While Clinton, South Carolina is home to only 8,000 people, one of the most dangerous trucking highways in the country passes through our home town. Every year the Department of Transportation makes a list of the most dangerous highways in the United States and this year the I-26 in South Carolina made the list. Because long distance truckers continually zigzag across the country taking goods from point A to point B it is inevitable that the towns which they frequently drive through experience their fair share of trucking accidents. If you or your loved one has been involved in a truck accident in Clinton and you are interested in filing a lawsuit you are probably wondering who is legally liable for your injuries: the truck driver or the trucking company. This article briefly explains how truck accident lawsuits differ from ordinary car crash lawsuits and who can be sued after a truck accident in Clinton. However, the circumstances surrounding each trucking accident are unique and you should always consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer in order to ensure that your interests are protected.
How Do Truck Accident Lawsuits Differ from Regular Car Accident Lawsuits?
Truck accident lawsuits differ from regular car accident lawsuits in a number of different ways, but one of the most important differences is that truck drivers and trucking companies are legally required to abide by a very comprehensive set of laws and regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). For example, there are laws that prohibit truck drivers from driving for more than a set number of hours in a row, dictate when training is required, set timeframes for mandatory maintenance checks, and impose various other rules on truckers and trucking companies. These laws can make a huge difference in a truck accident lawsuit because if the victim can show that one of the FMCSA’s safety rules or regulations was broken then there may be a legal presumption that the truck driver or the trucking company was negligent. This presumption can make it much easier for the plaintiff to win her case.
Another important difference between truck accident lawsuits and car accident lawsuits is the fact that trucking accidents are more likely to involve parties from different states. This occurs because truckers frequently drive long distances and are often involved in accidents outside of their home state. Additionally, many trucks that pass through Clinton are operated by trucking companies that are located outside of South Carolina. Where the parties to a lawsuit reside is very important as it can impact where your claims can be filed. Deciding which state to file a lawsuit in can make a huge difference in a trucking case as some states place limits on different types of personal injury awards, such as pain and suffering compensation or punitive damages. For example, there is no cap on personal injury awards in South Carolina, however, in our neighboring state of Georgia punitive damages in personal injury cases are capped at $250,000, according to the Injury Claim Coach. Therefore, it is particularly important to consult with an experienced attorney when filing a trucking accident claim as a local accident lawyer will be able to determine which state it would be most beneficial to file your claim in.
Who Can Be Sued After a Truck Accident in Clinton?
Lastly, the most important difference between truck accidents and car accidents is that truck accidents often involve trucking companies that can be sometimes be held liable for the negligent acts of their drivers. This means that if a truck driver negligently caused your accident while he was acting as an agent for his trucking company then you can sue both the driver and the trucking company. The key here is to determine whether or not the driver was acting as an agent on behalf of the company when the accident occurred, and this determination often turns on whether the driver is an employee of the trucking company or if he was working as an independent contractor. Both the driver and the trucking company can be sued if the driver was working as an employee, however, if he was an independent contractor then you will likely only be able to sue the driver personally. Whether a truck driver is legally labeled as an employee or an independent contractor can make a huge difference in your case because trucking companies often have the financial resources to compensate you fully for your injuries while an individual truck driver may not have the money to do so.
As Clinton is located in South Carolina, South Carolina’s agency laws determine who is considered an employee and who is an independent contractor. Under South Carolina’s Code of Law section 41-27-230(1)(b), the status of an employee is defined by the common law. This means that courts in Clinton determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor by assessing the degree of control that the company exercises over him or her. Some factors that the court takes into account include:
- Whether the company dictates how and when the worker does their work,
- Who provides the tools and supplies needed to get the job done, and
- Whether the worker receives employee benefits such as a pension plan or vacation pay.
Additionally, other parties may also potentially be liable, depending on the circumstances surrounding the trucking accident. For example, if there was a problem with the truck itself you may also have a case against the company that manufactured the truck or the company responsible for servicing the truck. As multiple parties can often be held liable in trucking accidents, these cases are very complicated and require the attention of experienced legal counsel.
Need Legal Advice?
At the Joye Law Firm, our truck accident lawyers are committed to using the legal protections available to help truck accident victims recover fair compensation for their injuries. The attorneys based at our office in Clinton would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free consultation, so give us a call today at (888) 324-3100.