Drunk Driving Semi-Truck Accidents in Columbia, S.C.
Driving a semi-truck is a huge responsibility. For this reason, both South Carolina and federal laws place greater restrictions on truckers compared to other drivers. This is especially true when it comes to drunk driving.
It’s illegal in every state for anyone to operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. But for commercial drivers, the allowable limit is half that number, at 0.04. Truckers who violate the law and cause a drunk driving semi-truck accident can face severe penalties. So can their employers.
There’s never an excuse for drunk driving. If you’ve been hurt by an impaired trucker in South Carolina, you need to speak with a Columbia drunk driving accident lawyer right away.
Reach out to Stewart Law Offices today. Our compassionate team of tough trial lawyers will fight for the compensation you’re entitled to.
Semi-Truck Driver DUI Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places harsh restrictions on alcohol consumption for truck drivers. These rules apply to drivers before and during their shifts.
Semi-truck drivers may be charged with a DUI offense if they have a BAC of 0.04 percent, or if they are so impaired by alcohol and drugs that they are unable to drive responsibly. Truckers cannot get behind the wheel with a BAC of 0.04 or higher or if they drank alcohol within four hours of the start of their shifts.
Truckers must also submit to random BAC tests or risk losing their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for at least one year. A commercial driver will also lose his or her CDL if convicted of DUI while operating any vehicle or by refusing to submit to a chemical or breath test.
Truck drivers face even more severe penalties if they were carrying hazardous materials while they were driving under the influence. When this happens, semi-truck drivers may lose their CDL for a period of three years. When a truck driver is found to be a repeat offender, he or she could lose the CDL permanently.
Truck drivers do not even have to be over the legal limit to face certain penalties. Remember that alcohol affects everyone differently. When a semi-truck driver is found to have a BAC lower than 0.04 percent but is still impaired, he or she could receive an out-of-service notice, which prohibits any driving for the next 24 hours.
Drug and Alcohol Statistics for Truck Drivers
Learning that any driver, let alone one in charge of a commercial truck, was impaired at the time of a crash is horrifying. Sadly, it happens much more often than people would like to think.
Nearly 4,800 truck drivers were involved in fatal crashes in a recent year, according to the most current data from FMCSA. Of that number, 4.6 percent were driving with a BAC of 0.01 or greater, and 3.1 percent were over the legal limit of 0.08.
A research review of 36 studies on substance abuse and truck drivers from around the world found other troubling drug and alcohol statistics:
- Depending on the country, anywhere from nine to 91 percent of truckers admitted to drinking alcohol while on the job.
On average, about 50 percent of participants admitted to using alcohol or drugs while operating a commercial truck.
- On average, 30 percent of truckers admitted to using amphetamines while behind the wheel.
In one study, U.S. truck drivers had the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests in the world, at 12.5 percent.
- Younger truck drivers are more susceptible to using alcohol and drugs as they strive to meet the demands of being a trucker.
Impaired driving is always serious, but it becomes even more so when a truck operator is guilty of the charge. In semi-truck accidents, the driver and passengers in the smaller car almost always suffer the worst injuries.
Who is Liable After a Drunk Driving Truck Accident?
In truck accidents in general, there can be many potentially liable parties. In a drunk driving truck accident case, however, there are usually two parties that could be defendants.
Truck drivers have a duty to drive safely. They are expected to meet this standard at all times. Driving drunk is a glaring violation, and if a trucker causes a crash, he or she can be held liable.
The trucking company may also be held partly liable for a drunk driving accident. South Carolina recognizes the legal theory of vicarious liability, which applies in situations where an employer holds liability for accidents caused by their employees.
Trucking companies also have a responsibility to ensure their drivers are experienced, properly trained, and have clean driving and criminal records. If a trucking company hired someone with history of DUI or substance abuse problems, it could also be held liable for any accident a drunk truck driver causes.
Even when another party is considered liable, the semi-truck driver is still typically responsible for paying for at least a portion of the medical bills and other damages accident victims incur in a drunk driving accident.
Can I Recover Damages After Being Hit by a Drunk Truck Driver?
You may be able to recover significant damages after an accident caused by a drunk truck driver. The process starts by filing a personal injury claim for compensation against the at-fault party(s). A drunk driving accident attorney can help you identify who should be held liable and handle the claim for you.
Compensation in truck accident cases typically includes money for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Reimbursement for medical equipment or home modifications
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
Determining the full amount of damages you deserve after a semi-truck crash involves a thorough investigation. A Columbia drunk driving accident lawyer can evaluate your claim and push for the full amount of compensation you deserve.
How to Spot a Drunk Truck Driver
Some of the most common signs of a drunk truck driver in Columbia include:
- Appearing drunk behind the wheel, such as sitting too closely to the windshield or swaying in the cab
- Taking turns much wider than necessary
- Striking, or nearly striking, another vehicle or fixed object
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Traveling on surfaces that are not a designated roadway
- Making abrupt or illegal turns
- Stopping without reason
- Drifting out of a lane, particularly when the truck drifts in a straight line
- Braking erratically
- Driving into oncoming traffic
- Slow or no response to traffic signals
- Failing to turn headlights on
Of course, you may also see open containers of alcohol in the truck or spot the driver drinking while driving. Any time you spot a truck driver you suspect is impaired, you should call the local police right away and keep away from the vehicle.
Proving a Semi-Truck Driver Was Drunk After an Accident
To win a claim after a drunk driving accident in Columbia, you must be able to prove the fact that the trucker was impaired. This involves collecting compelling evidence to support your case.
First, you must report the accident to the police. A truck accident will typically result in severe property damage, serious injuries, and perhaps death. When this happens, South Carolina law states that you must report the crash.
Calling the police also helps your injury claim. If a law enforcement officer believes the truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash, that assessment will be included in his or her accident report.
When a police officer suspects that a trucker was drunk, he or she will also likely ask the trucker to submit to a breath or chemical test. It is against the law for truckers to refuse a sobriety test. Once the results are in, a drunk driving accident lawyer in Columbia can subpoena these records to help prove your claim.
A lawyer can request other documents to support your claim, such as the trucker’s previous driving records, any criminal records, and employment records from the truck company. These records can show whether the driver had any prior DUI convictions or impaired driving offenses, as well as whether the truck company properly vetted the driver by conducting background checks prior to hiring. All of this evidence will go into building a solid case for compensation for you.
How Can a Columbia Truck Accident Attorney at Stewart Law Offices Help Me?
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk truck driver, get in touch with a Columbia drunk driving accident lawyer at Stewart Law Offices to explore your legal options. Your initial case review is free, and there’s no fee unless we win.
Get started now by calling or contacting our Columbia office.