We got a solid settlement in a Spartanburg County tractor-trailer accident case for an incredibly kind young man, despite the fact the investigating South Carolina Trooper found him at fault for the crash.
Mack came to us from a referral by his girlfriend’s mother. John had previously handled a family court case for her and did a great job.
Before we were contacted, another law firm turned down the case because the investigating highway trooper found Mack at fault in the accident. That firm wasn’t interested in Mack’s story—all that firm wanted was an easy case.
We were willing to listen, and we were not afraid of hard work. We are proud and thankful it came together in the end.
When an Officer Says the Accident Is Your Fault, it Doesn’t Always Mean You Have No South Carolina Semi-Trailer Accident Case
You may be stunned to learn most officers can’t testify in court about whose fault a traffic accident is.
In Mack’s case, the investigating trooper made it look like Mack’s fault was an open-and-shut case. The trooper reported the 18-wheeler came up the highway and Mack pulled out in front of it from a stop sign, causing a devastating semi-trailer accident.
We had another major hurdle to climb: The impact knocked Mack out senseless—he had no memory of the accident.
But listening to Mack’s girlfriend and her parents made it clear fault wasn’t as it seemed.
Building the Case for the Trucker’s Fault in an 18-Wheeler Accident
Mack’s girlfriend’s dad went to the scene not long after the crash. Just down the road from the intersection where it occurred, he found the case’s first “smoking gun.”
The First Smoking Gun
On the side of the road the trucker drove past just before the crash sat a bright yellow, diamond-shaped sign setting the speed limit for the crash intersection.
It was 20 MPH.
Even the trooper estimated the trucker’s speed at 40 MPH, twice the speed limit set by the sign.
Mack’s case had a fighting chance, if we did it right.
Using the Power of the Law
The speed limit sign still didn’t make our case easy. It wasn’t your typical speed limit sign. Even a highly respected trucking industry expert I consulted told me the sign was an “advisory” speed limit, meaning the trucker didn’t have to obey it.
I didn’t give up. Instead, I looked to the law. It revealed unexpected support for our case. Unlike most other states, South Carolina considers these signs mandatory. That meant if the trucker drove through the intersection at over 20 MPH, he broke the law.
I didn’t rely on the trooper’s speed estimate. Most investigating officers can’t testify about speed. So, I hired an expert who could.
Our Accident Reconstruction Expert
To more accurately estimate the trucker’s speed, I hired an accident reconstructionist. Besides his knowledge and ability to testify well, our expert's key strategic advantage was his prior job. He was a former State Trooper. Thus, his criticism of the investing trooper looked less like it came from a hired gun to Monday-morning quarterback an officer.
Our expert made two critical conclusions:
- He estimated the trucker blasted through the intersection at 40-53 MPH.
- If the trucker had observed the speed limit required by the sign, the crash would not have occurred.
The Second Smoking Gun, From an Unexpected Source
When we filed a lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company, it unleashed the discovery process, where each side finds out the evidence the other one has.
In discovery, we obtained trucking company documents revealing the trucking company agreed its trucker drove too fast. Its manager, the trucker’s supervisor, deemed the crash “preventable.” He concluded that if the truck driver had driven just a little slower, he would’ve had time to stop or at least avoid the accident.
This evidence turned the tide in Mack’s case to give him strong hope for a good settlement, where it looked like he had none.
Making the Case for Mack’s Injuries
Mack’s lucky—he’s a tall, powerfully built athlete. His surgeon basically described his recovery as miraculous.
Still, that recovery left Mack with months of agony and disability, and he’ll never really be the same. Mack suffered five broken bones that led to two operations in the semi-trailer accident, along with a laundry list of injuries:
- Left shattered shoulder blade, requiring an operation. The shoulder surgery was especially serious. I learned this after meeting with his surgeon. In a medical questionnaire I created for the surgeon to answer, he confirmed this operation was technically demanding and required unusual work intensity, as it required reconstruction of multiple small fragments. In sum, he described Mack’s injury as rare and complex. We presented a post-op x-ray showing Mack’s shoulder littered with screws and plates.
- Displaced fracture at the base of the coracoid, the bony knobs on the top front of the shoulder blade.
- Displaced fracture of the inside right ankle. We presented a post-op x-ray showing the screws holding Mack’s ankle together, requiring another operation.
- Left transverse process fracture of T1, a spinal bone in his midback.
- Left posterior third rib fracture.
- Type 2 AC joint sprain – this is where the collar bone meets the top back part of the shoulder blade.
- Bruised left lung.
Mack’s the “strong, silent type.” We built a case for his human loss on stories from his devoted girlfriend, who nursed him to health, rarely leaving his bedside at the hospital and helping him at home. He was so heavily dependent on her the first couple of months that she considered him one of her children.
Early, Successful Tractor-Trailer Accident Settlement Reached at Mediation
After the trucker and trucking company’s insurance company attorney took Mack’s deposition, the attorney expressed interest in settlement negotiations. But the defense continued to fight us on fault.
Because they indicated they remained willing to attempt to resolve the case early, we agreed to make that attempt. We knew a case like this would require professional help.
We agreed to mediate the case with a mediator both lawyers in the case trusted. I carefully prepared a summary for the mediator, outlining our entire case. I even sent it to the defense so they’d know we were prepared for trial. The mediator remarked how it helped him thoroughly understand our case.
We ended mediation with a solid settlement in Mack’s 18-wheeler case of $375,000.00. The mediator agreed it was a good result.
The best part was, Mack was satisfied.
We are grateful another firm got scared off, and we put in the hard work to get a successful result in a case that seemed doomed from the start. It’s the best thing a lawyer can do, turn what looks like a bad case into a good outcome.