Articles Tagged with truck accident

If you have driven on an interstate highway or other major multi-lane roads, then you know that large commercial trucks can be a hazard to other vehicles simply because they are so large. These tractor-trailer rigs, also referred to as semis or 18-wheelers, often consist of a large truck towing a trailer as much as 53 feet long, and rarely less than 48 feet long. These vehicles travel the nation’s roads and highways right alongside passenger vehicles every day, usually without incident. But when a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle collide, there is no mistaking which vehicle is going to get the worst of it. If injuries or deaths occur in such an accident, odds are that the occupants of the passenger vehicles will be the victims.

Truck Accidents Rarely Go Well for the Occupants of Passenger Vehicles

In 2018, nearly 5,000 people died in accidents involving large trucks, and another 151,000 were injured. Roughly 80% of the deaths were the occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. A majority of the injuries likewise were suffered by people other than the occupants of the large trucks.

This may sound like a test question from an introduction to philosophy class: If a truck hits two vehicles in succession, one right after the other, is that one accident or two accidents? When it comes to dealing with insurance companies, however, this is not just a hypothetical issue. How the law defines “accident” can significantly affect the award of insurance benefits to accident victims.

Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently confronted this “one accident or two” question in a complex personal injury case, Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter, arising from an October 2015 incident. The driver of a dump truck owned by Four Seasons Trucking (FST) illegally crossed a center line and hit two other vehicles in rapid succession.

As a general rule, you cannot directly sue an insurance company for a personal injury caused by someone they insure. In other words, if you are in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you cannot name that driver’s insurance company as a defendant. Such “direct action” is not permitted under Georgia law.

Daily Underwriters of America v. Williams

But there are exceptions. Georgia law includes two separate provisions that permit direct action against insurance companies that insure motor carriers, i.e. semi-trucks. In a recent decision, Daily Underwriters of America v. Williams, the Georgia Court of Appeals explained how these two provisions can be applied in practice.

When an accident involves a commercial truck, there are usually records available with respect to the vehicle’s safety and maintenance. Such records can be made available to an injured victim during the discovery process of a personal injury lawsuit. If those records are improperly withheld–or even destroyed before they can be disclosed–a trial judge has the authority to impose sanctions on the offending party.

Allen v. Sanchez

It is important to note, however, that a judge will only impose sanctions for “spoliation” of evidence when certain standards are met. An ongoing federal personal injury lawsuit, Allen v. Sanchez, helps illustrate how courts deal with these situations.

When it comes to trucking accidents, Georgia has what is known as a “direct action” rule. This means that if you are injured due to a commercial truck driver’s negligence, you can name not only the trucking company but also its insurance carrier as defendants. This is an exception to the normal rule. In a personal injury case arising from a normal car accident, you cannot directly sue the insurer. This is because it is generally considered unfair to the trucking company if the jury is made aware that an insurance company is paying for any potential damages.

Wallace v. Wiley Sanders Truck Lines, Inc.

Trucking companies are understandably unhappy with the direct action rule, especially after they lose a lawsuit. But their complaints often fall on deaf ears. Consider this recent case from Columbus, Georgia.

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