Truck accidents are an unfortunate reality in the Palmetto State, and understanding the specific types and nature of these incidents is imperative for both road safety and legal preparedness. In this article, we will delve into the varieties of truck accidents that plague South Carolina’s roads, the factors that contribute to these incidents, and the legal avenues available to those affected. 

Types of Truck Accidents

South Carolina’s highways are bustling arteries of commerce, frequented by huge, heavy commercial vehicles hauling goods across the state. Unfortunately, this means a higher chance of truck-related accidents. These can vary significantly by nature and outcome, from simple fender-benders to full-blown catastrophes. 

Truck accidents typically involve larger commercial trucks and can lead to severe injuries or even loss of life, often inflicting significant medical expenses and emotional distress on those affected. 

Rear-End Collisions

When a truck crashes into the vehicle in front of it, a rear-end collision occurs. In South Carolina, the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks can make these accidents particularly devastating. Victims might sustain severe injuries, accruing substantial medical bills, and often, the collision leads to significant property damage. Such collisions are frequently the result of distracted driving or tailgating by truck drivers, and their consequences can be exacerbated if the truck is carrying a heavy load.

Rollover Accidents

Semi-truck rollovers happen when trucks flip onto their sides or roofs, usually due to drivers losing control. Causes can include improper loading, which leads to an imbalanced cargo, sharp turns at high speeds, or abrupt maneuvers to avoid road hazards. Rollover accidents can be deadly and may also pose risks to nearby vehicles, potentially causing multi-car pile-ups.

Sideswipe Accidents

These incidents occur when the side of a truck brushes against the side of another vehicle, which can happen when trucks change lanes or merge without noticing smaller vehicles. The blind spots on large commercial trucks – also known as “No-Zones” – can obscure nearby vehicles, making sideswipe accidents a common issue on busy roads.

Jackknife Accidents

A jackknife accident describes when the trailer of a large truck skews to form an acute angle with the cab. This can be triggered by sudden stops, slippery roads, or improper braking techniques by truck drivers. Jackknifing might block multiple lanes, causing extensive traffic disruptions and putting surrounding vehicles in peril of colliding with the out-of-control trailer.

Blind Spot Accidents

Trucks have significantly larger blind spots compared to regular passenger vehicles. Blind spot accidents frequently occur when truck drivers fail to account for these zones while turning or changing lanes. Drivers of smaller vehicles may find themselves in the dangerous position of being “invisible” to a truck driver, often leading to collisions, especially on highways and at busy intersections.

Underride Accidents

Perhaps the most gruesome among truck accidents are underride collisions, where a smaller vehicle slips underneath the trailer of a truck. This type of crash can result in catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, due to the severe impact to the upper part of the passenger vehicle. Underride guards on trucks are meant to prevent these accidents, but they may not always be effective, depending on the circumstances of the collision.

To address these accident types and their legal consequences, many impacted individuals seek the knowledge and experience of truck accident attorneys in South Carolina. These lawyers strive to hold liable parties, such as truck drivers and trucking companies, accountable, with the goal of securing financial compensation for victims to cover their medical expenses and other related costs.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

In South Carolina, understanding the factors that contribute to truck accidents is pivotal in both prevention and legal resolution. Trucks are massive vehicles requiring skilled handling, and various elements can lead to mishaps on the road. While a range of issues can culminate in a truck collision, some causes resurface more often than others. These commonly include distracted driving, fatigue, negligent vehicle maintenance, speeding, reckless maneuvers, and adverse weather conditions. Each one of these factors can independently, or in combination with others, set the stage for tragic and costly accidents. Truck accident lawyers frequently examine these causes when seeking justice and financial compensation for truck accident victims.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of all vehicle accidents, including those involving commercial trucks. Truck drivers, like any other drivers, can become distracted by a variety of activities such as using a mobile phone, adjusting the radio, eating, or even reading maps while behind the wheel. Due to the substantial mass and inertia of commercial trucks, a momentary lapse in attention can have disastrous consequences, resulting in severe injuries or even fatalities. With increased regulations and safety campaigns, the focus remains on reducing these preventable incidents caused by a lack of undivided attention on the road.

Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation

Truck drivers often face long hours on the road to meet demanding delivery schedules. Despite regulations that mandate rest periods and limit driving hours, fatigue and sleep deprivation remain significant issues in the trucking industry. Tired drivers exhibit delayed reaction times, impaired judgment, and decreased awareness, which significantly increase the risk of accidents on highways and rural roads alike. Ensuring truck drivers stick to prescribed rest schedules is not just a matter of compliance; it is imperative for the safety of all road users.

Negligent Maintenance

The mechanical integrity of commercial trucks is crucial for safe operation. Negligent maintenance can lead to issues like brake failure, tire blowouts, steering malfunctions, and other mechanical breakdowns that can precipitate serious accidents. Trucking companies and truck drivers are responsible for regular checks and prompt repairs to maintain the safety of these large vehicles. When they fail to do so, the negligence may result in catastrophic accidents, with the companies potentially liable for any resultant damages or injuries.

Speeding and Reckless Driving

Speeding is a prevalent factor in many traffic accidents, but when it involves a commercial truck, the outcomes can be particularly devastating. High speeds reduce the driver’s ability to react to road hazards and increase the severity of an accident’s impact. Reckless driving behaviors such as abrupt lane changes, tailgating, and disregarding traffic signals compound these dangers. Truck drivers under pressure to meet tight deadlines may be more inclined to take such risks, but the consequences can be severe for all involved.

Poor Weather Conditions

South Carolina can experience a variety of weather conditions, including heavy rain, fog, and even ice, which can dramatically affect road safety. For truck drivers, poor weather requires an elevated level of caution and often a reduction in speed. Limited visibility and decreased traction can make it difficult for trucks to stop or maneuver safely. Despite the best efforts of drivers, adverse weather remains a significant and uncontrollable contributor to accidents on the road. Understanding these common causes is vital not only for truck accident lawyers building a case but also for all motorists and trucking companies aiming to improve road safety across South Carolina.

Serious Injuries And Damages From Truck Accidents

Truck accidents can unleash devastating consequences for those involved, not least because of the size disparity between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. The aftermath of such collisions frequently leads to significant property damage and acute injuries for drivers and passengers alike. 

Severe Injuries

Victims of truck accidents often sustain severe injuries that can drastically alter the course of their lives. These injuries may range from bone fractures and lacerations to more profound issues like spinal cord injuries, which can lead to partial or complete paralysis. Other injuries such as internal bleeding, organ damage, and burns are not uncommon due to the intensity of truck collisions. The road to recovery from such injuries is typically arduous and prolonged, requiring extensive medical intervention and potentially leaving survivors with lasting impairments.

Property Damage

The magnitude of property damage resulting from truck accidents is typically extensive, with passenger vehicles often bearing the brunt of the impact. Collision with a large commercial truck can render cars and other property irreparable. The financial implications of such damage are significant, necessitating substantial repairs or replacement and potentially leading to other consequential losses, such as the inability to use the vehicle for work or essential activities.

Medical Expenses and Bills

Following a truck accident, the incurred medical expenses can be staggering and constitute a huge burden for the victims and their families. Initial costs can include emergency room fees, surgeries, medication, and hospital stays. Beyond these immediate expenses, ongoing care such as physical therapy, follow-up visits, and home care services further amplify the financial strain. Victims must often contend with juxtaposing their recovery with the mounting pressure of medical bills that can accumulate into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Catastrophic Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injury

Among the most dire outcomes of truck accidents are catastrophic injuries, which can leave victims with a permanent state of disability. These include lost limbs, blindness, severe burns, and spinal cord injuries. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are particularly devastating and complex, potentially causing cognitive deficits, behavioral changes, and impaired motor functions. TBI can result from either a forceful blow to the head or a piercing injury, and its repercussions can be unpredictable and long-lasting.

Long-Term Medical Care and Rehabilitation

The path to rehabilitation for truck accident victims enduring severe or catastrophic injuries is typically an intricate one, often requiring a multidisciplinary approach. Long-term medical care might consist of ongoing surgeries, pain management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological support to help manage the mental health challenges that can arise from such traumatic events. Rehabilitation efforts may span years or even a lifetime, translating into an enduring financial and personal toll for both the victims and their loved ones. These needs must be accurately calculated and incorporated into claims for financial compensation to ensure that costs are adequately covered now and in the future.

Dealing with Insurance Claims after a Truck Accident

Dealing with insurance claims after a truck accident can be a complex and daunting process. Victims are often left to navigate a maze of paperwork and legal requirements to stake their claim for compensation. Immediately following the accident, it is essential to report the incident to both your own insurance company and the trucking company’s insurer.

When filing a claim, documentation is paramount. This includes:

  1. Medical records and bills
  2. Proof of lost wages
  3. Photos of the accident scene and damage
  4. Witness statements
  5. Police reports

Victims should ensure that all communication with insurance companies is recorded and that they do not rush into accepting an early settlement offer. These offers may seem appealing but often do not account for the full spectrum of costs incurred, especially when long-term care is necessary.

Given the complexity and adversarial nature of dealing with insurance companies after a truck accident, seeking the help of a Columbia, SC personal injury attorney can be invaluable. A skilled truck accident attorney will understand the nuances of both state and federal laws governing commercial trucking. They can negotiate with insurance companies, construct a strong case, and ensure that all potential damages are considered, including future medical expenses and non-economic losses for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

Legal representation can also be critical in situations where the insurance company is uncooperative or when they employ bad faith tactics. An experienced truck accident lawyer will protect a victim’s rights, handle all communications with the insurance company, and work towards securing fair financial compensation. They can also represent the victims in court should a satisfactory settlement be impossible to achieve through negotiations.

Contact McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates

McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has seven offices across the Midlands of South Carolina, in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are highly skilled at representing victims in truck accident claims in the Palmetto State, as well as families of those who have lost loved ones to fatal accidents. 

We offer free case evaluations, so give us a call today at 803-373-7988. It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.®