Legal Representation After Tractor Trailer Wrecks in South Carolina
Tractor trailer wrecks often lead to genuinely catastrophic injuries, or even a loss of life.
If you’ve been involved in a wreck with a tractor trailer as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, you may have suffered serious and/or critical injuries which leave you with a lot of questions:
- When will I be able to return to work?
- How will I pay my medical bills?
- Will I ever make a full recovery?
- How will I make ends meet if my injuries are too severe to work again?
It can be difficult to even know where to begin putting your life back together after such a life-altering collision.
Bluestein Attorneys has experience working with clients struggling to know what to do after suffering a tractor-trailer wreck in which they were not at fault.
We have the answers to the most commonly asked questions about semi-truck wrecks, including:
- When is a wreck involving a tractor trailer most likely to happen?
- What should do you after being involved in a tractor trailer wreck?
- What can I do if I lost a loved one as a result of a wreck involving a tractor trailer?
To request a Personal Injury consultation, call Bluestein Attorneys at (803) 779-7599 or fill out the form to the right.
Keep reading to find the answers to commonly asked questions about tractor trailer wrecks in Columbia, SC.
1. How Many Tractor Trailer Accidents Are There Each Year?
The annual number of wrecks involving tractor trailers fluctuates, but has seen a steady increase since 2014.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, with 109,000 involved in “injury crashes” (in which individuals are hurt, potentially seriously, but do not die as a result of the wreck). The number of fatal crashes increased by 29% from 2009 to 2016, and the number of nonfatal injury crashes increased sixty percent between 2009 and 2016.
While these numbers include crashes involving buses as well as tractor trailers, they continue to show a troubling pattern of increasing wrecks involving large vehicles over time.
While these numbers give us a good overall look at the problem of tractor trailer wrecks in the United States, they don’t take individual circumstances or details into account, and leave out the reality of the individuals dealing with the aftermath of a potentially severe injury or life-threatening situation.
2. How Are Semi Wrecks and Large Truck Collisions Different?
While semi-trucks are taking on increasingly heavy loads, leading to a concerning rise in wrecks involving tractor trailers, many individuals believe that these collisions are essentially the same as those with any large truck or bus, such as a moving or delivery truck.
There are actually some very key differences in semi wrecks as compared to large truck collisions, including:
- Higher potential damage rates. Nearly 74% of fatalities in semi wrecks include drivers or passengers in the other car.
- You may be entitled to more compensation because the likelihood of serious injury or death is much higher, so are minimum insurance requirements.
- Liability is more complicated. Rather than liability coming down to which of two drivers was responsible for causing the wreck, you may find yourself dealing with the driver, the company that hired the driver, and the company that assigned the delivery, each of whom may have a differing level of liability. Some complicated wrecks have led to multiple lawsuits against several defendants, and involved bringing in multiple experts to reconstruct the details of the collision.
When you’ve been involved in a wreck with a tractor trailer, it’s essential to have legal representation on hand to help you fight for your individual rights. A legal representative with experience handling these situations will help you sort through the police report, other accident documentation, damages and repairs to the vehicle (or insurance payouts if the vehicle is totaled), medical records, medical bills, prescriptions, and any other documents that may be needed to help you seek justice as the victim of the collision.
3. What Are The Top Causes of Wrecks Involving Tractor Trailers?
It’s human nature to want to understand the cause of a car wreck or other vehicle collision. It helps us to feel more prepared to prevent these serious and potentially deadly events from happening to us.
When it comes to tractor trailer wrecks, the wish to understand and therefore prevent a wreck from happening in the first place is even stronger. The damage and injuries caused after a wreck involving a tractor trailer are almost always more severe than those in a collision between two regular vehicles, simply from the much greater weight and size of the semi-truck, as well as recent changes to regulations and rules governing how much break time drivers receive and how much weight they are allowed to carry.
We’ve put together a short list of the top causes of tractor trailer collisions, to help you stay informed while sharing the road.
- Lack of research into companies or truck drivers
- Unsafe loading or weight distribution
- Poor weather or visibility
- Mechanical or equipment failure
- Driver error
Each of these causes can be mitigated, but as another driver on the road, your best method of preventing a wreck involving a tractor trailer from occurring is to drive defensively and maintain a consistent awareness of the environment around you and on the road.
For more information on the top causes of semi wrecks and what steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe, click the button below to read our blog.
4. When is a Semi Wreck Most Likely to Happen?
You might be surprised by the answer.
It’s pretty common for an individual or family planning to take a long road trip to try to ‘beat the traffic’, timing the time they leave or planning their rest area stops to avoid an early morning or late afternoon ‘rush hour’ in the cities they pass through. Many believe doing so cuts down their likelihood of being involved in a wreck with a semi, as well.
The truth is, tractor trailers are always on the road, carrying essential goods like food, gasoline, beverages, and more to their eventual destinations. You’ll never be able to fully avoid them, no matter what.
However, knowing when a tractor trailer collision is most likely to occur does provide important information on the top causes of certain semi wrecks, and ways you can mitigate your chance is being injured as a result of one.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 78% of semi-truck wrecks happen on weekdays, and 73% occur between the average ‘working’ hours of 8 AM to 6 PM. When the numbers are narrowed down even further, semi wrecks are most likely to happen between 12 and 3 pm.
For a closer look at just why weekdays starting at noon would be the most common time for a wreck involving a semi, read the blog posted below.
5. How Can I Prevent a Tractor Trailer Wreck From Happening?
The truth is, in a situation in which you share a single road with potentially thousands of other drivers at any given time, there is no way to fully prevent yourself from ever being involved in a semi-truck collision.
However, there are some steps you can take to mitigate your risk and make it both less likely you will be involved in one, and more likely that you will make it out safely if you are hit by a semi.
While nothing is 100%, following all traffic laws, driving defensively, and remembering the steps below will help you mitigate the risk and prevent some potential collisions from occurring
6. Why Does it Seem Like The Number of Semi Wrecks is Increasing?
The short answer to this question is that it seems semi-truck wrecks are increasing because they are, due to a number of factors that have changed over the past 10 years.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration saw a 19% rise just between 2005 and 2015, and things have not significantly improved since. When reading front page headlines about individuals driving tractor trailers causing catastrophic damage and injuries after falling asleep at the wheel, it is easy to simply say the driver should have stopped the rest, but the truth is that the trucking industry is more complicated than that.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the federal limit of time per week a driver can work is officially set at 70 hours, but in actuality dispatchers and drivers have been known to ignore those limits.
This puts exhausted, sleep-deprived drivers with little opportunity for rest behind the wheel, with companies and dispatchers often pushing the drivers to work just a little longer each week, push a little harder, stop for a break less and less.
Why are drivers getting more sleep-deprived? The answer lies in changes to the federal regulations surrounding semi-truck drivers pushed by companies involved in the trucking industry.
Find out more about changes surrounding weight limits, hours of work allowed, and more by reading our blog.
7. What Do I Do After a Tractor Trailer Wreck?
You may feel well-prepared as far as what to do in case of a collision with another car or truck, but wrecks involving tractor trailers can be confusing, complex, and even more stressful.
A wreck with a semi isn’t just an issue of you and another driver, but also the company that may employ the driver, the company that may have assigned the delivery, and a multitude of insurance companies.
What should you do in the first few minutes after a wreck with a semi-truck? We have a few tips to help maintain calm while getting a handle on a stressful situation. While these are general guidelines, following them will help you to be more prepared for the aftermath of a wreck involving a tractor trailer.
- First, assess the situation. If your injuries are minor and you are able to safely move around, try to get yourself and your vehicle out of traffic. Secondary collisions after an initial accident are very common. Call 911 right away to report the wreck and let them know about any injuries, even seemingly minor ones, suffered in the collision.
- Take photos. Try to take interior and exterior photos of the damage to your vehicle as well as the tractor trailer. If injuries are severe, ask a relative or friend to get photos quickly for documentation purposes.
- Stick to the facts. When speaking with the police, walk them through the events as calmly and accurately as possible. If you are too shaken up or upset to feel able to give accurate details, please let the police officer know right away. You do not have to give a written or recorded statement at the scene.
- Call your insurance company before you call a tow truck. Contact your insurance company or agent to report the accident. If the situation is fairly minor, you may have finished your report to insurance before the police arrive. If the collision was serious, however, you may want to wait until you have spoken to the officers at the scene. Again, stay calm, stick to the facts, and don’t elaborate.
- Collect evidence. Make sure you have a written or recorded statement from the driver of the semi-truck, if possible, and any bystanders who may have witnessed the collision and stayed to help. Collect information on the driver’s license and registration, who they work for, their name and the name of their insurance company, and any other information that help later on.
- Stick to the follow-up. Don’t let details fall by the wayside, even though the situation is stressful and overwhelming. You’ll need to follow up with your car and health insurance companies immediately and consistently. Always document names and job titles of anyone you speak to, as well as the content of the conversation.
For a more complete list of steps to take after being hit by a semi-truck, read the blog linked below.
8. Is the Driver or the Company Liable for Damages After a Semi Wreck?
While the driver may technically be at fault, the rules around legal responsibility in semi-truck accidents are complex, and often the company is considered liable.
If you were injured as a result of a wreck involving a tractor trailer, you may find yourself confused as to who, exactly, you should be pursuing damages from. Is it the driver who fell asleep at the wheel, hit the brakes too hard on slick icy roads, or who otherwise responsible for causing the wreck in the first place? Or is it the company that hired the driver? What if the driver owns his own rig?
There are a lot of details in tractor trailer collisions that could change up the specifics of who is responsible for the collision, but generally speaking, both the company and the driver can be held legally liable for a tractor trailer accident, and damages may be recovered from the company rather than the individual driver.
In the case of a company that hires a driver who owns his own rig to drive products using trailers that belong to and deliveries assigned by yet another company, you may have two layers of company liability on top of the at-fault driver’s liability.
In short, tractor trailer collisions are significantly more complex than collisions between other vehicles. It’s recommended to have legal representation as quickly as possible, and not to sign any documents you receive from any company involved until you’ve had them looked at by a legal representative who is there to defend your individual rights.
9. What is The Average Tractor Trailer Wreck Settlement?
The amount you may be able to recover after a semi-truck accident depends on your damages.
The types of damages or other contributing factors the court will take into account when deciding on a settlement include:
- Medical expenses for past and future treatment
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of potential future earnings
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability and disfigurement
- Specific circumstances of the wreck (time, any mitigating weather or other circumstances, etc)
- State laws, such South Carolina’s comparative negligence law
- Punitive damages if the at-fault’s conduct was grossly negligent or reckless
There is no way to reliably predict a specific settlement amount, since any or all of these factors may be different with each and every case.
However, an attorney with experience handling tractor trailer wreck cases, like Bluestein Attorneys, can look at the circumstances and factors of your individual wreck during your initial consultation to give you a better idea of your options moving forward.
10. What Do I Do if My Loved One Died Due to Injuries Suffered in a Semi Truck Wreck?
Wrecks involving tractor trailers lead to a greater overall severity of injuries than other types of vehicle collisions.
Thanks to the semi truck’s much larger size relative to other cars, its inability to stop quickly, and the potential for catastrophic impact, this higher potential for severe injuries also means a much higher potential that a collision will result in a fatality.
If your loved one died as a result of a wreck involving a tractor trailer, you are no doubt mired in the worst experience of your life. Trying to handle all of the details of final arrangements alongside pursuing justice on behalf of your deceased loved one puts an even heavier weight on you during a time of immense stress and grief.
You may be able to recover an amount that will help you with the financial aspects of adjusting to a new life after loss by pursuing a Wrongful Death claim on behalf of your loved one.
11. How Can a Lawyer Help After a Wreck Involving a Tractor Trailer?
In the aftermath of a wreck involving a tractor trailer, you’ll want to work with a legal representative who has plenty of experience fighting alongside clients to help them recover costs associated with medical care and other damages.
At Bluestein Attorneys, we understand that it’s hard to know just where to begin after suffering a tractor-trailer wreck in which you were not at fault. We’re ready to stand beside you and fight for your rights.
In addition to building your case against the party at fault, we can:
- Identify any lost wages that may be recovered
- Help to resolve hospital and medical bills that result from the wreck
- Determine what your future medical needs may be
- Help you make the at-fault party aware of the pain and suffering you have endured due to their negligence
The law on liability in tractor trailer cases can be complicated, as it involves complex state and federal trucking regulations. It’s important to contact and speak with an attorney with experience in tractor trailer wrecks as soon as possible, to ensure that any rights you may have are protected. That way, the investigation can begin as soon as possible, while important evidence is still preserved.
If you’ve been injured as a result of a wreck involving a tractor trailer or semi-truck, we would love to speak with you regarding your individual rights and options.