Columbia Truck Accident Attorneys
If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident in Columbia, the personal injury attorneys at Stewart Law Offices want help you. Tractor-trailers and other commercial trucks are massive vehicles. Accidents involving them tend to cause serious injuries, especially for occupants of smaller vehicles.
If your accident was the fault of the truck driver, trucking company, or another responsible party, you may be eligible for significant financial compensation.
The causes of truck accidents are not always easy to determine. Federal and state regulations are intended to limit the size of commercial trucks and also ensure that drivers and vehicles are at peak performance. Many commercial truck crashes stem from violations of these regulations. Others are caused by driver error, employer negligence, or the negligence of other parties.
If you suffered catastrophic injuries or your loved one was killed in a tractor-trailer accident in Columbia, get legal help as soon as possible. At Stewart Law Offices, our experienced Columbia tractor-trailer injury attorneys are prepared to assist you throughout your recovery, both in investigating the true cause of the accident, determining who was at fault, and holding the responsible parties accountable.
Stewart Law Offices represents people in Columbia who have been hurt in accidents with 18-wheelers and other large commercial vehicles. You can have our lawyers review your case as soon as you call us or contact us online to receive a free consultation.
Types and Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Columbia
A tractor-trailer can be involved in many different kinds of crashes. Some of the most common accidents include:
- Jackknife accidents
- Overloaded vehicles
- Underride accidents
- Override accidents
- Rear-end collisions
- T-bone collisions
- Head-on collisions
- Wide-turn accidents
- Rollover accidents
- Blocking accidents
- Intersection accidents
The causes of these kinds of accidents can be very complex. Some of the most common causes of commercial truck accidents include:
- Driver fatigue
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving, including legal medications
- Brake failure
- Failure to maintain vehicle
- Defective parts
- Overloaded trailers
- Unsecured loads
- Inclement weather
- Inadequate driver training
Many truck drivers, trucking companies, or their insurers will claim that an injury victim was at fault for their injuries. For this reason, be sure not to speak with anyone about the accident until you have legal representation. Even if you know you were not at fault, they may be able to trick you into making statements that damage your ability to bring a successful claim.
Tractor-Trailer Accidents: How Often Do They Happen?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Data Loss Institute (IIHS HDLI) reported that 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in a single recent year. Of the deaths in large truck crashes, 2,642 were passenger vehicle occupants, 660 were large truck occupants, and 637 were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. IIHS HDLI reported that 1,277 deaths occurred on interstates and freeways, 2,373 occurred on other major roads, 281 occurred on minor roads, and 55 were unknown.
According to the Traffic Collision Fact Book from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, there were 76 fatalities resulting from collisions involving truck tractors and 30 involving other trucks in one year. Truck tractors were involved in 1,179 injury collisions and 3,874 property damage only (PDO) collisions while other trucks were involved in 541 injury collisions and 1,894 PDO collisions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that 104 people were killed in 95 fatal crashes involving large trucks the same year. According to FMCSA, there were 119,000 injury crashes involving large trucks or buses in 2016, the most of any year in the most recent 20-year period.
Differences Between Auto Accidents and Tractor-Trailer Accidents
A commercial truck accident is not the same as a crash that involves only passenger cars. Whereas an accident involving two regular passenger cars is usually limited to two drivers exchanging information and resolving matters through their respective insurance companies, tractor-trailer crashes are immediately more complicated by the possibility of multiple liable parties.
The truck driver is often the person most people assume is at fault, and the driver can indeed be liable for damages. In most cases, though, drivers do not have the personal insurance limits or assets necessary to pay for all the expenses incurred by accident victims.
Other parties, particularly trucking companies, usually have insurance policies with much higher limits. If you can demonstrate that they were responsible for your accident, which they often are in some way, you may be able to secure vastly more money than you would by just pursuing a claim against the driver as an individual.
Trucking companies might be responsible for accidents if they are negligent in hiring and training drivers, force drivers to drive too long without breaks, overload trucks or fail to do adequate maintenance. If the trucker was directly employed by the trucking company, the company could be liable by virtue of the law that holds employers responsible for the negligence of their employees. That may be true even if the trucking company claims the driver was an independent contractor.
Some of the other parties that could be held liable besides a driver or truck company may include:
- Another motorist
- Truck part manufacturer
- Governmental entity
- Cargo owner
- Cargo loading company
- Shipping agency
- Maintenance company
A lawyer can investigate your accident, potentially including doing accident reconstruction and extracting evidence from the tractor-trailer’s black box, in order to identify the liable parties.
Steps to Take After a Tractor-Trailer Accident in Columbia
When you are involved in a crash with a commercial truck, you should seek immediate medical attention. Do not wait for symptoms to appear days or weeks later, as some very serious conditions do not show symptoms at first.
While you are at the scene of the crash, try to collect whatever evidence you can. In most cases, people are able to use the cameras on their cell phones to take pictures. Get photographs of everything involved in the accident, including the vehicles, the drivers, the police, and any possible contributing factors. Look for skid marks, signs, debris, and other evidence. Take pictures from multiple angles and distances. If you are unable to do this because of a need for medical attention, ask a friend or family member to do this for you.
If anybody saw your accident, ask them for their name and phone number. These people could end up being valuable witnesses.
In some cases, trucking companies or their insurers will dispatch agents to crash scenes. The representatives may present victims with paperwork to sign under the guise of being part of the regular process, but such paperwork often contains hidden language restricting the rights of those victims.
Do not speak to anybody about your accident, including friends, family, and especially insurance companies. Make sure you have a lawyer first. Do not wait to contact an attorney after you have been involved in a tractor-trailer accident in Columbia.
Building a Case for Compensation for Injuries in a Truck Wreck
As soon as you hire Stewart Law Offices, we will immediately begin a diligent independent investigation of the crash. We will not only work to determine the true cause of your accident, but we can also secure important evidence. It is important to contact us as soon as possible so we can investigate your crash scene before important evidence disappears.
An attorney can help collect all of the necessary evidence to prove a truck driver or trucking company’s negligence in court. A victim will generally have to prove all four of the basic elements of a negligence claim in order to recover damages for their tractor-trailer crash:
- Duty of Care — The defendant had a duty to the victim to conduct themselves in a safe and lawful manner.
- Breach of Duty — The defendant breached that duty of care by not conducting themselves in a safe and lawful manner.
- Causation — The defendant’s breach of duty caused the victim’s injuries.
- Damages — The victim’s injuries resulted in damages.
If a victim proves their case by a preponderance of the evidence, the jury may award them compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are typically some combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are expenses that can be readily calculated and proven, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
Noneconomic damages are more subjective but just as real, such as
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
In a very limited number of cases, a jury could also award punitive damages. A victim must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the harm was caused by a defendant’s willful, reckless, or wanton conduct. Punitive damages are usually limited to rare cases in which the court wants to punish a defendant for especially egregious misconduct.
How Our Law Firm Can Help After a Columbia Tractor-Trailer Accident
Stewart Law Offices is ready to be by your side and help you through every step of the process for seeking compensation in your injury case.
Did you sustain serious injuries or was your loved one killed in a tractor-trailer crash in the greater Columbia area? Stewart Law Offices understands the entire lifetime of challenges that truck accident victims may face. Our firm fights to help injured people seek justice. Call us or contact us online now to schedule a free consultation.