Greenville Truck Accident Attorney
Semi-trucks are an integral part of the American economy, transporting goods across the country and moving freight to and from our coastal ports. With Greenville’s convenient access to some of the largest interstates — it stands to reason that the majority of our community drivers have shared the highway with big rigs on a regular basis. Unfortunately, these trucks are no longer relegated to the ‘slow lane,’ which causes crowding and tensions to run high.
If you have been injured due to a semi-truck collision, a Greenville truck accident attorney with Auger & Auger can be on the scene expeditiously. A field investigation should be undertaken by someone who represents you, and though your own insurance carrier will be involved, it’s important to remember that they are more concerned with reducing their liability than pursuing any claim against the at-fault party.
You have the right to be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and more. Rest assured that we will be by your side for the length of your lawsuit, ensuring that you recover the compensation to which you are entitled.
Top Causes of Semi Truck Accidents in Greenville, SC
Every accident happens for a reason. When a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck collide, it is often the occupants of the smaller vehicle who sustain the most severe injuries. While a car driver can certainly take steps to avoid collisions (staying out of truckers’ blind spots, maintaining a clear distance, avoiding cutting off large vehicles), truck operators need to take their share of the responsibility for reducing the number of collisions on South Carolina roadways.
Our Greenville truck accident attorney certainly understands causation. We have represented countless victims of truck accidents and are well aware that there are many different ways in which truck operators can be at fault.
According to the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), the following acts are the most common causes of semi-truck accidents:
● Driver Error – Truck drivers are human, and of course, they make mistakes just as all drivers can. When semi-truck accidents can be traced to a misjudgment or negligent act by the operator, they can be held liable for damages.
● Maintenance – The party tasked with upkeep and repairs can vary depending on whether the vehicle is owned or leased. That said, it is up to every truck driver to go through inspection steps for their vehicles prior to each trip, and make certain any parts suspected to be in disrepair are communicated to the person obligated to maintain the vehicle.
● Impaired or Fatigued Driving – A trucker must remain alert at all times. This can be difficult if they have been behind the wheel for several hours or more. Compounding this problem is the consumption of alcohol. Drivers are accountable to remain alert and sober when operating these powerful vehicles. For this reason, FMSCA maintains strict hours-of-service regulations, requiring that truck drivers must not drive past the fourteenth hour after coming on duty. They also have to take ten hours off duty, and a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving. Additionally, drivers are required to keep logs to show they are following these rules.
● Cargo Loading – There’s a proper way to pack and stack cargo into the truck bed. If not accomplished correctly the load can shift, causing the driver to lose control of their rig. This could also lead to the trailer flipping or jackknifing, which can be very dangerous for other vehicles on the road.
● Poor Weather – Truckers are trained to be able to drive in any type of weather. They should be fully aware of the way their vehicle will respond on the ice, snow, or wet roads and react accordingly when they run into a patch of rough weather. They should also know when to pull over and wait for a break when it is safe to proceed.
Determining Liable Parties in a South Carolina Truck Accident
With a commercial truck accident, it isn’t as simple as identifying which driver was at fault (and that can also be complicated). While the truck driver may be responsible, their employer or another third party could also be liable. In many cases, it takes time to sort out all the potentially liable parties, which is why it’s important to seek the help of an attorney who can answer all of your truck accident questions.
The Doctrine of Respondeat Superior
This is a legal doctrine that states employers are liable for harm caused by their employees, so long as the employee was working for them at the time of the injury. As a result, if the truck driver was at fault for the accident, the employer is also liable.
It isn’t always necessary to sue the trucking company – truck drivers are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, due to the particularly dangerous nature of operating a large truck (as compared to a smaller passenger vehicle). When the driver is an employee, the trucking company generally pays for this insurance coverage. If the driver is an independent contractor, they will usually have their own self-funded liability policy that meets the same requirements. In either situation, there is almost always a significant amount of insurance coverage available.
Usually, the easiest and fastest course of action for seeking compensation is to make a claim with the insurance company. However, there are a few situations where this does not work out:
● Insurance policy exemptions. Occasionally we run into issues where the insurance policy doesn’t cover a specific type of accident or situation. In some cases, we may fight these denials in court, but in others, they have a valid argument for not paying the claim. The driver and their employer are still liable even if the insurance company is able to avoid their responsibility on a technicality.
● Your damages exceed the insurance policy’s limits. As we mentioned, truck driver insurance policies have relatively high limits because truck accidents are more likely to cause severe injuries and death. Because of this risk, most truck accident cases fall within the $750,000 in insurance coverage. However, some especially serious accidents may result in damages that far exceed even this amount. For example, a person who suffers a severe and permanent disability, who loses the ability to work for the rest of their life, or who loses a loved one in an accident, may have damages of seven figures. In these cases, once the insurance coverage is exhausted, we may pursue a claim against the trucking company.
Other Reasons the Trucking Company May Be Liable
Sometimes trucking accidents occur for reasons that aren’t necessarily the truck driver’s fault, or your fault, either. It’s possible the trucking company is still negligent even if the truck driver didn’t violate a law or regulation. Here are some examples of possible trucking company negligence:
● Failure to maintain the trucks. It’s the driver’s job to inspect the truck and report any issues, but it’s usually the trucking company’s responsibility to ensure repairs are made. In some cases we’ve seen, there is a clear paper trail of reports from the driver about a maintenance request or mechanical issue, but no action on fixing the problem. When there is evidence that the company knew of a necessary repair and didn’t make it, and that lack of action led to your accident, the company may have been negligent.
● Cargo issues. This depends on who actually loaded the freight into the truck. Sometimes an employee of the trucking company loads the freight, sometimes the driver loads it, and sometimes a third party loads it. In the first two cases, the trucking company may be liable if an unbalanced or top-heavy load was the cause of your accident.
● Negligent hiring. In other cases, the driver may be at least partially at fault due to an error in judgment, such as reacting poorly to a skid or other problem. Or, the driver could be responsible because they were intoxicated or driving recklessly. When these situations happen, sometimes the trucking company is liable for negligent hiring. Each company that employs truck drivers has a duty to hire wisely and choose safe drivers. If the business failed to properly screen the driver – such as declining to run a background check or look at the driver’s record – they could be negligent. Another example would be if the driver was under the influence and the company hadn’t conducted a drug test prior to hiring.
● Lack of training or supervision. Sometimes the problem isn’t who the company hired, but how the employee was prepared for full-time driving afterward. Trucking companies are responsible for properly training drivers. Those who have very little experience at the time they’re hired should have the supervision of a more experienced driver for a probationary period. If the company doesn’t provide appropriate training or supervision, and the driver causes an accident due to simple inexperience, the company could have been negligent.
● Pushing drivers beyond their limits. Sometimes trucking company staff may intimidate or threaten drivers with losing their job if they don’t meet unrealistic goals, such as delivering a shipment in an unfairly short period of time. This can lead to the driver falsifying logs or finding other ways to work past the federally-allowed number of driving hours. As a result, an overtired driver may cause an accident. When we suspect this is the case, we work hard to gather evidence of the company’s goals and communications with drivers.
Third Parties May Also Be Liable
We’ve mostly discussed the liability of the truck driver and trucking company, but there are potentially other parties who could also contribute to a truck accident. Third parties who could be at fault include:
● The truck’s manufacturer or the maker of a component. If the accident was caused by a defective part in an unforeseen way – the driver’s inspections didn’t reveal a potential problem – then the manufacturer of the truck or part could be liable.
● A service provider. Sometimes the part itself isn’t defective, but the repair worker who installed it may have made an error, such as failing to connect everything correctly. If the problem can be traced to a recent repair, you may have a claim against the repair company.
● A third-party company that is responsible for cargo. If another company loaded the trailer and left it off-balance, and the truck later jackknifed or the trailer flipped, the entity responsible for loading the truck could be at fault.
What If More Than One Party is at Fault?
This is certainly possible, and South Carolina law makes room for multiple liable parties with comparative negligence laws. Under these statutes, each party named in a personal injury lawsuit receives a percentage of fault. In a trial, the jury would decide this number. They might decide that you were completely blameless and that the truck driver was 100 percent at fault. But in many cases, they may think that you were 10 percent responsible, while the truck driver was 90 percent at fault. So long as the other party is mostly responsible (more than 50 percent), you can still receive compensation for your damages. The downside of this system is that your award will be cut by the amount of fault you’re found to have. So if you were 10 percent to blame, you would lose 10 percent of the total compensation awarded.
Most cases don’t require a jury trial. We always attempt to work out a solution with the relevant insurance company first, but comparative negligence is still an issue. If the other party claims you are at fault, they will use this to encourage you to accept a lower offer. If they don’t have much evidence to support their claims, they may try even harder to pressure you into accepting a smaller settlement. It is extremely difficult for the average person to know exactly what a reasonable settlement should look like for their case, but your lawyer will help you determine what all your damages are. This is one important reason why it’s necessary to speak with a Greenville truck accident lawyer before accepting any offer or even attempting to negotiate with the insurers.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
In South Carolina, you have three years after the accident or injury to file a claim for damages. Because your attorney will need time to investigate your accident, we recommend contacting a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Do You Need to File a Claim in Another County or State?
Most personal injury claims should be filed in the county where the defendant lives or where the injury took place. If you have a case against the trucking company, you can file your lawsuit anywhere the company does business or where the crash happened. Your attorney will advise you on the best place to file your claim.
Potential Damages in a Trucking Accident Case
A fully loaded semi-truck at maximum weight can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Even an unloaded truck might be 25,000-30,000 pounds. Because of their weight and size, tractor-trailers are capable of doing intense damage to a small passenger car and its occupants, even in what might otherwise be a minor accident. For this reason, the damages in truck accident cases are often extensive.
There are two main categories of damages: Economic and non-economic. Economic damages are usually tied to a specific financial loss, such as a hospital bill or the amount of income you lost if you were out of work while recovering. Non-economic damages don’t come with a specific price tag, but they still cause harm and loss in your life, such as physical or emotional pain and suffering.
A Closer Look at Damages
Here are some examples of economic damages:
● Medical costs. This should include all medical bills to date related to your accident. Your Greenville truck accident lawyer will also ask if you expect to need continued care or will have future medical costs, as these should be factored in as well. Remember that medical costs may include mobility aids like crutches or a wheelchair, outpatient therapy, in-home care, and any items that you need to work on physical therapy exercises at home. You should also track your travel costs if you have to travel to see a specialist or receive treatment.
● Lost income. If you were unable to work for any period of time following your accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost income. This is true even if you were able to use sick days to get paid for your time off because you lost those sick days that you could have used another time. If you suffered a permanent disability and are no longer able to work, or can’t work as much or in the same job as you used to, you may also seek lost future income. Another type of income claim may apply if you lost your spouse in an accident and they were the primary earner.
● Property damage. Your vehicle may be completely totaled, or it could require extensive repairs. You should be compensated for the repair or replacement costs of your vehicle and any valuable items that suffered damage in the accident, such as a laptop or phone.
Here are some examples of non-economic damages:
● Pain and suffering. The more serious your injuries were, the more likely it is that you suffered severe pain and discomfort. In some cases, patients are left with chronic pain from their truck accident injuries,
● Emotional distress or mental anguish. Anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD – these are all common after the stress and trauma of a truck accident. Emotional or mental pain is every bit as serious as physical pain, and you deserve compensation for both.
● Loss of enjoyment of life. This can occur due to permanent disability or chronic pain that leaves you unable to continue with your usual activities.
● Loss of consortium or companionship. This occurs as the result of losing a loved one in a truck accident.
Economic and non-economic damages are both considered compensatory, meaning that they are meant to compensate the plaintiff for a loss. There is a third category called punitive damages, which is non-compensatory. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff but to punish the defendant and/or deter others from taking similar actions. They are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions are found by “clear and convincing evidence” to be willful, wanton, or reckless. If your accident was due to a simple, unintentional error in judgment, you probably won’t receive punitive damages.
On the other hand, if the truck driver was extremely intoxicated and driving on the wrong side of the road, their actions may be considered reckless, and it’s possible you could receive punitive damages. Another example would be if the trucking company knew about a potential safety hazard, such as a truck that needed brake work, but refused to order the necessary maintenance. This brazen lack of concern for safety could be interpreted as willful and reckless behavior.
In the event that they are awarded, punitive damages are capped at $500,000, or three times the actual damages, whichever amount is larger.
Greenville Truck Accident Lawyers
If you are involved in a truck accident, you can suffer life-changing injuries. Spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, and fractured bones are typical results of such a powerful collision. If you have sustained what are known as catastrophic injuries, you can expect your medical bills to add up quickly, throwing your family into a spiral of debt. Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers is dedicated to fighting for your rights to recover the compensation to which you are entitled.
We do not want to see any unsuspecting victim thrown into a financial disaster for which they had no part in causing. Our Greenville truck accident attorney is ready to provide a no-cost consultation today and get you started on the road to recovery. As always, there is no fee until we win your case.
Call today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!