Tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles constitute a substantial volume of traffic on Georgia's roadways. While these vehicles and their drivers must follow the Georgia traffic rules just like other motorists, they are also usually subject to additional state and federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate virtually every aspect of interstate motor carrier transport, including insurance, weight limits, maintenance, and record keeping, as well as requiring strict compliance with drivers' hours of service and rest periods, licensing, driving background and training, drug and alcohol usage, and medical clearance. These regulations, contained in Title 49 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), can be important parts of any Georgia truck accident case.
Unfortunately, many carriers and drivers are out of compliance with these regulations, and while FMCSR violations are sometimes uncovered during routine inspections, they often come to light only after a serious trucking collision. Although the FMCSRs themselves only apply to interstate motor carriers (that is, commercial vehicles that are involved in interstate commerce), most of these rules are also applicable to commercial vehicles operating only in Georgia due to the incorporation of most of the FMCSRs into Georgia law through the rules established by the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
Although tractor trailer “big rigs” are what most people think of when they talk about commercial motor vehicles, even certain lighter vehicles (or truck and trailer combinations), if over 10,000 lbs., can qualify as commercial vehicle and be subject to additional state and federal regulations beyond those required of passenger vehicles, even if the operator of the vehicle is unaware it is a commercial vehicle. It is therefore important to carefully consider the vehicles involved to determine if a vehicle is properly classified as a commercial motor vehicle and, if so, whether the operator was in compliance with all relevant rules and regulations.
Because of the comprehensive regulatory requirements, as well as the more complex nature of these vehicles and the vast amounts of harm they can cause, tractor trailer and other commercial vehicle cases are not simply “bigger” automobile collision cases. Specialized knowledge is required to most effectively evaluate and litigate cases against commercial motor carriers and their insurers. Unlike in a non-commercial vehicle collision, the commercial at-fault driver's insurance company can often be named as a party to the lawsuit. The motor carrier can also be responsible for failing to properly hire, train, or monitor its drivers (for example, to ensure that drivers are complying with hour-of-service limitations), as well as for failing to keep its vehicles in safe operating condition.
Our firm has experience handling serious truck accident collisions, including those resulting in the catastrophic injury or death of innocent victims. John Hadden began his career representing local and national interstate motor carriers in claims brought against them, and today continues his practice representing victims. Having been on both sides of these types of cases gives him the perspective to properly represent those seriously injured in commercial vehicle claims.