America is a driving society. Outside major urban areas, there are relatively few people traveling on foot near U.S. roads and highways. For this reason, most American drivers pay much more attention to other vehicles around them than they do to pedestrians nearby. The average motorist’s inattention to those traveling on foot, on roller skates, by skateboard, or by scooter can result in a pedestrian accident.
Since pedestrians normally don’t wear protective gear or helmets when traveling, they’re apt to suffer very serious injury when struck by a passenger car or SUV weighing 4,000-5,000 pounds. In a pedestrian accident involving a commercial truck, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, catastrophic injury or death is likely for the victim. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), hundreds of pedestrians are injured, and approximately 100 are killed each year when struck by motor vehicles in our state.
Causes of Truck Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Commercial truck drivers are regulated not only by state and municipal traffic laws; truckers are also subject to the guidelines of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Commission (FMCSA). After being properly trained and licensed, they are held to a higher standard of safety than the average driver. Their hours of service (HOS) are strictly controlled, and their trucks must undergo safety inspections before trips. Nonetheless, accidents involving commercial trucks and pedestrians do occur for numerous reasons:
A trucker might drive over the speed limit to meet tight delivery deadlines or to receive a bonus for early delivery. Because a truck has a much longer stopping distance than a car, a big rig traveling over the speed limit might not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian crossing or traveling on or near the road.
Failure to yield
A trucker who ignores a traffic light, fails to yield the right of way, or rolls through an intersection where there’s a stop sign can easily strike an unseen pedestrian, especially at night.
FMCSA regulations set limits for the number of consecutive hours a trucker may drive and the number of hours of rest required between driving shifts. Truckers who disobey these rules can become tired or drowsy behind the wheel, especially on long, monotonous journeys. If a trucker dozes off for just a second and accidentally strikes a pedestrian, the result is likely to be tragic or fatal.
A tractor-trailer’s headlights can get very dirty on a trip, and lenses can be broken by pebbles or other road debris, reducing the truck driver’s ability to see pedestrians at night. Brake or steering systems can also malfunction and cause the driver to lose control of the truck. If a trucker fails to inspect equipment as mandated by the FMCSA, the chances of striking a pedestrian are significantly increased.
Use of substances
The consumption of alcohol or drugs impairs a truck driver’s judgment, reaction time, and vision. The use of amphetamines or other stimulants can make a trucker nervous and lead to bad decisions behind the wheel, increasing the chance of a pedestrian accident.
Distraction Is a Major Contributor to Truck Crashes
There are more potential distractions for truck drivers today than ever before:
- GPS devices
- Cell phones
- Signs along the roadway
- Conversations with a co-driver
Any one of these distractions can take the trucker’s attention off the road for a few seconds, during which a truck traveling at 55-70 mph can cover a distance equivalent to a football field. If a pedestrian enters or crosses the roadway during those few seconds, severe injury or death is apt to result. The risk of an accident is highest when a distracted trucker leaves the interstate or a major thoroughfare and enters a highly populated area to pick up or deliver cargo.
Injuries Suffered by Pedestrians in Truck Accidents
Pedestrians who are injured in truck accidents often suffer very serious injuries, including the following:
- Fractured or crushed bones
- Severe joint injuries
- Nerve damage
- Internal bleeding from organ injury
- Herniated discs, spinal cord damage, and paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Psychological issues such as PTSD
- Severed limbs or surgical amputations
Unfortunately, pedestrian victims of truck accidents are among the most likely to die from their injuries. If you’ve lost a loved one, an attorney can help you to file a wrongful death claim. A pedestrian victim lucky enough to survive a truck crash should generally expect very high medical expenses and significant time off work.
Recovering Damages From the at-Fault Trucker
If you’re a pedestrian injured in an accident caused by a negligent truck driver, you’re entitled to file insurance claims for your damages, which include all medical expenses, lost income, psychological injury, and physical pain and suffering. If you’re not offered fair compensation by the insurer(s) involved, you may file a personal injury suit and fight for a reasonable award in court.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
Because of the seriousness of the injuries typically suffered by a pedestrian victim of a truck crash, your claim is likely to be a very expensive one. That means the liable party’s insurance company will probably dispute your claim or make you a quick, low offer before you know what your total medical expenses will be. If you accept such an offer, you may never ask for more money, no matter how serious your injuries are or how high your hospital bills go. If you don’t have an attorney, an insurer might not make you a fair offer for compensation.
How Your Lawyer Can Help
While you’re focused on recovering from your injuries, your lawyer might take specific steps to increase your chances of recovering fair compensation, including the following:
- Investigating your accident with the help of a reconstructionist to prove liability
- Consulting with doctors to organize your medical evidence and evaluate your claim
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Viewing video footage of the crash from nearby cameras
- Obtaining vital data from the truck’s black box recorder and dashboard camera before that data is erased
- Identifying multiple defendants such as the trucker, the trucking company, a manufacturer, a negligent repair service, or loading dock personnel
- Determining those defendants’ respective percentages of fault and demanding fair compensation from each
- Negotiating reasonable settlements from all defendants
- Filing multiple lawsuits and fighting for you in court if fair compensation is not offered
If you’re physically able after your accident, you should call 911, report the crash to the police, take photos of the truck and the scene, exchange information with the truck driver, get contact information from witnesses, seek medical care right away, and contact a truck crash lawyer. Do not give any statements to insurance adjusters, and do not apologize or admit any fault to anyone.
Have You Suffered A Personal Injury Due To Negligence In North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina?
If you've been injured due to negligence you should speak with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our North Myrtle Beach office directly at 843.488.5360 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, Florence or North Charleston office locations.