A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 20 times as much as a normal passenger car or SUV. Due to their size and weight differences, an accident between two such vehicles is apt to leave the occupant(s) of the smaller car with severe, life-threatening injuries leading to expensive medical treatment, a long recovery, time off work, and extreme pain and suffering. Fatalities, as well, are unfortunately common in truck-car accidents. If you were a passenger injured in a crash caused by the driver of the car you were riding in, a truck driver, or both, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages.
The process of collecting that compensation usually begins with a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Whatever your damages, pursuing your claim successfully when you’re seriously injured and focused on recovery involves legal complications that you might not be up to on your own. The services of an experienced truck accident attorney are highly recommended in such a case.
Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents and Resulting Injuries
Commercial truck crashes are commonly caused by:
- Distractions like cell phones, food, drinks, radios, GPS devices, and visual distractions such as billboards and scenery
- Fatigue or drowsiness due to driving long hours to meet delivery deadlines
- Use of drugs or alcohol
- Speeding, reckless driving, and disregard for traffic laws
- Lack of proper driver training
- Failure of mechanical systems like brakes, lights, and steering
- Lack of attention to bad weather and/or road conditions
- Improperly loaded cargo
Serious Injuries and the “3 Ds”
The severe injuries that result from truck-car crashes include broken bones, whiplash and other neck injuries, eye damage, lacerations, burns, dislocated joints, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and amputations. Serious injuries like these lead to expensive, long-term medical treatment that makes truck-car crash claims very expensive for the insurer, which may delay, devalue, and/or deny your claim to save money for the company. An experienced lawyer will know how to counter such tactics, demand a fair award, and push for a timely resolution of your case. If you should lose a loved one in a truck crash, your attorney can also help you to file a wrongful death claim against the liable parties.
Knowing How Much to Demand and From Whom
If the driver of the car in which you were traveling is completely responsible for the crash, you can demand compensation for your damages through the bodily injury coverage of that driver’s insurance policy, which could limit coverage if the driver lives in your household.
If the truck driver caused the crash, however, you might be able to file damage claims against more than one defendant, including:
- The truck driver who operated negligently or disobeyed traffic laws
- The trucking company that’s responsible for keeping its vehicles in a safe condition and putting only well-trained, properly rested drivers on the road
- The truck manufacturer, if a mechanical failure caused your wreck
- A replacement parts manufacturer if a part was defective
- A mechanic or repair service if the truck was improperly maintained or a replacement part improperly installed.
- Loading dock workers if incorrectly loaded cargo played a part in your accident
Is There Shared Liability?
In some cases, responsibility for an accident is divided between or among the parties involved. If both the truck driver and the driver of the car/SUV in your wreck bear partial responsibility, you could have claims against the operator of the car you were in, as well as any or all of the defendants listed above.
Making a Claim on Your Own Auto Insurance
To make things even more complex, you might have to file a claim with your own auto insurer in some cases. Your uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage could cover some expenses if the at-fault driver is uninsured or has coverage limits too low to pay all your medical expenses.
Your personal injury protection (PIP)/MedPay might cover medical expenses and some lost income while you’re awaiting a settlement or court decision on your case(s). Your insurer would then have a subrogation claim against your settlement once you receive it to recoup its money.
How Your Attorney Can Help You
While you’re recovering from your injuries, a truck crash lawyer can help you in a number of ways to seek a fair settlement, including the following:
- Investigating your wreck with the help of an accident reconstructionist to prove liability, identify multiple defendants, and determine each liable party’s percentage of fault
- Examining the police report of the crash for important evidence and any inaccurate information
- Interviewing any witnesses to the wreck
- Obtaining data from the truck’s “black-box” recorder and other on-board devices
- Viewing footage of the crash from nearby security or red-light cameras
- Consulting with your doctors to determine your long-term medical expenses
- Handling all communications between you and the insurers involved
- Putting a dollar amount on your pain and suffering to evaluate your claim
- Demanding fair compensation from all liable parties and negotiating reasonable awards
- Filing one or more lawsuits if fair settlements are not offered
Most truck accident lawyers will offer you a free first consultation to evaluate your case and explain your options. If an attorney takes your case, it will probably be handled on a contingency fee basis, so you pay no attorney fees until your case has settled or an amount has been awarded to you. Fees and costs may also be deducted after attorney's fees.
How You Can Help Your Attorney and Yourself
If you’re physically capable of doing so, you can protect and strengthen your claim for damages by taking specific steps immediately after your accident. We advise that you:
- Stay at the scene, move to a safe place, and call 911 to report the wreck.
- Take photos of the vehicles involved, license plates, property damage, the scene of the crash, and any evidence, such as skid marks or damaged poles/guardrails.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the driver(s) involved but stay calm and don’t discuss the accident.
- Ask any witnesses for their contact information and pass it on to your lawyer.
- When law enforcement arrives to make an official report, answer their questions honestly but basically, and don’t volunteer extra information.
- See a doctor for an exam and diagnostic testing even if you don’t feel you’re injured.
- Report the wreck to your insurance company.
- Don’t talk to adjusters from either driver’s insurer.
- Don’t apologize or admit any fault for anything to anyone.
Have You Been Injured in a Charleston, South Carolina, Truck Accident?
If you've been hurt in a truck accident, you should speak with an experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Please 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. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Florence or North Charleston office locations.