18-Wheeler Accident Lawyers South Carolina

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18-wheelers are essential to our way of life. They are responsible for getting the goods that we use on a daily basis to a place where we can access them. Trucking companies also employ thousands of workers, providing an essential boost to the economy.

 However, commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers can be incredibly dangerous. If you are involved in a collision with a big rig, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, the trucking company, and its insurance company. Through this type of personal injury claim, you can recover financial compensation for all of your losses, including property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The Derrick Law Office represents injury victims throughout South Carolina who have been hurt in all types of accidents – including those involving 18-wheelers. We know how these crashes can cause serious injuries, and work hard to help our clients get the money that they deserve for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a South Carolina 18-wheeler accident attorney, reach out to our law firm today.

Common Causes of 18 Wheeler Accidents

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, in 2020 alone, there were 4,673 collisions involving 18-wheelers. This number includes 71 fatal accidents and 1,067 crashes where one or more people were injured. 101 people were seriously injured in South Carolina 18-wheeler accidents in 2020.

Just like other motor vehicle accidents, driver error is the most common cause of crashes involving 18-wheelers.  However, because of the unique nature of the work of driving a big rig, there are some underlying causes that occur more frequently. This includes:

  • Drowsy driving, given the long hours that truck drivers tend to spend on the road
  • Distracted driving, including using GPS, eating and drinking, or using a smartphone
  • Drunk driving or impaired driving
  • Speeding
  • Unbalanced loads
  • Defective vehicle parts
  • Improper maintenance 

If a truck driver was responsible for causing a crash, then they may be held liable for any injuries that they cause. This includes all types of 18-wheeler accidents, including rollover, jackknife, wide turn, rear-end, head-on, t-bone, and sideswipe accidents. An experienced South Carolina 18-wheeler accident lawyer can help you determine if you are able to file a claim against the at-fault driver and any other responsible parties.

Why 18-Wheeler Accidents Are Different from Other Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents

There are some major differences between crashes between passenger vehicles and one that involves a large commercial motor vehicle like an 18-wheeler. The first and most obvious difference is between the size of the vehicles. A fully-loaded commercial motor vehicle can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds – compared to an average weight of 2,000 to 4,000 pounds for a passenger vehicle.

Of course, 18-wheelers are also much taller than passenger vehicles (even pickup trucks and SUVs). This puts them at increased risk of rollover accidents and can mean that a passenger vehicle suffers far more damage – and its occupants can suffer far more serious injuries – as a result. Given the difference in both height and weight, there is a far higher likelihood of fatal injuries in these types of collisions.

The operation of 18-wheelers are governed by a complex web of federal and state regulations. These laws cover everything from who can drive the vehicles to the type of maintenance work that must be performed to the number of hours that a truck driver can be on the road without a break (hours of service regulations). Understanding these rules – and how a violation may apply to a truck accident claim – is critical to successfully bringing a lawsuit against a trucking company.

There are also different kinds of evidence in 18-wheeler accidents. This may include:

  • Driving logs (logbooks)
  • Inspection reports
  • Maintenance reports
  • Cargo logs
  • Electronic monitoring data (a “black box”)
  • Substance abuse test records
  • Other employee records

 This documentation is rarely available in a crash involving passenger vehicles. While it can be helpful in building a strong claim, your South Carolina truck accident attorney must be able to understand, interpret, and know how to use this evidence effectively to win your case.

 Finally, the 18-wheelers themselves are typically owned by large trucking companies. These companies carry large liability policies through massive insurance companies. As a result, the at-fault party often has whole teams of adjusters, investigators, and attorneys backing them up – which can be intimidating to an accident victim who simply wants to get a fair settlement for their injuries.

Filing an 18 Wheeler Accident Lawsuit

Like other types of personal injury claims, 18-wheeler accident claims are usually based on a theory of negligence, or carelessness. Negligence is a legal theory that means that a person did not do what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation. In big rig accident cases, the “reasonable person” standard means a reasonably licensed truck driver.

To prove a negligence case, you will have to demonstrate four things:

  1. Duty: the at-fault driver (defendant) owed you (plaintiff) a duty of care
  2. Breach: the defendant violated that duty in some way
  3. Causation: this violation was the proximate cause (or direct cause) of the crash
  4. Damages: you suffered losses as a result

 Negligence can happen in any number of ways. For example, if a trucker was checking his phone instead of paying attention to the road and drifted into your lane, side-swiping your vehicle, they would be considered negligent. They had a duty to use reasonable care and follow traffic laws while operating the 18-wheeler, which they violated when they engaged in distracted driving. That violation caused the accident, and you suffered injuries as a result.

 Although most personal injury lawsuits are based on negligence, there are situations that involve intentional or reckless conduct. A good example of this type of case is a drunk driving accident. In this situation, you won’t need to prove that the at-fault driver was negligent, because their conduct was (at minimum) reckless. In fact, they may be considered negligent per se under South Carolina law.

 Just as individual truck drivers may be negligent, intentional, or reckless in causing accidents, trucking companies and other parties can be, too. For example, if a trucking company knows that a particular 18-wheeler needs new tires, but decides to put it off to save money, and then a tire blowout causes a massive accident with catastrophic injuries, they can be held liable for all losses. Similarly, if a manufacturer of a truck part (such as brakes) made a faulty product that caused a crash, they could be sued for compensation in a product liability claim.

 Winning a truck accident lawsuit can be difficult, particularly when you’re going up against a large corporation and its even bigger insurance company. In this situation, you need a skilled 18-wheeler accident lawyer in South Carolina to advocate for your best interests and fight for your right to maximum compensation.

Compensation in an 18 Wheeler Accident Claim

Accidents involving big rigs often produce serious, life-changing injuries. Common injuries from 18-wheeler crashes include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Internal organ damage
  • Death

 If you have suffered severe injuries in a collision with an 18-wheeler, you may be entitled to financial compensation, known as damages.

There are three potential types of damages in a personal injury claim: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages compensate an injury victim for their losses. Punitive damages may be awarded in cases where a defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, as a way to penalize them.

Economic damages pay for direct financial losses, such as property damage, medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. These damages may also pay for things like modifications to your home if you are permanently disabled.

 Non-economic damages cover intangible losses, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement. While non-economic damages can be harder to prove, they are no less important than economic damages. 

In cases that involve reckless or intentional conduct – such as drunk driving accidents – punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

If someone dies as a result of an 18-wheeler accident, their survivors may bring a wrongful death claim. Compensation in a wrongful death case may include money for funeral or burial expenses, lost wages that the deceased person would have earned, medical bills, property damage, loss of care and companionship, and pain and suffering of their family members.

The best way to get full compensation for an 18-wheeler accident is by working with a top South Carolina personal injury lawyer. Our law firm will fight for your rights, and help you get a fair settlement for your losses.

How Derrick Law Office Can Help

18 wheelers may be necessary to our way of life – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous. Even the most careful driver can be involved in a serious accident involving a big rig. In this situation, you need an aggressive advocate who can help you get the money that you deserve.

The Derrick Law Office represents people throughout South Carolina who have been injured in 18-wheeler and other types of motor vehicle accidents. We offer free consultations for all prospective clients and handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a South Carolina 18-wheeler accident attorney, give our law firm a call at 864-531-7765 or fill out our online contact form.

 How Can I Afford to Hire a Lawyer for My 18 Wheeler Accident Claim?

Our law firm handles cases using contingency fee agreements. This means that you pay nothing upfront, and only pay a fee if we recover money for you. The fee that you pay will be a percentage of your total recovery, whether it is through a settlement or jury verdict after a trial.

Contingency fee arrangements mean that anyone can afford to hire an attorney, even if they don’t have extra cash on hand to pay an hourly fee. Call the Derrick Law Office today to talk to a South Carolina 18-wheeler accident lawyer.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for an 18-Wheeler Accident?

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina is 3 years. With a few exceptions, this means that you have 3 years from the date of the crash to file a claim. If you don’t file within that time period, then the defendant can seek to dismiss the case.

3 years may seem like a lot of time, but it can go quickly when you are dealing with the aftermath of an accident. Contact the Derrick Law Office as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with a South Carolina 18-wheeler accident attorney.

The Trucking Company Offered a Settlement. Should I Take It?

No – not without talking to a lawyer first. The trucking company – and their insurer – don’t have your best interests at heart. Their goal is to get the case resolved for as little money as possible. The settlement that they offer is probably a fraction of the true value of your claim.

During a free initial consultation with a personal injury law firm, you can get a ballpark estimate of how much your case is worth, as well as advice on your legal rights and options. You can then make a more informed decision about how to move forward. To learn more, call the Derrick Law Office to talk to a South Carolina truck accident lawyer about your case.