Yes. Truck drivers, taxi operators, Uber drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers in Georgia. So, under Section 46-9-1 of the Georgia Code, they must “use extraordinary diligence” as they operate their motor vehicles. Additionally, “no excuse avails them unless the loss was occasioned by the act of God or the public enemies of the state.” That is one of the highest commercial driver standards of care in the country. The higher duty of care directly affects crash liability issues, as outlined below.
The higher standard of care makes it easier for a Marietta personal injury lawyer to prove negligence, or a lack of care. Nevertheless, commercial operator wrecks are very complex. So, although it is easier to prove negligence, it is more difficult to obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
First Party Liability
The difference between legal responsibility in a noncommercial wreck and a commercial wreck is the difference between a duty of reasonable care and a duty of utmost care. That is an awful lot of legalese, so let’s break it down.
Noncommercial drivers, who have a duty of reasonable care, must avoid accidents whenever possible. Commercial drivers, who have a duty of utmost care, must go the extra mile. They must anticipate and avoid accidents whenever possible.
The Georgia traffic code incorporates this difference. Usually, the truck speed limit is lower than the speed limit for other vehicle operators.
Recommended following distance is another example. Noncommercial drivers should keep about two seconds between themselves and the vehicles in front of them. Large vehicle operators should maintain at least a six-second following distance.
Georgia law goes the extra mile as well. Basically, the only negligence defenses in truck crashes are that an act of God or an enemy of the state caused the wreck. We can pretty much throw out that second one. Bad weather or another act of God might contribute to a wreck, but driver negligence usually causes that wreck.
As a side note, liability is a bit more complex if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was a municipal bus operator or another government employee. The old saying that “you can’t sue city hall” is inaccurate. However, it is not easy for a Marietta personal injury attorney to sue city hall. But that’s the subject of another blog.
Tortfeasors are legally responsible for the wrecks they cause. Their employers are generally financially responsible for the damages these wrecks inflict.
The respondeat superior doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was an employee acting within the course and scope of employment at the time. In ye olden days, Georgia law narrowly defined these key terms in defendant-friendly ways. Now, Georgia law broadly defines these key terms in victim-friendly ways.
“Employee” is a good example. Many truck drivers and other commercial drivers are independent contractors, owner-operators, or even unpaid volunteers. All these individuals are employees for negligence purposes. If a company controls a driver in any way, such as dictating the cargo carried, that driver is an employee in most civil lawsuits.