If you recently suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, South Carolina tort law allows you to hold the at-fault party financially responsible. Several factors, including liability, can complicate a truck accident case.
Let Charleston truck accident lawyer Trey Harrell walk you through the process and take action immediately. Our personal injury team works with families to recover their damages and restore their lives after a devastating accident.
What Is the Role of a Truck Accident Lawyer?
A legal representative is responsible for protecting your rights and fighting to obtain fast and fair compensation. The duties of an attorney vary case by case. However, common tasks for most cases include:
- Providing guidance throughout the legal proceedings
- Conducting a thorough investigation of the accident to gather evidence proving negligence, often with the help of auto accident reconstruction experts
- Completing and filing the paperwork necessary to file your claim or lawsuit
- Handling all communication and negotiations with the insurance company
- Evaluating your losses to identify recoverable damages and ensure you receive a fair settlement
An experienced truck accident lawyer understands the financial, physical and emotional impact of severe accidents. Attorney Trey Harrell offers compassionate support along with professional guidance.
What Types of Cases Can Our Truck Accident Attorney Handle?
The circumstances leading to a truck accident can vary significantly but ultimately result in the most catastrophic impacts in the long term.
Examples of cases our Charleston truck accident lawyer handles include:
- Jackknife accidents: When a truck brakes or turns improperly, the trailer can pivot to one side, creating the shape of a folding jackknife. The flailing trailer can strike other vehicles or flip.
- Rear-end collisions: The drastic difference in size between a commercial truck and a standard passenger car can cause substantial damage when the truck hits the car from behind. Tailgating and distracted driving are common causes.
- Wide-turn accidents: Taking a right-hand turn is tougher for a commercial truck. Cars in neighboring lanes may collide with the trailer or get stuck underneath if the driver is not careful.
- Head-on collisions: The most deadly form of a truck accident is a head-on collision. Fatigued and drunk driving are the most common causes, and the results are typically fatal for passengers in smaller vehicles.
- T-bone accidents: This occurs when one vehicle crashes head-on into the side of another, creating a T-shape. It typically happens at intersections where one vehicle runs a stop sign or red light.
- Rollover accidents: This can happen when a driver takes a turn too sharply or when cargo is overloaded or improperly secured. At worst, a truck can tip over onto another vehicle.
Understanding the type and cause of the accident is the first step in determining who is liable for the crash and the resulting damages. An experienced Charleston truck accident lawyer knows where to look for proof of fault.
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?
Determining liability in a truck accident case is often more complex than other auto accident cases. The most apparent defendant is the truck driver. However, under certain circumstances, several other parties could be responsible for the crash, even if they are not physically present when it occurs.
The truck driver
Driver error is a common cause of truck accidents. Speeding, failing to yield, distracted driving and driving under the influence are just a few reasons a driver could be at fault. Independent drivers carry more responsibility than those directly employed by a trucking company because they own their trucks.
If the truck driver from your accident violated a traffic law, causing a crash, you could sue them for damages. However, you may also have a case against their employer.
The truck driver’s employer
The trucking company employing the driver can also be responsible for resulting damages under several circumstances. Relevant duties of the company include:
- Properly vetting truck drivers to ensure they have clean traffic records
- Adequately training drivers before allowing them on the road
- Performing routine inspections and maintenance on their vehicles to keep them operating at peak performance
Hiring a driver with a record of breaking traffic laws or violating industry regulations is the company’s fault. It would make them liable for any accident caused by the truck driver. If the accident’s cause is an issue with the truck, an experienced Charleston truck accident lawyer knows where to look for evidence of the company’s negligence regarding maintenance and inspections.
Trucking companies with large fleets commonly outsource their trucks’ inspection, maintenance and repair responsibilities to a third-party mechanic. If a mechanical issue causes an accident, the first place to look for liability is the party in charge of inspecting and maintaining the truck.
The truck or parts manufacturer
Sometimes a technical or mechanical issue is the fault of the truck or parts manufacturer. For example, a failed braking system could cause a catastrophic accident. The reason for failed brakes could be a maintenance problem, but the manufacturer is responsible if the root is in the design or assembly process.
In this instance, you may need a Charleston truck accident lawyer to help you file a product liability claim. These cases are often challenging. Proving liability falls on the plaintiff, and showing that a manufacturer is responsible for an accident is a complex process.
The cargo loader
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict regulations regarding the weight and security of cargo. Violating weight restrictions or failing to secure a trailer load properly presents many dangers to the driver and others on the road. An overweight load puts undue stress on the truck, causing early wear and tear and increasing the risk of a tire blowout or malfunction.
Properly securing cargo is a critical safety precaution. Haphazardly loaded and secured shipments can shift in transit. A shifting load can throw off the trailer’s center of gravity, increasing the risk of a rollover accident. Flatbed trucks can dump debris onto the road, endangering other drivers and causing the truck driver to lose control.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Truck Accident Case?
South Carolina civil court refers to the losses you can recover from your accident as compensatory damages. These include specific and general losses, also known as economic and non-economic damages. The exact types of damages can vary depending on several elements, including the severity of the accident and injuries.
Specific damages refer to the monetary losses associated with the accident and resulting injuries. A more severe accident will have more substantial damages, but common examples include:
- The cost of necessary medical treatment, including future expenses for injuries requiring pro-longed care
- The income lost from missed work or loss of earning capacity
- The value of any repairs required for damaged property
- The cost of replacement services needed during recovery, such as household help and transport to and from medical appointments
As the plaintiff, you and your legal team are responsible for presenting the evidence to prove specific damages. This can include medical bills, tax documents, pay stubs and repair estimates.
More complex and often more challenging to prove, general damages refer to the non-monetary losses from the accident and your injuries. This includes the mental and emotional impact:
- The pain and suffering caused by your physical injuries and treatment
- The emotional distress and mental anguish
- Anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Disability or disfigurement
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
Trey Harrell, an experienced personal injury lawyer serving Charleston, will assess your truck accident case to identify recoverable non-economic damages and explain the process of assigning monetary value to these losses.
Exemplary or punitive damages are not compensation for any loss. Instead, the court may order the defendant to pay additional damages as punishment for gross negligence or egregious behavior. For example, if the driver who hit you was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and driving recklessly at the time, that could constitute gross negligence and warrant an award for punitive damages.
Damages from a wrongful death case
If you lost a loved one in a truck accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages for your loss. In South Carolina, the executor of the deceased’s estate can seek damages for the surviving family, including:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income and benefits your loved one provided
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of love, society, nurturing and guidance
No amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one. However, the law can ease the financial damage and help you achieve justice.
Schedule a Consultation With a Charleston Truck Accident Lawyer
Truck accidents can have devastating consequences. Trey Harrell and our compassionate team can help you build a case for compensation and hold the at-fault party responsible for their negligence. As a former federal prosecutor, Trey has extensive experience in the courtroom and is prepared to litigate your personal injury claim against the big truck companies.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Charleston truck accident lawyer.
Truck Accident Case FAQs
What is the most deadly type of truck accident?
An underride accident is when a car ends up underneath the side or back of a truck in an accident. Underride accidents often occur when a truck stops short in front of a driver, and the motorist cannot stop in time to avoid a crash. These injuries will almost always result in a catastrophic injury to the head or neck, and they will usually involve fatalities.
How many truck accidents happen in South Carolina each year?
In 2020, there were 4,978 crashes involving tractor-trailers in South Carolina. There were fatalities involved in 75 of these accidents.
The number of serious truck accidents has been sharply increasing, both in South Carolina and across the country, as there are fewer experienced truck drivers and more commercial vehicles on the road.
What does the FMCSA regulate?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the federal agency that is tasked with regulating trucking and trucking companies. The FMCSA publishes an extensive set of regulations that govern every facet of the trucking industry.
In addition, the FMCSA also acts to inspect trucks, investigate accidents and take enforcement actions against trucking companies that break the rules.