When is a vehicle considered a commercial vehicle? It is important for every truck accident attorney to know the difference between normal vehicles and commercial vehicles. But, it is also important to know when a vehicle could be a non-traditional commercial vehicle. At first glance, a car or truck may not appear to be commercial. But, your attorney needs to look deeper to see if it may still be a commercial vehicle. Meaning, the vehicle may not be not an 18-wheeler, but it still could be subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) due to the weight limits. A commercial vehicle is not always what it appears to be Would you ever think that a normal pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle? Probably not. Under the federal regulations, a pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle even though it is not an 18-wheeler or big-rig truck. If a lawyer is handling a severe injury or wrongful death case, and a pickup truck is involved, the lawyer might be leaving a lot of compensation on the table by failing to realize that a commercial vehicle is involved. Often, a lawyer who does not look at the potential for a commercial vehicle could be leaving hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on the table. This is a huge mistake that, unfortunately, happens when inexperienced lawyers try to take on a truck accident case. What is a commercial vehicle? Most of us have an idea of what a “commercial vehicle” is. We think of large box trucks, buses, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and tanker trucks. All of these commercial trucks are regulated and subject to the FMCSR. However, many attorneys who take on truck accident cases make a mistake by thinking these are the ONLY commercial trucks. This is a misunderstanding by many lawyers who handle truck cases, and it can lead to lower recovery for the client. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a commercial vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle that: “ . . . has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 383.5(1)) So, what does this mean? It means that a commercial vehicle is NOT defined by the actual weight. Instead, it is defined by the weight rating. Lawyers need to be careful not to fall into the trap of missing out on commercial vehicle status by failing to understand the difference between actual weight and gross weight rating. Can Ordinary Vehicles Qualify? The following are other ways that a normal vehicles might actually be classified as a commercial vehicle: Transporting passengers If a vehicle is designed to transport passengers, your truck accident attorney should focus on the number of people the vehicle is designed to transport. If that number is 16 or more passengers, then the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(3)). Gross Vehicle Weight Rating If the vehicle has a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, then it is a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(2)). Transporting Hazardous Materials Also, vehicles that are used to transport hazardous materials as defined in the FMCSRs are considered commercial. Gross vehicle weight rating issues for attorneys to remember Truck accident attorneys need to remember that the regulations provide another definition for a commercial motor vehicle. In 49 CFR § 390.5, a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle that “has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 390.5(1)). Further, under 49 CFR § 390.5(2), attorneys can get an ordinary vehicle into the “commercial vehicle” category if the vehicle “is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.” It is important to note the distinction between § 383.5(3) and § 390.5(2). The difference between 16 passengers and 8 passengers is compensation. Meaning, when the vehicle is being used to transport more than 8 people–for compensation–then we are in commercial territory. Practice Pointer for Truck Accident Lawyers I encourage every single truck accident lawyer to investigate the truck weight limits and gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicles involved in the case. If the vehicle in your case is used for business, and it weighs more than 10,001 pounds, or 26,001 pounds–then a truck accident lawyer should be immediately thinking that you have a semi-truck or a motorcoach. Also, always be on the lookout for a trailer. If a trailer is being towed by a vehicle, then you should investigate whether the vehicle and trailer combination move the overall auto or truck into the commercial classification. What I do on every accident case. As a truck accident lawyer, I always keep the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations close by at all times. I can not tell you how many times I have seen other lawyers fail to realize that they were dealing with a commercial vehicle. And this leads to lower compensation for the client (and also possibly legal malpractice). A deep knowledge of the regulations is a requirement for any lawyer who is taking on truck accident cases. So, whenever I start working on a new case, the first thing I do is determine whether there are any commercial vehicles present in the case. I do a thorough investigation in the beginning to see if I can move any of the autos involved into the “commercial vehicle” territory. This can turn a case from a minimum policy limits case of $25,000 to one with a minimum policy limit of $750,000 (or more). But, what really matters here is safety. And the regulations are in place to keep the roads safe by requiring these big companies to be...Read More
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Mark has dedicated his career to radically changing the personal injury law firm. He realized that the legal world has become highly specialized. The legal expertise required for a slip-and-fall case is very different than what is needed for a dog bite case, and an auto accident is very different from a medical malpractice case. What he found was that many law firms are still stuck in the “old days” of trying to cover all different practice areas, each of which can take an entire career to master. Therefore, he built Georgia Auto Law to focus all of his expertise on car, motorcycle, and truck accidents so that his clients have a truly specialized team handling their case.
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The legal system is never static and the laws are always changing. Mark and his incredible team understand this and it’s why he’s able to be one-step ahead of the insurance companies. Other attorneys will treat your case the way they have been for the past 20 years and you will likely get a settlement...but if you’re looking for maximum compensation you need to call Georgia Auto Law.-Richard H.
2 years ago I was involved in a serious car accident that nearly disabled me for life. The team at Georgia Auto Law fought hard to ensure I received every dime of compensation I deserved. I’m very thankful that I decided to call Georgia Auto Law instead of taking the insurance company’s original offer.- David S.
A few months ago I hurt my neck in a car accident. My company refused to pay for any of my medical treatment or pay me for my time that I had missed at work. When I hired Georgia Auto Law, Mark quickly got me compensation and then went after the insurance company of the guy who hit me. When the case was done, my medical treatment was completely paid for and I had a nice chunk of money in the bank.- Antonio N.
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When you have been injured in an auto accident in Georgia, there is a lot to learn.
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Did you know that in 2013, Georgia was home to the deadliest interstate in the nation? That’s right. Back then, there were 26 fatal accidents on the I-285 interstate that resulted in 29 deaths. This has led to the state enacting stricter laws, including the “Hands-Free Georgia Act”. With these more stringent laws, the Peach State’s road fatality trend has gone down by over 400%. In 2019, there were 348 road fatalities in GA, compared to the total of 1,514 in 2018. Unfortunately, many truck-related accidents still occur on Georgia’s roadways. If you’ve been in one, it’s best to learn about the different types of evidence you can use against the truck driver. This way, you can start collecting the proof you need to file a personal injury lawsuit. Police Report One of the first steps to take right after getting involved in an accident with a truck is to call the police. In fact, in cases wherein there’s at least $500 worth of damage, reporting is a legal requirement. Many car-truck accidents reach and even go way beyond this threshold. Even if the damage isn’t obvious, you should still get in touch with the police ASAP. This way, you can get a copy of the accident report from them. This report will contain details of the accident that can prove who’s at fault for the car-truck accident. Electronic Logging Device (ELD) of the Truck Exhaustion is one of the most common reasons for truck accidents in Georgia. In fact, this is true for the rest of the country, with driver fatigue causing 20% of all crashes in the US. This is why in Georgia, truck drivers can only operate a vehicle for up to 11 hours. Moreover, they can only drive up to 11 hours after being off-duty and having rested for 10 straight hours. The law also requires all drivers to go off duty after 14 hours of being on duty. If you’ve been in an accident with a truck, you need to get access to the driver’s hours-of-service. You can find this on either the driver’s logbook or their truck’s electronic logging device (ELD). The Georgia Law requires the use of ELDs for all CDL trucks. These include both interstate and intrastate commercial trucks. ELDs contain detailed reports of a driver’s hours-of-service. These devices also show the operator’s rest periods. With these logs, you can prove that a truck driver has gone beyond the allowed hours of service. Maintenance and Inspection Reports Federal and state laws require all CDL trucks to undergo inspection and maintenance. Truck drivers need to perform many of these on a daily basis, such as pre- and post-trip inspections. CDL truck drivers also need to prepare a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) at the end of each day. Motor carriers also need to keep these records for all their trucks for 30 consecutive days. These reports should provide detailed information on the completed inspections and maintenance. They should also contain details about pending maintenance and repair work. That said, these records are crucial types of evidence in case of trucking accidents. They can reveal discrepancies or fraudulent reports on truck inspections, maintenance, and repairs. They can also prove that the truck has failed to meet the required inspections or repairs. The Truck Driver’s Most Recent Medical Certificate In Georgia, drivers of trucks that weigh 10,001 pounds or more need to carry a medical certificate. They then need to renew this certification after 24 months. This Department of Transportation (DOT) health certificate proves a driver’s medical qualifications. This means that the driver is fit and healthy to operate such a large vehicle. Unfortunately, many truck drivers violate this law through fraud. An example is the indictment case against a medical examiner in Georgia back in 2017. This resulted in over 600 truck drivers having the need for renewed certification. Aside from fraud, there are also some truck drivers who may not even have a valid medical certificate. Some self-certified truckers may also drive in a category they aren’t certified for. All these make the DOT certificate a piece of important evidence in truck accidents. It’s possible that the truck driver who you got into a crash with has no valid certificate. The Truck Operator’s Alcohol and Drug Test Results In 2016, alcohol-related crashes caused 368 deaths in Georgia. This represents one in four cases of all traffic fatalities in the state that year. Impaired driving, whether due to alcohol or drugs, raises the odds of a crash being fatal by six times. Even if the crash doesn’t result in death, injuries caused by impaired driving are more severe. Especially if the impaired driver is operating a truck that weighs a whopping 10,001 pounds or more. As such, truck drivers need to submit to drug and alcohol tests after getting involved in an accident. Again, this is in accordance with federal and state laws. Employers must also obtain a negative drug test result before hiring CDL drivers. Positive alcohol and drug test results will make for a solid case against the truck driver. This makes such documents an extremely important part of your evidence collection. The Truck’s Dashboard Camera Recordings Truck insurance premiums have gone up 12% in 2018 from the year before. This has led to many trucking companies turning to technology to reduce their costs. One way they’re blunting their insurance costs is through installing dashboard cameras. The videos these cameras record allow them to check on their drivers’ performance. Victims of trucking accidents can also take advantage of these recordings as evidence. For instance, a video can show if the driver was using a mobile phone while operating the truck. A recording can also give hints about impaired or drowsy driving. Let a Lawyer Gather These Different Types of Evidence for You As you can see, there are many different types of evidence you can use in a trucking accident case in Georgia. However, the only evidence that you can get yourself is the...Read More
Accidents involving large trucks can be devastating. The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses reached 4,889 in 2017. Injury crashes for the same year numbered 116,000. If you’re involved in a semi truck accident, you may wonder if you need to hire a lawyer. The trucking company’s insurance company will likely make you a settlement offer, so why not just take it? Hiring a truck accident attorney after a truck accident could help you get more out of your settlement. Insurance companies want to close the case quickly and for as little money as possible. An attorney can help you ensure the settlement is fair. Hiring an attorney doesn’t mean you’ll have to go to court. Attorneys can help resolve the situation before it gets to that. Check out these five reasons you should hire a truck accident attorney. 1. You Have an Expert on Your Side The laws governing personal injury claims and truck accidents vary from one state to the next. Each state has its own statute of limitations for filing claims. In Georgia, the time limit is 2 years. The processes can also vary significantly. When your accident involves a commercial truck, the laws become more complex. Truck drivers and trucking companies have to follow different laws and guidelines. It’s also complicated to determine who’s at fault. Sometimes one person, such as the truck driver, holds liability for your injuries. Other times it could be multiple defendants. It could be the company that employs the driver, leases the truck, loads the truck, or manufactures the truck. Most people who are injured in truck accidents don’t have the time to research those laws. Even if they do, they may not fully understand what the laws are saying. After all, legal jargon isn’t the easiest to decipher if you don’t have a background in law. The last thing you want to do after you’ve been in a serious accident is wade through all of the legal issues or deal with an insurance company. You need to focus on your recovery. Worrying about deadlines, proper paperwork, and negotiations will only add to your stress and possibly slow down your recovery. When you hire a lawyer, you get years of experience and knowledge of truck accident claims. Your attorney understands the applicable laws and how they relate to your situation. You also get personalized recommendations for how to proceed. Your lawyer can explain your options and make suggestions based on the specifics of your situation. 2. Lawyers Investigate Accidents After an accident with a commercial vehicle, the last thing you’re prepared to do is to investigate the accident. You may have serious injuries that need immediate medical attention. You may be shaken up emotionally from the accident. Plus, you’re not an expert at investigating accident scenes and documentation. You won’t know what to look for in your research, and you may miss some major evidence that proves the other party is responsible for the accident. When you hire a truck accident attorney, you get that investigative help. Your lawyer can tell you what type of evidence to keep and what type of information can be helpful in the investigation. An accident involving a commercial vehicle means there’s a black box involved. The black box is in the truck and records information about the truck’s actions leading up to the accident. Your attorney can ensure the information on the black box is preserved, so you have that evidence. 3. You Have Legal Support in Negotiations and Trials Trucking companies come to the table with a team of lawyers who are experts in defending them, even when they’re to blame. The average person isn’t equipped to go up against that kind of legal defense. Experienced truck accident lawyers know the strategies those defense attorneys will use. They know how to negotiate with companies successfully to get you the compensation for your injuries you deserve. Your attorney can speak to the trucking company’s insurance adjuster on your behalf or guide you on what to say and what not to say. 4. Attorneys Can Maximize Compensation The insurance adjuster wants you to accept an offer as quickly as possible. The offer may sound like a lot of money, but it’s most likely much lower than you deserve. Accident attorneys know how to calculate a fair amount of financial compensation based on your injuries. Initial medical bills are only part of the equation. You may have ongoing medical needs after the accident. Your attorney can help estimate the cost of those medical expenses. You might miss time from work, which could entitle you to compensation for lost wages. You could also get compensation for non-monetary losses, including pain and suffering as a result of the accident. Attorneys have the experience to calculate fair amounts for the various losses you suffered. That number will likely be higher than what the insurance company offers you. If you sign an agreement with the insurance company, you’re usually signing away your legal rights to pursue further compensation. That’s why it’s important to contact an attorney right away before you talk to the insurance company or sign any paperwork. 5. It Helps Keep Things Organized Your attorney takes over all aspects of handling the case with the insurance company and other responsible parties. You don’t have to keep track of court dates, filing deadlines, and other details. Your attorney handles drafting any documents that are necessary for your case. They keep records of the documents and legal activities related to the case. Lawyers also coordinate communication with the various involved parties. This is especially helpful if the case involves multiple negligent parties. It’s much easier to let your attorney coordinate those different parties than handling it yourself. Basically, using an attorney makes the legal process much easier on you. The workload shifts from you to your lawyer, so you can focus on your recovery. Hire a Lawyer Soon After a truck accident, you have a lot on your...Read More