Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol Testing for Tractor-Trailer Drivers 

In an effort to reduce the occurrence of trucking accidents caused by driving under the influence (DUI), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted rules and regulations for drug and alcohol testing that apply specifically to commercial motor carriers. Under federal rules, a motor carrier is simply defined as any person or company that transports people or property for money. The term also includes “a motor carrier’s agents, officers and representatives as well as employees responsible for hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers and employees concerned with the installation, inspection, and maintenance of motor vehicle equipment and/or accessories. While it is against the law for any person to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, these federal rules create additional testing requirements for drivers of large trucks and buses. 

The FMCSA Rules 

Generally, the FMCSA drug and alcohol testing rules apply to drivers that operate a truck or bus under a commercial driver’s license (CDL), as well as the motor carrier companies that employ such drivers. This testing must be carried out by a federally certified laboratory. The rules mandate that motor carrier companies drug test drivers in four instances: 

  1. During pre-employment screening; 
  2. When there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is abusing drugs or alcohol; 
  3. At random; and 
  4. When an accident occurs. 

Ultimately, it is a trucking company’s or bus company’s responsibility to have these tests administered at the appropriate times. Employers of CDL drivers are required to designate someone in the company to be responsible for implementing and overseeing a testing program. This person must make sure that all required tests are administered, and must also make sure that all appropriate steps are taken after the test results come in. 

If a driver tests positive for drugs or alcohol while driving, a trucking company or employer must immediately remove the driver from all driving responsibilities. For non-CDL drivers, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08. However, CDL drivers have a legal limit of .04. If a CDL driver has a BAC of greater than .02, the company must temporarily suspend them from driving. Drivers in violation of these rules regulations may not be given driving duties until they have completed a substance abuse program. 

Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol Testing Mandated by the FMSCA 

When motor carriers are involved in minor accidents in which no one is injured, drug and alcohol testing are not normally required under the FMCSA – although a motor carrier company may choose on its own to have one done. However, after serious accidents, drug and alcohol testing of the truck driver is required. If the trucking accident results in a fatality, testing is always required. Post-accident testing is also required when a truck driver is cited for a moving violation, or when a person is injured and requires medical care at the scene of the accident. Under the FMCSA rules, when testing is required, alcohol testing must be administered within 8 hours, and drug testing must be administered within 32 hours. 

Results of Post-Accident Tests and Personal Injury Lawsuits 

If a motor carrier, such as a tractor-trailer driver, causes an accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, any victims of harm are entitled to compensation. This compensation can be sought from the driver, the trucking company, or both, depending on the facts of a case. While intoxication of a truck driver doesn’t automatically prove that they were at-fault in causing an accident, it is certainly powerful evidence. Because companies have a duty to perform these tests under FMCSA rules when any of their drivers get into an accident, this evidence is usually available for victims to discover. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a motor carrier, Joel Williams Law, LLC, can help you understand your legal rights and options, and work to get you the compensation you deserve. These types of cases can be incredibly complex, so it is imperative that victims contact experienced and qualified legal counsel as soon as possible after an accident occurs. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, today to schedule a free consultation by calling (404) 389-1035 today.

Tractor Trailer Driver Charged in Fatal I-20 Wreck

On July 13th, 2017, 84 year old Gilbert Engle, of Thomson, Georgia, was heading west on I-20 in Columbia County when the pickup driving in front of him slowed down. Mr. Engle slowed down as well, but the tractor trailer traveling behind him didn’t. According to news reports, the driver of the tractor trailer didn’t pump the brakes before slamming into Engle’s car from behind.

The tractor trailer pushed Engle’s car into a pickup truck and in the collision Engle was killed. The driver of the tractor trailer is reportedly being charged criminally with driving too fast for conditions and following too closely.

TRACTOR TRAILER ACCIDENTS IN GEORGIA

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are thousands of fatal tractor trailer accidents each year. Just like in the accident discussed above, tractor trailer accidents sometimes occur because these large trucks follow passenger cars at close distances cannot slow down as fast as they need to in order to avoid a collision. Tractor trailer accidents also occur because large trucks cannot turn or maneuver as well as passenger cars. Some wrecks occur because trailers are overloaded and sometimes truck drivers exceed their maximum allowed hours of service and are fatigued. These types of accidents can be especially harmful because of the immense weight difference between tractor trailers and regular vehicles.

Because tractor trailers are so dangerous when they are out on the road, there are a number of federal and state regulations governing truck drivers and the trucking industry. Truck drivers and trucking companies have a duty to operate with reasonable care and to follow these regulations. When accidents are caused by the negligence of truck drivers or trucking companies, victims of harm are entitled to compensation for their loss. The attorneys at Joel Williams law, LLC know how to get personal injury victims the justice and compensation they deserve.

CONTACT THE TRACTOR TRAILER ACCIDENT INJURY ATTORNEYS AT JOEL WILLIAMS LAW, LLC, TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to the wrongful actions of someone else, it is important to be aware of your rights and get the compensation you deserve. Cases arising out of tractor trailer accidents can be especially complicated because both state and federal laws and regulations could be applicable. Victims need to produce detailed and thorough evidence to prove their case.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, can help by investigating the facts of your case, explaining your legal rights and options to you, gathering all of the evidence you will need to bring a lawsuit, and working to get you the compensation you deserve.
Joel Williams Law, LLC, is dedicated to getting justice for each of its clients no matter how much work it takes. In most cases, a settlement that is beneficial to our clients can be negotiated. But if a defendant will not agree to pay a fair amount, the Joel Williams legal team will vigorously fight for their clients in court. Joel Williams Law, LLC, is based out of Cobb County and serves clients throughout Georgia. If you would like to discuss your case, call Joel Williams Law, LLC, for a free consultation today at (404) 389-1035.

How Overloaded or Improperly Loaded Tractor Trailers Can Cause Crashes

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, large trucks were involved in 4,311 fatal accidents in 2015. Statistics from the FMCSA show that the heavier the truck, the more likely an accident will occur.

Improper loading of trucks is one of the most common causes of preventable truck wrecks. Overloading or otherwise improperly loading a truck can cause an accident in a number of ways.

• Overloaded trucks put enormous pressure on tires, causing tire damage and blowouts. A truck’s wheels and tires are only made to withstand so much. Tire blowouts are particularly dangerous, because they can cause a truck driver to immediately lose control.

• Weight imbalances can cause trucks to rollover. A study conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found that when cargo loads are too heavy, insecurely fastened, or mounted too high in the truck, it can cause trucks to rollover when going on ramps, curves, or even just changing lanes.

• Overweight trucks have trouble stopping when going downhill or getting speed going uphill.The heavier the truck, the slower it is to brake and accelerate. Many traffic accidents occur because a truck is simply going too fast or too slow and as a result, the driver can’t slow down or speed up in time because the truck is too heavy.

• Overloaded trucks can be too heavy for bridges and overpasses. In May of this year, a bridge collapsed in Iowa when a truck more than five times the legal weight limit attempted to cross it.

Laws Regulating Tractor Trailer Loads

There are federal and state laws regulating how tractor trailers are to be loaded, and prescribe maximum weights that trucks are allowed to have. Under these laws, absent a special oversize permit, Georgia tractor trailers cannot be wider than 8’6”, taller than 13’6”, and longer than 100 feet, and they cannot carry loads of more than 80,000 lbs. in gross weight. Georgia tort law also imposes a duty on every truck driver to operate their truck with reasonable care, which includes a duty to properly and safely load the truck they are driving.

Despite the fact that Georgia has implemented many weigh station inspection points on the state’s highways, overloaded or improperly loaded tractor trailers continue to be out on the road. When accidents occur as a result, it is crucial to hold negligent parties accountable and compensate their victims.

Victims of Accidents Involving Improperly Loaded Trucks Deserve Compensation

When accidents occur due to a truck being improperly loaded, victims deserve compensation for their harm. Victims can sue truck drivers that overload or improperly load their trucks, and trucking companies that encourage or knowingly allow their drivers to do so.

Trucking companies can also be sued under a theory of respondeat superior when their employees negligently cause an accident. Victims are entitled to be fully compensated for their harm, including for medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A tractor trailer accident injury attorney helps victims get the compensation they deserve.

CONTACT THE TRACTOR TRAILER INJURY ATTORNEYS AT JOEL WILLIAMS LAW, LLC, TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE TODAY

If you or a loved one has been involved in a tractor-trailer accident, it is imperative to understand your legal rights. Anyone harmed due to the negligent actions of someone else deserves to be compensated. The Kennesaw, GA  tractor trailer accident injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, can help investigate the facts of your case, explain your legal options, and help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, at (404) 389-1035 to schedule a free consultation today.

Deciphering “Black Box” Data in 18-Wheeler Accidents

Deciphering “Black Box” Data in 18-Wheeler Accidents

 

Trucking wrecks in Georgia are complicated. Insurance companies allege the injured victim caused the crash, eyewitness testimony is divided on who is to blame, and injured victims like you state the 18-wheeler driver is responsible. So how do judges and juries decide who is really at fault? They often look at black box data.

What Is Black Box Data?

Most trucking companies equip their fleets with an Engine Control Module (ECM), which is stored in a black box on the 18-wheeler. That’s why it’s called “black box” data. Each trucking company installs different variations of the ECM, so one company’s ECM may not store the same data as another company’s ECM. However, most ECMs store data like:

  • The truck’s speed before a crash
  • The truck’s average speed
  • How many hours a truck has been in operation
  • If a sudden stop was made
  • Whether the driver wore a seat belt
  • The truck’s tire pressure
  • The truck’s distance to other vehicles (“following distance”)
  • Email exchanges between the 18-wheeler driver and his boss
  • GPS coordinates

After an accident, the data from the ECM is extracted and used to help determine who caused the crash that injured you or your loved one.

How Do You Get Black Box Data?

It is imperative you seek legal counsel as soon as you can after an accident with an 18-wheeler, because if a truck is driven or repaired, then the data from the accident can be lost forever.

Your attorney should send a letter to the trucking company demanding black box data and requesting the company not repair or drive the truck involved in the accident. This is also known as “preservation of evidence.” Your attorney will also request a “build sheet.” This list itemizes all of the parts on the truck along with dates of any repairs.

If you do not have an experienced attorney on your side requesting this information, then you may never get access to the black box data. In other words, trucking companies are not just going to give you the data without a demand letter.

How Is Black Box Data Used?

Black box data in trucking wrecks can be used in a variety of ways to help your personal injury case.

  • To help accident reconstructionists build their reports
  • To disprove eyewitnesses during depositions. Example: an eyewitness says the truck was not speeding, but the black box data says it was.
  • To prove the trucking company was negligent in maintaining its truck or overworked its driver in violation of federal safety regulations. Example: email conversations between supervisors and the driver.
  • To impeach the driver. Example: the driver said he used his breaks right before the collision, but the black box data showed he did not.

Contact us in Kennesaw, Georgia

Black box data can be complicated if you do not have an experienced Georgia 18-wheeler wreck attorney on your side. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident and need help with your case, call Joel Williams at 404.389.1035.

5 Things to Check Before Choosing an 18-Wheeler Accident Attorney

5 Things to Check Before Choosing an 18-Wheeler Accident Attorney

18-wheeler accidents are horrific. The last thing on your mind during the immediate aftermath of a collision with a tractor-trailer is finding an attorney. But once you’ve had your injuries checked, you need to make sure you find an 18-wheeler trial lawyer.

Preparing a case for trial in Georgia is intense regardless of what type of collision is involved, but when the collision involves an 18-wheeler, it’s even more complicated. To make things easier during your search, keep the following five things in mind when choosing your trial attorney.

Reputation

Your trial lawyer will represent you in the courtroom against the trucking company’s team of lawyers. If he has a poor reputation with the court, getting motions or hearings granted will be difficult. But if he’s in good graces with the court and is known for being fair and courteous, your case may go much more smoothly. That’s not to say your attorney won’t be aggressive and fight for you, but he should be able to do it without alienating the court, jury, and opposing counsel.

A History of Success

All 18-wheeler accident attorneys are not created equally. When looking for someone to fight for you in court, ask about his success rate and settlement percentage in cases similar to yours. Success rates in simple car wrecks are not the same. Make sure he tells you what he has accomplished while litigating against large trucking companies.

Experience

Make sure your trial lawyer has experience dealing with insurance companies. More importantly, make sure he’s prepared to take your case all the way to trial. Many times, lawyers settle before trial. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in the event the insurance company involved in your case refuses to pay the compensation you deserve, your lawyer needs to have experience inside the courtroom litigating against national trucking companies.

Client Satisfaction

Nothing tells you more about your lawyer than what past clients have said about him. Take a look at the firm’s website to see if he has any testimonials. If he doesn’t, that’s a red flag.

Don’t stop there, however. Lawyers typically only publish positive reviews on their website. Look at Yelp or similar review sites to see if there are negative reviews about the attorney, his experience, and his work ethic.

No Fear of Insurance Companies

You want your trial lawyer to be aggressive when he interacts with insurance adjusters and the lawyers who represent them. Insurance companies have decades of experience playing underhanded games in an effort to get out of paying the injured party’s medical bills. Make sure your 18-wheeler accident lawyer won’t let them get away with it.

Contact Us

Don’t let trucking companies intimidate or overwhelm you. Use the foregoing tips when hiring an 18-wheeler accident attorney in Georgia or share the article with someone who’s looking for an attorney. If a tractor-trailer driver injured you or a loved one, and you need help with your case, call the Kennesaw, Georgia tractor-trailer lawyers at Joel Williams Law, LLC.  They can be reached at 404-389-1035 for a free consultation.

Truck Accidents and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

Truck Accidents and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency that enforces comprehensive regulations for trucks and buses that travel over state lines.  It also governs any other motor carriers that are registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Trucks and buses that do not travel interstate are regulated similarly under Georgia transportation laws.) These wide-ranging regulations apply to virtually anyone involved in the trucking industry, but many of the most important rules apply directly to drivers. The purpose of these regulations is to limit the number of truck accidents on America’s roadways.

When truck drivers violate FMCSA rules and cause an accident in the process, they are presumed negligent and are liable for the harm they have caused. Therefore, anytime a truck collides with other vehicles on the road, one of the most important legal issues is whether any FMCSA regulations were violated. Whether a truck driver or truck company is liable often depends on whether FMCSA regulations were followed.

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability Rules

The FMCSA has promulgated numerous rules to ensure that truck drivers are qualified to do their job. Under FMCSA rules, drivers must know how to maintain, safely operate, and otherwise properly drive their trucks. Drivers must also fulfill certain registration requirements and report all accidents they are involved in to the FMCSA.

Minimum Insurance Requirements

Also important, the FMCSA mandates minimum liability insurance requirements. This guarantees that when accidents do occur, there is always some compensation available for victims. The minimum insurance required depends on the type of truck and the type of cargo—longer trucks or more dangerous cargo requires greater insurance.

Hours of Service Restrictions

The FMCSA regulates the number of hours a driver can work. A major cause of accidents is driver fatigue. An FMCSA study found that roughly 13% of truck accidents were caused by driver fatigue. Due to this risk, the FMCSA limits the total number of hours a driver can work in a day and in a week. Drivers are required to keep track of their driving time in a log book. The current limits are 11 hours per day and 70 hours per week. Drivers must also take at least a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving.

Call Joel Williams Law for More Information

If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, it is important to consult with an attorney that is familiar with the rules of the FMCSA. Truck accident cases are especially complex because they often require an analysis of both state and federal laws. There can also be multiple defendants involved, from the driver to the trucking company to the manufacturer of the truck itself.

Joel Williams is an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney, and he fights hard to gain his clients the compensation they deserve. He has experience working with accident reconstruction experts and trucking industry experts to build the strongest cases possible. If you would like to discuss your case, call Joel Williams Law for a free consultation at 404.389.1035.

Truck Accidents Due to Mechanical Failure

Truck Accidents Due to Mechanical Failure

 

The effects of a truck accident are often long lasting. Trucks are large, heavy, and unwieldy. Understanding the implications of accidents involving large trucks and tractor-trailers can be the difference between a $5 million case and a $1 million case.

“A close look into truckers, the trucking industry, and virtually every trucking accident will often reveal rampant drug use, mechanical problems, driver fatigue, violation of federal regulations, sketchy qualifications, and dubious ethics,” Frank L. Branson writes in the “Anatomy of a Truck Catastrophe” (Oct. 24, 2009).

Mechanical problems are the second leading cause of accidents involving tractor-trailers. Although the government imposes higher standards of inspections on such vehicles because of their potential for severe accidents, many truckers fail to follow regulations. Truckers are required to inspect their vehicles daily and make repairs as needed, but many do not. As a result, there is a real possibility of major damage when an accident involves a tractor-trailer or other large truck.

Accident Management

When a commercial vehicle is involved in a serious accident, the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts a post-accident inspection of the tractor-trailer. These investigations will document any mechanical problems, especially any problems with the brakes or tires. The primary purpose of these inspections is to determine if the truck should be taken out of service. These government inspections do not determine the cause of the accident, but rather whether the truck should remain on the road. Therefore, other experts are needed to carefully examine all of the vehicles involved in the crash.

After receiving the first phone call about an accident involving a truck, the plaintiff’s attorney must act quickly to protect the client’s interests. In almost all truck accident cases, a claims adjuster and a collision reconstruction expert will be at the scene within twenty-four hours, protecting the trucking company’s interests. The plaintiff’s counsel must be able to move quickly if there is to be a level playing field with the trucking company and its insurers.

Determining Mechanical Failure

To present a case before a judge and jury, a trial lawyer needs to understand the facts. The trucking company and the insurance carrier have their people out to protect their interests. As such, the plaintiff must present a case demonstrating the vehicle’s inadequacy. To accomplish this, the plaintiff may need to hire experts to inspect the truck and the scene of the accident. Once the plaintiff is armed with information, he or she can state that the truck caused the accident due to mechanical failure.

Items to Look For

The following are common mechanical failures that may cause an accident:

  1. Defective tires
  2. Brake failure
  3. Light outages

If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer that experienced mechanical failure, you need a lawyer who understands the impact of such an accident. Call the law office of Joel Williams, a Cobb County personal injury lawyer.

 

 

Georgia Law Regarding Suing a Truck Operator’s Insurance Company After an Accident

Georgia Law Regarding Suing a Truck Operator’s Insurance Company After an Accident

One morning, a mother drives her children to school in suburban Cobb County. It is a clear fall day in late October. The mother drops the kids off and heads home to do housework. On the way, an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer unexpectedly swerves into her lane and crashes into her car. The mother suffers severe injuries in the crash and needs immediate medical attention. An ambulance arrives at the scene and transfers her to a nearby trauma hospital. The mother suffers spinal injuries and facial fractures, requiring surgery. After four months in the hospital, she is released but still needs physical therapy, pain management, and psychological care.

In addition to tremendous physical and psychological suffering, the mother also has to deal with expensive medical bills. She is unable to care for her children and needs help managing their daily activities. She consults a lawyer, who determines that the driver lives in a low-income area and likely does not have the means to cover the mother’s bills. The trucking company that employed the driver is a small company and probably has similarly limited means. Therefore, the lawyer decides to sue the insurance company that insured the tractor-trailer.

Respondeat Superior

Georgia, as well as many other states, recognizes the legal theory of respondeat superior, which literally means, “let the master answer.”  Under this legal doctrine, an employer can be vicariously liable for the acts of an employee, provided that the employee is operating within the course and scope of his or her employment.  Vicarious liability of an employer permits holding the employer responsible for the negligence of an employee.  In such an instance, the employer would also be responsible for satisfying monetary damages caused by the employee’s negligence.

The legislative intent of respondeat superior is the belief that holding the employer responsible increases the victim’s chances of adequate compensation, because an employer tends to have more financial resources. Because the employer controls the employee, the employer should be responsible for the employee’s actions while working in the course of employment. Under this legal theory, the employee is considered an agent of the employer.

Insurance Company Liability

In addition to holding the trucking company liable for the negligence of the tractor-trailer driver, Georgia law permits someone injured in a trucking accident to directly sue the insurance company. The insurance contract between the trucking company and the insurance company was intended to remunerate those who might be injured in accident with the truck. Trucks, due to their large size, are more likely to cause significant injury when involved in an accident with a member of the public. Therefore, in the example above, the mother would sue the driver, the trucking company, and the insurance company by naming them as defendants in a negligence suit.

If you’ve been injured in a tractor-trailer wreck in Georgia, you need a lawyer who is familiar with Georgia personal injury law. Contact Joel Williams, a Cobb County personal injury attorney.

Truckers Who Drive Too Many Hours Can Be Liable for Negligence

Truckers Who Drive Too Many Hours Can Be Liable for Negligence

Tractor-Trailer Accident Kills Henry County Teen

A local high school student died on Saturday, August 20 when a tractor-trailer accident involving 9 cars occurred on I-75 in Henry County, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Seven other passengers of various cars involved in the accident received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities do not believe that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the multi-car accident. However, the driver of the tractor-trailer, Daniel Crane of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, had exceeded the number of hours the law allowed him to drive at the time of the accident.

Officials Charged Crane with Violating Commercial Vehicle Hours of Service

The Henry Herald reports that the deceased accident victim was Summer Anne Lee, 18,  a student at Locust Grove High School. Crane’s tractor trailer struck Lee’s vehicle from behind sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 am on Saturday morning. The collision pushed Lee’s car into the car in front of her, which led to a pileup that included the five vehicles in front of her. The crash also caused a fire, which first responders were able to extinguish. Local law enforcement officials charged Crane with vehicle manslaughter, following too closely and violating commercial vehicle hours of service.

Georgia’s Hours-of-Service Regulations Hold Truckers Liable for Violations

When a driver causes an accident that results in injuries, the victim can sue that driver for negligence. In a negligence lawsuit, the victim argues that the driver at fault failed to take reasonable care to avoid injuries to others. Usually, this means that they failed to follow the rules of the road.  Commercial vehicle operators have special regulations that govern their business, because their vehicles are much heavier and more dangerous to those around them. One type of special regulation for truck drivers is called an hours-of-service limit. An hours-of-service limit says how many hours at a time a driver can operate a commercial vehicle. The limits vary with the size of the vehicle. For example, if a vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds, then the Georgia Department of Transportation says they can only drive for 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off-duty. If a truck driver violates one of these hours-of-service regulations, they may make them liable for an accident that occurs because of resulting fatigue.

Crane’s Hours-of-Service Violation Could Be Negligence

Could the survivors of Summer Anne Lee sue the truck driver Crane for negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit? They probably could. First of all, there’s plenty of evidence that Crane failed to take reasonable care to prevent injury to Lee. Law enforcement officials said he was following too close, and that alone could make him liable for an accident in which he collided with the car in front of him. On top of that, he was in violation of his hours-of-service limit. If the victim can show that there was a connection between the hours-of-service limit violation and the accident (for example, if Crane was fatigued and this caused the crash), then Crane and his employer would be liable for negligence.

Contact Us for Assistance

If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident, you need help from an attorney. Get in touch with a skilled truck accident attorney at Joel Williams Law in Cobb County to find out how we can be of assistance.