Were you hurt or did you lose a loved one in an accident involving a commercial truck? Was your accident caused by cargo that was improperly loaded or secured? If so, you’re not alone. Approximately 4% of all truck accidents occur because of cargo-related issues. The experienced truck accident attorneys of Hammack Law Firm have seen the devastating accidents that improperly loaded cargo can cause, and we’ll be prepared to identify any and all liable parties and help you hold them accountable.
Lead attorney Paul Hammack has over two decades of experience helping people just like you who’ve been hurt in accidents involving 18-wheelers. Paul and our team of skilled attorneys and support staff have the right knowledge and resources necessary to help you get the compensation you need to pay your bills, recoup lost wages, and rebuild your life after a devastating crash.
Specifically, Attorney Hammack’s current and prior memberships include:
- Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (member)
- American Association for Justice, Truck Litigation Group (member)
- Trucking Industry Defense Association (prior member)
- Transportation Lawyers Association (prior member)
If a truck’s cargo wasn’t loaded properly and you sustained an injury as a result, call us at (864) 479-8742 for a free consultation.
What Causes Cargo to Fall off a Truck?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates how trucking companies should secure their cargo for transport. When drivers and handlers fail to follow the rules and secure their loads, the risk of an accident increases.
Some of the common reasons cargo shifts or falls off a truck include:
- Failure to load cargo correctly
- Loading the vehicle past the legal weight limit
- Not distributing cargo evenly
- Failure to block and brace cargo as necessary
- Using tie-downs that aren’t the right size and strength
- Failure to attach tie-downs to the truck properly
- Using a defective securement system
- Loading cargo that obstructs the driver’s view or hangs over the side of the truck bed
- Failure to routinely check the shipment during the trip
Any shift in weight could throw a truck off balance, causing the driver to lose control. If loose cargo is sliding around the truck bed, it creates unstable conditions. If the trucker needs to brake suddenly or quickly maneuver the truck, it could lead to the truck falling on its side, jackknifing, or rolling over. Anyone in the truck and its cargo’s path faces possible, imminent danger.
Who is Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by Improperly Loaded Cargo?
When you’re the victim of a truck accident, you’ll have to prove liability to seek compensation. You could potentially hold the trucking company, driver, or even a parts manufacturer liable for your injuries. Depending on the role they played, you might be able to receive a financial award for the costs of treatment, lost wages, and vehicle repairs.
There’s evidence you could collect to prove someone else’s negligence caused the traffic crash that led to your injuries. The vital pieces of evidence you should obtain include:
- Police report: When you get into an accident and call the police to the scene, they will investigate and write up a traffic crash report. If it’s clear who caused it, they will notate it on the report and issue a citation to the at-fault driver.
- Witness statements: Before leaving the crash site, you should get the names and contact information for anyone who witnessed the collision. If there’s an investigating officer, he or she will likely write that information on the police report.
- Photos: Take photos of the scene of the accident, as well as damage to both vehicles. If there’s debris on the road from the cargo, take pictures of that too. You could also take shots of your injuries, such as bruises or cuts.
- Medical records: Request copies of your medical records. It’s important evidence, showing that your injuries resulted from the wreck, and that you required treatment to recover.
- Insurance policies: Get a copy of the trucker’s auto insurance, as well as the general liability policy of the company he works for to determine how much coverage is available.
If you believe the trucking company held some or all responsibility for the accident, you must prove the following information:
- The company held a duty to prevent injury to others.
- The company breached that duty.
- The breach of duty caused you physical harm.
Seeking compensation from the actual truck company means proving they failed to ensure the safe conditions of their employees, trucks, and cargo. Any of the situations below could show evidence of liability on the part of the trucking company:
- They failed to perform routine maintenance on the trucks.
- They found damage or defects but failed to repair or replace them promptly.
- They failed to inspect the vehicles and cargo for any potential hazards regularly.
- They didn’t perform thorough background checks on the driver who caused the crash.
- They didn’t provide ongoing training for the employees.
- They knowingly hired an unqualified and unlicensed commercial driver.
What Are the Insurance Laws in South Carolina?
South Carolina law requires all drivers to carry liability auto insurance with minimum bodily injury limits. The limits of bodily injury reimburse an injured person’s costs in an accident. It’s likely the truck driver carries auto insurance; however, there are situations where you could go after the company who hired him instead.
Business owners typically purchase general liability insurance. It protects them if they or one of their employees injures another person. If a driver loads their cargo incorrectly, and it directly causes an accident, the company can receive the blame.
Whether you decide to file an insurance claim with the trucker’s auto insurance or company’s liability carrier, you could receive reimbursement for your damages. Damages are losses resulting from an accident or injury. There are economic damages (costs) and non-economic damages (suffering). The following are the specific damages you could claim:
- Car repairs
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of affection or companionship
In many states, there’s a cap on the damages that an individual can receive. However, in South Carolina, most economic damages are limitless. You could potentially win up to the maximum bodily injury limit available.
Non-economic damages are a little different. Intangible losses, such as emotional trauma, are challenging to measure. Therefore, an insurance adjuster or jury will review the details of your case and decide what they believe is sufficient compensation. The three factors used to calculate the amount include:
- Age of the injured driver
- Type of injury suffered
- How the injury affected their life
The more severe your injury and more prolonged the duration of treatment, the more likely it is you’ll receive a higher financial award. In extreme cases where the driver’s or company’s behavior was utterly reckless, you could sue for punitive damages.
Is it Possible to Sue the Trucking Company?
Filing a lawsuit for punitive damages sends a message that the actions leading to the accident are unacceptable. Rather than reimburse you for your total costs, as with economic damages, punitive damages punish the at-fault driver. The cap on punitive damages in South Carolina is $500,000 or three times the total cost of economic and non-economic damages.
When determining an appropriate figure to award to the injured party, there are multiple factors to consider:
- The negligent party’s level of fault
- Existence of similar careless actions in the past
- The severity of the injury suffered by the victim
- Likelihood the financial punishment will prevent the defendant from committing similar misconduct in the future
Suing the trucking company requires following strict deadlines and state laws. If you want to file a lawsuit in South Carolina, it’s necessary to adhere to the three-year statute of limitations. That means you have three years from the date of your accident to bring legal action against an entity. If three years pass, you lose all rights to pursue financial compensation for that particular event in the future.
Call Hammack Law Firm to Schedule Your Free Consultation
Call us today if you were the victim of a truck accident caused by improperly loaded cargo. When you hire us, we’ll fight hard to seek the justice you deserve.
We never back down from a fight. We’ll aggressively negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or battle it out in court. Let Hammack Law Firm help you get back on your feet and move forward with your life. Call us today at (864) 479-8949.