Commercial trucks are vital to our economy—both here in South Carolina and the U.S. as a whole. Unfortunately, the reality is that accidents involving tractor-trailers, semi-trucks and 18-wheelers are particularly catastrophic and deadly. When these accidents are caused by someone else’s negligence, the aftermath can be that much harder for survivors to bear—especially for families who’ve lost loved ones in fatal truck accidents.
Approximately 1 in 10 fatal motor vehicle accidents involve a large truck, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In such wrecks, surrounding motorists are at a clear disadvantage. Each year, thousands of people lose their lives in trucking accidents and more than 100,000 are seriously injured. More than three-quarters of those injured and as many as 97 percent of those killed in crashes involving a large truck are the occupants of the passenger vehicle.
When the negligence of a truck driver, trucking company or manufacturer causes an accident and injury, it’s time to call a truck accident attorney.
At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., our Columbia injury lawyers understand how devastating truck wrecks can be. That’s why our attorneys are dedicated to zealously protecting the rights and interests of those harmed by truck accidents and doing everything we can to help them secure the justice and compensation they deserve.
While we understand that no amount of money can ever make up for the impacts of a permanent injury or the death of a loved one due to a trucking accident, we also know that pursuing a truck accident lawsuit can provide our clients with some sense of justice as they hold negligent parties accountable and recover the financial help necessary to cover the costs of their physical and/or emotional healing. We want to help get you and your family through this difficult time.
Our Clients Love Us
“Chappell Smith & Arden made my case absolutely painless. They were professional, diligent, compassionate and extremely attentive. Mark Chappell and his team went above and way beyond to make sure I was compensated for someone else’s wrongdoing.”
“They are absolutely AMAZING! It’s very rare to not only ﬁnd great customer service, but genuine people who care about their clients. They truly go above and beyond to help, even after they’ve helped with your claim.”
“Chappell Smith & Arden were our attorneys for our car accident case. They were very reassuring and patient with us during a long and stressful negotiation with the drivers Insurance company and were highly successful in arranging a deserved ﬁnancial settlement. We recommend Chappell Smith & Arden for whatever legal representation is needed.”
“Chappell Smith represented me in a workers comp case they did a wonderful job. Kind courteous and they actually care about their clients. They understand the stress these cases bring, especially for someone like me that suffers from PTSD. They actually take time and listen and are genuine when they ask if they can help you.”
“One of the “BEST” Law Firms. They treat you like family. They are always available when you need them. They work hard to get what you need and deserve. If you are looking for excellent representation, look no further. Chappell, Smith and Arden are here for YOU!”
Types of Truck Accidents
Although no 2 large truck accidents are exactly the same, certain themes emerge in studies surrounding crashes in the commercial trucking industry. For instance, statistics show that most fatal and nonfatal large truck accidents happen during the workweek. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains that 37 percent of all large truck accidents resulting in loss of life take place during the overnight hours (defined as 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). Summer is when fatal large truck accidents are most likely to occur due to increased road traffic, larger loads and a greater risk of tire blowouts.
Our Columbia truck accident attorneys are focused on helping victims secure justice and maximize their financial recovery. The most common types of truck accident cases our lawyers have successfully resolved include (but are not limited to) those involving:
- Underride accidents. These types of crashes often result in the most catastrophic injuries to passenger vehicle occupants. Rear-underride and side-underride accidents occur when a smaller vehicle collides with a large truck and slides or wedges beneath the trailer. Although most large trucks are equipped with guards to prevent rear-underride accidents, the IIHS maintains that the guards are effective only when the trailing vehicle is traveling at 35 mph or less and strikes the center of the trailer. Trailing vehicles traveling at higher speeds or that strike the trailer in an off-center position are not assisted by the underride guards, according to the IIHS.
- Rollover accidents. The design of a large truck—primarily due to a high center of gravity—lends itself to instability in certain conditions, such as inclement weather or while navigating a sharp turn or a steep decline or incline. An improperly loaded trailer can also exacerbate the topsy-turvy nature of a large truck. Most truck rollovers are preventable with proper training and balanced loading of cargo.
- Jackknife accidents. These occur when a large truck loses traction or brakes sharply, causing the trailer portion of the truck to form a 90-degree angle with the rig. It can be difficult or impossible for oncoming motorists to avoid a jackknifed trailer if the trailer spans the entire road surface. For this reason, jackknife accidents often involve multiple vehicles.
- Lost/unsecured load accidents. All cargo must be properly loaded and securely stored for transit. Large trucks that spill their loads on a highway or interstate create a hazard for trailing vehicles, particularly those that are following immediately behind the truck.
- Blind-spot accidents. A large truck has 4 blind spots that can vary depending on the type of truck. Known as “no-zones,” these blind spots are particularly troublesome during lane changes or while executing a left- or right-hand turn. Commercial truck drivers must stay mindful of their no-zones and remain observant of surrounding motorists who may be affected.
- Head-on and rear-end crashes. Head-on and rear-end truck collisions are often the result of the truck driver’s failure to deploy the brakes in time due to driver distraction, drowsy driving, slick road conditions or other factors. To that end, head-on and rear-end crashes are the most deadly—but also the most preventable—large truck accidents on the road today. According to the FMCSA, 73 percent of all fatal large truck accidents involve a head-on or rear-end crash.
- Tire blowout accidents. Large trucks are routinely inspected by regulators but must also be personally inspected by drivers before every trip. By law, drivers of large trucks must ensure that their tires are properly inflated. Under- or over-inflated tires are more susceptible to blowouts, which can cause a driver to lose control of a large truck. In some cases, torn tire treads can also become road obstacles for other drivers and cause a wreck.
- Hazardous material accidents. Hazmat trucks carrying dangerous and toxic materials such as corrosives, explosives, flammable liquids and infectious substances pose an even greater risk in the event of a wreck. In addition to those involved in the accident, others such as first responders, passing motorists and residents of the surrounding area may also be affected. Large trucks transporting hazardous materials must be clearly marked so that emergency responders can take proper precautions upon arrival at the scene.
Why Hire a Columbia Truck Accident Lawyer?
Being involved in a truck accident is extremely stressful. Not only do you need to focus on your own recovery and recuperation, but you also need to consider filing a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out on your claim. There are a number of complicated matters to sort out, such as which parties are responsible and how to gather the evidence you will need to maximize your recovery.
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses (past and future), lost wages, pain and suffering and more. Even if you’re partially at fault for the accident, you may be able to bring a claim against the other parties involved. Our experienced truck accident lawyers can handle your claim while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
Litigating a trucking accident case can be extremely complex for a number of reasons. For starters, there are multi-faceted insurance issues and there may be multiple parties involved. For this reason, there are many ways an experienced lawyer can help you following a trucking accident.
Unlike car accidents, in a truck accident, there are often multiple parties that have contributed to the injured victim’s damages and injuries. Specifically, the truck driver, their employer (trucking company), the truck manufacturer, a contractor, a manufacturer, a shipper or cargo loading company or a government entity can be sued in court for negligence following a truck wreck.
Following a trucking accident, you are likely to be in shock even if you aren’t experiencing any immediate pain or injury. It can be difficult to ascertain the identities and contact information of all witnesses and potentially liable parties when in such a state. We can help you identify witnesses and locate responsible parties.
Understanding trucking rules and regulations
The trucking industry is governed by federal and state regulations. These regulations govern all aspects of the trucking industry, including weight limits for freight, the number of continuous hours a driver can spend on the road without rest, maintenance procedures and more. States often have their own overlapping regulations, and the interplay between the state and federal laws can be complicated. If a truck driver or their employer violated any of these regulations, it could be useful evidence in establishing liability in your case.
Experienced negotiation skills
In an ordinary car accident case, an injured party typically needs to negotiate with 1 other party: the insurance company of the at-fault driver. However, with trucking accidents, it can be much more complicated to bring everyone together at the table and negotiate. Our experienced legal team has a good sense of how a court would decide your case based on their assessment of the evidence. Our experience and knowledge can be used as leverage in settling your claim.
Crafting an effective legal strategy
Many truck accident lawyers will quickly try to settle a case without considering all available options, which can often be detrimental to their client’s best interests. In some cases, a settlement may be the best option to pursue. But at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., we will assess ALL options available to you—even if that means pursuing your case into litigation.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
$1.2 million Multiple vehicle tractor-trailer wreck
$1.1 million Dump truck accident
$800 thousand Head-on truck collision
$600 thousand Catastrophic car accident
$550 thousand T-bone collision with 18-wheeler
$500 thousand Logging truck accident
This list is not a description or characterization of the quality of the ﬁrm’s representation and is in no way a guarantee of a speciﬁc result for your case. Every case is diﬀerent, and our South Carolina injury lawyers and the court will evaluate each case on its own merit.
Trucking Accident Negligence and Fault
The negligence that can contribute to truck accidents can come at the hands of truck drivers, other motorists on the roads, trucking companies or even other parties. Just some examples of negligence that commonly lead to trucking accidents include (but are by no means limited to):
- Truckers driving while distracted or fatigued
- Truckers driving while intoxicated or impaired
- Truckers failing to abide by traffic laws or any trucking regulations
- Truckers and/or trucking companies failing to maintain their trucks
- Truckers and/or trucking companies failing to properly secure truck loads
- Trucking companies failing to screen drivers (prior to hiring them) and/or failing to properly train drivers (prior to sending them out on hauls)
- Trucking companies failing to abide by any trucking regulations
- Equipment manufacturers designing or installing defective truck equipment
3 Examples of How Trucking Companies Can Be Liable for Truck Accidents
When commercial truck accidents happen, figuring out who was responsible for the crash can be one of the first steps to take as victims focus on recovering. While 1 or more drivers may be at fault for a given truck accident, it’s also crucial to consider whether the trucking company may be liable as well, as this can help victims determine:
- The potential value of their claim or case, and
- The next best steps to take as they move forward.
To provide some examples of how and when fault for truck accidents can extend to parties beyond the involved motorists, below we’ve listed 3 common ways in which trucking companies can be (and often are) liable for truck accidents.
- The trucking company failed to properly screen drivers in the hiring process. Federal regulations require trucking companies to conduct background checks and drug tests on drivers during the hiring process. The reason for this is that due diligence can help identify drivers who may have a history of reckless or impaired driving. So, if either or both of these steps were not taken and unscreened drivers are hired (and end up causing a crash later), the trucking company that put a potentially dangerous driver on the road can be held liable.
- The trucking company failed to properly maintain trucks. The care that trucking companies are required to put into their driver screening and hiring efforts should also be extended to their fleet of vehicles. According to federal trucking regulations, companies are required to regularly inspect and properly maintain their trucks. If they fail to do this and one of their trucks causes an accident due to equipment failure, the trucking company can be responsible for compensating victims for their losses and damages.
- The trucking company failed to ensure drivers complied with trucking regulations. Truck drivers are required to abide by federal trucking regulations, which include hours-of-service rules, truck inspection/maintenance rules, and cargo loading and weight regulations. If trucking companies fail to ensure that their drivers remain in compliance—or if they fail to take action against drivers who clearly aren’t in compliance—then the trucking company can be held liable if that non-compliant driver ends up getting into a truck crash.
Accidents Caused By Defective Trucks
Collisions between large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles often result in serious and fatal injuries. When a truck accident occurs due to defective equipment, injured victims may be able to claim compensation for injuries and punitive damages through a product liability lawsuit. Manufacturers, the engineers that designed the defective part and even the trucking companies in charge of the fleet may be liable for your injuries.
Types of defective truck parts
A defective truck has a design or manufacturing flaw in its performance, construction, parts or material. Manufacturers and distributors of commercial trucks and parts are mandated by the United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety to provide a vehicle that protects the public from an unreasonable risk of harm. When a truck has a defect that poses or causes a risk to the public, a product liability lawsuit can be brought against those responsible for the defect.
The most common types of truck defects are found in the design or manufacturing of:
- Steering components
- Fuel systems
- Electrical wiring systems
- Brake systems
In certain cases, the defects can be the result of improper installation or assembly of parts in the exhaust system or the body and frame of a truck. Liability can fall on the manufacturer, distributor or engineer of the product—or on a combination of these individuals.
Strict liability defective product lawsuits
In a strict liability product lawsuit, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove carelessness or negligence by the defendant. Under this legal standard, the plaintiff must prove 3 things.
- The product was in a defective condition.
- The defect was unreasonably dangerous.
- The defective product caused physical injury to the user or consumer.
The defect in a product can be related to its design, a mistake in the manufacturing process or a failure to warn the consumer or user of a potential risk.
Punitive damages for defective trucks
In addition to compensation for hospital bills, lost wages, prescription medication and other expenses resulting from the crash, truck accident victims may be able to claim punitive damages in a strict liability product lawsuit. Punitive damages are brought against the defendant as a form of retribution. Plaintiffs suing for punitive damages can obtain additional compensation as a way of punishing those responsible for their injuries. Punitive damages also send a message to other manufacturers and distributors that financial penalties can apply to defective products.
In recent litigation, punitive awards have sometimes reached millions of dollars. Depending on the severity of the injury or loss resulting from the defective truck accident, plaintiffs have received large punitive damages settlements as part of their compensation package.
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You
Founded in 1993, the mission of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is to help injured clients get the justice they deserve. Our exceptional, experienced attorneys are licensed to practice in several areas, including all federal and state courts in South Carolina, all state courts in North Carolina, and federal district and appeals courts across the nation. We are also qualiﬁed to serve clients in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Columbia Truck Accident Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, contact the Columbia injury lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. for clear answers about your rights and best options for financial recovery. Since 1993, our lawyers have been dedicated to defending the rights of injured people and helping them obtain the best possible resolutions to their cases.
We’ve represented injured clients against intoxicated or distracted truck drivers, negligent trucking companies, equipment manufacturers or producers, and others whose negligence contributed to an accident. Our clients have suffered a wide range of injuries, including head, brain, and spine injuries, neck and back trauma, amputations, severe burns and other catastrophic injuries.
Our trucking accident attorneys will analyze your case, determining the cause and your strongest arguments. We can help you pursue compensation for the damages caused by your injury, including lost wages, past and future medical bills, and other forms of reimbursement.
Let our Columbia truck accident lawyers put our experience, diligence and skills to work helping you. Contact us to set up your free, no- obligation initial consultation with one of our lawyers. During this meeting, you can find out more about your rights, as well as how we can help you.