South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyers That Can Fight For You
What’s the difference between an accident with a commercial hauler versus just another car? No matter what you call them – big rigs, 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, or semis – size is the first thing most people think of. There’s much more.
Truckers are highly regulated and there are numerous devices in trucks that gather data. Truckers are also held to a higher standard, and because accidents involving big rigs tend to be more severe, they must carry more insurance.
Being hit by a commercial driver or trucker is frightening, and because an 18-wheeler with a trailer is about 20 times the mass of a normal car, the result is often injury – or worse. If you’re injured in collision with a truck, knowledge is your friend, and an experienced truck accident injury attorney might be even better! Here’s what you should know.
What to Know if You’re Involved in a South Carolina Trucking Accident
- How is Commercial Trucking Regulated in South Carolina?
- Commercial Trucking Statistics and How Safe Are They, Really?
- What Causes Truck Crashes?
- What Makes Trucking Accidents Different for Those Who Are Injured?
- There Is Probably More Than One Insurance Company Involved in a Trucking Accident
- Should I Hire a Trucking Accident Attorney?
- Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
How is Commercial Trucking Regulated in South Carolina?
In addition to federal oversight over interstate trucking operations, South Carolina additionally has detailed regulations applying to intrastate trucking operations, meaning transportation within the State of South Carolina. Many mandatory permitting procedures must be followed, including the need to obtain a Certificate of Compliance and Unified Carrier Registration. The SCDMV also publishes standards for insurance coverages for all intrastate commercial trucks (except passenger carriers), also called motor carriers.
Commercial Vehicle Certificate Classes in South Carolina
E-L: This is the low cargo value class for things like dump trucks, and they do not require cargo insurance.
E-LC: This certificate is for those who haul valuable property and requires cargo insurance.
For operators that require E-LC coverage, $5,000 is the insurance limit for loss or damage to property carried on any one vehicle.[ Back to Top ]
Commercial Trucking Statistics and How Safe Are They, Really?
In 2016, there were 3,864 fatalities involving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds in the U.S. In 2018, 11% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved a large truck. And 21% of crashes involving at least one truck – 107,000 of them – involved injury.
The more you dig into the statistics, the more apparent the danger these trucks pose on the road, and the more counterintuitive the numbers are. Less than half of fatal truck crashes occur on interstates or freeways – 52% happen on secondary roads. And 61% of fatal crashes happen in rural areas, not in densely populated areas. Weekdays were the deadliest, accounting for 84% of fatal crashes involving large trucks.
Despite their heavy regulation and the amount of safety data gathered, statistics show that there are dangerous truckers on the road. In 2016, when federal and state inspectors pulled commercial motor vehicles (such as buses and trucks) off the road for roadside inspections, they found that 4.92% of the drivers and 19.96% of the vehicles had sufficient violations to require ordering the drivers or vehicles out of service according the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
That means about one in every twenty drivers, and one in every five large trucks shouldn’t have been on the road.[ Back to Top ]
What Causes Truck Crashes?
By and large, truckers are just like any other drivers and have similar failings. The difference is that they’re responsible for a massive vehicle that can have a much more deadly effect on the drivers around them. Some collision causes include:
- Distracted or fatigued driving, such as texting and cell phone use or driving too many hours
- Cargo violations, such as overloaded trailers than can cause brake failures or tipping
- Equipment malfunctions and neglected maintenance, including tires, brakes, or lights that fail
- Drunk driving, or driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription medications (rare)
Large trucks are everywhere. According to Business Insider, there are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. as of 2016, covering some 432 billion miles annually. Drivers can also put in too many hours behind the wheel, but the regulations and tracking of hours of service are complicated. Truck driving is statistically the most dangerous occupation in the U.S., with 28.3 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And they’re sharing the road with you.
What Makes Trucking Accidents Different for Those Who Are Injured?
If you’re injured in an accident with a large truck, the path to potential compensation for your injuries is a bit different because interstate commercial carriers are subject to more rules and oversight, and there may be more information available than you know. These can provide evidence that strengthen your claim:
- Driving logs must be kept by commercial truck drivers, as they are limited in the number of hours they can drive within a certain span of time. If they’ve exceeded that limit, they could be suffering from fatigue.
- Cargo logs are required, and these help ensure the vehicle is not overloaded. An overloaded trailer can cause brake failure, leading to a collision. Overloaded trailers are also more prone to tipping under certain conditions.
- Inspection reports and maintenance logs should be available to determine the condition of the rig that collided with you, and may shed light on possible failures or deferred maintenance or repairs.
- Employer and driver records, such as drug test results, citations and other information may point to a pattern of behavior. They can also include things like background checks, level of experience with a given rig, training, professional certifications, and so on.
- Black box data from the vehicle’s onboard data recorder. Most people do not realize that these devices exist and are recording data at the time a collision happens, including vehicle speed. This data can be invaluable in building your case.
This will seem like a lot to remember, but you don’t have to. An experienced trucking accident attorney is going to know what to look for, and how to try and get it. Even something as obvious as the damage to your vehicle may give an experienced attorney a clue as to what to look for in order to strengthen your case. An attorney is also going to know the regulations that are in play, and there are many.
Trucking is regulated by both the federal and state government in different ways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the federal regulatory body. The South Carolina Department of Transportation and South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles also have rules that must be followed. The bottom line is that an experienced truck accident attorney is going to have a better chance at building a strong case for you than you likely would on your own.[ Back to Top ]
There Is Probably More Than One Insurance Company Involved in a Trucking Accident
Another distinct feature of a truck collision is that there may be several insurers involved. In a typical car wreck, there might be two – the companies insuring either driver. A commercial carrier may have policies from different insurers to cover the company, the driver, the cab (or semi), the trailer, and even the cargo.
THE BAD NEWS: The more insurers who are involved, the more they can try to pass the buck – and the responsibility for paying compensation – off to each other. It also means that, after an injury, multiple insurance companies may call you. Rather, their adjusters will call you. This brings up an important tip:
Do not speak with adjusters representing the trucking company or driver that caused the collision, or allow them to record a statement. After seeking medical care, speak to an attorney as soon as possible to gather information and prepare you to deal with the insurance companies. You do not have to cooperate with a liability insurance carrier. Anything you say, they may dissect and use against you later to diminish the value of your claim or, in the worst case, cause you to lose it altogether. It is vitally important that you know what to expect from these adjusters and how to respond to any question they ask in a way that won’t hurt you down the road. You do have to cooperate with your own insurance company, so if your insurer asks for a statement, you’ll likely have to give it to them if you want coverage.
After seeking the medical care you need, the easy answer is to speak to an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible to help you gather information and deal with the insurance company (or companies).
THE GOOD NEWS: More insurance policies means it is more likely that you will be able to recover some compensation for your injuries and the damage to your property. In South Carolina, there is the possibility that your own insurance can compensate for any damages if the insurance on a truck was insufficient or exhausted due to multiple claims from the same collision. An experienced attorney will help you identify what coverages may be available.[ Back to Top ]
Should I Hire a Trucking Accident Attorney?
With the information offered above, there’s obviously a strong case for hiring an attorney. The sticking point, for most, is the cost. People sometimes believe that they can’t afford an attorney, and a favored tactic of some insurance adjusters is to suggest than an attorney will take such an inordinate amount of your compensation that you would be better off without one. In our experience, that’s usually not true, and aside from the amount of compensation, an attorney can help you try to ensure all avenues of recovery are being examined and all other parts of the claims process are proper.
Adjusters work for the insurance company, not for you. One of their jobs is to reduce the insurance companies’ costs to the lowest possible amount. It’s not personal, it’s just how insurance companies make money. But you have to remember that they are not working for you.
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we work on a contingency fee arrangement.2 That is another way of saying that the attorney’s fee is based on a percentage of the gross recovery. A case may have fees and costs associated with it, but there is no hourly or flat fee charged by the firm, and no retainer. If you do not recover monetary compensation from your commercial truck accident claim, there is no attorney’s fee.
Remember that the process of investigating a trucking accident and building a case is not easy. Evidence may have to be gathered quickly. Experts might be needed to reconstruct the accident, inspect the accident scene, and obtain and protect critical information. In addition, it is frequently necessary to access records for in-state companies through the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s Office of the trucking company’s home state. It may also be advisable to examine safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the company that owns the truck. And if the case goes to trial, there may be police officers to speak with and witnesses to interview.[ Back to Top ]
Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
Give the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin a call at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. We’ll listen to you, analyze your situation, and evaluate your claim. You can also chat with us live, right now, or contact us online if that’s easier. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, time is not on your side!