Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions
When you’re faced with a major life event, you’re filled with questions and uncertainty. Get the straight answers you’re looking for from a South Carolina attorney.
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Can you sue a business if you get hurt in an accident caused by a company driver or an employee driving his employer’s car or truck?
Yes, if the at-fault driver was driving for work. It’s based on the ancient legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” which holds employers liable, or legally responsible, for the acts of employees. The reason behind it is, if an employee hurts someone on the job, the employer is more likely to be financially capable of bearing the responsibility to pay a settlement.
Today, car, motorcycle, and tractor-trailer accident settlements come from insurance. But the truth of respondeat superior remains: businesses with company vehicles often have enormous amounts of insurance to pay settlements.
However, they aren’t going to give it away—even if you were badly hurt. (Keep reading to find out why!) You also need to look out for whether the employer is actually directly responsible for your injuries.
The Employer May Be Directly Responsible for Your Injuries
If you’re seriously hurt by a company car, semi-truck, delivery van, or any other company vehicle, you need every avenue of potential fault explored. And your case may allow you to hold the employer directly liable for carelessness in managing its employees or equipment.
We see this a lot in our trucking cases. Trucking companies can be legally responsible for tractor-trailer accidents caused by violations of federal safety regulations, like allowing or forcing truckers to drive excessively long hours or failing to require proper pre-trip inspections. Proving violations caused the crash can be vital to your case, as it can lead to punitive damages.
But any employer can be held liable for careless training or supervision of employees who drive. That includes giving a company vehicle to an incompetent or dangerous driver.
Warning: If You’re in a Serious Accident With a Company Vehicle, They’re Probably Protected—and You’re Not.
Many victims are shocked to discover businesses often start defending themselves before the ambulance drives the victim off from the crash scene. It’s a cold, hard fact: corporations and insurance companies will protect their money, not help you. They will circle the wagons and unleash a hail of professionals to avoid responsibility for the crash: insurance adjusters, attorneys, experts, investigators, and whoever it takes.
Don’t let them pull off the cover-up and cheat you. Get your questions answered by a Spartanburg, South Carolina car accident and tractor-trailer accident attorney who’s used to handling cases against employers for company vehicle accidents.
I’ve written a book for folks just like you that covers the basics of car accident cases, and you can download it here for free. Check out how other folks like you rate their experiences with us on an attorney review website we don’t own and Google+.
What should I do if I’m involved in a semi-truck wreck?
A lot. A proper investigation and protection of your rights require a ton of work that can be overwhelming to an untrained victim, especially a seriously hurt or grieving one. These cases are way more complicated than a car accident. And here’s a harsh truth you’ve got to confront: you may already be way behind the semi-trailer insurance company’s defense.
If you can’t do all this, don’t worry. That’s why you hire us. We do it for you, and make up for what you couldn’t do as best we can. That said, here’s what you should do immediately if you’ve been involved in a semi-trailer accident:
- Call an attorney. I promise you I’m usually not this insistent. But this is the truth: the trucking company’s insurance may already have an attorney and a team of investigators and other experts already working to beat you.
- Get pictures of the scene and vehicles immediately. Pictures of the scene can be vital in showing the immediate aftermath of the enormous impact, including locations of the vehicles that can help with crash reconstruction and establishment of legal fault. If necessary, go to the tow yard where your vehicle is stored. You can bet the trucking company and its insurance company will move their truck fast to get it away from any prying eyes who might want to prove a case using it.
- Get the investigating officer’s name and contact info. This can help get the crash report quicker and help your attorney reach him for an interview. Law enforcement investigations can be a goldmine for victims, especially if your case is severe enough to be investigated by the South Carolina Highway Patrol MAIT team.
- Make sure evidence doesn’t get destroyed. Law enforcement often destroys their files after traffic tickets are paid. And please understand this, as hard as it is to believe: the trucking insurance company is motivated to make harmful evidence disappear. You need more evidence than you think to prove the trucking company’s fault and enhance your chance for punitive damages. Much of that evidence is kept by the trucking company. That’s the fox guarding the henhouse. You can protect yourself with a letter sent to the trucking company and law enforcement, instructing them to preserve all evidence related to the crash. For the letter to be effective, you’ve got to be sure to send it to the right person at each organization.
- Don’t let the semi-truck insurance company get your vehicle. The best evidence of the impact is likely the tangled mess of your car or motorcycle. The trucker’s insurance company will try to make that disappear with a quick settlement offer, often allowing it to take your vehicle. Then that crucial evidence is gone forever. The only impact evidence left is a semi-truck that’s barely scratched or fully repaired.
- Take pictures of visible injuries. Don’t leave anyone guessing. Capture the gore in living color for bad cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Remember, these usually look worst at first—and you want everyone to know exactly what the immediate aftermath of the accident looked like for your body.
- Video painful treatments, if providers let you. You may be surprised—they often will. It shows the long, hard, agonizing road you got forced onto by the tractor-trailer hitting you. While medical records may describe the treatment, a video brings the viewer into the experience with you. If a picture is a thousand words, a video speaks volumes.
- Get informed. Since you’re reading our website, you’re already doing that! We have a lot more to offer you, so take a good look around. You should also download our FREE BOOK on crash cases, which contains a chapter on 18-wheeler accidents. It answers lots of questions folks like you have, so you can arm yourself with information to help you along as your case develops. It will also prepare you for confronting the insurance company claims rep or adjuster and the dirty tricks they employ to settle your case cheaply.
Just Do It. It May Prevent a Lifetime of Regret.
I get it. When you’re hurt or grieving, the last thing you want is to add an attorney to your list of things to do. But, like going to the doctor, sometimes you just need a professional to help you through a situation you’re really not equipped to handle yourself.
What are the major causes of fatal semi-trailer accidents?
Since truckers are professional drivers, you’re right to wonder why so many 18-wheelers cause deadly crashes. And you’re not the only one wondering—the federal government is, too. That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates trucking safety, commissioned a study to find out what makes truckers cause fatal crashes.
Warning: the top causes are simply appalling, as these mistakes that kill people are violations of the most basic rules of safe driving that even ordinary drivers are expected to honor.
Statistics on the 10 Major Causes of Fatal Trucking Accidents
Using fatal large truck crash data from 2017, the study concluded these are the top causes of fatal accidents by semi drivers:
- Speeding – Truckers drive 80,000-pound monster machines that are horrifyingly difficult to stop and they really do know it's critical to avoid speeding because it truly is a deadly sin for a trucker. Sadly, too many of them just get to wrapped up in making an on-time delivery, sacrificing our safety.
- Distraction/inattention – This includes the most dangerous article in any vehicle: a cell phone. But it also includes just daydreaming, being lost in thought, or even eating. I’ve written on how truckers know way more than us that they can’t afford to drive distracted.
- Failure to yield right of way – This could be turning left in front of an innocent driver who has a green light. Or blowing through an intersection while a car tries to finish going through it. The results are devastating.
- Impairment – Likely the most disturbing factor, not to mention it’s in the top 5! As you might expect, this includes impairment from drugs or alcohol, which for a trucker is a death wish for the rest of us on the roads. Interestingly, the study includes some unexpected definitions of impaired. One of them is from fatigue. Overworked truckers are such a supreme safety concern there are federal regulations limiting the amount of time they can drive. This remains a regular concern in any tractor-trailer accident and can form the basis for punitive damages against the trucker and the trucking company who allowed him to do it.
- Careless driving – This is almost a catch-all definition that could define almost any driving mistake. The fact a professional driver entrusted with the most enormous machines we let out on the highway could ever drive careless is plain astonishing.
- Vision obscured by weather, roadway design, vehicles, etc. - While it’s hard to conceive a trucker would have vision obscured by anything when he sits so high above the road with an enormous windshield, this factor just shows truckers should be expected to be more vigilant than the rest of us. As for bad weather, truckers are expected to overcome this because they are highly trained and held to a high legal standard by federal regulations.
- Failure to keep in the proper traffic lane – It’s easy for us ordinary drivers to understand how driving a 40-ton machine might be hard to maintain a lane. But we aren’t professionals, truckers are. This is unacceptable. “Stay in your lane, bro.”
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic lights or traffic officers and failure to obey safety zone traffic laws – There’s just no excuse for a professional trucker to ignore a stop sign, red light, or police directing traffic. Sadly, truckers ignoring construction work zone safety rules are a key cause of wrecks with injuries and deaths.
- Following improperly – We all know the term for this: tailgating. When you’re driving an 18-wheeler, it’s just menacing, and it’s no surprise this is a top cause of fatal crashes. Truckers are expected to know extensive safety guidelines to keep this from happening. Apparently, it’s not enough.
- Overcorrecting – This can happen when a trucker goes through a curve wrong, creating one of the most horrifying crashes on any road: the rollover.
What’s Really Behind These Causes and What Do We Do About It?
If your family suffered a deadly trucking accident, life is traumatized and overwhelming enough. You’ll need legal help for a lot of reasons, but for you, chief among them is the trucking company likely already has an attorney and legion of experts lined up against you- not to mention trucking cases are much more complicated than an ordinary car crash.
And there very well may be someone behind this case that wasn’t out on the road – the trucking company.
That’s why the law allows the trucking company to be held accountable for mistakes it helped create, which led to the crash. Sometimes that’s where the challenge starts—do you really even know who the trucking company is?
Don’t risk losing compensation your family might really need. Get your questions answered by an experienced fatal trucking accident attorney who’s written a book on car crash cases that includes a chapter on 18-wheeler accidents. Download the book for FREE.
To get your questions answered, call toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form. If you're wondering what it’s like to work with me and my team, check out these real-life reviews from actual clients on a website we don’t control.
What happens when a semi-truck crash causes a brain injury, and what should I do about it?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be a tragic consequence of a horrific big rig accident. It throws victims and families into what can be a terrifying life-or-death struggle, followed by hard, confusing medical decisions about the future. And over it all, the legal whirlwind looms.
We want to be a resource for you, so here’s a compilation of free information on brain injuries and the legal system pulled from our website.
How Accidents Cause Brain Injuries and How They Get Diagnosed
To get free information, just click the link:
- How accidents can cause Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
- Parts of the brain and how injury to them affects you
- Brain injury warning signs
- Common types of traumatic brain injuries from accidents
- Concussion defined and symptoms
- Initial tests to determine brain injury severity
- Common tests and scans used to more definitively diagnose TBIs
Potential Long-Term Treatment for Brain Injuries
- Typical brain injury medical care and rehab
- Meet the brain injury care team
- Specialized neuropsychological testing can help determine the extent of the injury, and how to treat it
- How to pay medical bills for brain injury care
Now for the “Legal Stuff,” Which Is Second Only to Medical Care
Even as you struggle with your injury—or your family member’s injury—the clock begins ticking on your legal rights. The sooner you act to preserve them, the better. Believe it or not, delay risks evidence disappearing. And sadly, trucking companies and their insurance companies plant their heels in the ground to battle seriously hurt victims- often with breathtaking swiftness and ruthlessness. Their goal is to take advantage of your inexperience, ignorance, desperation, or fatigue to get away with a cheap settlement.
To prevent that for you, here are a few more vital resources:
- Our trucking page highlights the complexity of these cases and arms you with free information about them.
- Our FREE BOOK on crash cases contains a chapter on 18-wheeler wrecks.
- To get your questions answered, call toll free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form.
We are here for you and we want you to feel comfortable about contacting us—check out these reviews to see what we're like from clients, and even people who didn’t hire us.
Who can be a tractor-trailer safety expert witness in my accident case, and how can I afford one ?
A tractor-trailer safety expert can help your case in many ways, as I’ve pointed out before.
Your attorney should be able to find one for you. It can be hard for an attorney, even an experienced one, to know what trucking safety issues will arise in your case. Ideally, your lawyer will look for an expert witness with many years working in the trucking industry, handling a variety of matters commonly found in these cases.
Qualifications for Tractor-Trailer Safety Expert Witnesses
In general, not just anyone can be one. Expert witnesses must satisfy a surpisingly high legal standard to a judge before they can testify in court as an expert. Here are some basic qualifications your expert will likely need:
- Work experience. An excellent candidate might’ve owned a trucking company. He or she should’ve held an executive or supervisor-level position in the industry, like serving as a safety director or human resources officer or personnel director.
- Court experience. Extensive experience testifying as an expert helps, too.
The key is whether the expert is an authoritative witness the jury will believe knows what he or she is testifying about.
How Much Money Will I Need?
Like most experts, the typical tractor-trailer safety expert may charge a retainer fee, then get paid at an hourly rate for the time spent working on your case.
Luckily, you shouldn’t need any of your own money. Your attorney pays the expert for you, then gets paid back from your settlement or verdict as part of your contingency fee agreement.
Hire a Lawyer You Trust—Because That’s Who Hires the Expert
Skilled attorneys choose experts carefully, aiming for the right mix of experience and communication skills to explain complicated things clearly and simply.
Here are tips on hiring an experienced accident attorney you can trust. If you want to know what it’s like to work with us, check out these reviews on a website we don’t own.
Is the trucking company responsible for an accident if it doesn’t own the truck or the trucker works for someone else?
Most likely, yes. Trucking companies are definitely liable when their tractor trailers, driven by their employees, cause a tractor-trailer accident. The same holds true when faulty equipment, like bad brakes, causes the wreck.
Sometimes, a trucking company leases, or rents, a commercial vehicle. They can even use another company’s trucker to drive the 18-wheeler. These tractor-trailer drivers are sometimes called “borrowed employees.”
Federal law won’t let officially authorized interstate motor carriers escape responsibility for leased vehicles or borrowed truckers. Federal regulations make the trucking company liable for both the trucker’s driving and the maintenance of the leased equipment. Federal law also requires the trucking company to:
- Obtain liability insurance on the leased truck,
- Inspect the truck,
- Control and be responsible for driving the commercial motor vehicle in compliance with federal law, just as if the trucking company owned it.
So in the end, as long as the trucking company is an authorized interstate motor carrier, it’s likely just as accountable for the crash as if it hired the trucker or owned the big rig.
The Bigger Question
Why would a trucking company create so much work for itself? There can be many reasons, but here’s the one that means the most to victims: To make it harder to find the responsible party to help pay for the damage.
End the Confusion and Focus on Healing
If you’re seriously hurt in a car crash, or worse, you can put an end to straining to determine who’s at fault. Contact an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney to get your questions answered. And there’s probably a lot you should ask, but don’t know to, since big-rig crashes aren’t your typical car crash. Fill out our Get Help Now form at the top of this page for answers, so you can focus on recovery.
Are there any laws about safe tractor-trailer tires, and are truckers trained to handle blowouts?
Yes and yes.
Federal regulations help keep highways and interstates safe by setting minimum standards for tires. The standards include:
- No hazardous defects. Tires cannot have belt material exposed through the tread or sidewall, show tread or sidewall separation, or leak audibly.
- Minimum tread depth. For front wheels, tread groove pattern depths must be at least 4/32 of an inch on major tread grooves. Other wheels must have a depth of at least 2/32 of an inch.
The regulations expect truckers to inspect tire safety before every trip in an effort to prevent tragic accidents. And breaking these laws creates the potential for punitive damages.
Truckers Know How to Safely Handle a Tire Blowout
Tire blowouts can cause an 80,000-pound road monster to careen out of control. The South Carolina Commercial Driver’s License manual teaches truck drivers to recognize and respond to tire blowouts.
- Recognition. Tire blowouts often come with a loud “bang.” They can also make the semi thump or vibrate. When a front tire fails, the steering can feel heavy. Frighteningly, rear-tire failure can cause the trailer to slide back and forth uncontrollably in a violent fishtail.
- Response. In a blowout, the truck driver must hold the steering wheel firmly. This is especially true for a front-tire blowout, which can twist the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands. Truckers must resist the urge to brake—hard braking could actually cause loss of control.
Take Action If the Trucker or Trucking Company Didn’t
If you get hurt or worse, lose a loved one in a fatal accident, you can hold the trucker and possibly the trucking company accountable.
If you need questions answered, fill out our Get Help Now form or call 888-230-1841 to set up a free strategy session with an experienced trucking accident lawyer.
How could a tractor-trailer have brakes bad enough to cause an accident?
It’s almost beyond belief—the idea a massive machine the size of 40 elephants, moving at interstate speeds, can’t stop itself. But it’s a real problem, often worsened by the twin evils of speeding and tailgating.
A joint government-sponsored study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed just how big that problem is. The study looked at a representative sample of nearly one thousand tractor-trailer crashes and concluded deficient or failed brakes contributed to an estimated 29% of crashes.
The sad truth is, a variety of factors can cause semi-truck brakes to fail or go bad, causing tragic wrecks. But there are two issues we look for first:
- Inadequate inspections. I’ve written before on federal law requiring pre-trip inspections as well as the inspection processes that have been put in place to promote highway safety. In the federal regulation containing the items to be inspected, the first one listed is the brakes. Careless or nonexistent inspections can overlook faulty brakes. Both the trucker and the trucking company can be held legally accountable for these poor inspections. And proving a safety regulation violation caused the crash enhances a victim's ability to obtain punitive damages.
- Poor maintenance. Finding a brake problem is just half the battle. Turning a brake problem over to a poorly trained or incompetent mechanic won’t solve the problem. Federal law also tries to protect us from this by providing minimum qualifications for big rig brake mechanics. These qualifications include successful completion of an approved apprenticeship or training program.
If you’re involved in a tractor-trailer accident, you can rest assured the trucker won’t volunteer the cause of the crash—just like his insurance company won’t volunteer to pay your medical bills. Get a trained professional who wants to help you. Fill out our Get Help now form, or call toll free 888-230-1841 to start getting some answers and building your case.
What does the law say about driving 18-wheelers in bad weather?
Federal regulations require the driver of a semi-trailer, 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer, or other large truck to use—and I quote—“extreme caution” when driving in “hazardous conditions” that reduce visibility or tire traction. You might be surprised to learn the law defines “hazardous conditions” to include:
In these conditions, federal regulations require speed to be reduced. If the situation becomes sufficiently dangerous, the trucker is required to stop. We’ve already written about how commercial truckers should handle slick roads.
Bad Weather is No Excuse for an 18-Wheeler Accident
Few things on the interstate are more terrifying than encountering these highway mammoths in bad weather. While truckers are legally required to use extreme caution in bad weather, don’t let your guard down. Truckers sometimes are blinded to safety requirements, just as they’re blinded by blowing snow or thick fog. But these regulations have some real teeth in them when a violation causes a crash.
And if you get victimized by a crash as a result, don’t let a truck driver’s insurance company victimize you twice. Send us an email so we can talk about how to enforce your rights for a fair recovery without breaking the rules of the road and the laws of the land.
What is a black box, and how can it help my tractor-trailer accident case?
A “black box” is also called an engine control module or electronic data recorder. It’s a computer measuring certain key events that can be useful in proving a tractor-trailer caused a crash and assessing whether the trucker drove recklessly, giving you the right to punitive damages.
Shockingly, federal safety regulations do not require them. But most tractor-trailers built in the last few years should have them anyway.
What the Black Box Measures
Black box data depends on the year, make, and model of the engine…and sometimes owner-selected features. In a trucking accident case, the black box can show:
- The speed at impact.
- Hard braking—or the lack of it.
- The last stop when the engine got turned off. This might be used to check the honesty of the trucker’s logs that show he was taking the rest breaks required to prevent fatigued driving.
How the Black Box Is Used
The insurance company won’t just give you the black box. And you need to get it fast. You’ll need a skilled tractor-trailer wreck attorney to find the right expert with trucking industry or accident reconstruction experience to download the data and then interpret it.
DON’T DELAY. This data can expire or, even worse, vanish seemingly without an explanation. Preserve your rights to this data by getting the right lawyer who knows how to do everything possible to prevent this vital evidence from evaporating.
If you’ve been involved in a crash where you’re concerned about black box evidence helping you, act fast and call us now at 888-230-1841 or 864-582-0416 to discuss how we can take steps to keep your rights from disappearing.