SUV Accidents Attorney in Columbia, SC
SUVs are hefty vehicles with high centers of gravity. Often, SUVs have large blind spots due to their size, and drivers are unable to see people and other cars. The large vehicles often block the line of vision of other drivers and pedestrians. Their high center of gravity creates a significant risk of flipping over when swerving to avoid potential wrecks.
If you are injured by an SUV accident, call 803-252-4800 today to speak with a Columbia SUV Accident Lawyer.
What Are The Different Types of SUVs?
SUV is an acronym, meaning “sport utility vehicle.” SUV is a very broadly used term, with no commonly agreed definition. Definitions range from a requirement of off-road capabilities to a vehicle that is built on a truck chassis. While SUVs were very dangerous when they first arrived on the market, technological and design advances have added many safety features to make them safer for drivers. But still can be as dangerous as the more frequently concerned about truck accidents.
There are three main categories of SUV:
- Full-size: Usually containing larger, high-horsepower engines, and lots of seats. Think of a Tahoe or a Suburban when you hear full-size SUV. Full-size SUVs are more likely to roll over due to their size.
- Compact: These are the smallest SUVs. They sit lower to the ground and have higher fuel efficiency.
- Mid-size: Exactly as the name indicates. SUVs of this size fall between the sizes, fuel-efficiency, and power of full-size and compact.
The Perils of SUVs
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially connected the dots in their 2015 report, determining that SUVs were deadlier for pedestrians than cars. Pedestrians struck by SUVs are twice or more as likely to die when struck by an SUV or a pick-up truck than when struck by an ordinary car.
The study explains that, while the majority of pedestrian fatalities are caused by light vehicles, a deeper look at the numbers shows that SUVs and Trucks are more likely to cause fatalities when striking pedestrians. While one-third of injuries to pedestrians are caused by SUVs and pick-ups, closer to 40 percent of pedestrian deaths are caused by such vehicles. The study further indicates that children and seniors are the most at risk for such fates.
Size matters when it comes to these statistics. The fact that SUVs sit higher off the ground means that, when striking a pedestrian, it is far more likely to strike the person’s vital organs and head. The front of SUVs tend to be flatter than cars, as well, which creates a much more blunt force when striking a pedestrian.
Additional perils of driving SUVs include:
- Top-heavy: The structure of SUVs makes them far more likely to roll over when sudden shifts in the movement are required.
- High clearance: As terrible as it sounds, the higher clearance of SUVs sometimes leads to a tragic and disturbing event. Cyclists and pedestrians can be pulled under the vehicle after being struck, and sometimes dragged along the road. Clearly, such an incident leads to severe injuries.
- Blind spots: The size and height of SUVs create more and larger blind spots. Sometimes, SUV drivers cannot see cars right next to them let alone pedestrians, resulting in accidents.
- Higher horsepower and false security. These two factors are related because many drivers of SUVs feel too safe and have too much power. Their false sense of security leads them to drive their SUV at speeds that are unsafe, not only for pedestrians and other cars but for themselves. Teenagers are often the culprits of such behavior, but adults are known to drive this way too.
How Do You Avoid Accidents in SUVs?
The risks associated with SUVs will never be fully avoided, nor eradicated, but through experience and technological upgrades, progress has been made in recent decades. Keep these tips in mind while driving an SUV or shopping for one:
- The later the model, usually the safer. Automakers have been forced to address the safety concerns of older SUVs by adding features that enhance safety. Such safety features include: backup cameras, parking assist, stabilizing technology, and the list goes on. Such features have helped make SUVs safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike. Even with all of these safety features, accidents still happen. Technological safety advances will continue to be made with every new model of SUV, but it is unlikely such advances will ever completely rid the world of SUV accidents. It is imperative upon the driver of each vehicle to operate the vehicle as safely as possible, and not use these safety features as a crutch.
- Drive an SUV like you understand the size and power of it. SUVs should not be driven like coupes and sedans. SUVs need to be driven with care. Sharp turns, that might not be any problem for a low-riding car, can cause an SUV to roll over, causing injuries.
- Practice extreme caution in keeping an eye out for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not use the above-described safety features as a crutch. Use your own senses to keep an eye out for other cars and pedestrians. The size of an SUV can cause massive blind spots, leading to accidents with unseen cars and pedestrians. Be sure your rearview and side view mirrors are positioned in a way that minimizes blind spots, and always check behind and beside you for any motorists or pedestrians
- Keep your tires in good condition. A flat tire can cause your SUV to flip. Reduce this risk by ensuring that your tires are in good condition at all times. Replace your tires when necessary.
- Full-size and mid-size SUVs are heavy and take longer to stop. Do not tailgate the car in front of you. If that car is forced to slam on brakes, you will not be able to stop in time. You could cause significant damage
- Slow down. Again, do not drive your SUV like it’s a coupe or sedan. These vehicles were not intended to be race cars, they are working vehicles that should be driven with caution. Speed kills, which is increasingly true when looking at SUV accidents. When possible, avoid sudden turns and swerves.
SUV Accident FAQs
A serious SUV accident can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Victims may experience physical and mental disability, job loss, medical debt, and emotional trauma. Moving on is always difficult, but it becomes even more challenging if the accident was caused by another party’s negligence or wrongdoing. If they had just acted responsibly, perhaps things would be different for the victim and their family.
Still, SUV accident victims have many matters to address right away to restore their lives. The road to recovery is long and arduous no matter the circumstances, but getting back to normal is easier if you know what to do following the accident. The days and weeks after the event are critical, and failing to take certain actions may mean losing the opportunity to fully recover.
Read below for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about SUV accidents.
Are SUVs more dangerous than other Columbia vehicles?
Sport utility vehicles (SUV) made their appearance on the road starting in the early 1990s, and have only increased in popularity, both in the United States and abroad. People love to own SUVs. Their functionality certainly appeals to many—they can get you to the office or across a farm or ranch off-road. They’re also roomier than the average sedan—an attractive feature for families. Additionally, more room means more storage capacity for hauling camping gear, groceries, or work supplies.
However, as they have become more popular, the risk posed by SUVs has been a topic of great interest among safety experts and regulators. SUVs are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal single-vehicle traffic deaths. As car occupant deaths have seen a steady decline since the 1970s, SUV occupant deaths have increased 10-fold over that same time.
What causes SUV accidents in Columbia?
As with any type of vehicle, SUVs are prone to accidents of many different causes. SUV accidents share many causes with regular car accidents, including inclement weather, poor road conditions, and reckless or negligent driving. However, while the similarities are abundant, SUVs are more susceptible to a specific kind of accident–roll-overs.
SUVs are much larger, and heavier, than other passenger vehicles. They also tend to be taller and narrower in build, which makes them vulnerable to turning over in a collision or upon hitting an object. Additionally, they’re often used to carry heavier loads which may further skew their center of balance. For all these reasons, SUVs are more likely to be involved in roll-over accidents.
How can people avoid SUV accidents in Columbia?
Whether you’re driving an SUV or sharing the road with one, following a few basic safety rules can prevent accidents.
Acknowledge the distinguishing characteristic of all SUVs—their size. SUVs are simply much larger than other passenger vehicles which means they handle turns differently, take longer to slow down, and have different blind spots.
When operating an SUV, it’s important to keep enough space between yourself and other vehicles on the road and to ease into turns (especially during inclement weather or poor road conditions). Changing directions too suddenly could cause the vehicle to flip over.
If you’re sharing the road with an SUV, make sure to keep your distance. Always keep sufficient space between yourself and the SUV to ensure it has enough room to turn and maneuver. Also, remember that large vehicles like SUVs have different blind spots than smaller cars. Many SUV accidents occur when an SUV attempts to change lanes without noticing another car in its blind spot.
Should I call the police after a Columbia SUV accident?
Yes. It’s important to contact law enforcement immediately after an SUV accident. Police officers and first responders serve important roles at an accident scene.
The scene of an SUV accident can be chaotic, with debris strewn about, disrupted traffic, and injured victims in need of medical treatment. The police can help get the scene under control and ensure everyone receives care.
Police officers are also important fact-finders. They take pictures of the scene, make notes about their observations, and interview witnesses. In their accident reports, police officers may also attribute fault. Your lawyer might introduce police records as evidence in a court of law and call the officer to testify.
Should I see a doctor after a Columbia SUV accident?
Yes. Seeing a doctor is critical, even if you do not feel immediately hurt. Many SUV accident victims feel alright after a serious accident. They may not experience any pain or any trouble walking or moving. However, even if you feel fine, it’s important to be evaluated by a medical professional. An official assessment by a doctor is important for many reasons.
First, you’re in no position to diagnose yourself after an SUV accident. Just because you don’t feel any pain doesn’t mean you didn’t suffer an injury in the accident.
Relatedly, many injuries from SUV accidents, even severe ones, may not become apparent until days or even weeks after a crash. Seeing a doctor immediately can ensure these latent injuries are detected early-on and that the victim can start receiving necessary treatment as soon as possible.
A doctor’s evaluation is also important in a legal context. In most lawsuits, the victim’s damages are based on the harm they suffered because of the defendant’s wrongdoing. In the SUV accident context, this harm is often in the form of physical injuries. A doctor’s evaluation and, if necessary, testimony are two highly effective ways of proving the extent of bodily harm.
How can Columbia SUV accident victims recover compensation through a lawsuit?
If an SUV accident lawsuit successful, the judge will award the plaintiff damages. Damages are legally-mandated compensation intended to address the injuries the plaintiff suffered because of the defendant’s misconduct. The idea behind damages is to provide an amount of money necessary to return a victim to the state they were in before the accident or, in the legal vernacular, to make the victim “whole again.”
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages address injuries that can be quantified in a specific dollar amount, such as medical debt, wages lost while a victim is unable to work, and property damage. These claims can be proven using documents such as medical bills and pay-stubs.
Non-monetary damages, on the other hand, address abstract injuries that cannot be assigned a specific dollar amount. Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental trauma all fall under the umbrella of non-monetary damages.
Non-economic damages address less tangible harms, like pain and suffering or emotional distress. These are more difficult to prove because they cannot simply be demonstrated with a bill or note. To prove a claim of non-economic damages, the plaintiff is often required to present testimony from an expert witness such as a doctor or mental health professional.
Can Columbia SUV accident victims recover any other kinds of compensation?
Yes. In South Carolina, punitive damages may be available to SUV accident victims.
It was previously noted that damages serve as a financial award meant to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they incurred because of the defendant’s misconduct. However, in some cases, damages beyond compensating a victim for the harms suffered are warranted. In such cases, additional damages are awarded as a punishment to the defendant. These are known as punitive damages.
A court will only award punitive damages in cases of egregious misconduct, to send a message to both the defendant and society that it won’t tolerate such conduct. Punitive damages are often substantial, greatly exceeding the amount necessary to return a victim to their pre-accident condition.
As in other states, the parameters for when a court can award punitive damages have been established by the South Carolina State Legislature via statute. In South Carolina, a court may only grant punitive damages in exceptional cases when the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that “the harm was done as a result of the defendant’s willful, reckless, or wanton conduct.”
If a plaintiff successfully demonstrates that the defendant’s conduct meets this standard, the jury must determine how much in punitive damages the defendant must pay, taking into consideration, among other things:
- the defendant’s degree of culpability
- the existence of past similar conduct
- the severity of the harm caused by the defendant
- the profitability of the conduct to the defendant
- the likelihood the award will deter the defendant, or others, from similar conduct.
While the amount of punitive damages is generally capped at the greater of 1) three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded, or 2) $500,000, the amount may be exceeded in extraordinary circumstances.
Who can you hold liable for a Columbia SUV accident?
Liability, or legal responsibility, for an SUV accident could rest with one or more of a wide range of parties, depending on who exercised misconduct that led to the accident. Most SUV accident lawsuits involve negligent misconduct.
For a party to be considered negligent, the plaintiff must establish that: a) they owed the victim a duty of care; b) they breached their duty of care; c) the breach caused an injury; and d) the victim’s injury is more than nominal and caused the plaintiff damages.
For example, imagine the driver of an SUV is distracted and tries to turn too suddenly to avoid hitting a guardrail, loses control, and rolls into another car, causing its driver to suffer back and head injuries. The driver of the SUV owed the car driver a duty of care to operate their vehicle legally and safely. The SUV driver breached that duty when they recklessly drove their SUV, driving distracted and turning violently enough to flip their car. The car driver suffered injuries, and those injuries were more than nominal and will result in damages, such as medical costs for treatment.
In the above scenario, the SUV driver could be held responsible. But they may not be the only liable party. For example, if there was a design flaw in the SUV’s structure that made it more prone to tipping over, the manufacturer could also be liable. Or, if the SUV flipped over because it went through a worksite that wasn’t properly marked, the company or government entity responsible for the inadequate marking may also bear liability.
Should I speak to a lawyer after a Columbia SUV accident?
Yes. Speak to a lawyer after an SUV accident, even if you don’t anticipate filing a lawsuit.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Lawyers can provide advice on things other than filing a lawsuit, such as simply filing a claim with an insurance company. SUV accident victims are often uncertain of their options. The guiding hand of an experienced legal professional can provide a sense of direction.
- It’s also important to make early preparations for legal action, even if you don’t think it’s likely you will bring a lawsuit. Most SUV accident lawsuits are long, requiring extensive investigation and discovery which could take weeks or even months. Additionally, there is a deadline by which you must file your SUV accident lawsuit. Under South Carolina law, SUV accident victims have three years from the date of the accident to file suit. Meeting with a lawyer early can ensure filing a lawsuit remains an option.
- Attorneys provide value outside of representing their clients in court. Most SUV accident lawsuits aren’t resolved in a court of law but, rather, through a settlement between the parties. An experienced SUV accident attorney can manage settlement negotiations to recover the highest possible amount for their client.
SUVs have revolutionized the automotive world. They have also created new risks on the road. In some ways, SUVs are safer for those driving them (more size equals more protection), but they’re also more dangerous in other ways, such as their tendency to roll over. SUV accidents can also cause more damage than smaller vehicles. Their greater size equals a greater capacity for destruction.
For SUV accident victims, getting back to normal may take months or even years. Victims have to overcome serious physical injury, medical debt, and job loss. But, with the help of an experienced SUV accident attorney, victims have recourse to address these harms. If you’ve been in an SUV accident caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of others, call Strom Law Firm, LLC, today for a free consultation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Proposes SUV Safety Measures
The NHTSA has proposed requiring automakers to equip certain vehicles with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems. According to the NHTSA, it “estimates ESC will reduce single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars by 34% and single-vehicle crashes of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) by 59%, with a much greater reduction of rollover crashes. NHTSA estimates ESC would save 5,300 to 9,600 lives and prevent 156,000 to 238,000 injuries in all types of crashes annually once all light vehicles on the road are equipped with ESC.”
Considering the number of lives saved and injuries avoided, it is an absolute no-brainer, even if not required by law, that manufacturers should include ESC on every car with a higher risk of overturning.
Contact a Columbia SUV Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been injured by an SUV wreck or accident, contact an attorney today to determine your chances of receiving compensation for your medical expenses and other damages. Our experienced Columbia car accident attorneys will provide legal assistance. Call Strom Law Firm today at 803-252-4800 or contact us online.