After a truck accident in Columbia, South Carolina changes your life or a loved one’s, you have the right to hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions and your losses. An experienced Columbia truck accident lawyer at Shealey Law Firm can help. We consider the common causes, injuries and complexities of truck accident cases and formulate a legal strategy that represents you aggressively. Contact our injury firm today to start your truck accident case.
The Role of a Columbia Truck Accident Lawyer
Whether you sustained severe injuries or lost someone you love in a truck accident, your attorney can be critical in ensuring you get the compensation allotted to you through the personal injury system.
When you file a claim, you must present evidence proving negligence and damages. That is where your attorney steps in. Consider the tasks they can perform for you:
- Conducting an independent investigation into the accident to find evidence of negligence
- Handling all communication with the insurance company, including negotiations for a fair settlement
- Completing all administrative work, including filing paperwork for a lawsuit and drafting the demand letter outlining your claims and evidence for damages
- Identifying all recoverable losses, including the non-economic damages resulting from the accident’s impact on your mental and emotional health
- Guiding you through the legal process and ensuring no one violates your rights
A Columbia truck accident attorney understands the value of acting quickly to preserve your rights. They also have experience working with trucking companies and their insurers, who often try to diminish the value of your claim to decrease their financial liability. Legal representation lets you focus on your physical and emotional recovery or grieving your loss while they fight for you.
Causes of Truck Accidents in Columbia
For a Columbia truck accident lawyer, the first step in building your claim and establishing liability is identifying the accident’s cause. Sometimes environmental circumstances, such as bad weather and poor road conditions, can lead to an accident.
However, most truck accidents are attributable to driver behavior. For example, driving while fatigued is a common problem in the trucking industry. The same is true of driving while intoxicated.
Other common causes include:
- Poor vehicle maintenance: Failure to conduct scheduled inspections and routine maintenance can result in system failures and tire blowouts.
- Distracted driving: Truck drivers are just as likely as any driver to text, talk on the phone or eat while driving, especially given their time restraints.
- Reckless driving: This can include speeding, tailgating, ignoring traffic signals, improper passing and road rage.
- Improper cargo loading: Federal regulations strictly stipulate weight and security restrictions for cargo because improper loading is a danger to the driver and others.
Truck drivers and companies are responsible for upholding traffic laws and the industry regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Trucking Industry Regulations
FMCSA regulations cover everything from hours of service to securing a truck trailer. Truck driver fatigue is a safety concern on par with driving under the influence. To ensure drivers get the rest they need, the FMCSA restricts how many consecutive hours they can go without taking a break, how many days they can be on the road without time off and what materials they must always have in their cab.
Cargo security is another concern. Federal regulations control commercial trucks’ axle loads and gross vehicle weights to ensure companies do not impose dangerous loading practices on other drivers to save money. For example, a truck with cargo cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds or carry over 20,000 pounds on one axle or 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle.
The code also regulates the use of tie-downs and anchor points to ensure cargo does not shift during transit. When these regulations are flouted, many times they lead to accidents.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Given the size and weight of commercial trucks, the injuries caused by an accident can be catastrophic and even deadly for other motorists.
Some of the most common injuries include the following:
- Neck and back injuries: Dislocated discs, whiplash, muscle strains and broken vertebrae can result in an extended recovery time.
- Burn injuries: Trucks hauling flammable cargo are more likely to cause burn injuries, but they can happen in any accident.
- Head injuries: Truck accidents can result in anything from minor concussions to traumatic, penetrating head injuries. All are potentially deadly.
- Spinal cord injuries: Temporary or permanent paralysis is common in truck accidents due to their severity.
Wrongful death is the most tragic outcome of a major truck accident. When a person dies due to any injury that would otherwise warrant a personal injury claim, South Carolina law allows the surviving spouse and children to file a lawsuit seeking damages for financial and emotional losses. In the absence of those parties, parents can file. Finally, if the deceased had no surviving spouse, children or parents, any living estate heir can file.
Liability in Trucking Accidents
Before anyone can file a claim for damages, your Columbia truck accident lawyer must identify who is responsible for the accident. South Carolina follows a fault-based system for auto accident cases, meaning the person liable for the accident is also responsible for damages. A factor that makes truck accidents unique among auto accident cases is the complexity of liability.
Several parties could be responsible for the accident under varying circumstances:
- Truck driver: When truck drivers violate traffic laws or FMCSA regulations, they are liable for any accident resulting from their actions. Independent drivers often carry even more responsibility because they do not have a direct employer.
- The trucking company: Trucking companies are responsible for adequately vetting and training their drivers, making them sometimes liable for a driver’s poor conduct. Failure to conduct routine maintenance and inspections could result in deadly accidents, making the company responsible.
- A third-party mechanic: When a trucking company outsources fleet inspections and maintenance, the mechanic or facility responsible for the trucks could be liable if a system malfunction or tire blowout causes an accident.
- The cargo loader: If overweight or poorly secured cargo causes an accident, the person or company in charge of loading the truck would be responsible for damages.
- The truck or parts manufacturer: When an accident’s cause traces back to a defective part, such as a failed braking system, the manufacturer could be liable.
Some truck accidents involve multiple liable parties or even multiple personal injury claims. In addition, some are more challenging to prove. For example, facing a large manufacturer in a product liability case presents unique challenges compared to suing a truck driver for reckless driving.
Having an attorney help you through the complexities of these cases is the best way to protect your right to compensation.
Truck Accident Case FAQs
What should I do if I’m injured in a truck accident in South Carolina?
You should immediately seek medical attention. Because trucks and tractor trailers are extremely heavy vehicles, often they can cause severe medical injuries. Immediately seek treatment for yourself before doing anything else.
After you have received medical treatment, it may be important to identify witnesses to the crash or to alert law enforcement to potential witnesses so that they can be interviewed and their contact information can be provided. Avoid speaking to insurance adjusters or anyone representing the trucking company’s interest until you consult with a trusted lawyer about your case first.
How is a truck or tractor-trailer accident case in South Carolina different from a car accident case?
Truck accidents typically can cause more catastrophic injuries than a normal car accident case, so the damages, medical treatment and risk of loss of life or permanent injury can be more common. This is why it is important to seek medical treatment immediately and contact a trusted lawyer for your trucking accident case.
There are also numerous federal regulations that govern how truckers operate as opposed to a normal car accident.
How long do I have before I file a lawsuit after a trucking accident?
Normally in South Carolina, a person injured in an accident with a commercial truck has three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. However, you really need to contact a trusted lawyer quickly so that you can preserve the truck logs and other important accident records before they become difficult to secure.
The rule of thumb is the sooner you contact a trusted lawyer to get to work on your behalf, the better it will be for your case.
Can I file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased family member that died in a truck accident?
Yes, a loved one, such as parent, spouse or child of someone killed in a truck accident has 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to recover financially for the medical expenses, burial expenses and loss of support and companionship and any suffering incurred by the victim in what is known as a wrongful death case.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Columbia Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you do not need to face the negligent party and their insurance company alone. A Columbia truck accident lawyer at Shealey Law Firm can offer the help you need and the justice you deserve. Your rights are a primary concern for founders Brian and Luke Shealey and their skilled personal injury attorneys. Contact Shealey Law Firm online to schedule a free consultation today.