Trucking accidents can result in severe injuries and even death, and unfortunately, they are prevalent on Georgia's roads. According to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety, in 2020, there were 7,606 motor vehicle crashes, with 1,522 fatal crashes and 1,664 deaths. Of those, 15% or 211 fatal crashes involved large commercial and non-commercial trucks. Between 2019 and 2020, the rate of traffic deaths involving large trucks per VMT traveled increased by 21%.
These statistics highlight the importance of understanding the laws and regulations governing trucking in Georgia and taking appropriate measures to prevent trucking accidents. Trucking companies and drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If they fail to do so and cause a trucking accident, they may be liable for the injuries and losses the accident victims suffer.
Georgia Commercial Driver's License
To operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Georgia, a driver must hold a valid Commercial Driver's License (CDL) that allows drivers to operate larger vehicles, requiring additional skills and training beyond a regular driver's license. Georgia's CDL program is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and enforced by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
To obtain a CDL, a driver must pass a series of tests and meet specific requirements, including age and residency requirements, medical qualifications, and knowledge and skills tests. Georgia law specifies the requirements for obtaining and maintaining a CDL and the penalties for violations.
The penalties for violating Georgia's CDL laws can be severe, including a civil penalty ranging from $2,500.00 to $25,000.00 for each offense depending on severity, license suspension, and even criminal charges in some cases. For example, Georgia Code § 40-5-151 specifies that a driver who operates a CMV without a valid CDL may be charged with a misdemeanor and subject to a fine and/or imprisonment.
Georgia Hours of Service Regulations
Georgia has specific regulations for hours of service for commercial truck drivers operating within the state. It follows regulations set forth by the FMCSA.
Under the HOS law, commercial truck drivers are only allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours a day after 10 straight hours off the job. Drivers are also not allowed to drive after their 14th consecutive hour on the job following their 10 straight hours off. When drivers reach their daily driving limit, they must take a break that lasts at least 30 minutes before they can resume driving.
Furthermore, commercial truck drivers are subject to weekly driving restrictions, which prohibit them from operating a vehicle for longer than 60 hours a week. When drivers exceed these thresholds, they are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle for at least 34 hours straight.
To avoid driver fatigue, which can result in traffic accidents, commercial truck drivers must abide by these rules. Truck drivers and trucking companies that violate Georgia's hours of service laws may be fined $1,200 and $14,700 per violation and are subject to citations and suspension of a driver's license for commercial purposes.
Georgia Weight and Size Limits
Commercial trucks using Georgia's highways must adhere to strict weight and size restrictions set forth in GA Code § 32-6-26. These laws are in place to protect motorists and other road users and to guard against infrastructural damage to the state.
The number of axles on the vehicle determines the weight limit for commercial trucks in Georgia. For example, a single-axle vehicle is limited to 20,000 pounds, while a truck with two axles is limited to 34,000 pounds. The weight limit increases with the number of axles, with the maximum weight limit for a truck being 80,000 pounds.
In addition to weight limits, Georgia also has size limits for commercial trucks. The maximum allowable width for a commercial vehicle is 8 feet 6 inches, and the maximum height is 13 feet 6 inches. The maximum length for a single trailer is 53 feet, while the maximum for a combination of vehicles is 82 feet.
Violations of these regulations can result in fines, citations, and even the suspension of commercial driving privileges. There is a sliding scale for calculating fees for excess weight in Georgia. The first 1,000 pounds of excess weight incur a fee of 0.8 cents per pound. For the next 2,000 pounds of excess weight, the fine will be an additional 1.5 cents per pound, and so on.
Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies must adhere to these weight and size limits to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road.
Georgia Drug and Alcohol Testing
Commercial truck drivers in Georgia are subject to drug and alcohol testing requirements to ensure state highway safety. The FMCSA mandates these testing requirements.
Under FMCSA regulations, commercial truck drivers are required to undergo drug and alcohol testing at various points throughout their employment. These include pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, random testing, and reasonable suspicion testing. Employers must also maintain records of their testing programs and provide training for supervisors and employees on drug and alcohol use and testing procedures.
In the event of a driver testing positive for drugs or alcohol while driving, the trucking company or employer is required to relieve the driver of all driving responsibilities immediately.
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level for non-CDL drivers is .08, while the limit for CDL drivers is .04. If a CDL driver has a BAC greater than .02, the company must temporarily suspend him from driving. If he violates these regulations, the driver may be prohibited from performing driving duties until he has completed a substance abuse program.
Georgia Speeding Law
Georgia truck drivers must be aware of the state's speeding laws and regulations. Georgia law prohibits driving at a speed greater than what is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances or at a speed that endangers the safety of people or property. The maximum speed limit on highways in Georgia is 70 mph, and the speed limit may be lower in certain areas, such as construction zones, school zones, or residential areas.
Commercial drivers must comply with federal regulations that impose stricter speed limits. The FMCSA sets specific speed limits for commercial motor vehicles based on the weight and type of the vehicle. For instance, the maximum speed limit for trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds on rural interstates is 65 mph.
Speeding is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia, and it generally carries a penalty of up to 12 months of jail time and a $1,000 fine.
Truck drivers who violate these laws may also receive points on their CDL, with the points depending on how fast the driver was going over the speed limit. For instance, driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit results in two points on the CDL. Accumulating too many points can lead to a license suspension or revocation.
Georgia Lane Restrictions
Certain lane restrictions apply to CMVs in Georgia, including trucks. The left-lane restriction applies to trucks, and this means trucks traveling on a roadway with three or more lanes must stay in the right-hand lane, except when passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn. Trucks are not allowed to drive in the left lane unless they pass another vehicle or turn left. This restriction applies to all roads, including interstates.
The left-lane restriction is enforced to prevent slow-moving vehicles, including trucks, from blocking the left lane and causing traffic congestion. By staying in the right-hand lane, trucks can help maintain a steady flow of traffic and reduce the risk of accidents caused by sudden lane changes or swerving.
Another lane restriction is the prohibition of trucks in the left two lanes on certain interstates. Trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds are prohibited from traveling in the left two lanes on certain interstates within the Atlanta metropolitan area. This restriction applies to Interstates 75, 85, and 285. Violators will face a fine of $150.
Georgia Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
Georgia law requires commercial trucking companies to carry minimum insurance coverage to protect against road accidents and injuries. The specific insurance requirements vary depending on the type of trucking operation and the vehicle weight. Here are the basic requirements for commercial trucking insurance in Georgia:
All commercial trucking companies operating in Georgia, including local or intrastate motor carriers, must carry liability insurance to cover damages and injuries caused by their vehicles. The minimum required coverage varies based on the weight of the vehicle:
For vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds: $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $50,000 per accident for property damage.
For vehicles weighing 10,001 to 26,000 pounds: $300,000 per accident for bodily injury and property damage.
For vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds: $750,000 per accident for bodily injury and property damage.
Commercial trucking companies that transport cargo must also carry cargo insurance to cover damage to the goods being transported. The minimum required coverage is $5,000 per vehicle, but higher coverage amounts may be necessary depending on the type of cargo being transported. For example, trucks hauling oil products must have $1,000,000 in liability insurance, while those carrying hazardous materials must have at least a $5,000,000 coverage.
Georgia law also requires commercial trucking companies to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover injuries and illnesses suffered by their employees on the job.
It is important to note that these are the minimum insurance requirements set by Georgia law. Many commercial trucking companies carry higher insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities and lawsuits, including bobtail, collision, comprehensive, and non-trucking liability insurance.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in Georgia?
People involved in a trucking accident in Georgia may be entitled to recover damages for injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. They may receive payment for economic damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. There is no limit on the amount of economic and non-economic damages that can be recovered in a Georgia trucking accident case.
In 2005, the Georgia Legislature passed a tort reform law that limited the amount of non-economic damages recoverable by an injured plaintiff in a medical malpractice case. The limit was set at $350,000 for a single defendant and $1,050,000 for multiple defendants. However, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2010, citing a violation of the state's constitutional right to a jury trial.
Additionally, truck accident victims may receive punitive damages in cases where the trucking company or driver acted recklessly or intentionally. These damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. In Georgia, there is a cap on punitive damages of $250,000, or two times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
Family members may also be entitled to recover damages for wrongful death if a loved one has been killed in a trucking accident. These damages may include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost income, and loss of companionship. There is no limit on the amount of wrongful death damages that can be recovered.
Do note that the actual amount of damages that you may be able to recover in a trucking accident case will depend on the specific facts of your case, including the severity of your injuries, the extent of your financial losses, and the degree of fault of the trucking company or driver.
Georgia Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Georgia is a fault state for insurance claims, which means that the driver who is at fault for an accident is responsible for paying damages to the other driver(s) involved. In practice, this means that drivers are required to carry liability insurance to cover damages in the event of an accident they cause.
If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. It will investigate the accident and determine fault based on the evidence and witness statements. If you are found to be at fault, your insurance company will be responsible for paying damages up to your policy limits.
In the event that the other driver is at fault and his insurance is not sufficient to cover your damages, you may need to pursue legal action against the driver to recover additional damages.
Georgia Is a Modified Comparative Negligence State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Modified comparative negligence is the standard used to determine fault in personal injury cases in Georgia, including trucking accident lawsuits. This means that if a driver is found to be more than 50% responsible for the accident, they may be barred from recovering any damages. Those found to be less than 50% responsible will have their damages reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 30% responsible for the accident, your damages will be reduced by 30%.
In trucking accident cases, determining fault can be more complex than in other types of personal injury cases. Trucking companies and their insurance companies often have legal teams that work to minimize their liability and protect their bottom line. This is why hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of trucking accident cases and can help you navigate the legal system is essential.
Georgia Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
The Georgia statute of limitations for truck accidents is two years from the date of the accident. This means that if you have been involved in a trucking accident in Georgia, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the trucking company or driver responsible for your injuries. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this period, you may be barred from recovering damages for your injuries and losses.
The statute of limitations can be tolled or extended in certain circumstances. For example, if the injured person is a minor or incapacitated, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the person reaches the age of 18 or regains capacity.
Additionally, if the responsible party leaves the state of Georgia after the accident, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the party returns to the state. However, it is generally best to consult with an experienced Georgia trucking accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident to ensure that your legal rights are protected and to determine the applicable statute of limitations in your case.
Average Settlement for Georgia Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Several factors can impact the outcome of a trucking accident lawsuit in Georgia since there are no caps on economic and non-economic damages. These include the severity of your injuries, the amount of property damage, and the actions of the truck driver and their employer leading up to the accident.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident in Georgia, seek medical attention immediately and contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and fight for the compensation you deserve for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Legal Resources for Georgia Trucking Accident Victims
The Georgia Trucking Portal is a comprehensive online resource for trucking companies and drivers operating in Georgia. The portal is maintained by the Georgia Department of Revenue's Motor Vehicle Division. It is a one-stop shop for all trucking-related services and information. It helps streamline the process of complying with state and federal regulations, saving trucking companies and drivers time and money.
The Georgia State Bar's Pro Bono Resource Center connects low-income Georgians with volunteer attorneys who provide free legal services. The program serves low-income individuals and families involved in trucking accidents who face legal challenges but cannot afford to hire an attorney. It offers various opportunities for attorneys to volunteer their time and skills, from representing clients in court to providing legal advice and assistance through clinics and other programs.
The Georgia Commercial Drivers Manual is a comprehensive guide published by the Georgia Department of Driver Services to help commercial drivers obtain their commercial driver's license (CDL). The manual covers a wide range of topics related to commercial driving, including pre-trip inspections, safe driving practices, cargo securement, and hazardous materials regulations. It also provides up-to-date information on federal and state laws that govern commercial driving.
The DDS 2 GO mobile app is a free, user-friendly app developed by the Georgia Department of Driver Services to help Georgia residents and commercial drivers access various DDS services from their smartphones. Users can complete many common DDS transactions without visiting a DDS Customer Service Center.
The 511GA website is designed to provide up-to-date traffic and travel information for the state of Georgia. It offers real-time traffic maps, incident reports, construction updates, and other valuable information to help drivers plan their routes and avoid delays.
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