Truck Accident Lawyers in Columbia, SC
You probably remember the first time you drove on the interstate next to a tractor-trailer. It can be a nerve-wracking experience to share the road with large commercial trucks, and the adrenaline boost you get while passing one never quite goes away. It’s true that commercial trucks are heavier and larger than regular vehicles and take special skills to be able to drive safely on the roads. But what happens when those skills fail, and a truck accident occurs?
Because truck drivers are on the job when they are involved in accidents, it can be confusing to understand who is at fault and what the legal options are if you want to pursue a claim. That’s where a truck accident firm like Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, comes in.
When you’re going up against a trucking company and its truck drivers, you need experienced Columbia truck accident lawyers on your side. At Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, we know how to deal with these types of accidents and what the right strategies are for your case.
What Are Some Causes of Truck Accidents?
Each truck accident case is unique, but because of the large nature of commercial trucks, there are some common themes when it comes to what causes a truck crash. Here are a few to be aware of.
Not Adhering to the Pre-Drive Checklist
Commercial trucks get a lot of use, which means they can break down and need replacement parts and repairs faster than a personal use vehicle. That’s one reason why commercial truck drivers have to go through a pre-drive safety and inspection checklist every time they start a route. If a driver fails to do so, it could mean that they don’t notice an issue that could contribute to an accident a few hundred miles down the road.
Driving Too Fast for Road Conditions
Driving too fast for road conditions is never a good idea. It makes it harder to react quickly when an accident or issue is ahead, and even making small adjustments, like changing lanes, can be dangerous. Large commercial trucks are heavy and unwieldy, making them especially dangerous when a driver is moving at high speed. The driver could lose control of the truck, and the force of the vehicle is likely to cause a devastating impact on any smaller cars around it.
Distracted, Tired, or Impaired Driving
Commercial truck drivers have very specific rules — discussed in more detail below — surrounding how much they can drive without taking a break or sleeping, and for good reason. Anyone who has been driven for several hours on the interstate knows how easy it is to be lulled into a zoned-out, distracted state when everything looks the same, and there isn’t much traffic to pay attention to. Truck drivers are expected to take precautions and follow the rules to ensure that they are alert and ready to pay attention during their shifts.
Not Leaving Enough Room Between the Truck and the Vehicle in Front
Every driver on the road is expected to maintain a reasonable distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them to ensure they have enough time and road space to react to a traffic incident. This distance needs to be even greater for a commercial truck. A truck driver driving too closely to the vehicle in front of them may not have time to slow down, change lanes, or otherwise avoid an accident if something happens abruptly in front of them, increasing the risk of an accident.
What Are the Driving Rules for Truck Drivers?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is tasked with creating the Hours of Service Regulations for commercial truck drivers. These regulations can get complex and include exemptions and exceptions for special cases, but we’ve provided a brief summary below so you can understand what the expectations are for truck drivers and the trucking companies who employ them.
For truck drivers who are carrying physical cargo, such as packages and supplies, the Hours of Service Regulations are as follows:
- The driver has to take a half-hour break if they have driven more than 8 hours without at least a 30-minute break at some point.
- Drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours, assuming they have had at least a 10-hour off-duty break prior.
- Drivers cannot drive for more than 60 hours over 7 consecutive days or 70 hours over eight consecutive days.
If you believe your accident was caused by a truck driver who had violated any of these regulations, speak to a truck accident lawyer at Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, about your options.
Is the Truck Driver or the Trucking Company Liable?
This is a complex question, but the answer is often “both.” In many cases, the trucking company employs the truck driver, which means they both may be able to be held liable depending on the circumstances of the trucking accident. While it is usually the main actions of the truck driver — such as veering off the side of the road or not maintaining an assured clear distance ahead — the trucking company can often be held liable because South Carolina allows victims to hold an employer liable for its employee’s actions. The trucking company may also be able to be held liable if it was negligent in any way during the hiring and training process or if the actions of another employee, such as a mechanic who performed faulty repairs on a truck, contributed to the accident.
Determining whether the truck driver or truck company is at fault and can be held accountable after a truck accident can be complex. A truck accident lawyer can talk with you about the details of your case and help you get a better understanding of who may be able to be named as a defendant in a lawsuit.
Recoverable Damages in Truck Accident Cases
After a truck accident in South Carolina, victims may be entitled to various types of damages to compensate for their losses, including:
- Special / Economic Damages: The awarding of economic damages comes when there is financial loss due to the accident. These damages can include compensation for medical bills related to an injury sustained in the accident, future medical care, lost wages, loss of potential future wages or earnings, car rental costs, and more.
- General / Non-Economic Damages
- General damages are more subjective than special damages and can be harder to determine. These damages recoverable after an accident help to compensate for pain and suffering as a result of the incident. Trauma, permanent injuries, emotional and psychological distress, and physical pain all fall under general damages.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are less common than special or general damages. Instead of the goal being to help relieve the pain and suffering of the victim, the goal is to discipline the defendant. The higher the punitive damages, the greater the message sent to the defendant as a warning regarding their reckless, illegal, or willful behavior.
In cases of wrongful death resulting from a truck accident, surviving family members might seek wrongful death damages, encompassing funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and the emotional toll of losing a loved one. Understanding these diverse damages is crucial when pursuing a legal claim. A skilled truck accident attorney can assess the specifics of the case, ensuring victims receive comprehensive compensation for their physical, emotional, and financial hardships.
If you are the victim of an accident or collision with a commercial truck or 18-wheeler, you don’t have to suffer in silence. The lawyers at Cavanaugh & Thickens have the expertise and experience you need to help you heal and recover, physically and financially. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your truck accident case.
Why Do I Need a Legal Advocate After a Truck Accident in Columbia?
Truck accident cases can get complicated quickly because they involve trucking companies, and those companies usually have dedicated legal teams to represent their interests when an accident occurs. If you’re attempting to file a lawsuit against a truck driver and/or trucking company after a trucking accident, you need an experienced truck accident attorney in your corner.
A truck accident lawyer has specific experience with truck accident cases, which means they know how to talk to insurance companies and the trucking company’s legal team. It can be intimidating for a layperson to have to deal with a team of lawyers who spend all of their time figuring out how to get the trucking company off of any liability when an accident occurs. That’s why you need someone to represent you and be your voice through this process who isn’t afraid of the other side’s legal team and has experience dealing with them directly.
Lawyers who work on truck accident cases can also provide counsel throughout the process to keep you from unintentionally taking the blame for the accident at any point. This is one reason it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. The sooner you have retained legal representation, the sooner your attorney can be your spokesperson and ensure that any information and statements provided are done with your best interests in mind.
Assuming the truck driver or the trucking company is found at fault for the accident, it’s likely that they will attempt to offer a settlement to try to keep the case from going to trial. In some cases, this may be a good option if you’re happy with the money being offered and also want to avoid the stress and time of a trial. However, these settlements are often less than what you could expect to get if you went forward with a trial, which is also something to consider. Your attorney can help you evaluate any settlement offers you may receive to ensure that you understand how they compare to what you could get if you win your case in court and what accepting a settlement offer means for your legal options in the future.
Lastly, a truck accident attorney can represent your interests at trial. While they are very different from the criminal trials you may have seen on crime shows, civil court cases can be complex. You need to have a full understanding of the court procedures and the applicable laws to represent yourself successfully in court. A truck accident attorney has that experience and knowledge and brings all of that to work on your behalf when your case goes to trial. They can help you find and depose witnesses to the accident, prepare questions for the truck driver and other relevant employees of the trucking company, and ensure that all of the paperwork and evidence procedures are handled correctly and in a timely manner.
Ready to get started? Call (803) 888-2200 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers in Columbia, SC. You’ll get a chance to discuss your case with a member of our team and find out how our legal services are a match for your needs.