Even though truckers are professional drivers, they are still human, and capable of making mistakes. When these mistakes occur, they can cause serious accidents that can leave you with substantial physical and financial harm. Fortunately, you may be able to file a lawsuit that will help you recover for those harms.
To win your lawsuit, you will have to show that some party caused the accident that led to your injuries – perhaps the trucker, or maybe their employer or a third party. Truck drivers might speed, get distracted, fall asleep at the wheel, or even drive under the influence. Trucking companies might fail to provide adequate training to their drivers or overschedule them, causing fatigue.
Getting started with this process may seem intimidating, but the seasoned South Carolina truck accident attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers can help, starting with a free initial case assessment to get you started. Learn more by calling our offices at (803) 451-4000.
South Carolina is among the most dangerous states for motorists. The state consistently ranks in the top five worst in roadway safety according to Wall Street 24/7’s annual list. Of all of the accidents that occur across the state, 60% occur in rural areas. Unfortunately, this number grows even higher when only considering accidents involving trucks.
According to the most recent edition of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s (SCDPS) Traffic Collision Fact Book, Greenville County had the highest number of total traffic collisions and fatalities, while Charleston county had the highest rate of injury in collisions.
It can also be helpful to note what roadways account for the largest number of truck accidents, particularly in South Carolina. This is because two roadways, in particular, stand out as the most dangerous: I-26 and SC-35.
I-26 hosts the most accidents, most injuries from accidents, and the second-highest fatality rate from accidents almost every year. I-26 is so hazardous for motorists that it found its way onto Trucking Industry’s list of 10 most dangerous roads for truckers. The list highlights I-26’s long stretches without guardrails, as well as the many steep ditches and inclines.
SC-35 was also featured on its own notorious national list. Zonar, a smart fleet management technology company, released its list of the 10 most dangerous roadways for trucking accidents across the country and named SC-35 among them. The company used data gathered from the U.S. Department of Transportation in compiling its list.
Trucking accidents happen every day in South Carolina. Whether you are on a highway, driving through the country, or downtown in traffic, any of the below instances of trucker negligence may cause an accident that leaves you injured.
Trucks, particularly semis, are substantially heavier than other vehicles on the road and require much more time and roadway to come to a complete stop. Truckers are responsible for keeping that in mind on the road so that they avoid situations where they cannot stop in time to prevent an accident.
Speeding can cause the same dangers as tailgating, for the same reasons. Trucks that are moving at a higher speed will take even more time than usual to slow down and may not be agile enough to avoid an upcoming hazardous condition. Truckers may be more likely to speed if they might earn additional compensation or meet aggressive deadlines set by employers.
Driving under the influence is a major problem in the trucking industry. Though drunk driving is dangerous for any driver, commercial vehicles like trucks are larger, heavier, and are more likely to cause serious or fatal injuries in the case of an accident.
Truckers operate for long and irregular hours, sometimes deep into the night. If a truck driver gets distracted or falls asleep for even a second, they could veer out of their lane. Once you lose control of a truck, it is much more difficult to regain that control than it might be in a passenger vehicle.
While the truck driver might have caused your accident, they may not be the party that was actually responsible for your damages. Each trucking accident injury case is different, and we recommend that you speak with one of our South Carolina truck accident attorneys to assess who is liable in your case.
The first step that you will have to take to find out who is liable is to determine whether the truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor. An independent contractor is someone who is technically self-employed, even though they do work for another person or entity and get paid by them. Some key characteristics of an independent contractor include the ability to structure the time, place, and manner of their work, which often allows the contractor to do similar work (i.e., drive a truck) for other clients. An independent contractor will typically file a 1099 with the IRS for their taxes, as opposed to a W-2.
If the truck driver who caused your accident was a traditional employee of a trucking company, you generally will be able to name the trucking company in your lawsuit. This can be beneficial for victims who suffer serious damages that the trucker’s commercial auto insurance might not fully cover. If the truck driver was an independent contractor, however, you may only be able to name the truck driver in your suit.
There are several other considerations that may make a trucking company liable for your damages. Trucking companies are responsible for overseeing their drivers’ hiring, training, and work schedules. If the company hires a driver with a poor record or fails to provide adequate safety and operational training to their driver, you may be able to show that the company’s failures contributed to your accident. Trucking companies may pack a driver’s schedule in order to meet deadlines, forcing them to work on little to no sleep. If the trucking company owns the vehicle that the driver uses, the company may also be responsible for inspections and maintenance for the vehicle to cure any problems that might lead to a dangerous malfunction on the road.
Many truck drivers own their own vehicles. A number of entities, such as the truck manufacturer and the manufacturers of individual parts, must produce safe vehicles, and they should institute recalls if they find a defect. If a particular defect was responsible for causing your accident, you may be able to name one or more of these manufacturers in your suit. Our experienced South Carolina truck accident attorneys will help you with identifying defendants in third-party liability cases.
Sometimes, the best way to tell whether a truck driver or trucking company has violated their legal duties is to compare their behavior to what is required in the industry. These regulations come from both the federal and state level.
Trucking companies are obligated to follow federal guidelines laid out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These guidelines affect how a trucking company hires and trains staff, how they organize their drivers’ schedules to avoid fatigue, and the inspection processes required for their vehicles. A failure in any of these areas creates liability for the trucking company in the case of an accident.
Additionally, any commercial truck driver who is commercially licensed in South Carolina or who is driving interstate through South Carolina must abide by additional requirements laid out in state law. Under South Carolina’s trucking regulations, every truck driver must first obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). To have a CDL in South Carolina, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and complete a physical and medical examination. Any trucks operating in South Carolina that are from another state must display their special South Carolina Department of Transportation intrastate numbers.
To properly operate with a CDL in South Carolina, the truck driver (or their employer) must meet the state’s minimum commercial insurance coverage requirement. These minimum thresholds are $25,000 per person, $50,000 in bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 in property damage per accident.
Additional licensing requirements depend on the type of truck and the nature of the cargo being transported. For instance, truck drivers must obtain special endorsements through the state government to operate tanker trucks, double trailers, or trucks that use air brakes. Drivers that transport hazardous materials in the state must complete a TSA background check as well as both federal and state hazmat requirements. No single-axis truck that exceeds 20,000 pounds may operate on non-interstate roadways in South Carolina.
Additionally, all trucks that use South Carolina roads must be equipped with an electronic logging device, which records the drive hours of the truck. This is how your South Carolina truck accident lawyer will be able to tell after your accident whether the truck driver involved in the accident was suffering from fatigue at the time of the crash.
Each truck accident is as different as the various parties involved. Therefore, the injuries one might sustain in a collision with a truck can affect a person in a number of ways. Still, it is helpful to know some of the most problematic consequences of a truck accident so that you can identify the signs early on.
You may be familiar with some types of TBIs, such as concussions, from their prevalence in the current sports world. What you may not know is that TBIs can occur even without direct contact to the head. TBIs may occur when a strong enough force causes the brain to bounce off the inside of the victim’s skull, causing swelling or bleeding. If you are experiencing nausea, dizziness, slurred speech, or increased sensitivity to light, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Whiplash is one of the most common complaints from truck accident drivers. Though safety features in cars have advanced substantially in recent years, there is no way to prevent a driver or passenger’s head from being thrust forcefully in some direction. The harmful stress this puts on the neck and upper back muscles is often exacerbated by the hold of the seatbelt. Whiplash may severely impact a person’s ability to perform ordinary functions and might require a course of physical therapy to heal correctly.
The human body is simply not built to sustain the force of a car accident. Fractures to the hands, wrists, arms, ribs, legs, face, and collarbone are particularly common in truck accidents, as the point of collision is often in a place that is not ideal for the car’s safety features. Broken ribs, in particular, may lead to internal bleeding, which could become life-threatening if not identified and treated immediately.
The State of South Carolina limits you to three years with which to file your civil suit for truck accident damages. In other words, if you want to recover compensation, you must formally file your initial complaint in less than three years. The three-year clock begins to run on the date of your accident, so if you file later than the three-year anniversary of your accident, you will not be able to recover damages. Give your South Carolina truck accident attorney enough time to get your claim filed in time by acting today.
Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers will offer you a free initial case review so that you can make the best decision for your financial future. Call us today to learn more at (803) 451-4000.
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