Trucks v. Cars, Unevenly Matched
Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are an important part of our economy, both nationally and here in the state of South Carolina. If you eat it, drink it, wear it, drive it or use it in your home or business, it was more than likely transported by a truck. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are more than 10 million trucks on the road, a statistic that probably doesn’t surprise you if you’ve taken a cross-country trip by interstate. In 2011, 273,000 of these large trucks were involved in crashes.
A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds, more than 20 times the weight of a typical passenger car. When truck accidents do happen, the laws of physics almost always put the smaller vehicle on the losing end. In South Carolina we see large trucks hauling textile mill products, lumber, chemicals, minerals and petroleum. An accident with one of these CMVs is bound to result in serious personal injury and property damage.
Strict safety rules are necessary to protect all of the drivers who must share the road – personal vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles, and semis. But some South Carolina truck drivers and trucking companies are more concerned about making money than protecting lives. They sometimes push past the point of fatigue, drive while distracted, speed, cut corners on repairs, set unreasonable deadlines and violate other safety rules. When these sorts of careless acts result in a serious vehicle accident, you can rely on the Columbia truck accident attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm to stand up for your rights.
Contact the Louthian Law Firm for help with a South Carolina truck accident by calling our toll-free number: 1-888-440-3211 or contact us online for a free consultation.
The South Carolina tractor-trailer accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve.
Common Causes of South Carolina Truck Accidents
Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board show that driver error is the leading cause of large truck accidents. Driver-related factors contributed to a full 31 percent of fatal truck accidents. In fact, the agency found that fatigue alone was responsible for up to 40 percent of all truck accidents. That’s why the law strictly regulates how much time a truck driver can spend on the road at once. These hours-of-service (HOS) regulations dictate how long a driver can stay behind the wheel without a break and how many hours they can drive within a given time span. Unfortunately, many truckers choose to drive past the point of fatigue because they are under pressure from clients or their parent companies to keep a tight delivery schedule. Other drivers turn to illegal substances to stay awake during their long hours on the road. Choosing profits over safety, these impaired drivers and their parent companies ignore the law and endanger every American who shares the roads with them.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, several types of truck driver negligence or error play a major role in causing serious tractor-trailer accidents. Some of the main factors in truck accidents include:
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions, which was responsible for 7 percent of large truck accidents.
- Failure of the truck driver to remain in the correct lane, which was a factor in 6 percent of large truck crashes.
- Driver inattention, which played a role in 6 percent of fatal accidents involving large trucks.
Other common causes of truck accidents include:
- Rollovers – Because there is a higher center of gravity on a truck than a passenger vehicle, trucks are more likely to roll over. Tractor-trailers are also subject to jackknifing, where the trailer slides out of alignment with the rig that’s pulling it.
- Brake failure – Even under the best conditions, trucks need more distance to stop. Unbalanced loads, poor maintenance, speeding, mechanical malfunctions and bad weather can all contribute to a truck’s being unable to stop on time. One study found that 46 percent of randomly inspected trucks had to be taken off the road until their brakes could be fixed.
- Blind-spots – Trucks typically have blind spots both at the back and on the sides. These are referred to as no-zones. If a driver fails to carefully monitor the blind spots, accidents can happen when the truck turns or changes lanes.
- Underride accidents – When a car crashes, it may slide underneath a truck. This commonly results in amputation injuries or serious brain injuries and even death.
Legal Liability for a South Carolina Truck Accident
When a truck driver is responsible in some way for a South Carolina truck accident, the law imposes a duty on the driver to pay for the costs associated with injuries and losses of others who are harmed in the accident. The question of whether the truck driver will be liable and made to pay comes down to whether the truck driver was negligent.
If a reasonably prudent driver would have exhibited greater care than the trucker in question did, then the truck driver is generally going to be considered negligent. When negligence causes damages or injuries, the defendant is responsible for paying all costs associated with medical treatment, lost income, pain and suffering and other losses.
A negligent truck driver who is found liable might not have enough money or insurance coverage to provide full and fair compensation to the victim of a South Carolina 18-wheeler accident. In many cases, it is advisable to sue the trucking company or the truck driver’s employer. This is possible if the trucking company was negligent in some way, such as by failing to enforce regulations on hours driven or failing to perform proper truck maintenance.
It is also possible to sue a trucking company/employer on the basis of the truck driver’s negligence. As an employee, a truck driver is considered to be an agent of the company. The company is liable for anything its agent does on its behalf. This means when a trucker is driving a truck on behalf of the company, it is as if the employer is driving the truck itself.
Some truck accidents involve the negligence of other parties, such as the mechanic or the company responsible for maintaining and repairing the tractor-trailer. Other cases might involve negligence on the part of the shipping company that owned the load. If the truck or its equipment was defectively designed or manufactured, it might be possible to bring a products liability lawsuit. There is also the potential for a lawsuit against a government agency if defective road design or maintenance was a factor.
Get Help From Our South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyers
Truck accidents are extremely complicated both because of the large amounts of money often involved and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified South Carolina vehicle accident lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a South Carolina truck accident, contact the Louthian Law Firm today. We have been seeking truth and securing justice for our clients since 1959. Put our 80 years of experience to work for you and your family by calling 1-888-440-3211. The initial consultation is always free.