The news in Atlanta today reported a collision in which a 15 passenger hotel airport shuttle van struck the side of a tractor trailer that was attempting a u-turn. As a transportation safety trial lawyer who is a frequent passenger on airport shuttles, it caught my eye.
As more reports have come out, it appears 18 people were injured and at least two are in serious condition.
Intrastate passenger carriers with this size vehicle in Georgia are required to carry bodily injury liability insurance of only $100,000 per person and $500,000 per accident, although interstate passenger carriers are required to have $5,000,000 liability coverage.
News reports indicate the shuttle bus was operated by MTI Limo & Shuttle Services, Inc., an intrastate passenger carrier with five vehicles and 20 drivers. Its liability insurance coverage is not publicly disclosed. It operates from the same address (2581 Sullivan Road, College Park) as MTI Bus Company, Inc., an interstate bus company based in College Park with $5,000,000 liability insurance coverage with Occidental Fire & Casualty.
According to news reports, the shuttle left skid marks 158 feet immediately before the impact. I will leave it to accident reconstruction experts to determine the speed of the bus before it struck the side of the tractor trailer.
Whenever I hear of a tractor trailer attempting a u-turn in the roadway, I suspect a possible violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-121, which prohibits a driver from attempting to proceed in the opposite direction where such a turn could not be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic. Violation of that statute is negligence as a matter of law. Motor carriers are required to exercise care in planning routes and to follow state traffic laws.
If the tractor trailer was an interstate motor carrier it is required to have at least $750,000 liability coverage, and is more likely to have at least $1,000,000 liability coverage. Larger companies often have much higher levels of coverage.
In a collision between a 15 passenger van and a tractor trailer resulting in serious injuries or death, one would need to investigate a broad range of safety issues regarding the operation of both vehicles, including speed of the van, improper u-turn by the tractor trailer, etc.
Ken Shigley is a former president of the State Bar of Georgia, which includes all lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia. His own law practice is specialized in representation of plaintiffs in cases of serious personal injury and wrongful death, especially those occurring in commercial truck and bus accidents.