Charleston Semi-Truck Accident Attorneys
Injury Lawyers for 18 Wheeler Crashes in Charleston County, SC
Every year, travelers on South Carolina roads are injured or killed in semi-truck collisions. In 2020, 86 people were killed, and 101 suffered serious injuries from truck crashes. Another 1,414 suffered other types of injuries.
A collision between a car and a semi-truck has different, and often more severe, consequences than a crash between two passenger vehicles. Federal regulations allow semi-trucks to stand up to 14 feet tall and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By contrast, the average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,000 pounds and stands less than six feet high. When these two collide, the consequences for those in the car can be catastrophic.
If you’ve been injured in a truck crash, don’t wait. The experienced South Carolina semi-truck accident lawyers at the Steinberg Law Firm are here to help.
What Causes Car and Semi-Truck Collisions?
Many car drivers have never been inside the cab of a semi-truck. As a result, they’re not always familiar with the experience of what a semi-truck driver can and cannot see.
Passenger car drivers increase the risk of a crash when they drive in ways that make their vehicle difficult for a truck driver to see, such as:
- Driving in a truck’s blind spot.
- Changing lanes too close to the front of a truck.
- Trying to pass a truck on the right as it prepares to make a right turn.
- Tailgating a truck.
- Braking suddenly while in front of a large truck.
Truck drivers can also cause or contribute to crashes when they fail to check their mirrors, blind spots, equipment, and loads. Also, truck drivers may fail to leave adequate space for other drivers, turn on signals, and change lanes safely.
Parties who aren’t on the road when the crash occurs can also cause a car and semi-truck to collide. For example:
- Maintenance crews may fail to provide adequate maintenance or inspections for a truck, resulting in equipment failure at a critical moment.
- A trucking company may fail to adequately screen its drivers or hold them accountable for DOT health requirements, resulting in drivers suffering health conditions that cause them to lose control of the vehicle.
- A cargo company may load a trailer improperly or fail to inspect the trailer’s equipment, causing loads to shift unexpectedly or brakes or tires to fail.
Many truck driving jobs in the United States are “no-touch freight,” which means that the truck’s driver never touches, or sometimes even sees, the cargo. These drivers trust those who load the cargo to do so properly. When the loading team fails, the driver and others on the road may suffer injuries.
In 2020, only 46.5 percent of multi-vehicle truck crashes were attributable to driver behavior. Among the remaining crashes, not all were due to the behavior of other drivers. Some were also caused by factors outside the control of those on the road, including mechanical failures missed by a trucking company’s mechanics, wildlife, and weather conditions.
State statistics also revealed that truck crashes are more likely to occur:
- In the summer and winter. June 2020 saw the highest rate of truck crash deaths, while November and December recorded the highest injury rates.
- In the daylight. Daylight with clear or cloudy conditions produced the highest number of truck crash deaths and injuries on South Carolina roads in 2020. Rainy weather tended to result in fewer crashes and crash deaths than clear weather, perhaps because drivers tend to slow down in bad weather conditions.
- On weekdays. Saturday and Sunday saw the fewest truck crashes in 2020. The weekdays, however, all had roughly similar crash injury and death rates一up to 8 times higher than the weekends.
- In the middle of the day. Noon to 3 pm proved the most common time of day for South Carolina crashes in 2020, followed by 9 am to noon. Crashes tended to decrease at both earlier and later times.
- On the interstates. Truck traffic is more common on South Carolina interstates, and so are truck crashes. In 2020, 1,883 truck crashes occurred on South Carolina interstate highways.
A truck crash can have several interrelated causes. Tracking down the parties liable for a crash can be similarly complex. Dramatic crashes like jackknife maneuvers can be difficult to unravel afterward.
Why Semi-Trucks Jackknife Easily
Semi-trucks are composed of two parts: The tractor, which contains the engine and steering wheel, and the trailer, which contains cargo. This design allows a tractor to pull nearly any trailer, offering more flexibility for haulers and the companies that rely on them. It also makes semi-trucks more susceptible to jackknifing.
A “jackknife” accident occurs when a truck’s trailer swings around so that tractor and trailer are at a sharp angle to one another, rather than the trailer following the tractor in a straight line. Jackknifing occurs when the tractor, trailer, or both lose traction on the roadway.
Common causes of jackknife accidents include:
- Slippery road surfaces.
- Sharp braking maneuvers, especially at high rates of speed.
- Lightly-loaded or empty trailers that don’t have enough traction.
- Cargo shifting inside the trailer because it was improperly secured.
- Driver error, such as following too closely behind another vehicle.
- Mechanical error involving the truck’s braking system.
During a jackknifing maneuver, the driver has little control over the tractor and even less over the trailer. As the trailer swings around, it can collide with other vehicles or people, causing serious injuries. About 3.5 percent of fatal truck crashes in the US in 2020 were the result of jackknifing, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). In South Carolina in 2020, one person died, and six were severely injured in jackknife crashes.
Many jackknifing crashes are avoidable. A driver can reduce or prevent jackknife crash risks by reducing speed on highways and by leaving adequate braking distance between the semi-truck and vehicles ahead. Cargo handling crews can reduce the risk of a jackknife by adequately securing loads. Those responsible for vehicle maintenance can reduce the risk by ensuring brakes are in good working order and that trailer tires have an adequate grip to maintain traction even if the trailer is empty or lightly loaded.
What to Do After a Semi-Truck Crash in Charleston
If you’ve been in a collision with a semi-truck:
- Call 911 immediately. Do this even if you believe no one was seriously injured. Emergency response teams are still needed at the scene.
- Document the scene if you can. Take photos, draw a diagram, or just jot down what you remember about the crash while it’s fresh in your mind. Cooperate with police and first responders to provide facts for their reports. Get contact information from witnesses if possible.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. See a doctor, even if you don’t feel injured, or you don’t think your injuries are serious. Some crash injuries take time to become fully apparent. Waiting to seek medical care could cause your injuries to become worse.
- Contact your insurance company promptly. File a claim to access your insurance benefits, get your vehicle repaired, and more.
- Talk to an experienced South Carolina semi truck crash lawyer. South Carolina law limits the time you have to seek compensation after a crash – and truck crash claims can be complex. Your lawyer will handle these tasks so that you can rest and heal.
Typical Injuries and Medical Intervention After a South Carolina Semi-Truck Crash
The forces generated in a semi-truck crash can cause serious injuries, not all of which may be obvious in the moments following impact. Typical injuries and medical treatments that follow a semi-truck crash include:
- Broken bones and damaged connective tissue. Broken bones and torn ligaments or tendons may require surgery to correct. During surgery, rods, pins, screws, and other hardware may be used to keep bones and tissues in place as they heal. Sometimes, this hardware requires additional surgeries to remove; sometimes, this hardware is permanent.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Closed head injuries like concussions may occur if the head hits or is hit by something during a crash. A penetrating head injury may result if glass, metal, or other debris pierces the skull. Both types of injuries can require surgery, extended hospital stays, and months or years of rehabilitation. Severe brain injuries are typically permanent.
- Spine and spinal cord injuries. “Whiplash” is a strain or sprain of the neck and upper back. Whiplash may require medication, medical devices like a cervical collar, and other interventions. Herniated and bulging spinal discs in the back or neck may call for surgery, physical therapy, and other treatments. Spinal cord injuries may be permanent.
All these injuries share common features. They all require medical treatment. They may require surgery and a period of physical therapy or rehabilitation after surgery. Many of these injuries can have permanent, lifelong effects.
What Happens in a South Carolina Truck Accident Claim?
South Carolina law requires a truck accident claim to be filed within three years of the date of the accident or injury. Wait too long, and this three-year deadline may pass – preventing you from filing your claim.
Certain factors can affect how this three-year deadline is calculated. It’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can determine exactly how much time is left and take the necessary steps to protect your right to file a claim.
Once you choose an experienced attorney, your lawyer will likely begin by investigating your case. The law firm will collect documents and paperwork related to the crash, such as police reports. Your lawyer will also ask for information you have, like medical bills and photographs. You can help your attorney build your case by gathering all the paperwork you have that relates to the crash and your injuries and keeping it in one place.
Your attorney may also attempt to negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. While your lawyer will work toward a settlement that fully compensates you for your injuries, your lawyer cannot accept a settlement for you. Instead, your lawyer will present any offer to you and give you advice on whether or not to accept it. You make the final decision.
If no settlement can be reached, your case may go to trial. Most injury claims in South Carolina don’t require a courtroom trial. Since a trial can be a crucial part of the process of recovering compensation, however, experienced attorneys plan for the possibility of a trial from the beginning. Your lawyer can answer any questions you have about the possibility of trial and what you should do to protect your rights.
Choosing the Right Charleston Semi-Truck Crash Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a semi-truck crash, you’re not alone. Talk to the team at the Steinberg Law Firm today. Our experienced South Carolina semi-truck accident lawyers will help you figure out what happened and hold liable parties accountable for your injuries. The consultation is always free and there is no fee until we collect financial compensation for you.
WE HAVE RECOVERED OVER $500 MILLION FOR CLIENTS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS, INCLUDING:
Car Accident Settlement
Workers' Comp Case
Leaders in the Legal Industry
Steinberg attorneys have been awarded numerous distinctions, such as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America by U.S. News & World Report, Gedney M. Howe, Jr. Award for Outstanding Public Service, the SC Leadership in Law award, and has been voted Best Workers’ Comp Firm in SC, among other distinctions.
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