Columbia Truck Accident Lawyer
A Columbia truck accident attorney with Auger & Auger can quickly be on the scene of your accident. When you have been injured, an investigation conducted by someone firmly in your corner is crucial. You are entitled to compensation as a victim, but your attorney will need to be able to prove several elements during your case. The more evidence we can gather, the better equipped we are to represent you successfully.
We know that truck accidents can be attributed to any number of causes, and the aftermath can be even more devastating when the cause is preventable. Victims and their families have difficulty dealing with the knowledge that a truck driver made poor choices that led to a catastrophic injury. One of these causes is drowsy driving — an entirely avoidable behavior that can impact lives instantly.
When Falling Asleep is Deadly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by tired drivers. They also say that commercial drivers are one of the groups most likely to drive drowsy. Sleepiness behind the wheel has been shown to have the same effects as alcohol:
- Slowed reflexes
- Impaired reaction time
- Lower rate of cognition
- Straying from lane
- Making reckless maneuvers
For example, a trucker may be placed in a situation that requires them to avoid a collision. If they are dealing with a lack of sleep, they may not be fast enough on the brakes or even notice the hazard in time for a quick reaction. People can die when a truck driver doesn’t react in time to prevent a wreck.
Truck Drivers Must Avoid Fatigue
A lack of sleep among truckers was such a problem that the government set forth new regulations in 2013. Today, drivers cannot work more than 70 hours per week; once the limit is reached, a 34-hour resting period is mandated. Truckers have to call it quits for the day once they’ve driven for 11 hours (which also includes a half-hour break).
Drivers are legally obligated to abide by these regulations and they are also urged to demonstrate common sense. Frequent yawning or blinking, zoning out, and drifting from the lane of travel are all signs of fatigue. When a trucker notices these things, they cannot push on safely — it’s time to take a break. Everyone has their own remedy for waking up, from caffeine to cold air, but no remedy is as effective as sleep.
Avoiding drowsy driving isn’t difficult — getting at least six to seven hours of sleep a night is a good start. As our Columbia truck accident attorney knows, steering clear of sleepy drivers can be just as easy. If you notice a truck swerving in its lane, passing over rumble strips, or braking slower than it should, hang back. If you see the driver narrowly miss an accident or behave in a way that puts lives in danger, call 9-1-1!
Causes of Truck Accidents
Drowsy driving is a common problem among truck drivers, but it’s not the only preventable cause of truck accidents. Here are some other reasons these potentially serious crashes occur:
- Driver inexperience or lack of training. Sometimes the truck driver simply doesn’t have the skill set to avoid a collision due to insufficient training. Often this is the responsibility of the trucking company that hired the driver.
- Pressure from the trucking company to meet unrealistic deadlines. In some cases, drivers get paid based on how well they meet expectations for delivery times or how much freight they can move in a specified time frame. Unfortunately, this can result in the driver continuing to drive long after they should have stopped for rest or driving too fast.
- Poor screening of drivers. Most trucking companies thoroughly screen their potential drivers for driving history and drug use or alcohol abuse. But some smaller outfits may skimp on these necessary precautions and hire a driver with a history of moving violations or substance use issues.
- Lack of truck maintenance. Sometimes the truck driver isn’t the cause of the accident. It could be that they did everything right, but a malfunctioning component of the truck caused an accident anyway. In some cases, we find that the company was behind on performing regular maintenance on the truck involved in the crash (and possibly many others). The truck driver may even report that they told the company about a specific problem, and the company never got around to fixing it.
- Poorly loaded freight. Semi truck trailers are tall and top-heavy, making them easy to flip. This problem worsens if the freight is loaded in a top-heavy or unbalanced way. When this happens, the trailer is prone to flipping, especially when the truck goes around a curve or downhill. If your car happens to be next to the trailer when this occurs, you could be seriously injured. It can take a little time to determine who is liable in these cases. Sometimes the freight is loaded by a third party, such as a manufacturer or distributor. Other times, the freight is loaded by the driver or someone else at the company that owns the truck. Even if a truck isn’t carrying any freight, known as bobtailing, the driver may have difficulty steering or braking without any weight attached to the rig.
What Can Drivers Do to Avoid Accidents with Large Trucks?
Although you can’t avoid every crash, these tips will help you lower the chances of a collision with a semi-truck:
- The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to maintain a wide distance between your vehicle and any large truck you see.
- Giving trucks a wide berth includes staying out of their blind spots. Take those signs on the back of the truck seriously – if you can’t see the driver or their mirrors assume they can’t see you! If you find yourself in a truck’s blind spot, get out of it as quickly as you can. When speeding up isn’t an option, consider slowing down and letting the truck pass you.
- Because of their size and weight, semi-trucks can’t stop nearly as fast as you can in a passenger vehicle. In ideal conditions, the average stopping distance for a fully-loaded semi going 55 MPH is about 196 feet. Keep this in mind if you’ve got a semi behind you. The truck driver’s responsibility is part of this – they know to maintain a large following distance. But you should also do your part. Never cut in front of a semi at a close distance because the driver may not notice you. When merging in front of a semi, get several car lengths ahead before moving into their lane. This ensures that the driver, who sits high up in the cab, can see you and react accordingly.
- Be particularly careful of large trucks on downhill slopes or curved areas, especially if you are on the side of the truck. Even if the trailer doesn’t flip, it could swing out and hit your vehicle.
- There is one more danger of being beside a large truck – if you’re in a compact vehicle like a small car or motorcycle, you could actually get pulled under the truck itself. This is because tractor trailers traveling at a significant speed generate large gusts of air that can suck in a small vehicle. Worse, the driver may not even realize what happened due to being so far away in the cab. Aside from getting out of the blind spot as quickly as possible, make sure you don’t get too close to the truck while you’re next to them.
What Happens After a Truck Accident?
The days following a tractor trailer collision can be a blur if you were seriously injured. Unfortunately, serious injuries are common in large truck crashes. But sooner or later, you’ll probably find yourself dealing with large medical bills and a wrecked car. You may still be in pain at this point and possibly unable to return to work, depending on the nature of your injuries and your job. Now you’re expected to pay all these bills while your income is reduced, and you may have more expenses to come if you need physical therapy or other continued treatment to get back on your feet.
Some people begin by making an insurance claim. This is generally the right place to start, but handling it on your own has risks. Due to the highly destructive nature of semi-truck crashes, truck drivers must have $750,000 – $1,000,000 in liability insurance. But as we mentioned earlier, the fault for your accident may actually lie elsewhere. Usually, the at-fault party has some type of insurance policy that will apply, and there may be more than one party from whom you can seek compensation.
But the at-fault party may not believe or be willing to admit they were at fault – and their insurance company will likely go along with this story because they don’t want to pay your claim either. One of the most common reasons for insurance claim denials in truck accidents is the assertion that the victim was actually at fault!
As frustrating as this is, it helps to understand that South Carolina law recognizes modified comparative negligence statutes. This means that both parties can share fault, and whoever has more than 50 percent of the blame is expected to pay damages to the party with less than 50 percent responsibility. However, the party with minority fault will have their award reduced by the percentage of fault they did have. So if you were 10 percent at fault, you would lose 10 percent of your eventual award. That means it’s in the insurance company’s best interest to claim you were at fault – even if their client is found to be primarily responsible, they can still reduce their liability by shifting even a small amount of blame to you. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to call a truck accident lawyer right away, and avoid talking to the insurance company in the meantime.
Another issue is that it’s tough to accurately calculate how much you should ask for in damages, especially if you’re still in treatment for your injuries. Most people have no idea how much their claim is worth. You may have suffered a wide range of damages, and many accident victims don’t even realize the damages they could seek compensation for. Worse, the insurance company adjuster knows that people handling their own insurance claims rarely have a handle on what they deserve.
As a result, it’s very common for insurance companies to make a quick offer after an accident, especially one where there were significant injuries and ample evidence that the insurance carrier’s client was at fault. If they know they can’t get out of paying your claim entirely, the adjuster will shift into conservation mode and try to reduce the amount they have to pay by making you a lowball offer. Sadly, some people accept these, freeing the insurance company of any further responsibility. The victim may realize later that they still have additional expenses they now have to pay on their own.
Don’t let this happen to you – contact an experienced Columbia truck accident attorney today. The insurance company knows your lawyer won’t be swayed by a lowball offer, and will be willing to negotiate. Your attorney will fight to get you all the compensation you have coming.
Expert Representation is Essential
You have a right to compensation if you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident. These wrecks pack a big punch and may have caused catastrophic injury and devastating property damage. You should not be forced to make difficult financial decisions to pay for your healthcare or replace your property. We will fight for you, using the knowledge and experience gained over nearly 50 years of combined personal injury experience.
At Auger & Auger, we believe in our clients and treat them with the care and respect they deserve. Part of this is our zero-fee guarantee. It is our promise to you that you won’t owe us a cent unless we win your case. A lawyer’s cost should never prevent you from seeking the representation that can change your life.
Call (803) 470-5298 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!