vehicle. Some drivers do not because they only earn money when they are actually driving, and they do not want to waste any of that time on maintenance.
However, all drivers, including truck drivers, owe a duty to others on the road to conduct the appropriate maintenance to prevent or reduce the risk of accidents. When a truck driver fails to conduct the inspection or fails to get components of the truck repaired as needed, this is likely to be seen as negligence by a jury. If you are hurt because a truck driver failed to conduct a necessary inspection or make a repair, you may be able to pursue a claim for compensation.
In many cases, truck drivers are working both when they fail to conduct an inspection and when an accident happens. Georgia follows the doctrine of respondeat superior, under which trucking companies can be held indirectly liable for an employee's negligence, as long as the negligent act (such as failing to get the appropriate repair done) occurs in the course and scope of the employee’s job duties.
All trucking companies owe a duty to motorists not to put an enormous unsafe vehicle on the road and to follow the regulations related to maintenance set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A failure to follow an FMCSA safety regulation related to maintenance may give rise to a claim of negligence per se (negligence as a matter of law). You may be able to hold the trucking company directly liable for negligence or negligence per se, which is important because in some cases truck drivers do not have sufficient insurance coverage to compensate you for the full range of damages you have suffered.
By law, all motor carriers, except for nonbusiness, private motor carriers of passengers, must maintain records for each vehicle for 30 consecutive days. The records must include the nature and due date of various inspections and repairs to be performed, and those that have already been performed. These should be retained where the truck is housed or maintained for one year and for six months after a motor vehicle leaves the trucking company's control. Sometimes these required maintenance records make an injured plaintiff's case. Although you usually have two years to bring a lawsuit, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible as a truck accident, since the trucking company may not maintain its records beyond the one-year required period.
If you are able to establish negligence or negligence per se, you will be able to recover compensatory damages. These can be both economic and noneconomic. Economic damages may include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and the cost of household services. Your noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, may vary significantly depending on the jury that is awarding damages.Contact an Experienced Atlanta Attorney after a Truck Accident
If you suspect you were injured because of improper maintenance by an Atlanta trucker or trucking company, you should retain a motor vehicle collision lawyer to negotiate with the trucking company's insurers and take your case to trial as necessary. Knowledgeable attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert may be able to help you recover damages. Call us at (404) 370-1000 or contact us via our online form to set up a free consultation. We also represent accident victims in Decatur as well as other areas of DeKalb and Fulton Counties.