Fatal Truck Accidents in Columbia, S.C.
Truck accident fatalities are at record highs in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In South Carolina, statistics show that 85 people were killed in truck accidents in 2018, up 33.8 percent from the prior year. Another 25 individuals died in collisions involving other types of large trucks. That’s 110 lives ended prematurely due to truck accidents in the Palmetto State — and 110 families that will never be the same.
Wondering about your legal options if you’ve lost a family member in a fatal truck accident in South Carolina? If the crash happened in the Columbia area, talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer at Stewart Law Offices.
There’s no replacing a loved one who has been taken too soon. But one way you can seek a measure of justice and closure is by filing a wrongful death claim against the party(s) responsible for your family member’s death.
Since 1995, our trusted truck accident lawyers have helped individuals secure the compensation they deserve after losing family members in commercial motor vehicle crashes. We’re ready to help you, too.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
How to Handle a Fatal Truck Accident Case in Columbia, S.C.
Truck accidents need to be investigated in detail, especially if someone was killed. Insurance companies work fast to mitigate their responsibility and exposure in the aftermath of a fatal crash. This might mean concealing or destroying crucial evidence of negligence or wrongdoing, so it is vital to have a skilled truck accident lawyer get started on your case right away.
Your attorney will quickly work to secure critical evidence, including physical evidence from the truck itself, the black box, and other relevant electronic or paper documents, such as:
- The trucker’s employment and training records
- Hours of service logs
- Annual inspection reports
- Roadside inspection reports
- Maintenance logs
- Repair logs
- Driver complaints or disciplinary records
Truck companies are not required to keep certain documents indefinitely. This is why you should get an attorney to start on your case right away. Your lawyer will make sure to preserve these records and other vital pieces of evidence that will help build the strongest case on your behalf.
When Does a Fatal Truck Accident Become a Wrongful Death?
Not all fatal truck accidents result in wrongful death claims. To qualify as a wrongful death in South Carolina, someone’s death must be the result of another party’s willful, reckless, or negligent actions.
For example, if a drunk truck driver runs a red light, collides with a car that was obeying state traffic regulations, and the other driver was killed, the surviving family members could be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. That’s because it’s against federal and state laws to operate a vehicle while intoxicated.
Some examples of negligence that could lead to fatal truck accidents include:
- Driver error
- Driving while intoxicated
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Aggressive driving
- Violating hours-of-service regulations
- Failure to perform pre-and-post-trip inspections
Truck company negligence:
- Failure to conduct thorough background checks
- Poor training or supervision
- Encouraging drivers to skip mandatory rest breaks to maximize profits
- Poorly maintaining their fleets
- Failure to properly load, balance, or secure the cargo
- Failure to inspect, repair, or maintain the vehicle
- Defective design or manufacturing (if the crash was caused by a faulty vehicle or truck part)
Proving Truck Accident Liability
To secure compensation for a fatal truck accident, you’ll need to demonstrate that the other party was negligent and caused the crash. This means that the plaintiff (the party filing the claim) has to provide evidence that the defendant (the party being sued) did not uphold their legal duty of care to the deceased party and is responsible for their death.
There are three main components to proving a negligence claim:
- Showing that the defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care. All drivers have a responsibility to follow the rules of the road and avoid causing any harm to other drivers.
- Proving the defendant failed in their duty of care. In a fatal truck accident claim, this involves showing how the truck driver or the other parties involved in the claim did not follow all the necessary traffic laws in the moments leading up to the crash.
- Establishing that the defendant’s failure in their duty of care led to the accident and your loved one’s death. This is often the trickiest part of any wrongful death claim. Trucking companies often have significant legal resources at their disposal and will fight as hard as they can to dismiss any allegations of liability.
Gathering and presenting the right evidence is crucial if you wish to succeed in a wrongful death claim. Police reports, medical records, witness testimony, analyses from accident reconstruction teams, and other forms of evidence can help substantiate your claim.
Other resources include the truck driver’s logs, data from the truck’s data recorder, training materials from the truck driver’s employer, and other documents. These records are harder to obtain without help from a truck accident attorney. The more evidence you have, the stronger your claim will be.
What Damages Can Be Recovered from a Fatal Truck Accident?
Wrongful death claims are similar to other kinds of personal injury claims in South Carolina. They’re intended to compensate the injured party for past, present, and future losses.
Potential damages after a fatal truck accident include compensation for:
- The deceased’s medical bills
- His/her lost wages, including any future earnings
- The value of any other financial benefits related to the deceased’s job (e.g., retirement accounts, health insurance, etc.)
- The physical pain and suffering the victim endured prior to death
- Mental anguish the victim experienced before death
- Loss of emotional or financial support from the deceased
- Funeral and burial costs
- Punitive damages, if the evidence shows that the responsible party acted in a reckless, wanton, or willful way to cause the crash
Who Can Recover Damages After a Columbia Semi-Truck Accident?
There are two kinds of legal claims that can be made after someone suffers a wrongful death. The first is a standard wrongful death claim. These claims are typically brought by the representative of the deceased’s estate on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family members.
If the accident victim has a surviving spouse and/or children, they get first priority in any wrongful death claim. If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, compensation can then go to his or her parents. Finally, if the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then whomever the deceased had designated as heirs can file a claim.
The other kind of legal claim that can follow a wrongful death is called a survival action. Unlike most wrongful death claims, survival actions are filed on behalf of the deceased and their estate, not any surviving family members.
In a survival action, the representative of the estate seeks damages for the pain and suffering the deceased endured before his/her death. This includes conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, and funeral expenses (unless these are recovered in a wrongful death claim).
How a Lawyer Can Help with a Fatal Truck Accident Claim
In the midst of tragedy, the thought of hiring a truck accident attorney may be the last thing from your mind. However, in the weeks and months that follow a fatal truck accident, you may begin to experience financial hardships stemming from your family’s devastating loss. A wrongful death claim can help families recoup their financial losses and obtain compensation to provide support for the future.
A truck accident lawyer can:
- Gather all the evidence necessary to support your claim, including police reports, medical records, photographs, data from the truck’s on-board recorder, driver logs, and more
- Handle all communications with the other parties in your claim, as well as their lawyers and insurance representatives
- Filing all the necessary paperwork for your claim
- Negotiating for the maximum possible settlement on your behalf
A knowledgeable attorney will know all the different types of damages you’re eligible for and will vigorously pursue a full and fair settlement for you. If the other party refuses to negotiate in good faith, an attorney can also discuss the risks and benefits of going to trial with you.
Has a Loved One Been Killed in a Columbia Truck Accident? Contact Stewart Law Offices Today
If you’re seeking justice after losing a family member in a S.C. tractor trailer crash, the Columbia truck accident attorneys at Stewart Law Offices are ready to fight for you. Get knowledge, dedication, and compassion on your side. Call or visit our contact page to schedule your free consultation now.