Semi-truck driver talking on cellphone while driving | South Carolina Truck Accident AttorneyToday’s drivers are subject to more potential distractions than motorists have been since the invention of the automobile, and distracted driving has become a significant cause of vehicle accidents across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving results in approximately 3,000 traffic deaths and many thousands of injuries yearly.

While it’s dangerous enough for any vehicle operator to drive distracted, it’s much worse if the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a commercial semi-truck and causes an accident involving a smaller passenger car. The chances of catastrophic injury or death are high in such a crash due to the size and weight differences between the two vehicles. Unfortunately, 20% of fatal truck accidents are linked to distracted driving on the trucker’s part, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Distracted Driving Truck Crash Injuries

Passenger car occupants who are lucky enough to survive an accident with an 18-wheeler are at high risk of sustaining severe injuries, including:

  • Broken or crushed bones
  • Organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Whiplash
  • Burns, lacerations, and scarring
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
  • Paralysis
  • Severed limbs or amputations

Such injuries often require expensive treatment, surgery, physical therapy, home nursing, assistive equipment, and long-term or lifelong disability care. Victims are frequently left unable to work and lose their incomes while astronomical medical bills pile up. If you’re injured in a wreck caused by a distracted trucker, you may be entitled to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.

The insurer, however, may not pay what you deserve without a fight. Its adjusters and attorneys are could try to dispute, devalue, delay, and deny expensive accident claims to save money for the company. To receive fair compensation for your damages, you must prove the driver was distracted and negligent. To do so, we recommed the services of an experienced truck accident lawyer.

Distractions Responsible for Truck Crashes

Truck drivers’ potential distractions are typically divided into the following three categories:

Manual Distractions

Eating, drinking, changing radio stations, adjusting heat/air conditioning, smoking, setting a GPS device, getting something from the glove compartment, picking up or dialing a phone, filling out logbooks, and sending texts are examples of manual distractions that can take a trucker’s hands off the steering wheel. 

Visual Distractions

Reading text messages, looking at a tablet or GPS device, observing billboards, and paying attention to interesting sights on the highway are among the activities that can take a truck driver’s eyes away from the road and other vehicles.

Cognitive Distractions

Physical discomfort, stress, worry, deadline pressure, talking to a passenger, daydreaming, fatigue, and the use of alcohol or drugs can take a trucker’s attention off the task of driving safely.

The Risk of a Few Seconds’ Distraction

A truck moving at 55 miles per hour covers approximately the length of a football field every five seconds, so being distracted for even a fraction of a minute can leave the driver unaware of nearby vehicles, road debris, animals, or other obstacles on the highway for a distance of 100 yards. That’s enough space for almost anything to happen when vehicles are traveling in close proximity to one another at high speeds. A driver who’s distracted might not see potential danger ahead until it’s too late to react.

Federal Cell Phone Regulations for Truckers

Using a cell phone while driving renders a trucker nearly 25 times more likely to cause or be involved in some sort of accident or close call. Because cell phones are responsible for most driver distractions today, the FMCSA has set forth strict regulations for truckers regarding the use of phones. A commercial trucker may not perform any of the following activities while driving:

  • Sending or receiving text messages
  • Touching more than one button on a keypad to start or end a phone call
  • Holding a mobile phone by hand to talk or make/answer a call
  • Using the internet or email

Furthermore, the state of South Carolina prohibits all cell phone use by commercial truckers behind the wheel. Violation of these cell phone laws, which is punishable by stiff fines or the revocation of the trucker’s commercial driver’s license (CDL), also renders the truck driver strictly liable for damages caused in an accident involving cell phone use, as long as you can prove it.

Proof That a Trucker Was Distracted at the Time of an Accident

Proving that an at-fault trucker was distracted at the time of your crash is more difficult than proving more externally obvious types of negligence like speeding or reckless driving. A lawyer, however, may take a number of steps to gather evidence of the trucker’s liability:

  • Examining the police report of the crash for information about the location of the trucker’s phone in the cab, food or beverage containers, cigarettes packs, and other indicators of distraction.
  • Hiring an accident reconstructionist to determine exactly how the wreck transpired and what the trucker was doing prior to the crash.
  • Obtaining the trucker’s cell phone records to check for phone use before and at the time of the crash.
  • Viewing video footage from nearby security cameras and interviewing any witnesses to the wreck.
  • Accessing data from the truck’s “black box” recorder, dashboard camera, and other on-board recording devices.

Because the black box data is in the trucking company’s possession and could be erased or destroyed before you gain access to it, your lawyer will likely send a spoliation letter to the company and advise it to preserve that evidence. If the data recorded shows the trucker or employer negligently violated FMCSA or South Carolina cell phone laws for commercial truckers, it will help you to prove liability and seek fair compensation for your damages.

There Might Be More Than One Defendant

Unlike a car accident, in which one defendant is generally liable for all resulting damages, a truck accident can involve multiple defendants who share liability for the crash. In addition to the trucker who was driving distracted, a trucking company could be at fault for not providing proper training or failing to enforce cell phone regulations for drivers.

In some cases, fault could also spread to maintenance personnel, a truck or parts manufacturer, or even cargo loading staff if your accident was caused by other negligence in addition to distracted driving. The tasks of filing claims against multiple defendants, determining their respective percentages of fault, negotiating with more than one insurer, and filing multiple lawsuits, if necessary, are best left to an experienced truck crash lawyer.

Have You Been Injured in a South Carolina Area Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one was injured in a commercial truck accident in South Carolina, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. PleasantNorth Myrtle Beach, Florence or North Charleston office locations.

Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.