Accidents involving tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles are happening all too often. Recently, a Georgia truck driver was charged in a crash that killed one girl and injured seven others in Ohio. Just in the last few months, a dump truck crashed into another truck driver, killing him, in Lithonia, a tractor-trailer killed five people on I-16 near Savannah, and two tractor trailers collided near Villa Rica.
If you are involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, you are much more likely to be severely injured, due to the truck’s size, blind spots, and inability to stop quickly. Unfortunately, in Georgia, truck and tractor-trailer accident lawsuits can become complicated due to the federal and state laws about where the lawsuit can be filed.
Georgia courts are only authorized to hear a case in which they have jurisdiction over the parties to the lawsuit. If a court has jurisdiction to hear a personal injury case, it means they have the power to determine who was at fault and compensate the injured party.
Georgia courts have jurisdiction over Georgia citizens. In normal personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents, you can file a lawsuit in Georgia if the accident occurred in Georgia. Also, if you and your driver both live in Georgia you have to file your personal injury lawsuit here in Georgia, regardless of where the accident occurred.
In cases involving accidents with commercial trucks, the driver is often a citizen of another state. However, if the accident occurs in Georgia, the truck driver impliedly consented to the jurisdiction of Georgia courts by driving on the roads here. Therefore, if your accident occurred on the road in Georgia, the court can hear the case between you and the truck driver who hit you.
Trucking businesses are many times headquartered or incorporated outside of Georgia. If your accident is outside the state of Georgia, the court must consider other factors to determine whether they have jurisdiction over a non-resident trucking business or driver. Because commercial truck drivers are often driving through several states, the court will look at the business’s presence in Georgia to determine whether it has jurisdiction over them.
The court has to find enough of a connection between the trucking business and the state of Georgia to have jurisdiction over them. Courts have found this connection when the trucking business has its headquarters or principle place of business in Georgia. Courts have also found this connection where the trucking business has “minimum contacts” with Georgia, such as having a branch or branches within the state or even if the business advertises here.
If Georgia courts have jurisdiction over your claim with a non-resident truck driver, you then have to look at where to file suit within the state of Georgia. This is called finding the proper “venue.” Venue is the legally proper place where an injured party can file his or her lawsuit. Those injured in trucking accident can either file their lawsuit in the county where the crash occurred or the county where the injured motorist seeking compensation resides.
However, if the trucking company is non-resident, or citizen of another state, they may be able to remove the same lawsuit you filed to federal court. In federal court, juries are smaller and usually do not reside within the injured person’s community. Unfortunately, this could mean the jury is less willing to grant the damage award that a jury from your community would.
As you can see, receiving compensation for your injuries resulting from a truck or tractor-trailer accident can be complicated. There are a lot of legal and procedural factors that do not have to be considered in a typical car accident. If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you need an attorney that can guide you through all of the steps to ensure recovery and figure out the best venue to file your claim. Mike Rafi has represented not only people who were injured in commercial vehicle accidents, but also defended companies in commercial vehicle cases. Contact us and we will use his experience to your advantage.