Yes, assuming the trucker is legally considered an employee of the trucking company. The company may claim he's an "independent contractor", a legal technicality that gets the company out of responsibility. That defense can be defeated with the right evidence, but you'll need a sharp, experienced trucking attorney to find it and convincingly present it to win your case.
There are two ways the trucking company can be held responsible. First, the trucking company is already responsible because South Carolina law holds an employer liable for the acts of its employee. Since the trucker caused the crash, his employer—the trucking company—will also be held accountable.
The second way the trucking company might be held accountable is a little more complicated. Stated in general terms, the second way is called negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention, entrustment, and maintenance. It can be an important part of your case because South Carolina law considers this a separate liability, meaning you may be compensated for these claims in addition to compensation for the crash itself. The basic legal principle behind this is that trucking companies are responsible when they knew or should have known their driver or their truck created an undue risk of harm to the public. At Holland & Usry, we would say this is not just a legal responsibility, but a moral one. Briefly, here are some facts we can develop to help prove these claims:
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to:
- Perform a proper background search of the driver, especially his driving and criminal record, that could have revealed him legally ineligible to drive an 18-wheeler in the first place;
- Adequately check qualifications to drive a big rig, like making sure he could pass a tractor-trailer driving test as required by federal regulations.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to properly train the trucker to:
- Safely operate the tractor-trailer;
- Know and obey laws and regulations regarding the operation of tractor-trailers;
- Be consistently taught safe driving practices to protect the motoring public, by a company-sponsored safety program.
Holds the trucking company accountable for:
- Failing to monitor the trucker’s driving record and driving performance during employment to be sure he drove safely once employed;
- Committing what I call “the worst deadly sin”: allowing the trucker to drive excessive hours and ignoring logbook violations. Federal regulations strictly limit the amount of hours a trucker can drive. We all shudder at a 30-ton mammoth machine hurtling down the interstate at 70 miles per hour with the driver asleep at the wheel. Log books—also required by federal regulations—keep truckers honest by forcing them to document they rested as required by law. But cheating occurs, and companies sometimes look the other way.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to discipline and even fire the trucker for a pattern of dangerous driving.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to properly maintain the tractor-trailer involved in the crash.
Holds the trucking company accountable for giving its tractor-trailer to a trucker who’s unqualified, inadequately trained, or just plain incompetent to drive it.
If you look back at these factors, you’ll realize they have two things in common; they are designed to make trucking companies help keep us safe, and violating them is a choice made by the trucking company. Violations may be proven by showing the trucking company did not have policies and procedures to prevent them, or that the trucking company did have policies and procedures in place but ignored them. We might also hold the trucking company liable by proving it ignored federal regulations.
At Holland & Usry, we take severe injuries from South Carolina tractor-trailer accidents seriously, whether they occur in Spartanburg, Greenville, Cherokee, or Union counties, or anywhere in our state. If you’re the victim of a South Carolina semi-truck crash, you owe it to yourself and your family to speak with an experienced attorney to explore your rights and develop a case against the trucking company for breaking safety rules designed to keep you safe.
Sometimes, we’ll hire a trucking industry expert to help us prove what both the trucker and the trucking company did wrong to maximize your compensation for severe injuries or the death of a loved one. You can also check out our free report on South Carolina auto accidents, which includes a chapter on tractor-trailer accidents. If you’d like a free meeting with us to discuss your tractor-trailer wreck case, we can come to you if you’re too hurt to come to us. Feel free to start a live chat or send us an email. If you prefer, you can simply call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free 888.230.1841 for your free meeting to begin evaluating your case and preserving your rights.