The South Carolina Department of Public Safety recorded 2020 as the deadliest year for the state’s motorists in a span of 10 years. Traffic accidents counted a total of 1,064 deaths, eclipsing each of the previous years’ tallies. This translated to an average of 2.8 fatalities a day or one person killed in an accident every 8.2 hours.
According to the South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book of 2020, about 4.7% of collisions involving large trucks were directly caused by vehicle-related reasons. These include problems with tires, brakes, or safety chain systems. However, about 30% to 40% of truck accidents were caused by driver fatigue, as revealed in a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Overall, of the total number of automobile crashes in 2020, 121,235 out of the 4,673 recorded involved trucks.
Bearing the high number of fatalities in mind, the SCDPS launched a program called Target Zero Traffic Deaths. It was put in place to meet the goal of decreasing traffic injuries and fatalities for all who use South Carolina roads.
Victims of motor vehicle-related accidents in South Carolina, including those that may involve trucks, are within their legal rights to pursue damages arising from the incident. They have the option to contact the South Carolina Highway Patrol Office of Victim Services should they need assistance with investigations and relevant court proceedings, filing claims for compensation, or referrals to the appropriate service providers or agencies.
South Carolina Truck Weight Regulations
Commercial vehicles in South Carolina have to follow the imposed weight limits as specified below:
10,000 lbs. per wheel;
35,200 lbs. on all highways if the vehicular weight is less than 75,185 lbs.;
73,280 lbs. on non-interstate highways;
There is a 10% tolerance on non-Interstate highways pursuant to South Carolina Code Ann. §56-5-4160[A]
There are certain exemptions to the weight limit, such as those provided for trucks that carry soil improvement products or animal husbandry materials. These commercial vehicles require an annual special permit that lifts their weight limits.
Other examples include timber-carrying trucks, concrete mixers (as long as they are operating within a 15-mile radius from the base), emission reduction or special fuel equipment carriers, and road machinery.
South Carolina Truck Inspection Regulations
In South Carolina, commercial motor vehicles are inspected every 12 months to make sure that they are safe for use on the road. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles issues a certificate of inspection and approval, which must be displayed at all times on the vehicle. Operators who fail the inspection will have their vehicle registration suspended until they satisfy the state’s safety requirements.
The North American Standard evaluation will cover checking the truck’s components and accessories, such as steering mechanisms, suspension, trailer bodies, the electrical cables and systems in the engine compartment, and tires.
Truck drivers are also included in the Level 1 inspection. Apart from their license, they will be asked to submit their daily log and hours of service, medical cards and/or waivers, driver and vehicle inspection reports, and hazmat requirements.
To maintain the integrity of the tests, the DMV regularly checks motor vehicle inspectors to see if they are properly equipped to conduct the tests. In lieu of their license being suspended or revoked in case of violations, they can be fined the following amounts:
Not less than $25 but not more than $100
Not less than $50 but not more than $100
Not less than $100 but not more than $200
Not less than $500 but not more than $2,000
South Carolina Hours of Service Regulations
Commercial truck drivers in South Carolina must comply with hours-of-service regulations that help decrease any fatigue-related accidents caused by truck drivers who push themselves over their physical limits just to meet work demands.
For instance, commercial truck operators, particularly property-carrying drivers, who are hauling cargo must observe the regulations set below:
11-hour driving limit
Drivers may only work a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Drivers cannot keep driving beyond the 14th consecutive hour on the road, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
30-minute driving break
Drivers are mandated to take a 30-minute break if they have been driving for 8 hours straight.
Drivers are not allowed to drive after 60/70 hours on duty over the course of 7/8 consecutive days.
If the driver is operating within a 150-mile radius of his base (or normal work reporting location) and does not go over the maximum 14 hours of duty.
There is also the Sleeper Berth Provision, which requires drivers to have 10 hours of rest (off-duty period). They have the option to split it into two, as long as one half is at least 2 hours long and the other half is at least 7 hours in the sleeper berth. All pairings must total at least 10 hours.
South Carolina Truck Driver Drug and Alcohol Regulations
Commercial truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation to undergo routine alcohol and drug tests.
Employers of commercial driver’s license holders are required to ensure that their drivers (commercial truck operators who drive on public roads and interstate and intrastate motor carriers) are compliant with the drug and alcohol testing program.
In the event that the driver refuses to comply with the drug or alcohol test, their test yields a positive result, or they submit a specimen that is altered, contaminated, or substituted, then a report must be made to the SCDMV within three business days. Failure to do this can carry a $500 fine. Drivers who fail the test will be disqualified from operating their commercial vehicle for 20 days. To gain this privilege back, they must enroll in and complete a substance abuse program approved by the SC Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and pay $100 for reinstatement.
A driver caught violating this law or failing the tests more than three times in a span of five years will have his CDL permanently revoked.
South Carolina Speeding Regulations
Truck drivers in South Carolina have to abide by the speeding laws, which are made up of two types:
Basic Speeding Law: Motorists must exercise prudence and reasonability when it comes to actual and potential hazards present. In other words, no matter what the signage says about the existing speed limit, the driver must use common sense and consider their current driving conditions. For example, going down a road at 25 mph on any given day may be normal but could be dangerous if the roads are wet or if the weather is stormy.
Maximum Speed Limits (also called Absolute Speed Limits) - It is straight to the point and describes that anyone going over what is posted as the maximum limit of speed on any South Carolina road has already made a violation.
30 miles per hour
Urban districts, or business and residential areas
40 miles per hour
55 miles per hour
65 miles per hour
Multi-lane divided primary highways where this speed limit is explicitly posted
75 miles per hour
Interstate highways, and other freeways where this speed limit is explicitly posted
However, commercial trucks are specifically limited to traveling at 70 mph on rural and urban interstate roads and 55 miles per hour on limited access roads.
Penalties for speeding in South Carolina vary according to how fast the violator is going, and any second or subsequent convictions carry harsher consequences.
$15 to $25
Going up to 10 mph over the limit
$20 to $50
More than 10 mph but less than 15 mph over the limit
$50 to $75
More than 15 mph but less than 25 mph over the limit
$75 to $200, and up to 30 days of prison time
More than 25 mph over the limit
South Carolina Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
South Carolina requires its motorists to have minimum liability insurance policies that can cover damages in the event of an accident.
Per person for bodily injuries in a single accident
For all individuals injured in a single accident
For all property damage in one accident
The state also requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage that is equal to the minimum amounts stated above.
Some other insurance policies that truck drivers may acquire or inquire about include:
Bobtail Insurance - For truck driver-owners who lease their vehicles onto a motor carrier and drive to their next load or destination without a trailer attached.
Cargo Insurance - This is optional, but for-hire interstate operators need this because most shippers or clients refuse to work with truckers who do not have this. The general limit is around $100,000 but can change depending on the freight hauled.
General Liability - This can help protect both large trucking companies and owner-operators against business-related risks such as hauling to the wrong address or a client having an accident in the truck driver’s office.
Physical Damage - This coverage comes in two different types:
1.) Collision - This covers damage that happens to the body of the vehicle in a crash or an accident.
2.) Comprehensive - This covers theft, fire damage, and vandalism.
Trucking Umbrella Policy - This covers any gaps between policies or if the primary liability coverage is very low. This also helps protect against lawsuits that can easily exhaust policy maximums.
Trailer Interchange Insurance - This covers the policyholder’s legal obligation for any damage they cause other truck drivers’ trailers.
Generally, the average cost of truck insurance in South Carolina is around $14,730, with most premiums ranging from $12,790 to $16,960.
Truck insurance requirements in South Carolina depend on the type of freight, where it is hauled, and whether or not the truck driver has his own authority.
The table below, for example, illustrates the minimum level of insurance coverage required for each type of freight moved by intrastate drivers:
$3,500 per vehicle
General cargo insurance for intrastate household goods movers and interstate contract carriers
For interstate drivers, the requirements are more extensive, as they have to comply not only on the state level but also with requirements put in place by the federal government.
Non-hazardous freight material transported by trucks under 10,001 lbs.
Non-hazardous freight material transported by trucks over 10,001 lbs.
Oil (Transported by both private and for-hire carriers)
Hazardous material (Transported by both private and for-hire carriers)
How Much Can Someone Sue For a Truck Accident in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, victims of trucking accidents can pursue two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are further divided into two categories:
Economic damages (also called special damages) compensate the victims for any financial losses they have incurred as a result of the accident. These are easily quantifiable as they generally come in the form of bills that victims must pay. These include medical and rehabilitation expenses, property damage and repair, and lost income.
Non-economic damages (also called general damages) are the non-monetary losses suffered by victims. These include a diminished quality of life and mental anguish.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are imposed upon the at-fault driver if he is proven to have acted with wanton disregard for the safety of others. This additional payment serves no purpose other than to punish the driver and discourage others from behaving in a similarly egregious manner.
South Carolina Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
Victims of trucking accidents in South Carolina have three years from the date of the accident to take the necessary steps to file damage claims. Missing this window can lead to the case being dismissed.
However, there are some exceptions to the statute:
If the victim is under the age of 18. After the individual has reached that age, he or she only has one year left to file a lawsuit.
If the victim is declared “insane” during the three-year time frame from the date of the accident. Once declared “sane,” he or she can proceed with filing for damages and has one year to do so.
If the at-fault driver is outside state boundaries for one or more consecutive years. His absence effectively puts the statute limitation “clock” on pause.
South Carolina Is an At-Fault State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Individuals who have been injured in a car accident have the option to both sue the at-fault driver and use their own insurance policy in case the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured.
Drivers who are found to be at fault for an accident are legally required to compensate the victims. Every motorist in South Carolina is mandated to have a minimum level of insurance coverage for this very reason.
Still, victims have the option to seek compensation directly from their own insurance company first and then pursue damages from the negligent party once they have exhausted their coverage. In extreme cases where insurance companies are denying the claim or refusing to pay the claimant, they can be taken to court for trial.
South Carolina Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
This means that partially at-fault drivers in South Carolina can still receive compensation for their damages as long as their degree of responsibility does not go over 50%. If it does, then they are not going to be eligible for compensation.
Their percentage of fault also determines the amount of compensation they ultimately receive, as it is going to be the same amount subtracted from the latter.
For example, a partially at-fault driver who was proven to be 30% responsible for the accident will now only receive $70,000 instead of the original $100,000.
Average Settlement for South Carolina Trucking Accident Lawsuits
There are many factors that must be considered when evaluating the amount of settlement that injured victims are entitled to receive, the majority of which depend on the severity of the damages they have incurred. However, the lowest amount one can possibly receive for a collision is around $25,000. This number can go from several hundred thousand to even millions, depending on the freight carried by the truck driver.
There are, however, caps on the damages that victims can receive in South Carolina. These include:
$300,000 per person and $600,000 per occurrence - If the victim is suing the government or government officials
$350,000 per defendant - For non-economic damages
$500,000 - For punitive damages (or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater)
Legal Resources for South Carolina Trucking Accident Victims
The South Carolina Bar LRS provides locals with referrals to qualified, pre-screened personal injury attorneys who can help them with truck accident cases. The lawyers are available for a 30-minute consultation that costs a maximum of $50. Any extension after that will be priced at the lawyer’s regular fees.
This is a private, non-profit program that enlists the help of local attorneys to provide legal aid to moderate or low-income households in the state. Please call 1-800-395-3425 to find out if you qualify. You may still have to pay some filing and service charges.
The SCDMV can provide up to a 10-year driving record for $6 in case you need the information for court proceedings, investigations, insurance companies, or commercial driver’s licenses.
Accident victims can retrieve incident reports online or by completing the Request for Copy of Collision Report (SCDMV Form FR-50) and submitting it to any SCDMV branch office in person or mailing it to the address on the form.
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