Tractor-Trailer Accidents in South CarolinaTruck Accidents
The last thing on your mind as you are traveling the roadways here in South Carolina is an accident. Let’s face it, collisions occur frequently, but we don’t usually think about them until they happen to us or someone we love.
Unfortunately, the odds of being in an accident on South Carolina roadways are high. While we have great weather most of the year, the one statistic that should concern every driver is that most accidents involving tractor-trailers occur when roadways are dry and during the day. This may seem strange, but consider this: Most truck drivers are attempting to get deliveries done when businesses are open. After all, without truckers, how would we be able to purchase food, fuel, or home goods at our local retailers?
The fact is, we would not be able to get what we need without these roadway behemoths bringing products to our local stores. But we need them to get there safely. Too often, they don’t, and the negligence of truck drivers and trucking companies injures people.
Some Causes of Truck Accidents Are Telling
It is probably not surprising that truck accidents are nearly always a result of driver error. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determined that the percentage of accidents that can be attributed to driver error is as high as 87 percent.
This data further breaks down into these categories:
- Non-Performance – approximately 12 percent of accidents are the result of a driver’s non-performance. This may involve a driver falling asleep at the wheel, suffering a medical emergency, or being impaired by drugs or alcohol while driving.
- Recognition – distracted driving or a driver’s failure to identify a potential threat with sufficient time to react causes 28 percent of all tractor-trailer accidents. Tractor-trailer trucks cannot stop quickly, even when they do not carry cargo.
- Decision-making – 38 percent of accidents occur because of a driver’s faulty decision. Truck drivers who drive too fast for the weather, are traveling too close behind a vehicle in front of them, or misjudge traffic flow can leave other drivers injured because of their judgment error.
- Performance – a driver panicking and overcompensating causes the smallest number of driver errors.
While these situations are all considered driver errors, in some instances, part of the fault may lie with the driver’s employer. Employers must train their truck operators. Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, a marked shortage of tractor-trailer drivers has led some employers to take chances and hire inexperienced drivers. The problem with an employer taking chances on hiring unqualified truck drivers is that a driver’s inexperience jeopardizes the safety of everyone who shares the roadway with a poorly trained driver.
Truck Accidents and Determining Fault
An injury occurs on South Carolina roadways every nine minutes, according to a recent report released by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Traffic collisions occur once every 13.7 minutes. These statistics are sobering, and if you happen to be one of the victims of these wrecks, your life could be altered forever—particularly when the other vehicle is a tractor-trailer.
One of the issues with tractor-trailer collisions is determining who is at fault for the accident. While the truck driver is at fault for many tractor-trailer collisions, there are some cases when it is not so clear who is to blame.
Some examples of situations in which fault is not completely clear include:
- The driver ran a red light – a driver who is not paying attention to traffic signals and flies through a red light is perhaps the only one to blame for this type of accident. However, a driver who is on a too-tight deadline imposed by their employer may be traveling too quickly and fail to notice a traffic signal. In this situation, their employer could be partially at fault.
- The driver was too close behind your car – this is an exercise in poor judgment and the driver should have known better. However, it may be this driver had insufficient training in safe operation and, despite having a commercial driver’s license, they may not know how much space they need to safely stop the truck. Again, in this situation, the driver’s employer may be partially to blame.
- The truck overturned – an unevenly loaded truck can tip over when a driver is going up an incline, driving too close to a road shoulder, or when a truck is attempting to avoid a hazard in the road. These accidents may be the fault of the driver, or the company tasked with loading the vehicle.
These are only a few examples of what can occur when you are involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer on South Carolina’s roadways. To protect yourself, you should seek guidance from an attorney who has experience handling these accidents.
Tractor-Trailer Accident Injuries
An empty car weighs about 5,000 pounds, while an empty truck weighs between 20,000 and 26,000 pounds. That weight difference tells you nearly everything you need to know about the injuries that can result from a collision between a car and a tractor-trailer. Some truck accident victims never recover from their injuries, leaving their families to mourn their loss and live with the financial devastation of that loss. In other cases, victims only partially recover from their injuries.
Some of the injuries a passenger or driver in a car involved in a tractor-trailer collision suffers may include:
- Traumatic brain injuries – these hidden injuries are perhaps one of the most challenging for victims and their families. The root cause of TBI is the brain being jarred inside the skull. These injuries can cause a loss of bodily function, change a victim’s personality, and lead to other long-term health issues.
- Broken bones – that crunching sound you hear upon impact with a truck may not just be the sound of your car crumpling. You could also suffer a broken leg, pelvis, rib, or worse. While simple broken bones may heal relatively quickly, the size of a truck may crush a bone, requiring surgery to repair.
- Soft tissue and internal injuries – some of the most challenging injuries to identify following a collision with a tractor-trailer are soft tissue injuries. Organ damage, soft tissue bruising, and other internal injuries can lead to internal bleeding, putting victims at risk of death following a tractor-trailer collision.
If you lost a loved one in a tractor-trailer collision or you suffered serious injuries in a roadway accident involving a truck, you must understand your rights before you file an insurance claim. Insurance company adjusters will do everything they can to reduce your claim and they are not likely to inform you of your legal options or your rights.
Insurance Company Claims Processes Are Not Always Straightforward
You may think that filing a claim with the tractor-trailer operator’s insurance company is the best option you have to secure compensation after your accident. However, the insurer may have other ideas. They may reject your claim immediately and tell you that either you were responsible for the accident, or some other party was at fault. While you certainly have the right to appeal this kind of decision, the situation may be particularly complicated if they claim that someone else was to blame for the accident.
This is one of many reasons for you to contact an attorney who has experience handling tractor-trailer collision injury claims. The more vehicles that were involved in an accident, the more complicated the negotiations will be. During the time your focus should be on recovering physically, you will likely be inundated with telephone calls and letters from an insurance company. This does not happen accidentally.
Remember this: insurance company adjusters are specially trained to save money for their employer by taking advantage of people who are in vulnerable positions. When you are suffering from a serious injury, worried about your recovery, and losing income while you are out of work, the insurance company knows that you may be willing to accept less than you deserve to get your money as quickly as possible.
Quick Settlement Offers Usually Aren’t the Best Offers
You think you have hit the jackpot. Less than a month following your accident with a tractor-trailer, you get a call or a letter in the mail with an offer from the insurance company. What you may not realize is that by accepting that initial offer, you could be foregoing important compensation.
Some examples include:
- Future medical bills – once you agree to a settlement, most insurers ask you to waive your right to seek any additional compensation. While this may work out fine if you have only a minor injury, if your injury is going to require ongoing medical attention, you could be left to pay future medical bills on your own.
- Lost wages – the insurer may be generous with an offer of lost wages for the month you have been out of work. But what happens if you cannot return to work at all? Have they included long-term lost wages in their settlement? Probably not, and by accepting their settlement offer, you cannot recover any additional lost wages in the future.
Settlement offers do not come without strings attached. In nearly all instances, a settlement offer means the insurance company is asking you to waive any rights for any additional damages that result from the accident.
Before you sign anything, including a settlement letter, authorization for medical records, or other documents, make sure you have them reviewed by an attorney. The more serious your injuries, the more likely you are to be taken advantage of by an insurance company intent on protecting their bottom line. Remember how these companies make their money: their customers pay premiums, which increase corporate income. However, when the insurer has to pay a claim, the settlement comes out of their bottom line, damaging their profits. It is always a good idea to remember that insurance companies are protecting their own interests rather than worrying about what is best for you and your family.
Recovery Time and Your Overall Health
Your recovery time can vary greatly depending on your age, overall health, and the speed at which the accident occurred. The bottom line is that you need to maintain a positive outlook while you are recovering so you can get back to as much of a sense of normalcy as possible after the accident. A lawyer can answer your questions, work with insurance companies to protect your interests, and make sure you understand how to pursue compensation. You should then put your full focus on your physical recovery, so you can get back to the things you enjoy most in life as quickly as possible.
Protect your interests and the financial future of your family by asking for a free consultation with a South Carolina tractor-trailer accident attorney to find out about your rights and options. You owe it to yourself and to your family to get the advice you need to make the best possible decisions.
If you are the victim of a tractor-trailer collision or a family member left behind after losing a loved one in a South Carolina tractor-trailer wreck, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer immediately to find out about your legal options and get a better understanding of your rights.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.