When commercial truck accidents happen, injured people and their families are left asking questions and seeking guidance. As a Columbia, SC truck accident lawyer, my responsibilities begin with listening. I take time to learn your concerns and get to know you as more than a client. At the end of the day, I have the same goal for every truck accident victim: full justice for every loss you have experienced.
- What to Do After a Truck Accident
- Does the Accident Report Matter After a Truck Wreck?
- How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help After a Wreck
- Hiring the Right South Carolina Truck Accident Attorney for the Job
Pursuing an injury case after a semi-truck crash is much different than a case that only involves passenger vehicles. The injuries are often much worse, and the legal issues more vigorously defended. It’s important to recognize that these trucking accidents are rarely “accidents” at all, but are commonly the result of a series of poor decisions made by the trucking company itself.
While the truck driver may be at fault because of reckless driving or personally choosing not to abide by trucking regulations, the trucking company may also be liable for irresponsible hiring practices, lack of regular truck maintenance, or poor employee training. Because these companies have so much at stake, they are covered by insurance companies with defense lawyers – some of whom will do nearly anything to reduce the amount of damages owed to the victim. We recommend at least consulting with a truck wreck attorney to ensure you are not taken advantage of and that your rights are protected.
Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles pose a much higher risk when an accident occurs.
1. Excessive Weight.
Semi-trucks are much heavier than cars and, therefore, can cause significantly more damage in a crash. Consider the difference between being hit by a 3,000-pound car versus a 70,000-pound truck. The end result of a trucking accident is often catastrophic with injuries ranging from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries or even death.
2. Inability to Brake.
An 18-wheeler’s large size makes it more difficult to brake quickly. For example, when traveling at 65 miles per hour, a passenger vehicle will take about 316 feet to come to a complete stop while a semi-truck will need about 525 feet. The additional distance needed to stop increases the likelihood of being rear-ended by a truck if there’s a sudden stop in traffic, especially if the semi-truck driver is not paying attention.
3. Limited Visibility.
Large trucks have blind spots due to their sizable height and length. In fact, warning signs stating, “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you,” are often seen on the back of tractor trailers. If truck drivers aren’t hyperaware of their surroundings while driving on the interstate, the results could be disastrous.
Unless we’re on a road trip, most of us do not spend more than an hour or two on the road on any given day. On the other hand, truck drivers are often on a never-ending road trip – driving in 10-hour increments for days on end. While regulations have gotten stricter on the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, these rules are not guaranteed to prevent fatigue – and likewise, are not always followed. At the end of a shift, it’s understandable that a driver may begin to feel tired, but even a brief moment of drowsiness or distraction could lead to a life-altering crash.
Trucking companies must recognize the dangers their trucks present and take on the responsibility of ensuring they keep South Carolina’s roads as safe as possible. This includes performing thorough background checks on drivers, strictly enforcing all trucking regulations, training drivers on how to recognize and manage fatigue, and purchasing an insurance policy that can cover any damages if their truck driver does cause a wreck.
Whether you were the person hurt in the collision, or a loved one of the injured party, this information should help guide you on what to do after an accident.
1. Focus on your health.
Lawyers can figure out the insurance and legal issues. Instead of worrying about that, concentrate on getting the medical attention you need. It will benefit your short and long-term wellbeing.
2. Avoid giving an insurance adjuster any information about the wreck until you speak with an attorney.
You have no obligation to speak with the trucking company's insurer. Furthermore, anything you tell them about the collision or your damages will most likely result in them trying to twist your words against you down the road.
3. Consider getting a free consultation from a lawyer with experience handling 18 wheeler and other commercial vehicle accidents in South Carolina.
It might turn out that you can handle your case without legal assistance, but there is no harm in at least getting some free legal advice from an attorney who understands the issues specific to your case.
Accident reports are not always accurate when declaring who was at fault in a truck crash. In cases involving life-threatening injury or death, a special branch of the South Carolina Highway Patrol known as MAIT (Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team) might be called. One problem with MAIT investigations is that the first – and sometimes only – person they speak with is often the truck driver. With their job and their livelihood on the line, the truck driver is liable to say whatever is necessary to escape being found at fault. The other driver may be on the way to the hospital, unable to defend themselves or provide law enforcement with the truth, so the only version of events the investigating officer receives is that of the commercial driver. The officer will then place an innocent party at fault on the accident report. Luckily, that accident report means nothing in a civil case, but it may lead the trucking company's insurance carrier to initially deny liability.
1. Attorneys can help ensure you’re treated fairly by the insurance company.
Truck drivers and the businesses they work for are usually protected by insurance companies. The insurance carriers have defense lawyers prepared to argue that their drivers are not to blame for the collision, or that your damages do not justify paying much money. What they choose to ignore are the safety rule violations (i.e. inadequate driver training, lack of driver supervision, inadequate rest, improper vehicle inspections) that lead to crashes and cause harm.
Innocent people hurt by 18-wheelers should not then become the object of an insurance company's insults. While insurance companies spend countless dollars to pass laws and persuade the public that people who sue them are greedy, justice must prevail. Though an attorney may not ultimately be necessary, in my experience, trucking companies show far more regard for the people they harmed when you have an attorney on your side. It certainly helps level the playing field.
2. Lawyers can help prove the commercial driver was at fault…even if the accident report says otherwise.
Before an attorney can seek damages, also known as compensation, for the harm you’ve experienced, we must prove who was responsible for the truck accident. In some instances, the commercial vehicle is clearly to blame. However, I have handled a number of cases where the truck driver blames the injured person or another vehicle for the wreck - no matter how obvious it is that he was at fault.
So, how do we prove the collision was the trucker's fault if they try to deny it or the accident report says you were at fault? Most trucking accidents require us to hire at least one expert witness, but in many cases, we work with a team of specialists to determine the true cause of the accident. Here are a few of the steps I take as an attorney to prove the truck was at fault:
1. Hire a collision reconstructionist.
Our reconstructionist will do exactly what the title implies – he will “reconstruct” the crash using engineering principles. Based on factors such as weight, speed, skid marks, and angular force, our expert will help determine how the wreck happened. Once his investigation is complete, he provides us with an accurate animation of how the accident took place.
2. Pull black box data.
Most commercial trucks are equipped with a “black box” that captures information about the wreck, including whether the driver was speeding, lost control, or failed to brake at a stop. Black box data can be difficult to obtain because the trucking company is not legally obligated to give it to you after a wreck. An attorney can help secure this information by issuing a preservation of evidence letter or request for inspection to the trucking company and can use the data to further analyze why the truck collided with you.
3. Work with private investigators.
We often deploy well-trained private investigators to identify witnesses and find facts missing from the police officer's report. By speaking with witnesses, we can learn more about the events leading up to the wreck and better understand why it happened.
3. Lawyers can determine if the trucking company played a role in allowing the accident to take place.
When it comes to trucking accidents, our focus is on more than simply what happened. We also want to know why it was allowed to occur. We investigate the company’s business practices and dig into all the factors that led the commercial driver to make the dangerous decisions he did on the day of the wreck. When we take on a truck wreck case, we:
1. Investigate the maintenance and repair history of the truck involved in the accident
Because semi trucks and large commercial vehicles can cause catastrophic damage, there are regulations in place that require them to undergo regular maintenance. When companies fail to abide by these regulations, they increase their chances of causing a wreck.
2. Examine the company’s driver training and supervising practices.
We may hire a safety/regulatory expert to help identify how and why a trucking company failed to properly train and supervise its driver. Under state and federal law, the company is responsible for its acts as well as those of its employee. We will investigate whether the company complied with safety regulations that are in place to keep innocent people from harm, or whether it was negligent in its hiring, retention, and monitoring of the driver.
3. Extensively research the company and driver to determine their safety history.
Through document requests, subpoenas, research, and depositions, we work to investigate the company’s approach to safety, and identify the root causes of the accident. These incidents are never simply an event. They are almost always the culmination of a series of unsafe choices by a company and its driver, ultimately inflicting harm on an innocent person. As truck accident attorneys, it’s our job to hold them accountable.
Lawyers who advertise on television and billboards are not always experienced when it comes to cases involving commercial trucks. That’s why it’s important to work with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer who can quickly identify the best plan of action. Find an attorney that will look beyond the obvious details of the wreck to ensure important evidence is promptly secured, the at-fault parties are held fully accountable, and justice is served.
At the Law Office of Kenneth Berger, we are dedicated to helping people injured in trucking accidents and keeping our roads as safe as possible. My firm has offices in Columbia and Myrtle Beach, which allows us to represent people involved in trucking collisions from Greenville to Charleston to the Grand Strand, and throughout our state. I want injured people to focus on their recovery without the additional stress brought on by trying to handle their own insurance claim or legal action. As I often tell clients, let me worry about the law while you concentrate on getting well. For free copies of my books, or to schedule a free case evaluation, contact me today at (803) 790-2800 or by using the live chat feature on our website.
Helpful Resources After a Truck Wreck
- Calculating a South Carolina Semi Truck Accident Settlement
- When Truck Drivers Fail to Maintain Their Vehicles
- Common Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents on SC Interstates
- How Semi Truck Tire Blowouts Cause Accidents
- How Unsecured Truck Cargo Causes Car Accidents
- Why the Black Box is Important in Semi Truck Accidents
- How Speeding Semi Trucks Cause Bad Accidents
- How Can Bad Semi-Truck Brakes Cause An Accident In South Carolina?