Truck accidents are very different from crashes between two passenger cars. If you’ve been injured in a commercial truck accident that was not your fault, understanding the nature of a truck accident case can increase your chances of recovering fair compensation for your damages, which include medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. You might have a claim against the truck driver and the trucking company that employs them.
We take a look at some of the differences between these two kinds of claims and focus on dealing with the powerful corporate insurance companies that cover most truck drivers. Truck accident cases are complicated, and you need an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side when you are injured in South Carolina. Truck accident victims trust the attorneys at The Derrick Law Firm.
Myrtle Beach Trucks Are Held to Higher Accident Standards
Like every other driver, truck drivers are required to obey traffic laws, maintain a safe vehicle, and drive cautiously to ensure the safety of all motorists on the road. Unlike passenger cars and their drivers, however, commercial trucks and truck drivers are strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
These agencies set high standards for the condition of trucks on the road, the training and preparation of drivers, the hours a trucker may drive between rest breaks, the duration of those breaks, and more. If you can prove that the truck driver who hit you was in violation of traffic laws or federal regulations, such a violation renders the trucker, their employer, and possibly other defendants negligent and liable for your damages.
Causes of Myrtle Beach Truck Accidents
Tractor-trailer truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Hiring an unqualified or proven bad driver
- Lack of training on the part of the truck driver
- Lack of driving experience
- Overloaded trucks
- Trucks loaded improperly, allowing material to shift
- Poorly maintained equipment on the trucks
- A tired driver who has driven too many hours without rest
- Driving aggressively
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Unsafe safety equipment
- Violating Federal standards
No matter what the cause of your truck accident was, you must protect yourself by holding the truck driver and their employer accountable. Working with an experienced Myrtle Beach truck accident lawyer is the best way to protect your rights as an accident victim.
Severe Injuries Can Result From South Carolina Truck Accidents
There are extreme differences in size and weight between a regular passenger car or SUV and a semi-truck, bus, or another commercial vehicle. While a passenger car generally weighs 4,000-5,000 pounds, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
Due to these differences, an accident involving a car and a commercial truck traveling at highway speed almost always results in major property damage and catastrophic injuries or death for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. If you’re lucky enough to survive a jackknife, rollover, head-on, underride, or another type of truck accident, you could be left with one or more of the following severe injuries:
- Fractured or crushed bones
- Lacerations and scarring
- Dislocated joints
- Eye injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Severed limbs
- Surgical amputations
- Psychological trauma
Such injuries can lead to hospitalization, surgery, extensive long-term treatment, physical therapy, rehabilitation, home nursing care, assistive equipment for your car or home, and a long recovery period during which you cannot work. You’re likely to have astronomical medical expenses at a time when you’re unable to earn any money.
Mistakes to Avoid After Myrtle Beach Truck Accidents
In the aftermath of a wreck, you might be not only physically injured but also emotionally upset and perhaps even in shock. Of course, your well-being and that of your passengers are your first concerns. Once you’ve gotten yourself and others out of further harm’s way, there are several mistakes you should avoid to protect your claim for damages and seek the compensation you deserve.
Leaving the scene
It’s against the law for you to leave the scene of an accident that results in injury or property damage. You’re required to stay at the scene, assist anyone who needs help, exchange information with the other driver(s), and call 911 to report the accident.
When law enforcement arrives, answer their questions with basic information only. Do not admit any fault for the wreck or apologize to anyone. You or your attorney can then obtain a copy of the police report, which is vital to your insurance claim.
Failing to Gather Evidence at the Scene
If you’re physically able, you should take photos of all vehicles involved in the crash, focusing on visible damage and license plate numbers. Take photos or video, as well, of the accident scene, including skid marks, damaged poles or guardrails, and other evidence. Try to take pictures of your physical injuries or get someone to do it for you if you can’t.
Request contact information from any witnesses to the crash and note the location of security cameras that might have footage of your wreck.
Not Seeking Medical Attention
If police or EMTs want to transport you to a hospital, you should not refuse treatment. Doing so could damage your claim. If you’re not transported, you should see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident, even if you don’t believe you’re seriously injured. Symptoms of your injuries might not surface immediately due to the adrenaline from the shock of the crash. A doctor’s exam and diagnostic testing can reveal such injuries and allow you to get immediate treatment for a quicker recovery.
A prompt doctor’s exam also provides vital documentation of the injuries you suffered in the wreck. If you don’t have this documentation, the at-fault driver’s insurer could claim your injuries are the result of a preexisting condition and dispute your claim.
Posting on Social Media
If you have social media accounts, the at-fault driver’s insurer will find them and look for any posts related to the truck accident or resultant injuries. Anything you’ve written about your wreck can be twisted, taken out of context, and used against you.
For this reason, it’s best to post neither text nor photos related to your wreck. Your smartest move is to stay off social media altogether until your claim is resolved.
Communicating With Insurance Adjusters After a Myrtle Beach Truck Accident
An insurance adjuster who contacts you after a truck accident will ask you questions about the wreck and try to record your statement. Anything you say can be used against you in the insurance company’s attempt to deny or devalue your claim. You might be offered a quick, low settlement before you even know what your total medical expenses will be. You should avoid any detailed communication with the insurer, refuse to sign or accept their first settlement offer, and refer all communication to your attorney.
Failing to Consult a Myrtle Beach Truck Accident Lawyer
Most truck accident attorneys will offer you a free first consultation in order to evaluate your claim and explain your options. After a free consultation, your attorney may take your case on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not pay upfront fees for your attorney. Instead, your attorney fees are deducted after you receive a settlement or award. A lawyer will look out for tricks the insurance adjusters may have up their sleeves when dealing with truck accidents and how to counter tactics to devalue your claim, so you have nothing to lose and perhaps a lot to gain by consulting an accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Your first step toward collecting compensation for medical bills, lost income, and other damages in any accident is generally the filing of a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. Because of the major or total damage to the smaller vehicle and the severe injuries typically suffered by its occupants, such a claim is likely to be a very expensive one for the trucking company’s insurer.
In order to pay you as little as possible in damage compensation after a wreck, an adjuster from the insurance company might contact you shortly after your accident to inquire about your condition and get you to talk about the crash. If you do, the adjuster may find something that can be used against you in the claims process.
The insurer might also use delaying tactics to stall your claim, putting pressure on you to accept a quick, low settlement that might not even cover your future medical bills or your pain and suffering. If this happens, we recommend you refer all calls and messages from the insurance company to an experienced truck accident attorney you retain who can counter such tactics and fight for a fair settlement.
How Insurers Delay Myrtle Beach Truck Crash Claims
The many tactics used by insurers to delay payment of truck accident claims might include:
- Failure to return phone calls or reply to messages
- Claiming that it hasn’t received your claim or supporting documentation
- Citing a heavy workload as a reason your claim has not been resolved
- Claiming that there is no investigator available to look into your accident
- Asking you for information or documents that are unnecessary or that you’ve already submitted
- Stating that your accident was not serious enough to warrant the injury claim you’re making
Fighting successfully against these delay tactics while you are trying to recover from injuries and deal with medical bills is more than the average person can be expected to do. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to counter the insurer’s delay tactics in order to
Recorded Statements Are a Bad Idea After a Myrtle Beach Truck Accident
One common approach adjusters use is to convince an accident victim to provide a recorded statement. While the adjuster may present the request as simple and harmless, it can have devastating consequences for an injury claim.
During the recorded statement, the adjuster for the at-fault driver will try to gain as much information from the victim as possible and search for information that can later be used to minimize the claim. While an accident victim is not a criminal and is not under arrest, what they say can and will be used against them in negotiations.
While those who are injured may need to cooperate to provide basic information to an insurance company, they are under no obligation to provide a recorded statement. If an insurance adjuster is pressuring you to record a statement, simply refuse.
Despite the South Carolina Supreme Court’s pronouncement that there is an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in insurance contracts, many insurance companies do not act in good faith when it comes to paying accident claims, especially those involving truck crashes. Although their advertisements promise care, concern, and protection for their customers in the event of an accident, vehicle insurers are in business to earn profits for their shareholders.
This means they want to collect all the money they can in premiums and pay out as little as possible in claims.
Why Insurers Want to Delay Truck Accident Claims
Claims for truck crashes, which often result in high medical bills, major property damage, and significant lost income due to time off work for injured victims, are among the most expensive for an insurance company to pay. Although state law requires that such insurance claims be handled in a prompt and reasonable amount of time, many insurers are highly skilled in delay tactics. The longer an insurer can put off paying an expensive truck crash claim, the more time it has to look for ways to dispute, devalue, or deny that claim in order to save money for the company.
Statute of Limitations
If the insurer can delay resolving your claim until the statute of limitations has expired, you will lose your right to file a lawsuit, give up important leverage in your negotiations, and be compelled to accept an unfairly low settlement offer.
In South Carolina, being found partially at fault for your accident reduces your award according to the percentage of your fault. If, for example, you’re found 25% at fault, you will receive only 75% of the damages awarded by the court. If your fault is equal to or greater than that of the driver who hit you, you will receive no compensation at all. Delaying the payment of your claim gives the insurer time to cook up theories of negligence and partial responsibility on your part in hopes of saving money.
Assumption of Risk
Assumption of risk on your part can work against your claim for damages in a truck crash. If your accident occurred in inclement weather, for example, the insurance company might claim you “assumed the risk” of an accident by being on the road during heavy rain or a snowstorm that caused dangerous driving conditions.
Using Your Own Words Against You
The longer the insurer can delay your claim, the more times you will have to discuss your wreck with an insurance adjuster, and the more likely you are to say something that can be taken out of context and used as evidence that you’re partially responsible. For this reason, you should never give a recorded statement about your crash to an adjuster. It’s best to refer all communication from the insurer to your attorney so that you don’t inadvertently say something to hurt your claim.
Black Box Data
Like airplanes, commercial trucks generally have onboard “black box” data recorders, dashboard cameras, and other recording devices that store data such as speed, use of brakes, length of time behind the wheel, and other evidence that can be very helpful in proving the liability of the at-fault trucker.
Because such data is in the possession of the trucking company and often erased at monthly intervals, a delay in resolving your case gives them time to dispose of any damaging evidence that might support your claim. This is one more reason why it’s important to work with a truck accident lawyer who can serve the company with a spoliation letter demanding that all relevant black box data be preserved.
Looking for an Exclusion
Delaying payment of your claim also gives the insurance company’s investigator time to turn up some detail of the wreck that can be interpreted as an exclusion to coverage according to the language of the relevant policy.
Time Is on Their Side
Over time, as you begin to recover from your injuries, the insurer can claim that you were not as severely hurt in the wreck as you say you were. If the insurance company delays your claim long enough, you might simply get tired of fighting and give up pursuing the claim.
How Your Myrtle Beach Truck Accident Attorney Can Fight Insurer Delay
There are several ways in which your lawyer can take the burden off you and deal with an insurance company that is dragging its feet in regard to your claim, including:
- Penetrating the insurance company’s voicemail system and getting through to adjusters or attorneys who are not returning calls
- Handling the piles of paperwork that a complicated claim generates so that the insurer cannot claim you haven’t provided the necessary documents
- Filing a bad faith claim against an insurer that is simply not carrying out its duty to deal with accident claims in a timely fashion
Because there are often multiple defendants who share liability for a truck crash, more than one insurance company might be causing the delay in resolving your claim. Your attorney can address these issues with the insurers of the truck driver, their employer, the truck owner or a leasing agency, the truck manufacturer, a replacement parts manufacturer, a mechanic or repair service, or cargo loading personnel.
We Can Help When Insurance Companies Call About Your Myrtle Beach Truck Accident
Dealing with the pressure from an insurance company can be stressful when you are already worried about your injuries, missed work, family responsibilities, and more. It’s understandable that many victims fall prey to this common insurance company tactic. Most injury victims have little experience in this type of situation, and they may not have a full understanding of their rights.
This is when an injury attorney can help. An experienced lawyer can explain your rights and responsibilities clearly, identify insurance company tactics, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
What If There Is More Than One Insurance Company to Deal With?
In an accident involving two passenger cars, the victim generally files one insurance claim for damages against the at-fault driver. In some cases, there might be a third party who also bears partial responsibility for your accident. If bad road conditions or a burnt-out traffic light played a part in your wreck, for example, you might have a third-party claim against a local or county government agency. In an accident caused by a commercial truck, though, there could be multiple defendants who bear some percentage of fault for your crash, including the following:
- A trucker who violated traffic laws or federal regulations
- Truck owners who failed to keep their trucks safe and put only well-trained and properly rested drivers on the road
- A truck manufacturer or a replacement parts manufacturer if equipment failure played a role in your wreck
- A mechanic or repair service responsible for maintaining the truck and installing replacement parts
- Loading dock personnel if improperly loaded or shifting cargo contributed to your crash
Your truck crash lawyer will know how to identify multiple defendants, determine their respective percentages of fault, file claims against their insurers, demand fair compensation from each, and file multiple lawsuits against any defendants who do not offer fair settlements.