Columbia, SC Truck Accident Attorneys
Being injured in a truck accident can be life-altering. If you were seriously hurt, you might be unable to go to work and support yourself and your family. While insurance companies might be able to provide some relief, the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer may be necessary to help you get the compensation you need.
After a truck crash, you could be entitled to compensation for a wide range of injuries. While insurance might pay some of these damages in full, they may try to avoid paying what you deserve for pain and suffering and other difficult-to-prove damages. Even worse, trucking companies often employ strong legal teams to help avoid liability and expensive settlements.
If you were hurt in a truck accident, call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today. Our Columbia, SC truck accident attorneys work with victims to get them the compensation they need. For help seeking damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, call us today at (803) 451-4000.
Why Do So Many Truck Accidents Occur in South Carolina?
There are many reasons why truck accidents happen in South Carolina. While many accidents come from truck driver errors, others come from equipment failures. Our Columbia, SC truck accident lawyers have experience handling a wide variety of accidents and are prepared to help you in your case.
Driver fatigue is unfortunately common in the truck driving industry. Truckers are under a lot of pressure to meet shipping demands, which often means driving for long periods without sleep. Drivers sometimes fall asleep at the wheel and hit other vehicles.
Intoxicated truck drivers are also a major concern in the trucking industry. Trucks are extremely large vehicles capable of doing immense damage if something goes wrong. An intoxicated truck driver could easily lose control of the truck and cause a major accident.
Equipment failures are another common source of truck accidents. For example, if the brakes on a truck give out, the driver cannot stop, and they might slam into other cars. Alternatively, if the trailer couplings fail, the trailer could become loose from the truck and topple over. Poorly fastened cargo restraints might also lead to toppling cargo.
When to Call a Truck Accident Lawyer After an Accident
If you were hurt in a truck accident, you should consider speaking to an injury lawyer as soon as you can. The aftermath of a trucking accident can matter a lot, and your main focus should be your health and your recovery. However, there may be legal issues to deal with, evidence to collect, police reports to get copies of, and other happenings that your lawyer can deal with immediately.
If you are well enough to call a lawyer or have a loved one call a lawyer for you, you can begin your case right away. If you will be laid up in a hospital for weeks before you get a chance to speak with insurance or get a copy of the police report, evidence like tire tracks or even camera footage of the crash might be lost or deleted. A Columbia, SC truck accident attorney on your team can help gather info and begin your case immediately.
Talking to an attorney as early as you can also helps set your case up for a quicker resolution. Lawsuits and insurance claims can take months or even years in some complex cases. If you were injured and are now facing expensive medical bills and time away from work, you will need compensation as soon as you can get it. While you do have 3 years to get your case filed, acting sooner can help you get damages sooner and resume your life.
What Kind of Compensation is Available After a Trucking Accident in Columbia, SC?
There may be various forms of compensation in a truck accident lawsuit. Compensatory damages cover expenses incurred by the plaintiff and are designed to restore the plaintiff to their position before the crash. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant. Our Columbia, SC truck accident lawyers can help you assess the damages in your case.
Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those with explicit prices attached, such as medical bills or the cost to replace your damaged vehicle after a truck accident. Non-economic damages are more subjective and do not come with a predetermined value. Pain and suffering are common non-economic damages, and their value is typically based on how they have impacted your daily life.
Punitive damages are available in South Carolina but are not necessarily available in every case. According to South Carolina Code § 15-32-520(d), a plaintiff may only receive punitive damages if they prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless.
Whom Do You Sue in a Columbia, SC 18-Wheeler Accident?
If you or a loved one was hit by a truck driver, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against parties other than the driver. While the driver is certainly going to be a part of your lawsuit, you might also be able to sue the trucking company.
Truckers often work as employees of trucking companies. When employees injure people while working, their victims can often sue the employer for damages. Under a legal principle called respondeat superior, these cases can be filed even if the trucking company did not do anything else wrong.
If the trucking company made its own mistakes to contribute to the accident, they can also be held liable for those issues. Our Columbia trucking accident attorneys can help you file claims against a trucking company for negligent maintenance, negligent retention of a dangerous driver, and other mistakes.
If the truck driver is an independent truck driver, you can still sue them for damages. Truckers are required to carry insurance, which means that there is some pool of money available to pay for the injuries they caused you. This is true even without a big trucking company in the picture.
Would You File a Claim Against the Company or the Driver?
When filing a claim for a truck accident, you can name the truck driver involved in your accident as a defendant. You can also name the truck company that employed the driver as a defendant. Holding a truck company liable for an accident is different than holding a trucker liable, and our Columbia, SC truck accident attorneys can help you.
Holding the Truck Driver Negligently Liable
When filing a claim against the truck driver, you typically must prove that they acted negligently. Proving negligence requires establishing four critical elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. All four elements must be sufficiently established for the trucker to be held liable.
Duty refers to the legal duty of care the defendant owed the plaintiff. In a truck accident case, the trucker’s legal duty is their obligation to drive in a reasonably prudent and safe manner under the road conditions at that time. Exactly what a trucker’s duty looks like can change based on driving conditions, including weather, visibility, and traffic.
A breach is the trucker’s violation of their duty. In a truck accident case, the breach might be unsafe or unreasonable actions the trucker takes. For example, speeding on wet roads during a storm would be a breach of the trucker’s duty. Various traffic violations, like running stop signs, red lights, or failing to signal, may be used to demonstrate a breach.
It is not enough to prove that the defendant breached their duty. You must also show that the breach is the direct cause of the accident. If the trucker changed lanes suddenly without signaling, you must prove that the breach caused the accident and not something else. Finally, you have to show your damages are real. Hypothetical damages or “what if” scenarios are not enough.
Intentional Conduct of the Truck Driver
You can also hold the driver liable for intentionally causing the accident. Road rage is not unusual, and it can be very dangerous. If the trucker intentionally hit your vehicle, you must prove their intention to cause harm. The trucker might also face criminal charges for assault and battery or worse.
If the trucker is criminally charged, your claims might have to wait until any criminal hearings are completed. While you wait, our Columbia, SC truck accident lawyers can help you craft an effective legal strategy so you can get compensation for your damages. If the trucker is found guilty or pleads guilty, you can use that against them in your civil hearing.
Trucks Company’s Vicarious Liability
In many cases, you can also hold the company that hired the truck driver liable for the accident. An employer might be liable for any negligence committed within the trucker’s scope of employment. For actions outside the scope of the employment, an employer might be liable if they negligently entrusted the trucker to do their job safely.
The legal doctrine of respondeat superior holds that employers may be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees. In South Carolina, this doctrine does not typically cover criminal acts, as criminal acts tend to be outside the scope of employment.
The employee must have acted within the scope of their employment when the negligence occurred. In a truck accident case, this means that the trucker’s negligence must have happened while they were doing their job. However, it might not be enough to show that the negligence occurred while the trucker was working. According to Wade v. Berkeley County, a 1998 South Carolina case, courts can use a motive or purpose test. If the motive or purpose behind the trucker’s actions was for their job, their employer might be vicariously liable.
Truck Company and Negligent Hiring
Negligent hiring is another legal doctrine that may allow you to hold a truck company liable for the negligence of their truck drivers. The doctrine of respondeat superior may only cover negligent behavior that furthers the trucker’s job. Actions taken for independent purposes, usually intentional or criminal actions, may instead be covered by the theory of negligent hiring.
The elements of negligent hiring or entrustment, specifically in South Carolina truck accident cases, have been enumerated in the 1986 case of Jackson v. Price. The truck company must have known that the driver was addicted to controlled substances or alcohol to be liable for negligent hiring. The truck company must have also known that the driver was likely to drive while intoxicated. Finally, you must show that the truck company entrusted the driver to drive their vehicle.
Essentially, if the truck company knew or should have known that the truck driver was a gander behind the wheel, they may be liable for your accident even if the driver’s actions were not within the scope of their job duties.
How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Truck Accident in Columbia, SC?
As mentioned, victims of trucking accidents have 3 years from the date of the accident to sue for damages. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530, all victims of injuries have up to 3 years to file their case in court. If you were under 18 when the injury happened, that 3-year clock does not begin running until you turn 18 under § 15-3-370.
This law is called a “statute of limitations.” These laws commonly restrict how long you have to file an injury claim because cases filed years after they occur tend to be less viable. If evidence is lost or destroyed, if people forget what happened, or if the defendant disappears, it might be harder to get compensation.
For the same reasons, however, you should consider filing your tractor-trailer accident case well before the 3-year deadline is up. If you can file your case sooner, you can make sure that witnesses have the events fresh in their minds and that evidence has not been lost or destroyed over the years. You can also get your case to end sooner and get damages faster.
This statute of limitations requires that your case be filed within 3 years – not that the case be over within 3 years. If your case is filed on time, but it takes longer than 3 years to finish the court case, that is okay. However, if you have to go back and add additional parties to the case or re-file the case in a different court, it may be too late if you waited more than 3 years. Talk to a Columbia trucking accident lawyer for help filing your case on time and against the right parties.
Call Our Columbia Trucking Accident Injury Lawyers Today
After an accident involving an 18-wheeler or other commercial truck, call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. Our Columbia, SC truck accident injury attorneys can help you and your family get the compensation you need. For a free case consultation, call (803) 451-4000.