Who is Liable After a Trucking Accident in SC?

by | Jan 24, 2019 | Trucking Accidents |

Trucking accidents, commercial vehicle accidents, and other collisions involving large vehicles can cause catastrophic damage on the highway – who is liable after a trucking accident?

Truck accidents are often more complex than other types of car wrecks. They often cause more damage, which means the defendant, or their insurance company, might be forced to pay higher verdicts or settlements.

But they can also be complex because there may be multiple defendants. Depending on the facts of the case, the accident may have been caused by persons or companies which may or may not include the driver of the truck. The responsible parties could include:

  • The truck driver;
  • The trucking company or the driver’s employer;
  • The owner of the truck;
  • The manufacturer or the truck or truck parts;
  • The person who loaded the truck; or
  • Other third parties who contributed to the accident.

How do you determine who is liable after a trucking accident in SC?

Who is Liable After a Trucking Accident?

When a trucking accident causes catastrophic injuries or death, we want to just turn back the clock and stop it before it happens…

Since we can’t do that, we go after the only form of Justice that the courts allow – money. Money to pay for medical bills, funeral expenses, lifetime care, money to provide some compensation for the pain and heartache caused by the accident, and punitive damages if the defendant was grossly negligent.

But who is liable?

What happens if you sue the wrong person or company, only to discover later that they weren’t responsible for the accident?

Especially in trucking accidents, it is critical that your attorney investigate the crash, the driver, and the companies involved to ensure that: 1) we are suing the right defendant, and 2) we aren’t missing any possible sources of recovery.

Who are some of the potential defendants in a typical trucking accident case in SC?

Negligent Truck Drivers

The first, most obvious defendant in a trucking accident case is the driver of the truck. Did the truck driver violate traffic laws? The driver may be liable if they:

  • Were speeding;
  • Disregarded traffic signs or traffic signals;
  • Were texting, talking on their phone, or otherwise distracted while driving;
  • Failed to use due care in poor weather conditions;
  • Failed to yield the right-of-way; or
  • Violated other traffic laws.

What else do we need to look at before determining who is liable?

Was the truck driver drinking alcohol or using drugs before the crash?

Commercial truck drivers are prohibited from using any alcohol or drugs while operating their vehicle and they must submit to drug and alcohol testing after a fatal accident – what were their test results?

Was the truck driver fatigued?

Federal “hours of service regulations” contain strict requirements for how many hours a truck driver can be on the road and how many hours a truck driver must rest before getting behind the wheel again – if a driver is not following the federal regulations or if they are “fudging” their records, that can also be evidence of liability on the part of the truck driver (and their employer).

What does the “black box” show?

The truck’s “event data recorder,” or EDR, can provide critical details about how the accident happened, including the speed of the vehicle, the angle of the vehicle, whether and when the brakes were applied, and other information that can help law enforcement or your accident reconstructionist recreate the events that led to the crash.

The Truck Driver’s Employer

If the truck driver works for a trucking company, their employer will be liable under the theory of “respondeat superior” if the employer’s actions were “on the clock” and within the scope of their employment (i.e. driving).

Often, however, trucking companies will claim that the driver was an “independent contractor” and therefore the company is not liable for the driver’s negligence. Was the driver really an independent contractor, though? We can determine whether the driver was an employee or an independent contractor by looking at:

  • The driver’s employment record;
  • The terms of the driver’s contract with the trucking company;
  • How the driver gets paid;
  • Whether the trucking company is the driver’s sole “client;” and
  • Who owns the truck – we will need to look at the vehicle’s registration and proof of ownership.

If the accident was caused by equipment failure on the truck, the trucking company may also be liable for failing to inspect, repair, and make safe their vehicles and equipment, or the equipment failure may be the fault of the truck’s owner or the company who built the truck or its parts.

The Truck’s Owner

If the truck is not owned by the driver or the driver’s employer, the owner of the truck may also be liable for the accident. Depending on the facts of the case, the truck’s owner may have breached a duty to maintain and repair their vehicle or equipment which resulted in the accident.

The Truck’s Manufacturer or Parts Manufacturers

Regardless of who owns the truck, it’s manufacturer or the manufacturers of the failed equipment may be liable for damages if they sold a dangerous and defective product or if their negligence caused an equipment failure.

The Person Who Loaded the Truck (and Their Employer)

Often, trucking accidents are caused by an unsecured load. Shifting loads or loads that exceed the maximum weight limit can cause an accident, or the load can fall from the truck causing damage to nearby vehicles (and people).

Who is responsible for a load that was not secured properly or that exceeded the maximum weight limit? It could be the driver, or it could be another person who loaded the truck. In either case, their employer may also be responsible under the theory of respondeat superior (see above).

Third Parties

Depending on the circumstances, other persons or companies may be liable for the accident, and multiple defendants may be responsible.

If unsafe road conditions contributed to the accident, the state, municipality, or a property owner may be liable instead of or in addition to the truck driver and company.

Other vehicles on the road may have caused or contributed to the accident.

Although the truck’s driver, the truck’s owner, and the trucking company are the most common defendants in a trucking accident case, we file suit against whoever was responsible for the accident according to the state’s investigation and our own investigation.

Trucking Accident and Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers in Myrtle Beach and Conway, SC

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash with an eighteen wheeler or commercial vehicle, the Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law will investigate the crash, the driver, the trucking company, and the causes of the accident to help you determine who is liable.

Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or send an email through our website to set up a free consultation and case review with a SC trucking accident attorney today.

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