How Are Punitive Damages Affected If I’m Injured By a Truck Driver in Violation of Hours of Service?
Truck accidents are common in Georgia and especially in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. Hours-of-service violations are their most common causes. What few victims know is that, with the help of an experienced trucking accident attorney on their side, they should be able to obtain not only compensation for their losses and suffering but also punitive damages.
Indeed, GA Code § 51-12-5 (2017) stipulates that the jury has the right to award additional damages in tort actions with aggravating circumstances, in order to deter the defendant from violating the law again or to compensate for the plaintiff’s wounded feelings.
Whether a trucking accident victim succeeds to obtain punitive damages or not will depend on the circumstances of their accident and, most of all, on their ability to prove that the truck driver consistently and repeatedly violated the rules imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Failure to obey service-hours-rules is a frequent violation, one that can determine whether or not an accident victim receives punitive damages.
If the truck driver violated other rules as well, the violation of the service-hour rules could represent additional evidence that they represent a threat to the safety of other traffic participants, and an instrument for an experienced trucking accident attorney to obtain higher punitive damages for their clients.
In order to prove that a driver was in violation of service-hours rules, an accident victim will need a thorough knowledge of the relevant FMCSA rules and the experience and skills of an Atlanta trucking accident attorney.
FMSCA Hours-of-Service Rules and Their Influence on Punitive Damages for Trucking Accidents in Atlanta GA
According to FMSCA rules, truck drivers should:
- Drive for maximum 11 hours after resting for minimum 10 consecutive hours off-duty when they carry cargo, and for maximum 10 hours after 8 consecutive rest hours when carrying passengers
- Never drive beyond 14 consecutive hours (including off-duty time) following 10 consecutive hours of off-duty rest when carrying cargo and 15 hours after 8 consecutive rest hours when carrying passengers (without counting off-duty time)
- Drive only within 8 hours from their last sleeper berth or off-duty period of minimum 30 minutes when carrying cargo, and no more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days when carrying passengers.
In order to obtain punitive damages, a trucking accident victim would have to prove that the driver responsible for their injuries violated these rules repeatedly and consistently. Thus, the fact that a driver exceeded the allowed time behind the wheel with half an hour may not matter too much, but several extra hours spent behind the wheel should weigh heavily in any case.
The Importance of Working with an Experienced Trucking Accident Attorney in Atlanta, GA
Service-hours violations are quite difficult to prove, so victims hoping to use them as grounds to seek punitive damages should consider enlisting the help of a trucking accident attorney. The latter may conduct their own investigations in order to determine what rules the truck driver violated and against whom they should file the claim.
Depending on the case details and the available evidence, it may be better to file the claim against the trucking company, and not against the driver. Truck drivers usually have to follow strict pick-up and delivery schedules imposed by their employer and, sometimes, the fault of the company is easier to prove than the fault of the driver alone.
However, this is for an experienced trucking accident lawyer to decide upon reviewing the case. Those who think they can save money with self-representation should reconsider. On one hand, attorneys usually obtain higher compensations than accident victims representing themselves. On the other hand, by taking over all the formalities and hassles of the legal process, the lawyer saves their client valuable time and effort.
Increase Your Chances of Obtaining Punitive Damages by Working with an Atlanta Trucking Accident Attorney
If you were injured in a trucking accident in Atlanta, an experienced lawyer from John B. Jackson & Associates can help you prove that the truck driver was in violation of FMSCA service-hours rules. They will analyze your case and advise you on whether to go against the driver themselves or sue the trucking company, and they will help you gather all the evidence you need in order to ensure a favorable verdict. Keep in mind that time is precious when it comes to trucking accident compensation claims, and waiting for too long could make your case more difficult to prove. Start fighting for your rights now by contacting the Law Office of John B. Jackson today!