Charleston Truck Accident Lawyers

Clawson | Fargnoli | Utsey Trial Lawyers

Truck Accidents in South Carolina

Trucking accidents involving collisions with tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, dump trucks, and other large commercial vehicles often result in life-altering injury or death due to the speeds and weights of the vehicles involved. To reduce this risk as much as possible, state and federal laws exist to help regulate the way trucking companies and their drivers operate.

After accidents, commercial trucking companies may be liable for failure to hire properly licensed and trained employees. Additionally, truck drivers must maintain work logs and companies must maintain maintenance logs to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.

When trucking companies fail to maintain their commercial trucks, it can lead to tire blowouts, loss of steering and hydraulics, and brake or engine failure. Additionally, when truck drivers fail to follow the rules—whether by texting while driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving with inadequate rest— it can result in terrible accidents.

It is important to retain counsel that is experienced with the extensive trucking industry regulations and rules to help maximize the value of your trucking accident cases.

If you have been a victim of an accident involving a commercial truck, or if your loved one was killed in a collision with a large commercial vehicle, contact Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC to discuss the legal options available to you.

Reach us online or by phone for a free initial consultation with one of our Charleston truck accident attorneys.

Commercial Trucks—a Necessary Evil

Our modern, globalized economy can be fantastic for consumers. A wide variety of goods can be economically designed, manufactured, and sold across the globe at reasonable prices to consumers. For example, an item of clothing could be conceived by a fashion designer in Italy with the fabric sourced from Kenya and assembled in Vietnam.

The resulting garment could then be shipped via container ship to Los Angeles, travel by railroad across the country to Columbia and then travel by tractor-trailer to Charleston.

It is a remarkable system, but one where safeguards must be employed and regulations strictly followed. Without these safeguards, the system poses an inherent risk to consumers due to the danger massive trucks pose to members of the public.

What Federal Oversight Governs Trucking?

Motor carriers are overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Motor carriers must register with the FMCSA and obtain a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number to operate legally.

Interstate motor carriers are required to meet certain minimum safety fitness standards, including having adequate safety management controls.

These safety areas include:

  • Properly licensed drivers
  • Financial responsibility
  • Qualified drivers
  • Use and driving of motor vehicles
  • Document retention
  • Driver fatigue
  • Adequate inspection, maintenance, and repair

The FCMSA operates the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System to track motor carrier’s safety ratings.

What to Do After a Truck Accident?

Because large semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and other commercial vehicles often cause such extensive damage when they collide with other vehicles and objects, many truck accident victims require emergency medical attention at the scene. It is important to call 911 if you or anyone else appears critically injured. Do not move any injured person but instead wait for paramedics to arrive.

You should also contact local law enforcement and have an officer come to the scene of the accident. You are required to report any accident that results in injury or death, but you should request an accident report even if the crash appears to have resulted only in property damage. With truck accident cases, the more information and evidence you have, the better.

Below, we’ve provided a brief overview of steps to take immediately after and in the hours, days, and weeks following a truck accident:

  • Stay at the Scene: Make sure you stop and stay at the scene of the accident until you are able to exchange information and/or help arrives. If you do not remain at the scene, you could be charged with a hit and run, which is a crime in South Carolina.
  • Check for Injuries: Check yourself and others involved for injuries. If necessary, call 911. You should also contact the police and have law enforcement officers come out to the scene of the accident to file an official report.
  • Exchange Information: After an accident, you will want to get the following information (if possible):
    • The make, model, and license plate number of the truck
    • The driver’s name, address, employer, and driver’s license number
    • The contact information of the truck driver and his or her employer
    • Insurance company information, including the policy number
    • The names, addresses, and contact information of anyone else involved
    • The names and contact information of any witnesses
  • Document the Scene: Using your cell phone or another device, take pictures of the accident scene, as well as your injuries and damage to your vehicle. It is also a good idea to write down everything you can remember about the accident as soon as possible.
  • See a Doctor: If you did not receive emergency care at the scene of the accident, see a medical professional right away. You may have underlying injuries that have been masked by the shock of the accident; remember, some injuries can take hours, days, or weeks to appear.
  • Notify Your Insurance Provider: Depending on your auto insurance policy, you may be required to report the accident, and you may have a limited timeframe to do so. Notify your insurance company of the accident but avoid admitting or assigning fault.
  • Avoid Making Statements: You do NOT have to provide a written or oral statement to your insurance provider or the trucking insurance company after the accident. In fact, we recommend that you avoid talking to insurance adjusters altogether until you have an attorney.
  • Contact an Attorney: The sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the better. At Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, we can begin an immediate investigation in the accident, start gathering evidence, and work to build your case.

With our Charleston truck accident lawyers on your side, you can focus on doing what you need to recover from your injuries and heal from the accident. We will handle all the legal details, from gathering evidence to working with accident investigators to negotiating with the trucking company’s insurance provider. If necessary, we are fully prepared to represent you at trial.

What Liability Do Motor Carriers Have?

Motor carriers can be held liable for truck accidents under several theories of liability, including:

  • Employer liability
  • Lease liability
  • Negligent hiring, entrustment, and retention

When the at-fault truck driver is a company employee who works for the motor carrier, and he or she is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, then the motor carrier can be vicariously liable for the driver’s negligent acts and omissions under the legal theory of respondeat superior.

Under an owner/operator lease, a motor carrier can be held liable for a leased driver’s negligent acts and omissions because the company allows the driver— who would otherwise be unregulated and not allowed to operate—to operate under its interstate authorization.

Negligent hiring involves a claim that the motor carrier should not have hired the driver because they should have known that he or she was incompetent and unfit for the job.

Negligent entrustment involves a claim that the motor carrier should not have entrusted the truck, which is a dangerous instrumentality, to a driver who did not have the experience to operate it safely. Negligent retention involves a claim that the motor carrier failed to terminate a driver when it knew he or she was incompetent and unfit.

What Is the Minimum Insurance Requirements for Motor Carriers?

Federal regulations require motor carriers of non-hazardous loads to have insurance in the amount of $750,000 to cover liability for injuries caused to the motoring public. A carrier of certain hazardous materials must have insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.

Many motor carriers have layers of excess and umbrella insurance for many millions more. The existence of this insurance is a benefit to people who have been injured by the actions of commercial truck drivers—if you have a competent Charleston truck accident attorney who is equipped to fight these large trucking companies and their insurance carriers.

How Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC Can Help

After a truck accident, it is important to retain qualified legal counsel that is experienced in evaluating and litigating trucking accident cases. This can make all the difference in the outcome of your case and your ability to recover maximum compensation for your damages, such as your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and future expenses.

Trucking accident cases are complex, often with massive injuries to the plaintiff and a defendant who will play hardball, so it is important to choose your counsel wisely. If you have suffered a life-altering injury or had a loved one killed in a trucking accident, contact Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC to learn how our proven, award-winning legal team can fight for you.

Call or contact us online today to get started with a free consultation.

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