Know when to contact a lawyer (and why) for your Charleston truck accident injuries
Beaches. Restaurants. Historic sites.
There are lots of reasons to visit Charleston, South Carolina. Aside from sightseeing, dining and other recreation, you might work for Joint Base Charleston, Boeing, the Medical University, or another large employer in the area. Regardless of whether you work, live, study or visit Charleston, you’ve likely considered the most efficient ways to travel throughout the city.
Interstates 26 and 526 intersect in Charleston, and the city also sees traffic from several state routes and a variety of local roads.
However, any city road, highway, country road, parking lot or side-street could be the site of a truck accident—or any collision between a truck and a car (or more than one car), another truck, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian.
Truck accidents often result in more severe injuries than car accidents because a truck weighs several tons more than a typical passenger car. The extra weight creates additional force, so even a low-speed collision could cause significant strain and injury to the human body.
Types of recoverable damages for a Charleston truck accident
Personal injury law (which would include truck accidents) relies on the concept that the plaintiff (injured person) is entitled to be made financially whole. In other words, you should be compensated so that you’re restored to the financial condition you would be in if the accident hadn’t happened.
To that end, there are specific costs for which you can be compensated after a truck accident. These costs include:
- Medical treatment, including surgery, hospital stays, prescription medication, diagnostics like MRI or CT scan, X-rays, doctor visits, etc.
- Ongoing rehabilitative therapies
- Assistive devices like prosthetics, wheelchairs, etc.
- Property loss
- Lost wages, both current and future lost earning capacity
- Wrongful death, if you’re the surviving family member of a person who died in a truck accident
- Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life
- Daily activities, like housekeeping, cooking, childcare, transportation, etc.
How to recover damages after a truck accident
There 2 ways to recover damages from a Charleston truck accident:
- Insurance payout. You can make a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company to receive a settlement equal to the amount of costs you’ve incurred. This can be a good way to recover compensation if your injury isn’t severe (and you are fully recovered quickly) and if the insurance company is cooperative. It’s usually the first attempt for recovering damages, but often the insurance companies are unwilling to fairly negotiate or they make a lowball offer—if that happens, you need a truck accident lawyer to work with the insurance company to ensure that you receive the compensation you need.
- Lawsuit. If the insurance company cannot or will not cover all of your expenses, the next step would be to file a lawsuit against the liable party or parties. There are pros and cons to this approach, but sometimes it’s the only way to be fairly compensated.
The main advantage of a lawsuit is that it will award damages for things that an insurance company won’t, like pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. In other words, an insurer should cover expenses like medical costs, lost wages, and other things that have a calculable dollar amount. But insurance companies don’t cover pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or other things that don’t have a specific money value. You can recover damages for these in a lawsuit.
The disadvantages to a lawsuit are that they can take months to years to reach resolution, and you can sometimes be at the will of the judge or jury to determine how much you can recover.
Why you need a Charleston truck accident lawyer
One of the primary roles of a truck accident lawyer is to advise you of the best way to proceed with your claim, whether it’s pursuing the insurance company or a lawsuit.
Your lawyer also will evaluate the amount of your claim to make sure you’re going to receive every dollar you’re owed. If your injuries will require future treatment, or if you’re no longer able to work at the same job because of your injuries, or if the accident resulted in a disability, you will have future expenses that you need covered. Once you accept an insurance settlement, you can’t go back for more if you need it.
Your lawyer will work with medical and financial experts, actuaries, and professionals to determine exactly how much the accident will cost over your lifetime.
Your lawyer won’t jump into court right away, though.
A legal claim can be complex and usually leads to lengthy negotiation. Since your lawyer knows that a lawsuit takes time and money, they might first negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair settlement. Your lawyer can work with the insurance company so you don’t have to.
If the insurance company can’t cover the entirety of your costs, a lawsuit might be the next step.
Your lawyer will review all of the evidence and determine who are the liable parties—and it could be more complicated than you think. In a truck accident, defendants could include the driver, trucking company, manufacturer, or others.
Your lawyer will also minimize your liability. South Carolina follows a modified comparative fault rule, also known as the “51% Rule.”
In order to recover any damages, a plaintiff must bear less than 51% of the liability for the accident. Their damages would be reduced according to their percentage of fault.
How does this work?
There are instances where a plaintiff might not have caused the accident, but the court finds that if they had acted differently, they could have avoided it. The court then needs to determine the percentage for which the plaintiff was responsible. For example, if a truck hit you because they swerved too fast into your lane, it could be clear that the truck driver was at fault for the crash. But if witnesses testify that you had your blinker on to signal that you were moving out of the lane, but you didn’t actually move, the court could find that the truck driver reasonably believed that you were moving out of the lane, in which case there would not have been a collision. The court might find that you were 20% at fault, and your damages would be reduced by that amount.
Truck accident injuries to Charleston truck drivers or maintenance workers
If you’re injured as a commercial truck driver or the employee of a trucking company, or if you’re an individual who is injured in a truck accident while you’re at work (or engaged in activities required by your job), you can be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation covers any injury that takes place while you are at work or engaged in activities for work, including car or truck accidents.
Workers’ compensation benefits include medical treatment, a portion of your lost wages, job retraining and placement if you’re unable to return to your previous position, and some disability payments.
You’re not permitted to make a workers’ comp claim and file a lawsuit against your employer for damages resulting from the same injury. However, if the injury was the fault of another person or entity, you could file a third-party lawsuit. If you’ve suffered serious injuries that are the fault of a car or truck driver that is not your employer, you might be able to receive more compensation by filing a lawsuit against the liable defendant. This is also a question for your personal injury lawyer to answer based on the circumstances of your accident and injury.
Types of truck accidents
One of the best ways to avoid a truck accident is to understand how they happen. Of course, there’s no limit to the possibilities for how an accident can occur, but there are some situations that commonly lead to accidents—so being aware of what they are might help you to stay safer on the roads.
Tire blowout accidents
Both cars and trucks can have tire blowouts. When that happens, it can cause the vehicle to swerve into another lane, rollover, or jackknife. A tire blowout is usually caused by wear and tear, defective manufacturing, or routine maintenance deficiencies.
If a truck tire blows out, the debris from the broken tire could hit other cars, or the truck could collide with other cars if it swerves out of its lane.
Jackknife truck accidents
A “jackknife” is when the cab and trailer portions of a big rig fold at the joint. If the back of the trailer moves faster than the cab, it creates a sharp angle that causes the truck to face 2 directions. If this happens, the driver no longer has control over the vehicle. A nearby car could collide with the swinging trailer or wedge underneath the rear of the truck.
Underride truck accidents
A passenger car can slide underneath a truck, either from the rear or the side. The height difference in the vehicles could mean that the top or front of the car could be crushed and its occupants seriously injured.
Unsecured load accidents
There are many federal regulations for loading cargo, and the main consideration is that the haul must be immobile and secure. The truck’s restraint system must be strong enough to keep cargo from sliding or shifting.
There are 2 ways an unsecured load accident could happen:
- If the truck is involved in an accident and the load isn’t secured properly, it can create additional hazard because the impact could cause the cargo to slide into oncoming traffic or onto the road.
- The other possibility is that the instability of the load, itself, can cause an accident if the truck’s center of gravity is thrown off or the movement causes the truck to move unpredictably.
Hazmat truck accidents
“Hazmat” stands for hazardous materials. This classification could include anything from gasoline, to pesticides, to lithium batteries, to dry ice. What classifies cargo as hazardous is if it’s either highly flammable or could become harmful to breathe if it becomes airborne.
A hazmat accident can affect not just the drivers on the road, but also anyone in surrounding areas. If a toxic substance is released into the air or certain bodies of water, it can affect people in nearby communities.
10 tips for avoiding a truck accident
It’s not always the trucker’s fault. As a passenger car driver, here’s what you can do to avoid a truck accident:
1. Allow more space when following a truck than you would with a passenger car.
A larger vehicle limits your visibility of what’s ahead, including slowed or stopped traffic, construction, or other hazardous travel conditions. By leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the truck in front of you, you have more opportunity to react if you need to make a sudden stop or swerve.
2. Leave space when passing in front of a truck.
A truck is much heavier than a passenger car, which means it requires more distance to stop. Never cut in front of a large truck. If you can’t pass with plenty of room, then stay in your lane.
3. Stay out of a truck’s blind spot.
You can see if you’re in a truck’s blind spot by looking at the truck’s side mirrors. If you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the mirror, the truck driver can’t see you. It’s safer to pass a truck on the driver’s side, since they have a much wider blind spot on the passenger side.
4. Be careful where you pull over on the highway.
If you need to pull off the highway in between exits, try to find a wide shoulder or a designated pull-off spot. Many accidents happen because a car is pulled over and sideswiped by a passing truck that swerves a little onto the shoulder.
5. Use caution if a truck is turning.
A truck needs more clearance to turn than a car. In addition, the driver has less visibility. So, if you need to judge a truck’s speed as it approaches an intersection or how much space it will need to clear a turn, always allow more room, rather than less. Assume that the truck is moving faster than you think it is and requires most of the intersection to make a turn.
6. Never play “chicken” with a truck.
If you think a truck is going to try to pass you or get in front of you, let it. The highway isn’t a time to be “right” or faster, even if you think you have the right of way. Even if you don’t want to allow the truck to get in front of you, do it anyway. Not doing so can have deadly consequences.
7. Pass quickly.
Only pass a truck when you can see that there’s space ahead to do so swiftly. You don’t want to linger in the lane beside a truck for any longer than necessary. Tire blowouts and rollovers happen frequently and you definitely don’t want to be alongside a truck if one of these events happens.
8. Be predictable.
This is important in any driving situation, but especially when it comes to proximity to large trucks. Use signals clearly so that a truck driver can see what you intend to do and can adjust their own driving accordingly. Never change lanes or turn without using your signals.
9. Avoid distracted driving.
Highway and interstate driving, in particular, can be long and boring. But don’t let yourself become too fatigued or distracted while driving. Just remember — the other drivers are bored, too. Plan your trip before you leave so that you have good music, audiobooks, podcasts, or whatever you like for entertainment already queued up. Don’t be fiddling with your phone, or even the car radio, while driving. If you need to change things up, wait until you get to a rest area or find a safe place to pull over — or have a designated passenger “co-pilot” do it for you. If you begin to feel tired, take a break. Don’t wait until you start to nod off, because then you’re already in a dangerous situation.
10. Plan for weather conditions.
Storms can happen anywhere, and sometimes they pop up fast. Bad weather creates dangerous driving conditions. You can set a weather app on your phone to alert you if a dangerous storm is coming your way. If one does happen quickly, head for the nearest exit and wait it out.
Contact a Charleston truck accident lawyer
Regardless of whether you work for a trucking company, are a passenger car driver who was involved in an accident with a truck, or you’re a pedestrian, cyclist, or even a nearby property owner who suffered a loss from a truck accident, a South Carolina truck accident lawyer can help. Contact a skilled, compassionate, experienced attorney today in order to seek financial recovery from your truck accident.