Have You Been Injured In a Truck Accident? Contact Our Experienced South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyers For a Free Consultation
Truck accidents often leave suffering victims because of the negligence or careless behavior of the truck driver, or because of the person or company responsible for maintenance. Victims of truck accidents, or the surviving family members of those killed in truck accidents, can file a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible for the accident. In South Carolina, the trucking company may be sued if a driver is careless or fails to act with reasonable care when behind the wheel. Trucking companies can also be held responsible for their own negligence, such as the failure to properly maintain their equipment, pushing drivers to break hours-of-service rules, or hiring unsafe drivers. Because of the high risk to those of us in smaller vehicles, truck safety should be a concern for every person on the road, whether in a privately owned vehicle, on a bicycle or motorcycle, or walking on the sidewalk.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact our experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyers today.
Large Truck Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 (the last year for which there are complete data) large trucks were involved in 6.5% of all fatal accidents on South Carolina highways. While this percentage is lower than the 2013 national involvement average of 8.7 percent, it could still stand improvement. A total of 65 people died in South Carolina in large truck accidents in 2013. Nationally, that figure was 3,964.
With the total gross vehicle weight of large combination trucks being capped at 80,000 pounds and the average weight of a passenger vehicle being between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds, it is no wonder that accidents involving trucks tend to be very serious, often leading to fatalities or incapacitating injuries, and require a experienced truck accident lawyer to handle the complexities of a case.
With regard to injuries, in 2013, the NHTSA estimates that 95,000 people were hurt in large-truck accidents. Approximately 72 percent were occupants of other vehicles, and 2 percent were non-occupants of any vehicle.
Hiring an Experienced South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer
Because of these dangers, there are strict licensing standards for commercial drivers, and South Carolina’s legislature has enacted laws to help prevent truck accidents. But despite state laws and federal regulations designed to encourage safety, truck accidents happen every day in South Carolina. Most of these truck accidents are avoidable. Many are caused by the careless or negligent behavior of the truck driver and/or the trucking company. If you have been injured in a tractor trailer or semi truck wreck due to the negligence of someone else, call a qualified Columbia tractor-trailer accident attorney at the Louthian Law Firm for a free consultation.
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Large Truck Crash?
If you are in a wreck with a large truck:
- First, call 911, especially if anyone is injured, so that emergency medical personnel can respond. The most important thing after an accident is to tend to the injured and to save lives.
- Get yourself out of traffic lanes or any other unsafe situation, to prevent further harm.
- Do not leave the crash scene except in cases of injury or other emergency.
- Obtain the truck driver’s name, contact information, his driver’s license number, his truck driver’s license (CDL) number, the company he works for, his license plate number, insurance information, and what type of substance the driver was hauling.
- If other drivers were involved in the crash, obtain their information as well.
- Do not speak with the driver(s) other than to get the essential information listed. Do not discuss the accident or admit fault.
- Take photos of the vehicles and crash area, if possible.
- If there are witnesses, ask them for their contact information.
- Cooperate fully with police and other emergency personnel that respond to the crash. If possible, record names and badge numbers of police and other responders.
After the accident:
- Even if you feel okay, visit a doctor for an assessment as soon as possible after the crash. Some injuries do not appear for at least 24 hours.
- If you have injuries, document them as best you can. Take photos at each stage of treatment.
- File any police reports required by local and state law.
- Keep copies of everything related to the accident, including police reports, correspondence with insurance companies, vehicle damage estimates and repair bills, and medical bills.
- Don’t discuss the accident with anyone except the police, your doctor, and your attorney. Be especially close-mouthed with insurance companies.
Suppose the Trucking Company Calls Me?
If the trucking company representative or any insurance company associated with the trucking company calls you after the crash, be polite but firm. Refuse to answer questions, and refer them to your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, do not tell them that.
Under no circumstances should you provide them with a statement, an official statement, or a recorded statement. Under no circumstances should you say that you accept any settlement. Do not discuss your injuries or give your opinion on any matter.
Your best solution is to engage an experienced truck accident lawyer and to refer the trucking company or their insurance company to your lawyer. Then hang up, saying no more.
Should someone show up at your door, do not talk to them and do not let them in. Refer them to your attorney with no other comment and shut the door.
A Loved One Died in a Truck Accident—What Do I Do Next?
Accidents involving large trucks can be catastrophic, with severe or even fatal injuries. When a truck accident is fatal, surviving family members can bring a wrongful death case to obtain compensation. To do so, the assistance of a competent and compassionate truck accident attorney for such an emotionally-fraught case is essential.
Although financial compensation is a poor substitute for the loved one you are grieving, our justice system has devised compensating survivors for current and future costs as the most reasonable solution. Those who are permitted to recover financial damages in SC wrongful death cases are:
- A surviving spouse and children
- Surviving parents if no spouse or children exist
- Other heirs if no parents, spouse, or children exist.
Compensation that you can seek in a wrongful death case includes:
- Final expenses
- Medical bills related to the final injuries
- Lost wages and associated benefits, including future wages and benefits
- Property damages related to the death
- Other financial losses related to the death
- Loss of the deceased’s care and companionship
- Loss of the deceased’s life experience and judgment
- The mental anguish and suffering felt by surviving family members.
Wrongful death law is complicated in South Carolina, and you have a limited amount of time to file your case. In almost all circumstances, the clock starts running on the day of the accident and ends three years later.
Driver Behaviors than Cause Truck Accidents
Because accidents can be attributed to more than one cause, the question of numbers and percentages assigned to driver behaviors as causes of accidents can be complex. We end up talking statistical terms like relative risk, which are not easy concepts to explain.
Still, it is clear that driver-related factors, when taken as a group, are the leading cause of truck accidents. For 55 percent of the large-truck drivers involved in single-vehicle crashes, and for 27 percent of large-truck drivers involved in multiple-vehicle crashes, driver-related factors were No. 1.
- Speeding, including driving too fast for the weather and road conditions
- Driver distraction or inattention, including the use of cell phones (texting) and other interactive devices with screens
- Over-the-counter or prescription medication
- Illegal drugs
- Following too closely or other illegal driving maneuvers
- Lack of familiarity with the road or route
- Inadequate training or inexperience of the driver.
Another factor which has a bearing on a truck driver’s safety on the road is his or her own health. In January 2014, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported the results of a survey of nearly 1,700 long-haul truck drivers. Of those questioned, obesity and smoking were enormous risk factors, with rates at about twice that of the general population. Seven in ten drivers were considered obese (69 percent, versus 31 percent of the general U.S. population). A little over half of all drivers (51 percent) smoked, versus 19 percent of the general U.S. population. Considering the long hours that truck drivers spend sitting in the driver’s seat, and the fact that truck stops aren’t known for having healthy menu choices, it’s not surprising that we hear about accidents caused by a medical crisis like a heart attack.
Vehicular-Related Reasons for Large Truck Accidents
It’s important to note that the driver is not always at fault, especially if he or she is driving a truck owned by someone else who is responsible for maintenance. Sometimes a truck accident results from equipment failure or the characteristics of the vehicle itself. Brake failure was found by the FMCSA to be the most common vehicle-related cause of accidents involving large trucks. Rollovers may happen due to the truck’s high center of gravity. Trucks have large blind spots, or no-zones, which limit a driver’s view of other vehicles nearby. And the height of the trailer worsens the impact for a smaller vehicle which rear-ends a truck, increasing the risk of under-ride fatalities. The most common equipment or mechanical reasons for large-truck accidents are:
- Brake failure. This is the No. 1 equipment-related cause of large-truck accidents and can cause devastating accidents.
- Tire problems or failure (blowouts).
- Cargo shifting, overloading, or improperly-loaded cargo.
It is essential that large trucks undergo pre- and post-trip inspections. In fact, it’s the law. Before driving a commercial vehicle, the driver is required to check and service the brakes, steering, lighting and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, mirrors, emergency equipment and coupling devices. He or she is also supposed to check the cargo to make sure it’s secured and loaded properly.
In addition, the driver is supposed to review the previous driver’s post-trip vehicle inspection report and sign off on it to ensure that any noted deficiencies were addressed. Every time a truck driver makes a stop, the tires should be checked. And, at the end of each day’s work, a post-trip inspection must be completed.
Common Injuries Resulting from Truck Accidents
When a passenger vehicle or a motorcycle is hit by a large truck, there’s no question that drivers and passengers of those vehicles are more likely to suffer injuries than the person driving the truck. Injuries are often devastating and include, but are not limited to, …
- Neck injuries, from whiplash to broken bones that leave the victim paralyzed
- Spinal cord injuries of multiple types, producing chronic pain and paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries of multiple kinds, necessitating lifelong care
- Other head injuries, such as facial fractures requiring plastic surgery
- Internal organ injuries and other internal damage that could require a transplant
- Loss of limbs or medically-required amputations resulting from the traumatic injuries
- Bone fractures of all types
- Burns that cause severe distress and scarring, necessitating plastic surgery.
Where and When Truck Crashes Are Most Likely to Take Place
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2016 figures show that 51 percent of large truck crashes happen in rural areas and 49 percent occur in urban areas. In earlier years, a higher proportion of crashes were rural. Other results from 2016 truck crash data include the following:
- Crash deaths were less likely to happen on interstates and major arteries in rural areas (62 percent) than in urban areas (77 percent).
- Crash deaths were more likely to happen on collector roads in rural areas (26 percent) than in urban areas (11 percent). Collector roads move traffic from town or city streets to arterial roads.
- Crash deaths in rural areas occurred at intersections 16 percent of the time.
- Crash deaths in urban areas occurred at intersections 33 percent of the time.
- Crash deaths in rural areas happened on roads with 55 mph or greater speed limits 70 percent of the time.
- Crash deaths in urban areas happened on roads with 55 mph or greater speed limits 30 percent of the time.
Large truck wrecks, according to 2012 figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are more likely to take place on certain days and during certain time periods:
- 78 percent of all large truck crashes occur on weekdays.
- 64 percent of all large truck crashes occur during the day (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
- On weekdays, 72 percent of large truck crashes happen during the day.
- On weekends, the situation is reversed. 65 percent of large truck crashes happen at night (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
Types of Commercial Vehicles That Can Cause Serious Damage
When we talk about large truck accidents, we include many types of commercial vehicles. Some examples of large commercial vehicles that can cause serious injuries and deaths in a crash are:
- Tractor-trailers, also called semis, which can weigh 80,000 pounds or more
- Passenger buses, which can weigh up to 44,000 pounds
- Delivery trucks, also sometimes called box trucks, which often weigh 14,000 to 25,000 pounds
- Dump trucks, which can weigh 56,000 pounds or more
- Garbage trucks, which can weigh 51,000 pounds
- Farm equipment and other agricultural vehicles of varying weights.
Contact Our South Carolina Truck Accident Attorneys
Truck accidents can be complex, both because of the large amounts of money that may be involved due to the seriousness of the accident and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified truck accident lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Based in Columbia, the Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in trucking accident lawsuits since 1959. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you deserve to receive the maximum compensation that the law allows. For a free consultation and claim evaluation, contact our Columbia, South Carolina truck accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm by calling us toll free at (803) 454-1200. If you prefer, you can also fill out our convenient online contact form.