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.