Tractor-trailer trucks are some of the tallest, largest, and heaviest vehicles on the road in and around Beaufort, South Carolina. When one collides with a smaller vehicle of any kind – especially head-on – the result is almost always severe and sometimes deadly because of the weight and momentum involved.
If you suffered injuries in an accident with an 18-wheeler or other heavy truck, you should discuss the details during a free consultation with a Beaufort tractor-trailer accident attorney at Stewart Law Offices, LLC. Our firm has comprehensive experience assisting clients injured due to accidents caused by the negligence of trucking companies, truck drivers, and other responsible parties.
Call us or contact us online now for a free consultation and more information about your legal rights.
Types and Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents in South Carolina
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, most of the fatalities in large truck crashes are not the truck drivers but the occupants of the other vehicles involved. In just one recent year throughout the United States, there were 3,986 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks, and just 17% of those killed were occupants of the truck. In contrast, 16% were motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, while the vast majority of 66% were occupants of passenger vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in South Carolina, large trucks were involved in 100 out of 1,402 fatal crashes, or 7.1%.
Many things can contribute to tractor-trailer crashes in that occur in Beaufort.
Factors related to truck drivers:
- Speeding, running red lights or aggressive driving to make better time on their route
- Texting, talking on the phone, or other forms of distraction while driving
- Mistakes by a driver due to inexperience with the particular vehicle or poor training
- Driving while too fatigued, due to lack of sleep or not taking required breaks
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including drugs to keep them awake longer hours
Factors related to the trucks:
- Mechanical failure, especially brakes
- Poor or infrequent maintenance and inspections
- Improperly loading the vehicle with unstable cargo
- Poor visibility due to large blind spots
- Backing up without some way to verify that nothing is in the way
- Defective parts
- Truck jackknifing before or during a collision
- Smaller vehicles driving under or getting pushed under a taller truck
Factors related to actions by drivers of other vehicles:
- Sudden lane changes in front of a semi-truck
- Trying to pass a semi-trailer when there’s not enough room to safely do so
- Following too closely behind a tractor-trailer, or driving in one of its large blind spots
- Turning in front of a big rig without enough distance between the two vehicles
- A motorcycle lane-splitting between two tractor-trailers
Differences Between Auto Accidents and Tractor-Trailer Accidents
There are several differences between car and commercial truck accidents, including the likelihood of serious injuries, potentially liable parties, and the insurance claim process. Here are few examples of what can make a tractor-trailer crash more complex:
- A much greater risk of death and severe injuries requiring more expensive long-term medical care due to the weight and size differences between tractor-trailers and other types of vehicles. A fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh 80,000 to 100,000 pounds or more, compared to a typical 4,000-pound car or 1,000-pound motorcycle.
- A 100,000-pound truck barreling along can plow through just about anything, creating large amounts of property damage in its wake.
- Tractor-trailers, trucking companies, and drivers may all be from outside of South Carolina and may be from several different states. The driver may have been on a route that crosses through multiple states. For all of these reasons, your case may be heard in a federal court rather than a South Carolina court.
- Tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks are generally covered by a commercial insurance policy through the trucking company. These policies typically have much higher limits than those carried by private individuals on their cars. Since the potential compensation for damage, injury, and death due to their negligence is so great, the commercial insurance company will spend a lot more effort to minimize your claim than a personal auto insurance carrier might. The trucking company, their insurance company, and any third-party claim company employed by the insurance company may all send investigators to gather as much evidence as possible to reduce your claim and point the finger of fault at you instead of them. You should not speak with any of these people until you’ve discussed your case with a tractor-trailer accident attorney in Beaufort.
- A commercial policy is complex and covers multiple companies and different types of liabilities, including property and vehicle damage, injuries, and whether the truck driver followed their unique regulations such as keeping logbooks of time driven and required breaks, maintenance, training, route registration, and weight limits. Who is liable for your injuries? The truck driver? The truck owner? The trailer owner? The cargo owner? The people or the company responsible for maintenance and inspections? The manufacturers of any defective truck parts? The agencies responsible for the condition of the road? The answer depends on the circumstances and may include some or all of those parties or others.
All of these things need to be included in your attorney’s investigation of your case, to seek the compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries and other losses.
Steps to Take After a Tractor-Trailer Accident in Beaufort
- Seek emergency medical treatment. Get a medical evaluation from your doctor or a hospital, even if you don’t believe at first that you’ve been seriously injured. Many health problems from accidents take time to develop, including muscle and nerve issues, spine problems, and head and neck related injuries.
- Be sure to take a lot of photos at the scene of the accident, including all vehicles involved and anything which might indicate the path of a vehicle or its attempt to stop, such as skid marks or trails of shattered vehicle parts. Also, take pictures of the point of impact, crash damage to your vehicle and others, and your injuries.
- Be sure to obtain a copy of any police report which will include the officer’s account of what happened, witness statements, and citations issued, if any.
- Don’t share your accident, health condition, or injuries publicly, especially on social media.
- Don’t talk to any of the insurance investigators working for the trucking company until you’ve spoken with an attorney.
- Hire a Beaufort tractor-trailer accident lawyer who is very experienced in these matters. Our attorneys at Stewart Law Offices, LLC understand the nuances of a tractor-trailer case and are prepared to conduct a detailed, complete investigation of the circumstances, including collecting evidence and obtaining advice analysis from doctors and other professionals.
Building a Case for Compensation
It can be daunting to take on the trucking company’s insurance carrier and other powerful adversaries they may bring to court. Get Stewart Law Offices to help. Our well-informed and highly experienced attorneys can handle tractor-trailer accident litigation for you, helping you build a persuasive case and negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf.
As part of your attorney’s investigation, he or she can make sure that all required evidence is preserved, which includes the condition of your damaged vehicle. Do not repair your vehicle until your case is resolved, because the visible damage it sustained in the accident could be compelling evidence in your case.
Your lawyer at Stewart Law Offices may also collect records from the trucking company involved as evidence. Employer records of driver training and discipline, background checks, alcohol and drug tests, the truck’s black box recording of its mechanical operation leading up to the accident, inspection reports, cargo and maintenance logs, and driver’s logbook could all be examined and considered in your case.
Every detail is important because so much compensation is at stake. If your lawyer can prove that a tractor-trailer driver, the trucking company they work for, or another party acted negligently and that resulted in your injuries, you have the right to seek compensation for:
- Lost earning capacity and lost wages from missed time at work
- Medical expenses (both short-term and long-term), including medical equipment
- Damaged property replacement or repair
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death-related losses and expenses if a close relative died in the crash
How Stewart Law Offices, LLC Can Help Truck Wreck Victims in Beaufort
A tractor-trailer accident lawyer in Beaufort from our firm is prepared to review the evidence and details you provide during a free consultation. If it’s not possible for you to come to our office, we’ll visit you in the hospital, at your home, or wherever it’s most convenient.
Call us now to set up your free consultation, or chat with us on our site, or fill out a contact form here to schedule it.