A Deadly Start

February 14, 2016

2016 is only a few weeks old, and multiple South Carolinians have already been victims in fatal truck crashes.

Once incident, which involved a tractor-trailer, killed two women. One of them, 28-year-old Katerina Barrett, of Greenville, was thrown from a Volvo S70 Turbo and was later declared dead at a local hospital. According to witnesses, the tractor trailer sideswiped a passenger car while it attempted to change lanes.  

In another incident, a light truck apparently crossed the center line on Smyrna Road in Richland County and smashed into a 1995 Chevrolet. That driver, who was apparently not wearing a seatbelt, was killed instantly.

Both these crashes are still being investigated.

First Party Liability in a Truck Wreck

While on the road, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. If that duty is breached, and that breach causes injury, the negligent defendant is liable for damages. Broadly speaking, there are three ways that a driver can breach the duty of reasonable care.

  • Environmental: Some drivers fail to adjust to the conditions around them. For example, when the roads are wet due to ice, snow, or rain, drivers have a duty to slow down and drive even more cautiously than normal. The same principle applies to darkness, fog, and other low-visibility environments.
  • Operational: Any traffic law infraction, such as speeding, making an unsafe lane change, or ignoring a traffic control device, is considered evidence of negligence.
  • Conditional: This category includes both voluntary conditions, like intoxication, and involuntary conditions, such as epilepsy, that make it unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.

All these items are especially important in truck wreck cases. Since a fully loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds, it is almost impossible to for them to stop or slow quickly, even if an experienced driver is behind the wheel.

Third Party Liability in a Truck Crash

Whenever a commercial vehicle, like a delivery truck or tractor-trailer, is involved in a vehicle wreck, respondeat superior typically applies, because the employer is nearly always legally responsible for the negligent acts of an employee.

To prove liability, a plaintiff must establish that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee who was acting within the course and scope of employment. Both these terms are defined in a broad and plaintiff-friendly manner.

  • Employee: Even if the boss categorizes the worker as an “independent contractor” or “volunteer,” the tortfeasor is probably an employee for tort reasons, if the employer exerted any control over the worker.
  • Course and Scope: If the employee is doing anything that benefits the employer, such action is normally within the course and scope of employment.

Damages in a serious truck crash are often substantial, because of the catastrophic injuries that these wrecks cause.

Rely on an Assertive Lawyer

If you or a loved one was hurt or killed in a truck wreck, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Charleston today. The team at David Aylor Law Offices has three area locations – reach out to us today!

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