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Large trucks play a vital role in our economy, moving goods throughout the country. Yet despite their importance, big rigs and other large commercial vehicles present serious risks on the roadway. A collision between an 18-wheeler and a passenger vehicle can often cause serious injuries.
If you have been hurt in a truck accident in South Carolina, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover financial compensation for your losses. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to money for your property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and more. An experienced South Carolina truck accident attorney can help you hold the at-fault parties responsible for your injuries.
The Derrick Law Office advocates for accident victims throughout South Carolina. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Reach out today to schedule an appointment with a member of our legal team.
Why Truck Accidents Are Different
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020 alone, there were 4,965 people killed in crashes involving large trucks. The majority – 71% – of people killed in these crashes were occupants of other vehicles. Many other truck crashes cause catastrophic injuries.
One of the biggest reasons why truck accidents are so different from other types of motor vehicle collisions is the sheer size difference of the vehicles. In the United States, commercial vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By comparison, the average weight of a passenger vehicle is around 4,000 pounds.
Because trucks are larger, heavier, and taller than passenger vehicles, they are more difficult to operate. Truck drivers are required to have a special license, known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Even so, truckers must be aware of blind spots, the greater length of time that it takes to slow or stop, and the need to make wide turns to avoid rollovers and other types of crashes.
Trucks also require more routine maintenance because they spend so much time on the road compared to passenger vehicles. They also sustain more wear and tear given the heavy loads that they are often carrying. As such, trucking companies must perform substantial routine maintenance to ensure that their vehicles are in good condition.
When it comes to truck accidents themselves, they are different in several ways. Given the size and weight of trucks, they are more likely to result in serious injuries. Truck accident claims may also involve a number of different at-fault parties beyond the driver. Commercial vehicles and truck drivers are also subjected to federal and state laws on everything from fitness to drive to the number of hours that they can drive without a break. Finally, there are different types of evidence at play with truck accidents, including “black box” data from the truck’s electronic logging device and maintenance logs.
Because truck accidents are so different from car accidents, it is important to hire a lawyer who understands the complexities of these cases. A seasoned truck accident attorney should be familiar with federal and state laws, and the various ways that truck accidents are distinct from other types of claims. They can then use this knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
When Can I File a Lawsuit for a Truck Accident in South Carolina?
Like other types of personal injury cases, truck accident claims are usually based on a theory of negligence. This legal term essentially means that someone was careless. In some cases, such as a drunk driving accident, the case may be brought on a theory that the driver or trucking company acted recklessly or intentionally.
The accident victim (plaintiff) is required to prove that the at-fault party (defendant) is legally responsible for their losses. For negligence cases, this requires demonstrating four things:
- Duty: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to use reasonable care.
- Breach: the defendant violated that duty in some way.
- Causation: the violation was the proximate (direct) cause of the accident.
- Damages: the plaintiff suffered losses as a result.
For example, if a truck driver ran a red light and t-boned another vehicle, then they would likely be considered negligent. The truck driver violated their duty to follow traffic laws by not stopping for a red light. This violation was the cause of the crash, and the other driver and/or passengers were hurt as a result.
In a truck accident claim, there may be other liable parties beyond the driver. This could include the trucking company, a manufacturer of a defective part, a company responsible for truck maintenance, or a company responsible for loading the truck and making sure that the load was secure. For example, if a trucking company knew that their driver was operating the big rig beyond the permissible hours of service under federal law and that the trucker fell asleep at the wheel and caused a crash, then the trucking company could be held responsible for the injury victim’s losses.
These types of claims are typically paid by insurance companies. After a free initial consultation, your South Carolina truck accident lawyer will start by investigating the accident. This may include interviewing witnesses, reviewing photos and videos of the accident scene, and requesting an accident report. They will also typically gather information about your losses, including medical bills, estimates for car repairs, and paystubs.
Next, your attorney will write a demand letter and send it to the insurance company. A demand letter explains the facts of the claim and why their insured is responsible and then makes a demand for compensation (damages). In most cases, insurance companies will respond to a demand letter with a counteroffer.
An experienced truck accident attorney can often negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance companies for all responsible parties. However, if the insurer refuses to offer you maximum compensation for your injuries, then it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to protect your rights. Even after a lawsuit is filed, the parties will continue to negotiate in an attempt to reach an agreement.
If the insurance company denies liability or the extent of your injuries, then your lawyer will take the case to trial. There, they will make arguments, introduce evidence, and question witnesses. They will then ask a jury to return a verdict in your favor. Having a skilled South Carolina truck accident lawyer by your side will often increase the likelihood of getting a favorable resolution without having to go to court.
Compensation in a South Carolina Truck Accident Case
In a truck accident case, you may be entitled to three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic and non-economic damages compensate an injury victim for their losses. Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the at-fault party acted intentionally or recklessly.
Economic damages include money for all direct financial losses. These damages are often well-documented through things like medical bills, estimates, and paystubs. Examples of economic damages include property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical expenses, and future medical treatment.
Non-economic damages cover losses that aren’t as easily proven – but are no less important. They may include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement.
Punitive damages are not available in every case because they are designed to punish a wrongdoer instead of compensate a victim. However, if the at-fault party acted intentionally or recklessly, then you may be able to get punitive damages. For example, if a trucking company knew that one of their vehicles’ tires were bald, but didn’t replace them to save money, they could be held responsible if a tire blowout caused a crash.
In situations where a loved one died in a truck accident, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Through this type of lawsuit, the deceased person’s heirs can recover compensation for funeral or burial expenses, lost wages, medical bills, loss of care and companionship, and their own pain and suffering.
Studies show that accident victims who are represented by counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves in these types of claims. In other words, you can’t afford to not hire a lawyer if you have been injured in a truck crash.
The insurance company is not on your side. Their goal is to resolve the claim for as little money as possible – not to protect your interests. If you have been hurt in a truck accident, our law firm will fight to help you get maximum compensation for your injuries.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Truck accidents often involve serious, life-changing injuries. If you have been hurt in a collision with a commercial truck, we can help you take on the trucking company, their insurance company, and any other responsible parties.
The Derrick Law Firm is committed to fighting for the rights of injury victims. We will help you get the compensation that you deserve, and will never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a South Carolina truck accident attorney, give us a call at 864-531-7765 or fill out our online contact form.
How Can I Afford to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Personal injury law firms typically handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that they charge nothing upfront, and you only pay an attorney’s fee if they recover money for you through a settlement or verdict at trial. The fee that you pay will be a percentage of your total recovery.
Contingency fee agreements allow you to hire an attorney even if you don’t have extra cash to pay a retainer or an hourly fee. They also align your interests with your lawyer’s, as you both want to resolve the case as quickly as possible and for as much money as possible. Call the Derrick Law Office to talk to a South Carolina truck accident attorney about your case.
How Much Is My Truck Accident Case Worth?
The value of any claim depends on several factors, including the extent of your truck accident injuries, the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy, and whether you were partially at fault for the crash. For example, a person who suffered spinal cord injuries in a truck accident will probably recover more money than a person who walked away with just bruises and scrapes.
During a free consultation, a lawyer will give you a ballpark estimate of what your case is worth. Throughout the process, your personal injury attorney should keep you updated on the value of your case. Contact the Derrick Law Office to learn more or to schedule an appointment with a South Carolina truck accident lawyer.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a Truck Accident Claim?
Yes. It is generally a good idea to have legal representation for any motor vehicle accident claim, particularly if you have suffered any injuries. It is even more important if you are hurt in a crash with a big rig or 18-wheeler.
Truck accident claims can be complicated given the complex web of federal and state laws, the potential for serious injuries, and the types of evidence involved. They also typically involve major corporations, including insurance companies and the truck company. Call the Derrick Law Office today to schedule a free consultation with an aggressive South Carolina truck accident lawyer who will fight for your right to full compensation.