Trucking Accidents

What Must I Prove to Win my Truck Accident Claim in South Carolina?

Any type of motor vehicle accident can result in serious injuries, but trucking accidents are some of the deadliest. Tractor-trailers are massive vehicles that can weigh more than 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded. And when a vehicle of this size collides into a regular passenger vehicle, those inside the passenger vehicle are the ones who usually suffer the most.

Statistics published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show the extent of the mismatch between large commercial trucks and other types of vehicles. Each year, there are thousands of fatalities that result from large truck crashes. And of those who are killed, 68% are occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, while 17% are occupants of big rig trucks. Another 14% are motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

For those who are injured in a truck accident, proving the claim can be challenging. These cases tend to be far more complex than standard auto accidents, and there are several potential contributing factors. To further complicate matters, the trucking industry is governed by numerous laws and regulations, and an in-depth familiarity with these rules is required in order to successfully prove a trucking accident claim.

Who is At Fault for a Truck Accident?

One of the factors that makes trucking accidents more complicated is the number of parties that may have been involved. In addition to the truck driver and other motorists, there are several other parties that could share fault in the accident. These include:

  • The trucking company that employs the driver;
  • The owner or lessor of the truck;
  • The cargo or shipping company that was responsible for loading the truck;
  • The party that was responsible for maintenance on the truck;
  • The party that was responsible for maintaining the roads;
  • The designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part that might have contributed to the accident.

A thorough investigation will be required to get to determine the root cause of the accident and which parties were to blame. This investigation should be performed as soon as possible after the accident, because witnesses tend to forget important details over time, and critical evidence has a tendency to disappear as well.

What Evidence is Necessary to Win my Truck Accident Case?

Once you have identified how the accident happened and the parties that were at fault, you need to collect sufficient evidence to prove the essential elements of a personal injury claim. These are:

  • The defendant (or defendants) owed you a duty of care;
  • The duty of care owed was breached by the negligent actions (or omissions) of the defendant/s;
  • The negligence or breach of duty of care (on the part of the defendant/s) was the direct cause of your injuries;
  • Your injuries resulted in actual losses (economic or noneconomic losses or both).

Some of the most important pieces of evidence that may be needed to prove a trucking accident claim include:

  • The Vehicles: The condition of the vehicles after the accident will help show how the crash occurred and what may have caused it.
  • The Police Report: If the truck accident resulted in injuries, the police should have been called to the scene. If so, there will be an official police report on file that will have been compiled by examining the scene, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining all of the facts.
  • Your Medical Report: If you were injured in the crash, you should have received medical attention right away. If so, there should be a report on file with your doctor or hospital. Your medical report will help confirm the extent of your injuries and link those injuries to the accident.
  • Truck Driver Data: Information and monitoring data on the truck driver will be very important to your case. Drivers are only allowed to be on the road for a certain number of hours before they are required to take a break. These are known as Hours of Service regulations. Any violations of government regulations on the part of the driver could constitute negligence.
  • Cargo Logs: There should be data available showing how much cargo was inside the truck at the time of the accident. Sometimes, commercial trucks are overloaded or unevenly loaded, making them more susceptible to a crash when they encounter adverse road conditions.
  • Truck Maintenance Data: Semi-trucks log thousands of miles over-the-road each month. For this reason, regular maintenance is required to help ensure that they stay safe. Maintenance and inspection reports could show that negligent maintenance contributed to the crash.
  • Other Important Information: Any other pieces of evidence that might connect any of the responsible parties to the accident must be preserved to help substantiate your claim.

Injured in Truck Accident in South Carolina? Contact a Seasoned Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered injury in a trucking accident that was someone else’s fault, you need strong legal counsel by your side working hard to prove your claim. If the accident happened in South Carolina, call Peake & Fowler today at 803-788-4370 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment. We are ready to go to work for you and to fight for every dollar of compensation you deserve.

personal injury attorneys in columbia, sc

What to Look for When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

Have you suffered an injury that was caused by the negligent or reckless actions or omissions of another party? If so, there is a good chance you will need a lawyer to help you recover compensation. It is very rare that the party responsible freely admits fault and reimburses you for all of your losses, and you probably will not have much better luck getting fair treatment from their insurance company if you try to handle the claim on your own.

To help ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated, you will probably need to retain legal representation. This is especially true if there are complicated factors in your case, such as a severe and debilitating injury, disputes over who was at fault, and multiple parties that may have been involved.

How Do I Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer to Handle my Claim?

There are countless lawyers out there for you to choose from, and it can seem overwhelming trying to find an attorney you can trust to handle your case. A good place to start is to ask any family members or friends who have been through what you are going through. If they used an attorney who got them a good settlement, then chances are this is someone worth considering.

If you are unable to find anyone through your own network of acquaintances, then you will need to expand your search. And if your candidates do not come from referrals, you will need to ask some more detailed questions to find out if they will be a good fit for your case.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask a personal injury lawyer you are considering hiring:

  1. How many years have you been practicing?

Every lawyer was new at some point, but you probably do not want to put your claim in the hands of someone who is fresh out of law school. Ideally, you want to work with an attorney who has been around for a while. Now, more experience does not necessarily equate to better representation. Be sure to check out their ratings and reviews as well to find out what others say about the representation the firm has provided in the past.

  • What percentage of your practice is devoted to personal injury law?

Personal injury is a very complex area of the law that encompasses countless different types of accidents and events. Preferably, you want to work with a firm that focuses primarily (or exclusively) on personal injuries.

  • How many cases like mine has your firm handled in the past?

An attorney or firm that is primarily focused on personal injury law will most likely have dealt with a wide range of cases, and chances are, they will have handled a case like yours. Ask this question anyway though so you can find this out for sure. Confirm that they are familiar with your situation, and also be sure to ask about the outcome of prior cases like yours. Ultimately, you are looking for a firm with a successful track record securing favorable outcomes for other clients who have been in your shoes.

  • How often do you take cases to trial?

This is a very important question to ask. While it is generally preferable to settle a claim before it goes to trial, your lawyer should have extensive litigation experience and the proven ability to successfully try the case. If a lawyer never goes to trial, then the other side has no incentive to offer you a reasonable settlement. This means that you will probably end up having to settle for far less than you deserve.

  • Will you be able to dedicate the resources necessary to bring my case to a successful conclusion?

Along the same lines as the previous question, you need to get a feel for how much energy the firm will put into your case. With some firms, a case may fall to the bottom of the priority list when unexpected complications arise, and this where experience and focus make the difference. You want to work with a lawyer and legal team that understands and anticipates obstacles, knows how to overcome them, and is committed to winning your case.

Gut Check Time

Choosing the right lawyer for a personal injury claim is not an exact science. There are a lot of factors to consider, and at the end of the day, after you have asked all the right questions, you need to trust your instincts. What is your gut telling you about this attorney or firm? Will they competently represent you with your claim? Will they fight hard for every dollar of compensation you deserve? Will they treat you with dignity and respect? Do you feel comfortable working with them? The answers to these and similar questions will ultimately determine which personal injury attorney will be right for your case.

Trucking Accidents

Who Can I Sue after a South Carolina Truck Accident?

Commercial trucking accidents can result in some of the most severe and catastrophic injuries.  In South Carolina alone, there were nearly 5,000 collisions in 2017 that involved semi-trucks.  These accidents resulted in hundreds of serious injuries and 65 fatalities, and a large number of them were caused by negligence on the part of the truck driver and potentially other parties as well.

Because there are numerous laws and regulations that govern the trucking industry and multiple parties that could be held responsible for a truck accident, these types of cases can be extremely complex. For this reason, it is very important to retain an attorney who has specific experience and a successful track record with trucking accident cases.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

There are numerous factors that may contribute to a trucking accident, some of the most common include:

  • Drowsy or fatigued driving;
  • Aggressive or reckless driving;
  • Distracted driving;
  • Driving while intoxicated;
  • Overloaded or unevenly loaded trucks;
  • Mechanical failures;
  • Product failures.

Can a Trucking Company be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

As mentioned earlier, there are several parties that could be responsible for a trucking accident.  Oftentimes, the truck driver shares at least some of the responsibility because of various improper driving behaviors, but it may go deeper than that. For example, if a driver was tired or fatigued, it might be because they violated Federal Hours of Service guidelines and stayed on the road longer than they were legally allowed to. 

In many cases, however, the trucking company that employs the driver is aware that they are breaking these regulations, but they passively encourage this or choose to look the other way because they want their drivers to deliver their loads more quickly (which means greater profits for the company). If it can be shown that the trucking company knew that the driver was breaking the rules, it may be possible to hold them partially responsible for the accident.

Trucking companies may also be on the hook for an accident if it was caused by a driver who was not properly vetted before being hired. Companies are required to perform background checks and follow other specific hiring regulations before they bring a driver on board.  However, there is a shortage of qualified drivers in the trucking industry, and rather than pay more to attract better quality drivers, some companies choose to cut corners and circumvent the rules to get more drivers on the road. 

Along these same lines, proper training and supervision is often lacking at trucking companies as well. Driving an 18-wheeler is not something that just anyone can start doing right off the street. There are specialized training requirements that must be met before a driver should be allowed to get behind the wheel of a big rig truck. Putting a driver out there before they are ready is a recipe for disaster.

Although the actions of a trucking company might have played a role in an accident, proving that they are liable can be a difficult task. These companies are only required to certain maintain records for a limited period of time, after which they are free to dispose of them without being penalized. Even before that time, records that might show a company to be liable have a way of getting lost, disappearing, or being altered. 

To prevent this from happening, it is extremely important to get an attorney involved as soon as possible after the accident. With a seasoned attorney working immediately on your behalf, company records and other critical pieces of evidence can be recovered and preserved, putting you in the best possible position to recover maximum compensation.

Who else Can be Held Responsible for a Trucking Accident?

Liability for a truck accident may not end with just the driver and the trucking company.  Other parties that could potentially be responsible include:

  • The owner or lessor of the truck;
  • The owner of the freight or shipping company responsible for loading the truck;
  • The party responsible for maintaining the truck;
  • The designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part;
  • A government agency or the party responsible for maintaining the roads.

Injured in a Trucking Accident in South Carolina? Call the Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers at Peake & Fowler

If you or someone close to you has been injured or killed in a truck accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner fighting hard to recover full and fair compensation on your behalf.  To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call Peake and Fowler today at 803-788-4370. You may also message us through our web contact form or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.

tbi lawyer

Helping a Loved One Cope with Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a unique medical condition that manifests itself differently with each individual case. TBI results from a serious bump, jolt, or blow to the head, often caused by a traumatic event such as an auto accident.

This condition has varying degrees of severity, and those who suffer from it can experience a wide range of symptoms. These may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness/loss of balance
  • Severe and ongoing headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with focus and concentration
  • Problems with speech
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Unusual behaviors

Recovering from TBI is just as much an art as it is a science. The treatment plan and prognosis for recovery depends largely on how severe the injury is, and what areas of the brain are affected.  The mildest forms of TBI, commonly known as concussions, will often clear up within just a few days. On the other hand, more moderate to severe forms of this condition could affect the patient for an extended period of time.

How to Help a Loved One Cope with TBI

If you have someone close to you who is suffering from a traumatic brain injury, it may be difficult to know how you can best help them. The first thing to realize is that TBI is unpredictable, and you will have many ups and downs along this journey. Be prepared for the long road ahead. Prepare to be frustrated, confused, to have your feelings hurt, and to have days when you don’t know what to do. 

While all this is happening, remember that it is not your loved one’s fault. This is an injury, just like a broken arm or a broken leg, except that it is affecting the brain – the most complex organ in the body, the organ that controls the entire nervous system, regulates our thoughts and feelings, and helps shape who we are. Helping your loved one cope with this condition calls for infinite patience and the unwavering commitment to help them get better, no matter what obstacles they may face.

Here are some tips for helping your loved one cope with traumatic brain injury:

Listen to the Doctor

Rehabilitation is critical, and as mentioned earlier, it is not the same for each person. This makes it all the more important to listen to the doctor and make sure your loved one does everything he or she is told to do. Check with the doctor before resuming any activities, such as driving, exercising, and going back to work. And if the doctor tells your loved one to stick to a certain diet (e.g., eating anti-inflammatory foods) and refrain from tobacco and alcohol for a while, make sure these recommendations are followed. It may seem very tedious and restrictive at times, but the closer you follow the doctor’s orders, the better the chances your loved one will recover (or at least achieve maximum medical improvement) after the injury.

Don’t Try to Do It Alone

Dealing with the day to day frustrations of caring for a loved one with traumatic brain injury can push you are breaking point, especially if you do not seek additional support. The good news is, you are not the only one who has had to go through this. There are numerous support groups available both online and in your local community where you can obtain help and guidance and better understand this condition. It is also a very good idea to enlist the help of other family members and friends when they are available, so they can help relieve some of your burden.

Believe What your Loved One is Telling You

When someone has a brain injury, there is often a temptation to not take what they say seriously, much like you would with a child. It is true that much of their behavior may be related to this condition, but this does not make the pain they are experiencing any less real. Believe what they tell you they are going through, validate their feelings, and give them the reassurance they need to understand that you’ll be there for them no matter what.

Seek Skilled Legal Counsel

If your loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the negligence or reckless actions of another person or party, they may have the right to compensation; which may include reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages (both present and future), pain and suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life. To ensure that you are fully informed of their legal rights and options, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

If the injury occurred in South Carolina, call Peake and Fowler today at 803-788-4370 for a free consultation. You may also message us online or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.

can whiplash cause brain injuries

Can Whiplash Cause Brain Injuries?

It has been known for a long time that whiplash causes neck strains and can also cause spinal injuries. But in recent decades, studies have indicated and link between whiplash and traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries can occur even without direct head trauma, and this is particularly true with high impact collisions, such as those that cause whiplash injuries.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is any impact or blow that causes the head to be thrown or jerked forward or backwards, similarly to the motion of cracking a whip. The sudden force of the blow causes the muscles and tendons in the neck to be stretched and torn. Whiplash is often associated with car accidents, but it can happen to anyone who experiences this type of impact or blow to the head. 

For example, athletes who play contact sports such as football and hockey have been known to sustain whiplash injuries from high-impact collisions with those they are playing against. This type of injury can also happen when someone is rapidly thrown to the ground, such as falling off a horse while horseback riding.

Those who suffer from whiplash can experience a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Neck pain;
  • Stiffness or tightness in the neck;
  • Decreased range of motion in the neck area;
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms;
  • Headaches that start at the back of the skull and radiate forward.

Whiplash and Brain Injuries

As mentioned earlier, brain injuries can occur with or without a direct blow to the head. These types of injuries are possible with whiplash when the back and forth “whip-like” motion causes the brain to become twisted, compressed, or distorted within the skull.

According to the BC Medical Journal, the likelihood of brain damage from whiplash depends mainly on “the magnitude of acceleration-deceleration forces and the rotation forces acting upon the skull”. They go on to say, “the most important indicator of possible brain damage is the severity of the trauma. Minor trauma is an unlikely candidate.” In other words, the higher the impact and the more rapid and forceful the jolt is that causes the whiplash injury, the greater the likelihood that it could result in a brain injury.

Those who sustain a concurrent brain injury caused by a whiplash may experience several symptoms in addition to those mentioned earlier:

  • Dizziness;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • Problems with focus and concentration;
  • Problems sleeping;
  • Agitation and irritability;
  • Difficulty processing information;
  • Memory problems;
  • Anxiety;
  • Depression.

Symptoms not Always Immediately Known

Since traumatic brain injuries involve a complicated series of events, symptoms of TBI are not always immediately known. This can create confusion when someone suffers a whiplash injury after an auto accident or another type of traumatic event. For example, a car accident victim may be rushed to the emergency room right away and be diagnosed with severe neck strains and other soft tissue injuries associated with whiplash, but the doctor may not notice any immediate signs of TBI.

For this reason, it is very important, especially for those who are involved in higher impact collisions, to monitor themselves for any symptoms that are delayed and may show up a few days (or longer) after the accident. If additional symptoms do surface that might be signs of a concussion or another type of traumatic brain injury, go back in to see a medical professional for another evaluation. The sooner brain injuries are diagnosed, this sooner correct treatment can be applied, and the better the chances of making a full recovery.

Suffered a Whiplash Injury in South Carolina? Call the Experienced Skilled Auto Accident Attorneys at Peake and Fowler Today

If you or someone close to has suffered a whiplash injury, get medical help right away, and go back in for another examination if any additional signs and symptoms show up later on. Once you have received proper medical treatment, be sure to get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer, so you can be advised of your rights and legal options. 

If the injury occurred in South Carolina, contact Peake and Fowler to schedule a free consultation and case assessment. Call our office at today at 803-788-4370. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.

cause of motorcycle accidents

What is a Major Cause of Death in Motorcycle Accidents?

Motorcycle accident fatalities have been sharply increasing in recent years. After reaching a historical low of 2116 fatalities in 1997, the number of fatalities increased each year for over a decade, breaking 5,000 for the first time in 2007 and remaining at or near the 5,000 mark every year since.

Motorcycle accidents are especially dangerous for riders, who are 28 times more likely to die in a crash (per mile traveled) than occupants of other vehicles. There are many reasons motorcyclists are at greater risk for serious injuries and fatalities from a crash, these include:

  • Less Protection for the Rider: Unlike occupants of motor vehicles, motorcyclists do not have a steel cage and a seatbelt to protect them during a collision. When a motorcycle collides with another vehicle or object, there is not much that separates the rider from the pavement or other hard surfaces.
  • Less Braking Ability on Motorcycles: The braking system inside motorcycles is different from what is installed in automobiles. When a motorcyclist applies the brakes, it can cause the bike to spin out of control in some situations. Car brakes are much stronger, and when they are functioning properly, it is much easier to safely stop an automobile.
  • Diminished Ability to Control a Motorcycle: A motorcycle is a two-wheel vehicle, and it is not as easy to steer and control as an automobile. For example, if a car runs over a pothole or bumps into another vehicle at a fairly low speed, the driver can usually safely recover control of the vehicle. This is not nearly as easy when you are riding a motorcycle.

What Causes Motorcycle Accident Fatalities?

There are a number of potential causes of motorcycle accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities, and approximately 75% of the time, it is due to some type of negligence on the part of a motor vehicle driver.

Some of the leading factors that contribute to fatal motorcycle accidents include:

  • Speeding/Reckless Driving: Motorists and motorcyclists who drive recklessly and carelessly put themselves and others in greater danger on the roads. Excessive speeding, weaving back and forth between lanes, tailgating, and refusing to yield the right-of-way are just a few examples of reckless driving.
  • Driving while Intoxicated: Despite decades of public relations campaigns, far too many people still make a horrible and often fateful decision to drive or ride after having too much to drink. Driving while intoxicated can put people into a reckless mindset, or it can have the opposite affect and cause people to get sleepy and have slower reaction times.
  • Turning Accidents: One of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other vehicle drivers to see motorcycles that enter their blind spots. This often results in accidents if the car tries to change lanes or make a turn while the motorcycle is riding beside them.
  • Dangerous Road Conditions: As mentioned earlier, potholes, crumbling roads, debris, and other hazardous conditions are much more dangerous for motorcyclists as it is more difficult to steer the bike and regain control when it is knocked off kilter.
  • Motorcycle Defects: Some motorcycle accidents can happen because of a defective motorcycle or motorcycle part. When this is the case, it may be possible to bring a product liability claim against the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the faulty product.
  • Lack of Protective Gear: Although wearing a helmet, chest protection, or other protective gear may not prevent a motorcycle accident, wearing this protection can help prevent more serious injuries and potential fatalities in some cases.

Many experts believe that the sharp increase in motorcycle accident fatalities in recent years is due to two primary factors – distracted driving and more older riders. Distracted driving has been a growing problem, and it has gotten far worse since smartphones became mainstream. Today, it seems that many drivers cannot resist the temptation to send a text or another type of electronic message while behind the wheel. And according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from 2017, distracted driving now plays a role in approximately 40% of all motorcycle accidents.

The other factor that plays a large role in motorcycle accident fatalities is the age of the rider.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 54% of motorcyclists killed in accidents in 2015 were 40 years of age or older, a 17% increase in deaths within this age group since 2006. Older riders make up a higher percentage of overall motorcyclists than in past years, and we all know that with age, our bodies become much more fragile. For this reason, it is very important for those in the 40+ age group to wear helmets and other protective gear while riding.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in South Carolina? Call the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Peake and Fowler Today

Motorcycle accidents can be very hazardous for riders, and when the accident is caused by the negligence or reckless actions of another party, those who are injured deserve to be compensated.  As motorcycle enthusiasts ourselves, we at Peake and Fowler understand the challenges motorcyclists face staying safe on the road, and we are aggressive advocates for those who are injured in an accident through no fault of their own.

Call us today at 803-788-4370 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.  You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.

injury settlement attorney

Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement in an Injury Case

When an individual suffers a moderate to severe injury in an auto accident (or another event) and another party is responsible, it can place a major financial burden on the injured party and their loved ones. Medical bills can quickly start to mount, and in a large number of cases, the injury keeps you out of work for several weeks or even months, making it very difficult to make ends meet.

To obtain compensation for your injuries, you will usually be dealing with an insurance company. In most cases, this will be the insurer for the other person or party who injured you. However, if they were uninsured or did not have adequate coverage, you may be seeking compensation from your own insurance company.

Securing a full and fair settlement for your injuries usually involves a negotiation process. You may choose to handle this yourself, or you could hire a personal injury lawyer to negotiate the settlement for you. If you decide to do it yourself, you will typically be speaking with the insurance adjuster.

There are two things that it is important to know about insurance adjusters:

  • They are trained negotiators who handle cases like yours week in and week out;
  • They work for the insurance company, and as such, their primary goal is to protect their employer’s bottom line.

Most of the time, adjusters will be very friendly, reassuring you that they will “take care of you” and that you will be treated fairly. Keep in mind that this is a negotiating tactic, an attempt to build rapport with you and to earn your trust. Be friendly and polite with them as well, but always remember that their interests are not aligned with yours.

Here are five other keys for successfully negotiating a full and fair settlement with the insurance company:

Be Patient

It is not uncommon to receive a settlement offer from the insurance company very early in the process. Insurers know that finances are usually tight shortly after an accident, and they know that many individuals are motivated to get a settlement check right away. The problem is that these offers are typically for far less than your claim is worth. In fact, at this point in the process, it may not even be possible to know what the claim is worth, because you may not know the full extent of your injuries. Be patient and do not accept the first offer that comes your way.

Fully Document all of your Losses

The insurance company is not just going to accept your word for how much you have lost because of the injury you suffered. You need to keep track of all of your economic losses, such as medical expenses and days missed from work. In addition, it is important to remember that a large part of your claim will be for the physical pain and suffering you have had to endure, the emotional impact the injury has had on you, and the impact the injury has had on your quality of life. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep a daily journal in which you can record how you feel physically and emotionally each day, as well as write down activities that you have not been able to participate in because of the injury.

Follow all of your Doctor’s Recommendations

Be sure to do everything your physician tells you to; such as having tests done, obtaining treatments, visiting specialists, refraining from various activities, etc. You have a duty to mitigate the damages caused by the accident or incident, and this means you need to take reasonable steps to minimize the extent of your injuries as much as possible.

Have an Amount in Mind you are Willing to Settle For

When you enter any type of negotiation process, you should have a minimum amount in mind that you are willing to take as the settlement. This figure is for your information only, and there is no need to share it with anyone except those closest to you. The figure you arrive at should be determined by what you believe the case is worth after calculating both your economic and non-economic losses.

Be Careful about Stalling Tactics

If you reach an impasse with the insurance adjuster, one way they might deal with this is to stop communicating with you for long periods of time. This is usually done for two reasons – to frustrate you into giving up and accepting their lower offer; or if you don’t come back to the table, to “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit.

In South Carolina, for example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury actions is three years. And while this may seem like a lot of time, it can go by quickly if you are not hearing from the insurance company for several months at a time. If the insurance company “goes dark” during negotiations, get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer right away.

How an Attorney can help You Negotiate a Full and Fair Settlement

Negotiating with the insurance company on your own is a challenging process that is full of potential pitfalls. This is why it is advisable to work with a skilled attorney, especially if your injuries are more extensive. Although an attorney will take a percentage of your settlement as their fee, the assistance they can provide during negotiations will usually get you far more than if you handled it on your own, even after their fee is taken out.

Here are just a few ways a lawyer can help negotiate a better settlement for you:

  • Your lawyer will have extensive experience properly valuing claims by taking into account all factors that are typically used by the court, which means you are likely to have a more appropriate figure in mind as your minimum settlement amount;
  • If you have already received an offer from the insurance company before your lawyer is involved, they will be able to review the offer and tell you whether or not it is fair;
  • Like the insurance adjuster, your lawyer is a trained negotiator who will be able to strongly argue your claim and justify the settlement amount you are seeking based on the facts and evidence of the case;
  • If the insurance company shows an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, your lawyer has the proven ability to successfully pursue full damages through litigation.
tactics used by insurance companies during personal injury claims

Tactics Used by Insurance Companies during an Injury Case

When someone has been injured in an accident or suffered any other type of personal injury and someone else was at fault, they have a legal right to compensation for their losses. Recovering just compensation for your injuries is not always an easy process, however. In the vast majority of cases, the responsible party is not going to freely admit fault and write you a check that more than covers all your property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Most of the time, you will not even be dealing with the person or party that caused your injury.  Usually, you will be working with their insurance company to resolve the claim. Dealing with an insurer can be a complicated and confusing process, however, especially if you have never been through this before. This is made worse by the fact that insurance companies often look to take advantage of your inexperience by setting various traps that are designed to weaken your case.

It is important to remember that the goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible for your injury claim. So, no matter how “nice” insurance adjusters may seem, they are looking out for the interests of their employer, which means their interests are not aligned with yours.

There are several tactics insurance companies may use in an injury case to try to trip you up, here are some of the most common:

Asking for an Official Statement

Insurance companies typically contact those who are injured in an accident shortly after the incident was reported, often within just a few days. The goal of this call is to build rapport and make you believe they are on your side before you’ve had a chance to speak with a lawyer.  Once they think they have earned your trust, they will often ask for a recorded statement from you. They may present this as a formality that is needed to process the claim. The problem is that insurers will usually word the questions in a way that is designed to get you to admit fault or otherwise weaken your case. This is why it is never a good idea to give a recorded statement without first speaking with an attorney.

Asking for a Medical Release

Another request that is usually presented as a formality is for you to sign a medical release. The insurance company might tell you that they need this release in order to obtain your medical bills so they can pay them. But signing a medical release also gives the insurance company the right to look into your entire medical history. They will use this opportunity to search for evidence of previous injuries or preexisting conditions, which they will use as the basis to claim that your current injuries were not actually caused by the underlying accident. The insurance company does not need a medical release to pay your bills, and as with the official statement, you should never give them this release without first talking to your lawyer.

Offering you Less than Your Claim is Worth

When someone is injured in an accident, their medical bills can quickly start to pile up, and they may also be out of work for a while during their recovery. Insurance companies know that under these conditions, injury victims are often highly motivated to get their settlement check sooner rather than later. So, they look to take advantage of this vulnerability by making a lowball settlement offer shortly after you file your claim. In most cases, however, what they offer is far lower than what your claim is really worth.  In fact, many times, it is impossible to know the full extent of your injuries, estimated recovery time, etc. within just a few days or even a week or two after the accident. Never accept a settlement offer from an insurance company without first speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Delaying your Claim Unnecessarily

If you do not provide any statements or releases or take the insurance company’s settlement offer, they may just stop communicating with you for long periods of time. Their hope is that you will get frustrated and give up and/or that they can “run out the clock” and cause you to forfeit your right to file a personal injury lawsuit. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is three years. This may seem like plenty of time, but if you are not hearing from the insurance company for several months at a time, three years can go by fast. If the insurance company is unnecessarily delaying your claim, get in touch with an attorney right away.

Call the Skilled Accident Injury Lawyers at Peake & Fowler

If or a loved one was injured through no fault of your own, the insurance company will use all kinds of tricks and tactics to try to devalue your claim or deny it all together. To help ensure that you are able to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve, get in touch with the seasoned attorneys at Peake & Fowler. Call our office today at 803-998-2412 to schedule your free consultation. You may also message us through our web contact form or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.

motorcycle safety in columbia south carolina

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Spring is finally here, and this is the time of year when motorcycle enthusiasts come out in full force. There is no greater feeling than riding on the open road basking in the bright sunshine, powered by a cool breeze, and taking in all of the breathtaking scenic beauty the Palmetto State has to offer.

Yes, riding is one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable activities imaginable, but it is not without its hazards. This is why May has been designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in South Carolina and throughout the country.

Each year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are seriously injured in motorcycle crashes. Motorcycle riding is inherently more dangerous than driving a motor vehicle. Riders have far less protection, and when they get into an accident, there are very few barriers to protect them from danger. As a result, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a crash than occupants of other types of vehicles, and five times more likely to be injured.

To make matters worse, motorcycle-related deaths have been rising in recent years. According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of annual motorcycle accident fatalities has more than doubled over the past two decades. Many experts believe that the increased use of electronic devices while behind the wheel and similar forms of distracted driving are largely to blame for the sharp increase in motorcycle accident deaths.

In an effort to keep everyone safe through the heavy spring and summer riding months, the NHTSA has dubbed its 2019 campaign “Share the Road.” Safe driving and riding practices and cooperation on the part of all road users will help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on South Carolina’s roadways. And this starts with becoming more aware of the dangers, so both drivers and riders will stay safe as we share our roads.

For Motorists

  • Always allow motorcyclists a full lane width, in other words, treat them the same as any other vehicle on the road.
  • Adjust your rearview and sideview mirrors properly to ensure that your blind spot is minimized, and you can more easily see motorcyclists. Your rearview mirror should completely frame your back window, and your sideview mirrors should be pointed toward your blind spot.
  • Always signal your intention when you are changing lanes or making a turn.
  • Always look over your shoulder before changing lanes to make sure you didn’t miss a motorcycle or another vehicle that might have snuck into your blind spot.
  • If you are turning into oncoming traffic and your view is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, so you do not miss a smaller figure like a motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian that may be crossing.
  • Allow extra following distance (about three or four seconds or so) to give motorcyclists more time to maneuver or stop if they encounter an emergency.

For Motorcyclists

  • Ride defensively and give other vehicles adequate space to make turns, complete lane changes, and react to emergencies.
  • Always follow the state’s helmet laws. South Carolina requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet that is approved by the Department of Highways and Public Transportation.
  • Stay as visible as possible by keeping your lights on even during the day and wearing reflective and protective clothing.

For all Drivers and Riders

  • Always follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic signals and street signs.
  • Always be on the lookout for road hazards such as construction, debris, bumpy roads, and inclement weather that may cause a serious crash.
  • Never drive or ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Stay focused and free of distractions while driving or riding.

Get Legal Help if Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

Even if we follow the traffic laws and best safety practices, accidents can still happen. If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina, seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries, then contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.

At Peake & Fowler, we are motorcycle enthusiasts ourselves, and we know how devastating injuries from a motorcycle crash can be. Our lawyers have in-depth experience and knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to help ensure that they obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our online contact form. You may also stop by our Columbia, SC office at your convenience.

distracted driving and teen drivers

Teen Drivers & Distractions

Distracted driving has been a growing problem in South Carolina and throughout the country in recent years. While motorists have always had distractions, the increased use of smartphones to stay connected has become a temptation that is difficult for many drivers to resist.

Distracted driving is particularly common among teens, who are the most tech-savvy age group, and the most avid users of electronic devices. The widespread use of smartphones among the most inexperienced group of drivers can be a deadly combination.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Each year, thousands of individuals are killed, and hundreds of thousands are injured in distracted-driving related vehicle crashes. And according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately half a million drivers throughout the country are using their cell phones at any given time during daylight hours. The NHTSA goes on to say that teens are the largest group reported as distracted at the time fatal vehicle crashes occur.

Here are some other disturbing statistics about teen drivers and distractions:

  • More than half of all teens admit to having used a cell phone while driving, and one out of four admit to having texted while driving during the past 30 days;
  • Car crashes are now the number one killer of teens in United States;
  • Individuals ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group;
  • Almost 60% of all motor vehicle crashes among teens are now the result of distracted driving.

What Can be Done about Teen Drivers and Distractions?

Many state laws have been passed in recent years to help address the problem of distracted driving. Like most other states, texting while driving is against the law in South Carolina.  Lawmakers in the Palmetto State have discussed going further and enacting a ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving, making cell phone use legal only when it is in “hands free” mode.  Many other states have already enacted similar laws, with some states choosing to ban hand-held cell phone use for teens only.

As the law tries to catch up with evolving technology, it is also incumbent upon parents to help ensure that their teens are driving safely. Here are some steps parents can take to help prevent distracted driving among their teens:

  • Educate them: Distracted-driving will no doubt be covered during your teen’s driver safety courses, but parents should also reinforce the importance of refraining from this type of behavior while behind the wheel. Have an honest conversation with your teen about the dangers of distracted driving, and how they can minimize these distractions and stay focused on the road.
  • Prohibit other teen passengers while your teen is driving: This is a tough one that your teen will almost certainly protest. Teens love to drive around with their friends in the car, but this can be just as dangerous a distraction as texting while behind the wheel. Shouting, cranking up the radio, horseplay, and other types of rowdy behavior greatly increase the risk of a vehicle crash. This is why it is best to prohibit your teen from having other teen passengers or from riding as a passenger with another new teen driver.
  • Sign a written agreement with your teen: Create a contract between you and your teen that contains written ground rules they must follow when they are driving. By having something in writing and signed by your teen, your teen will have clear guidelines they must follow to be safe, and they cannot claim ignorance later on if you have to revoke their driving privileges for breaking the contract.
  • Install apps to prevent cell phone use while driving: Although technology has helped increase the problem of distracted driving, technology is also helping to solve it. There are now several apps available which can do things like block texts and phone calls (except for emergency calls) while driving, block other distracting apps (such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) while driving, allow parents to track their teen’s location, and analyze their teen’s driving habits. Consider using one or more of these apps to help prevent your teen from being distracted while behind the wheel.
  • Set a good example for your teen: Finally, keep in mind that kids tend to model the behavior of their parents. So, be sure to refrain from texting while driving and other dangerous driving activities yourself.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in South Carolina? Contact a Skilled Auto Accident Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver (teen or otherwise), you may have a right to compensation. Before dealing with any insurance adjusters, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options. At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented numerous clients injured in motor vehicle accidents in South Carolina, and we fight hard to help our clients obtain the full and fair compensation they need and deserve.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our web contact form.