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.

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.

Trucking Accidents: What You Need to Know and the Best Ways to avoid an Accident with a Big Rig

Anytime someone is involved in a motor vehicle accident, there is the risk of serious injuries and in the worst cases, fatalities. Accidents involving larger vehicles such as commercial trucks bring an event greater risk of serious and catastrophic injuries because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicle(s) involved. This is especially true when a big rig truck is fully loaded with cargo, in which case they may be carrying upwards of 80,000 pounds or more.

Each year, thousands of individuals are killed and tens of thousands are injured in trucking accidents. And not surprisingly, when there is an accident involving a big rig truck and a passenger vehicle, occupants of the passenger vehicle tend to sustain the most severe injuries. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), when there is a fatal crash between a passenger vehicle and a large commercial vehicle, 83% of the victims are occupants of passenger vehicles.

With the risk of injury in trucking accidents greatly compounded, it is very important for motorists to be extra cautious when they are sharing the road with large commercial vehicles. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to avoid an accident with a big rig:

Keep a safe distance between you and the truck

It is far more difficult for a tractor-trailer to maneuver than a smaller vehicle. For example, a semi-truck requires significantly more space to make a turn. In addition, commercial trucks have a harder time braking quickly when the situation requires it. This can become especially hazardous if there is inclement weather, such as snow, ice, and fog. Be sure to give large commercial vehicles plenty of space at all times to help ensure that everyone stays safe.

Be cautious when merging into traffic with a big rig truck

Merging into traffic can be challenging, especially when traffic is heavy. If there is a semi-truck merging in one of the lanes next to you, be extra careful. It is generally best to let the truck in ahead of you and give them a safe distance. Otherwise, if you get in ahead of the truck and have to make a sudden stop, the truck may not be able to stop in time, which increases the chances of a rear-end collision. If you are already well ahead of the truck and it doesn’t make sense to let them merge ahead of you, just be mindful of the truck’s limitations and try to put as much distance as possible (without speeding or driving recklessly of course) between you and them.

Be mindful of a trucker’s blind spots and stay out of them as much as possible

One of the major reasons for motor vehicle accidents is failure to see another car that enters a blind spot. The risk of blind spot accidents is even higher with big rig trucks, because they have multiple blind spots that are larger than those in passenger vehicles. Because of this risk, be sure to stay out of a commercial trucker’s blind spot as much as possible. Only enter the blind spot when you are passing the vehicle and complete the pass as quickly and safely as you can. Do NOT linger in the truck’s blind spot for any length of time.

Avoid distracted driving

Technology has helped make driving safer in many ways. For example, vehicles today are coming equipped with blind spot monitors, backup cameras, and other important safety features. That said, technology has also created more distractions than ever before. Texting, watching videos, and other smartphone activity is especially bad because it distracts us in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. Motorists should never engage in any of these activities while driving, and most certainly stay off of your phone when you are driving near a big rig truck.

Involved in an 18-Wheeler Accident? Contact an Experienced South Carolina Truck Accident Attorney

Sometimes, motorists follow all the rules and still end up in a crash with a large commercial vehicle. When this results in serious injury and it was the fault of the truck driver, trucking company, and/or a related party, injured parties deserve to be compensated. These cases can be quite complicated, however, because there are numerous governing laws and regulations and multiple parties that could potentially be responsible. To ensure that you receive full and fair compensation and that all responsible parties are held fully accountable, it is important to work with a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience and a proven track record with these types of cases.

At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented clients injured in truck accidents in South Carolina since 2000. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to provide the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. Call us today at 803-998-2412 for a free consultation or send us a message through our online contact form.

Recent Accident Highlights Importance of New Law Requiring Electronic Truck Logs

Finally making a change that has been under consideration for years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted rules which will require drivers of commercial trucks and buses to record their hours worked and miles driven with automatic electronic logging devices, rather than with generations-old paper logs. As of February of 2016, the rule will govern those companies which already utilize electronic logs, and as of December 2017, all vehicles governed by the FMCSA will be required to have compliant devices. Sadly, the change did not occur in time to prevent an accident many speculate is attributable to driver fatigue.

The rules regarding how drivers are required to log their hours date all the way back to 1938, when the FMCSA first required paper logs from drivers. While it might seem at first like useless paperwork to require these logs of all commercial drivers, these logs are one of the primary ways that the FMCSA enforces its hours of service rules. Under those rules, drivers must not spend more than 11 hours in a 24-hour period driving their work vehicle, and must be off the clock for at least ten of every 24 hours. Drivers are required to update their log regularly with the number of hours they’ve worked and miles driven, along with logging each break they take and any time spent on work tasks other than driving. With the option of using paper logs, drivers are susceptible to pressure from employers to drive beyond the legal limits to improve delivery times, and to later make compliant (but untruthful) entries into their logs.

The new rule on electronic logging devices calls for all commercial drivers to use a device which connects directly to their bus or truck’s on-board computer, so that logging begins as soon as the vehicle is started. The devices must record the vehicle’s speed, GPS location, and miles traveled, as well as any breaks the driver takes. The devices must not be susceptible to tampering in order to comply with federal regulations.

A recent accident shows why this legal development has an impact on all drivers and bus passengers. A Greyhound Bus driving through the night from Los Angeles to Northern California crashed, killing two passengers and leaving another ten injured. The driver of the bus admitted that he had been tired prior to the crash, and had stopped earlier that evening for a cup of coffee. Passengers described seeing the driver nodding off and weaving between lanes. Prior to this, the driver had a safe driving record. Larry Hanley, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, described poor working conditions for commercial drivers, and said that fatigue among bus drivers was “at a crisis level.” While Greyhound drivers are instructed to take nine-hour breaks between 10-hour shifts, Hanley noted that drivers feel compelled to lie in their driving logs in order to keep up with demand and make a sufficient income. Forcing drivers to use logs which must reflect the true hours worked by the driver may prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel instead of getting the rest they need.

If you have been injured in a truck or bus accident in South Carolina and need experienced legal assistance to ensure you’re fully compensated for your losses, contact the knowledgeable personal injury and accident lawyers at Peake & Fowler for a consultation on your case, at 803-788-4370.