Columbia Truck Accident Lawyers
Large commercial “big rigs” or “18-wheelers” are the heaviest vehicles permitted on Columbia interstate highways and present real danger to everyone else on the road. Because of their sheer size and weight, they can become unstable at highway speeds if not driven safely or if their cargo is not properly secured. Dangerous and unsafe driving practices can cause catastrophic loss of life in an instant. Whenever a tractor trailer collides with another vehicle, the laws of physics come into play and serious injury and/or death almost always result. State and federal agencies have tried to minimize the risks by enacting extensive regulations for both truck drivers and the trucking industry. These regulations have also created many of the rules that can assist experienced Columbia truck accident attorneys when going after the well financed trucking industry. Given the stakes and amounts involved, you should expect a hard, tough fight. Of course. But we don’t shy away from any fight. We know that if you’re willing to put in the time and go the distance, David can defeat Goliath.
There is a lot of work ahead unless you just want a quick, easy settlement. Your Columbia truck accident attorney must be willing to put in the time and expense necessary to properly develop your case. Only after you have investigated all of the facts and circumstances can you then pursue a fair and just settlement or jury verdict. Our lawyers have over 75 years combined legal experience and are seasoned litigators who are not afraid to go to trial. As former insurance defense attorneys, we know carriers rarely make their best offers until after full discovery and close to trial. Truck accident cases are different and more complex than regular car accidents. Before even considering settlement, your Columbia truck accident attorney needs to know everything there is to know about the truck driver and the truck itself. How many hours had the driver been on the road? Was there any drinking or drug use involved? How long had it been since the truck was serviced or repaired? How was the cargo load secured? Had the load shifted during transit making the tractor-trailer rig unstable? Could this accident have been prevented if the driver had followed all applicable safety rules and regulations? When you have answers to these questions, you can then begin serious settlement discussions or get ready to go to trial.
Why You Still Need a Lawyer Even If Liability is Clear
Even if there is no question about who is at fault and the carrier is wanting to settle with you, you still need to have your case evaluated by an experienced semi truck accident lawyer. Here’s why. Liability is certainly one issue. But once you establish who is responsible, there are complicated issues of damages. Present medical care and related bills are fairly straightforward. But what about future medical treatment needs and costs? What about the potential for punitive damages if the truck driver or trucking company has violated federal or state safety regulations? What if the company hired a driver with a past history of bad driving or DUI? What if you need to find additional insurance coverage for damages that exceed the minimum required for tractor trailer trucks of only $750,000 per accident? And finally, who is going to help you negotiate and reduce health insurance and other liens on any amounts recovered? These cases are some of the most complex in law. You need to know that your lawyer has the experience and willingness to see your case through to the end. Compare credentials and experience. Which law firm to hire is a critical first decision. The choice you make now can make a real difference in the outcome. Choose carefully.
We are a statewide personal injury law practice with offices in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, Fort Mill, and Charlotte. Our lawyers have varied backgrounds, including former insurance defense lawyers, former prosecutors, and even a former Registered Nurse (RN). As former insurance attorneys, Mr. Reeves and Mr. Aiken know what defenses to anticipate and how to prepare cases for settlement mediations. From years of advising insurance carriers, they appreciate what elements of a case will be of particular concern and generate more interest in avoiding trial. Because many truck accident cases have associated criminal charges and investigations, prior criminal experience can assist in finding facts that result in a claim for punitive damages. For example, a felony DUI charge against the truck driver would greatly increase the value of the civil claim. And because of the serious, often life changing, nature of injuries caused, having a former ICU Registered Nurse (RN) can help in reviewing medical records and explaining complex injury at mediation or trial. The defense lawyers will have a number of individuals assigned to a semi truck accident case. You and your family need a similar “team” of professionals fighting for your side as well. Both Mr. Reeves and Mr. Aiken are lifetime members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an invitation only organization for those lawyers who have achieved a settlement or verdict amount in excess of $1M. They have also been recognized and inducted into the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 for SC. With over 25 years litigation experience each, Mr. Reeves and Mr. Aiken would be honored to be considered as you search for the firm to represent your family.
For a personal review of your case, you can contact the truck accident lawyers of Reeves Aiken Hightower & Burns LLC at 877-374-5999, or by filling out this form. We welcome an opportunity to sit down and speak with you to see what can be done. We are not afraid of the trucking industry and pledge to do our best for you and your family to hold all responsible parties accountable. For a direct response, you can reach Robert J. Reeves on his mobile phone 803-554-4157 or email Robert@RJRlaw.com. We look forward to helping you get through this most difficult time in your life. Call now and let’s get started.
While each case is unique, the most common causes of large commercial truck accidents include:
- Driver inexperience – Without any prior training, you can become a licensed truck driver and be on the road in as little as 3 weeks. Given the nationwide shortage of available truck drivers, companies are eager to hire anyone and will even help pay for or reimburse truck driving school. Larger trucking companies may assign an experienced driver to help further train new drivers but only for a short period. Smaller truck companies put new drivers out on the road immediately.
- Driver fatigue – This is the number one cause of serious truck accidents. Trucking companies put substantial pressure on their drivers to get loads delivered. Period. Long distances, traffic, and weather can only make things worse and put drivers behind schedule. Time has to be made up somehow. It is the same with independent drivers who are only making money per mile when those wheels are turning at highway speeds.
- Speeding – If you are slowed down in traffic or have to take an unexpected detour, there is only one way to get back on schedule. Speeding can cause a load to shift and become unstable. Speeding can also result in exceeding the physical capacity to stop in time. Simple physics really. Large objects with substantial weight take longer to stop. And, with excessive speed, brake systems can be overburdened and fail.
- Careless or reckless driving – We have all seen this one. Semi trucks weaving in and out of lanes in heavy interstate traffic. Cutting off other drivers. Changing lanes and turning without signals. Such erratic and dangerous behavior is usually the result of fatigue, inexperience, or just trying to “make up for lost time.” No matter what the reason, this is how serious, deadly accidents happen.
- Driving while impaired (alcohol and/or drugs) – Some truckers drink and drive, but most are using stimulant drugs in an attempt to stay awake and drive longer. Either way, it is impaired driving, and we all know how dangerous this is. Charging a truck driver with felony DUI after a serious accident is too late for the family that is critically injured or killed. Nevertheless, this issue remains a huge problem in the trucking industry due to the need for drivers nationwide.
- Overloaded trucks – More loads with fewer available drivers. This is why you see dangerously overloaded trucks on the interstate and in cities. Even if somehow secured when first loaded, cargo can shift in transit and during abrupt stops or sharp turns. When loads unexpectedly shift, the driver can easily lose control or the tractor trailer becomes unstable and unsafe.
- Improperly loaded trucks – The same concerns with overloaded trucks applies to trucks that start their trek improperly loaded. In this situation, the vehicle is dangerously unstable from the beginning. In any defensive driving scenario or during a sharp turn at speed, the truck driver may not be able to maintain control and cause an accident.
- Improper maintenance – Let’s face it. Every facet of a semi truck is very expensive. A new rig is easily six-figures with few options added. Engines and transmissions require regular maintenance to stay viable for 1M miles or more. Maintenance costs thousands of dollars and can take days to complete. In addition to the costs, drivers and trucking companies are also losing valuable revenue while their truck is out of service. In effect, maintenance costs two ways. As a result, routine service is delayed until absolutely necessary. Brake systems at the end of their recommended service interval can fail at critical times and cause serious accidents.
- Improper safety parts – Same as with maintenance, parts for big trucks are cost prohibitive. In an effort to reduce expenses, cheaper parts may be elected that may also wear out more quickly and fail in hard driving situations.
As you can see, there is much more to know and understand in tractor trailer or semi truck accident cases. A car accident claim is much different than a trucking case. Lawyers who regard truck accident cases as simply a “bigger car accident case” should consider associating or referring to a firm with experience in this complex area. The usual rules of negligence still apply, but that is where the similarity ends. It’s true. Truck accidents cases are different, and your lawyer needs to appreciate the hard work and litigation expense that will be necessary to fully develop and prepare such a case for trial. Only then will your lawyer be in a position to determine the value of your case. Call our firm for answers and potential options. We look forward to speaking with you.