Charleston Truck Accident Attorney
Auger & Auger of Charleston offers clients nearly 40 years of combined expertise in the practice of personal injury law. When it comes to selecting a Charleston truck accident attorney, you would be hard-pressed to find a more industry-knowledgeable and attentive legal firm as your advocate.
If you or a loved one has suffered damages, including injury or fatality, from a Charleston truck accident, don’t hesitate to contact our office right now at (843) 751-4690 for immediate help, solid advice, and a free consultation. Charleston’s Auger & Auger truck accident attorney will be at your side, fighting for a just settlement and, if necessary, representing you in court with compelling evidence to ensure your financial and medical obligations are compensated accordingly.
What’s Causing Charleston Truck Accidents?
While navigating through congested highways filled with interstate and local traffic, the pressure is on. The increase in online shopping has also placed a high demand on shipping cross-country. Companies looking to cut costs and the low supply of qualified truck drivers have led to an increase in trucking accidents nationwide.
Although there are federal regulations in place regarding hours driven per day, etc., not everyone follows the rules. The effect of lack of sleep can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. A second leading cause of Charleston area trucking wrecks is driver error, whether it be reckless or distracted driving. The increase in the use of cell phones has added to this dilemma.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) conducted a study of 141,000 large truck crashes and found that about 87 percent were caused by the truck driver, 10 percent were attributed to the smaller vehicle, and about 3 percent were caused by environmental factors like weather or road conditions.
Why Are There So Many Trucks in Charleston?
Dating back to the very roots of this nation our historic city of Charleston has been an iconic point of entry, and a model for advanced freight import and export. As the 4th largest container seaport on the East Coast, the Port of Charleston ranks #1 in customer satisfaction by supply chain executives and its expansion caters to the largest container ships in the world.
The obvious ‘law of attraction’ is evidenced by the existence of over 150 trucking firms operating in Charleston. As a result of South Carolina’s economic reliance on Charleston as a national shipping hub, ‘transmodal’ transportation (transferring unopened contents by rail, local delivery trucks, and semi-trailers) is putting even more pressure on our beleaguered public roadways.
Interstate 26 is the primary artery in and out of Charleston and from only 2 miles out of the port terminals you can literally travel across the country, and not hit one stoplight. Tragically, I-26 ranks 12th in the top 25 most deadly highways in the U.S. – with the city of Charleston comprising the most fatalities along this interstate.
Though road improvements are taking time and will need more political backing – what we can do is focus on driver awareness and support whatever safety enhancements will better address the juxtaposition of economy vs. quality of life.
What Goes Wrong in Large Truck Accidents?
As far as specific causes go, there are many possible reasons why tractor-trailers get into accidents. First, it’s very hard for such a large, heavy vehicle to stop when there’s a problem. Truck drivers also have large blind spots. Additionally, the size and weight of a truck mean that a person in a vehicle is much more likely to be injured or killed in an accident with a tractor-trailer. These factors make semis particularly dangerous compared to other vehicles on the road, and only two things can be done about them: Truck drivers should drive very carefully, and others on the road should give big trucks as much space as possible.
But there are sometimes other factors in truck accidents that are preventable. For example, fatigued driving is a real problem for truckers. Federal regulations provide strict guidelines for how many hours truckers can drive and how much rest they should get in between driving shifts. The problem is that the company they drive for may be setting unrealistic goals for how fast the freight needs to arrive. Some companies may pressure drivers to falsify records so they can arrive sooner, and this can lead to an increased risk of accidents. If you were injured by a fatigued truck driver, the company they drive for may have been negligent.
In other situations, a truck driver may cause an accident because they’re driving while under the influence. Of course, this is always dangerous, but even more so when the intoxicated person is driving a big rig. Most trucking companies screen potential drivers with drug tests and background checks to look for DUI arrests. While this can’t rule out every potential problem, it does help reduce the risk of a driver getting behind the wheel while struggling with substance abuse. When a trucking company fails to properly vet potential drivers and an accident occurs, they may be negligent.
Driver inexperience is another possible cause of truck accidents. Trucking companies should ensure drivers are properly trained and have some driving experience. Less experienced drivers may be more likely to make simple mistakes like braking incorrectly or taking curves too fast, because it’s easy to misjudge these situations when you haven’t been driving a large truck for very long. These kinds of errors are less likely to result in a crash when driving a car, but in a semi, they could easily lead to a jackknife accident, where the trailer swings out to the side, possibly hitting and damaging other vehicles on the road.
Sometimes the truck driver is not at fault, but a problem with the truck itself is the issue. When a mechanical issue leads to an accident, we always investigate to see if the trucking company was cutting costs by saving money on maintenance. If this happens, a truck may be more likely to break down or malfunction, leading to an accident. In some cases, drivers have complained that they repeatedly reported an issue with the truck to the company and were told it would be fixed, but it never was. If a lack of truck maintenance caused a crash, the trucking company may be liable.
Mechanical issues aside, the truck may have other problems if the freight wasn’t loaded appropriately. When trailers are “top-heavy” or have too much weight too high in the trailer, they can be prone to flipping. Sometimes the truck driver loads and unloads the truck, but in other situations, a third party like the staff at a warehouse may do this job. So it’s possible the driver has no idea how unbalanced the load is until they try to stop or make a turn and the trailer flips. If a car is in the path of the crashing trailer, this could mean serious injury or death for the occupants.
Aside from difficulties with the truck or errors on the truck driver’s part, there are some situations where the smaller car’s driver caused the crash. Although these cases are not as common, they usually have disproportionately serious consequences for the car’s driver and passengers, as they are much more likely to be severely or even fatally injured. The good news is that most of these accidents can be prevented through safer driving techniques.
Safety Measures – Avoiding Blind Spots
With trucks taking up so many lanes these days, it is difficult to maneuver around them without entering their ‘blind spot.’ This is the #1 mistake you can make because when they don’t see you in their mirrors they might change lanes right into you.
Careless auto drivers will erratically swerve in and out of small openings in highway lanes. But it’s a much bigger problem zipping in front of trucks and semi-trailers without a thought given to the length of time it takes them to stop. Time to perceive, react, brake, and fully stop a semi-trailer (6 seconds or more depending on how fast the truck is going and how much it weighs) will seem like a lifetime when you’re looking in your rearview mirror. And, if you happen to be tailgating the truck you might slide up right underneath it if you’re unable to stop in time.
Your best preventative measure is to be proactive and steer clear of trucks as much as possible. Give them the right of way, and more if necessary. They are just too big, too heavy, and much less capable of making immediate adjustments; add weather problems to the mix and catastrophes are in store.
Seeking Compensation After A Truck Accident Injury
When you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, you may be dealing with physical pain, emotional turmoil from the trauma of the crash, overwhelming medical bills, lost income from missing time at work, and a wrecked vehicle. In the worst-case scenario, you may even have lost a loved one in this accident.
It can be hard to know what to do next when your life has been turned upside down by a truck accident. Sometimes people tell us they just want the bill collectors to stop calling. Others are struggling to pay for physical therapy or other treatment for their injuries that their health insurance company has decided not to cover. If you’re trying to put your life together after an accident with a semi truck, the best way to start is to contact a Charleston truck accident attorney. They can advise you on your options and help you begin your claim when you’re ready.
Determining Who is Responsible for a Truck Accident
Most motor vehicle accident cases originate with a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance. With accidents between passenger vehicles, there may not be enough insurance coverage for the injured party’s damages if they were seriously hurt, as requirements for individual car insurance are fairly low. (South Carolina requires only $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person.) But because trucking accidents have so much potential to cause damage, truck drivers or their employers are usually required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage. So if the truck driver caused the accident, there is usually sufficient insurance for most claims. However, in some cases of severe injury, disability, or death, your damages might exceed even this amount, in which case you may consider suing the trucking company or a third party who is liable.
Even if there is enough coverage for your damages, you may run into difficulties if the insurance company claims that you were at fault. This is a common response – the insurance company will always look for an excuse to deny a claim, and shifting blame is often the easiest one. Under South Carolina laws, an injured party can collect damages from the other party so long as they were less than 50 percent responsible for the accident/injury. However, the injured party’s compensation will be decreased by the amount of liability they have. So if the insurance company can convince the court that you were even partly to blame for the accident, they can at least pay less than the amount of your original claim.
Most truck accident cases settle out of court, but insurance adjusters may still rely on trying to convince an injured person they were partly or totally to blame, in the hopes they will accept a lower settlement. It’s also common for the insurance company to just make an offer right away for less than the victim’s damages are really worth, again hoping it will be accepted. We highly recommend you speak with a lawyer before accepting any offer from an insurance company after a truck accident. Your lawyer can also help you refute any claims they might make that you were at fault, and navigate other excuses they might give for denying your claim. We always fight for our clients to get the settlement they deserve.
Choosing the Best Legal Team is Essential
If you have been involved in a truck accident in the Charleston area, chances are there will be grave injuries and severe vehicle damage. Hiring the right attorney to start the investigation is critical following a trucking injury claim. The highway patrol will primarily be concerned with getting everyone medical attention, gathering identifications for their report, and directing traffic around the event. Reopening the road is critical to these responders, as backups can cause additional wrecks – and repetitive long delays can easily impact the local economy as well.
Should an incident like this occur, your stress, fear, and injuries can be overwhelming – and you will want to look after your personal needs as soon as possible. Whether you are still at the scene or in the hospital, our team of experts will come to you. Taking immediate action is vital to collecting and preserving evidence, as well as protecting your rights – regardless of any accusations or presumptions of fault, innocence, or guilt that might have been voiced.
Call Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers at (843) 751-4690 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!