When truck drivers operate their vehicles carelessly, they sometimes cause fatal car accidents that lead to fatal injuries. Surviving family members can then file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit with the at-fault trucker’s insurance company. You can also hold the trucking company that employs the at-fault truck driver liable for damages. For more information, please reach out to our truck accident lawyer.
If your loved one died from injuries they suffered in a truck accident, you and your family members have legal options you should not ignore. An experienced truck accident lawyer near you can go over those options and help you pursue the wrongful death damages you and your family deserve. Although no amount of money can ever truly replace the loss of your loved one, it can bring about a sense of closure and justice for your family.
Truck Driver Negligence that Leads to Fatal Accidents
Many truck accidents result from driver negligence. Negligence means failing to act reasonably under the circumstances. Truck drivers behave negligently when they drive distracted, violate a traffic law, disregard motor carrier regulations, or operate their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Distracted truck operation – Truck drivers operate their vehicles while distracted when they ignore the road. For example, while driving, the driver might be listening to loud music, programming a GPS device, or using a cellular device without a hands-free Bluetooth. The driver might simply have their head turned away from the road at other times.
Box trucks and tractor-trailers are large vehicles. Consequently, when a driver is not paying attention to the road, they may not even see a smaller vehicle approaching in a blind spot. Even a one or two-second distraction can lead to a severe impact with another car.
Violating traffic laws – Road signs and other traffic laws that apply to passenger vehicles also apply to large trucks, including big rigs and tractor-trailers. In some instances, particular speed limits apply to large trucks since they often carry heavy cargo, making the vehicle difficult to stop when traveling at high speeds.
Truck drivers who violate traffic laws by speeding, tailgating other vehicles, failing to use turn signals at the appropriate times, and aggressively weaving in and out of traffic significantly increase their chances of causing a severe accident.
Disregarding commercial motor carrier regulations – Motor carrier regulations are mandatory guidelines that truck drivers and the trucking companies that employ them must follow. These regulations set weight limits for large tractor-trailers and big rigs. They also instruct truck drivers and trucking companies to properly secure cargo to the trailer bed. Finally, these guidelines regulate the carriage and undercarriage lighting for large trucks to ensure that other vehicles can see them when they are present on the road.
When truck drivers and trucking companies violate these motor carrier regulations, and when they fail to inspect their vehicles before embarking on a long trip, serious accidents can occur. In some instances, improperly secured cargo can slide off the trailer into the road. At other times, non-working turn signals and other lighting components can lead to a collision.
Intoxicated truck operation – Drinking and driving are always a bad combination, especially where truck operators are concerned. When drivers have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, they are legally intoxicated. Stricter standards apply to commercial truck drivers. Specifically, a 0.04 percent BAC cutoff applies to these individuals. Even with a lower BAC, a truck driver might exhibit the physical and mental characteristics of alcohol impairment.
For instance, their vision might become blurry, preventing them from accurately judging distances or observing other vehicles. Moreover, an intoxicated truck driver might experience delayed reaction time, preventing them from stopping their truck in time to avoid a collision.
In addition to incurring criminal penalties upon conviction for DUI, an intoxicated truck driver—and the trucking company that employs them—can be civilly responsible for wrongful death damages if they cause an accident that leads to a fatality.
If your loved one suffered fatal injuries in a truck accident that resulted from negligence, a truck accident lawyer in your area can determine if you’re eligible to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Your lawyer can then review the circumstances of the accident with you and, if necessary, hire an investigator to ascertain what occurred. An investigator can also speak to police officers and eyewitnesses to see if alcohol likely played a part in the collision.
If you are eligible to file a claim, your lawyer can assist you and your family members with pursuing damages. If the insurance company refuses to compensate you adequately, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and seek the damages you deserve through litigation.
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Trucking Company Negligence and Fatal Truck Accidents
Truck drivers are not the only ones whose negligence can lead to a fatal accident. In some instances, the trucking companies that employ these drivers are negligent. You might hold a trucking company vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence if the driver was on the clock and working within the scope of their employment at the time of the fatal accident.
Moreover, some trucking companies do not adequately vet their drivers. If the evidence shows that the trucking company hired or retained a driver with a known record of moving violations and that driver caused a fatal accident, you can hold the trucking company partially responsible.
In addition to trucking companies, other individuals or entities can be responsible for a fatal accident. Potentially liable parties include truck repair facilities and truck part manufacturers when a defective part causes or contributes to a collision.
A skilled truck accident lawyer in your area can determine if an employer, trucking company, or another entity is responsible for your loved one’s fatal accident. Your lawyer can bring a claim or file a lawsuit against all potentially liable parties to ensure that you recover the total amount of compensation that you deserve.
Types of Fatal Truck Accidents
When a truck driver or another individual is negligent, a severe crash that leads to a fatality can occur. The most common type of fatal truck accident is a head-on crash, where the front of the truck or tractor-trailer collides with the front of an oncoming vehicle. These collisions typically happen on roadways with one travel lane in each direction.
A distracted or intoxicated truck driver might cross over the median strip or double line, striking an oncoming car head-on. If the accident occurs at a high rate of speed, the impacted vehicle might overturn, spin around, or become crushed by the impact’s force.
Although less common, rear-end truck accidents, and T-bone collisions can also lead to a fatality. This is especially true if an infant or young child is present in the car—and the accident occurs at high speed. A rear-end accident happens when the front of one vehicle strikes the rear of another vehicle, often causing the impacted vehicle to lurch forward and hit another car in a chain-reaction collision.
A T-bone accident, or broadside collision, happens when the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another vehicle traveling on an adjacent roadway. When a T-bone accident happens at high speed, the impacted vehicle can overturn or spin around rapidly. These broadside collisions are prevalent at traffic intersections when a truck driver runs a red or yellow traffic light to get through the intersection in a hurry.
If your loved one has suffered a fatal injury in one of these accidents, retain skilled legal counsel as soon as possible.
A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer in your area can obtain copies of the police report and speak with any witnesses at the scene. Your lawyer can then promptly file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit on your behalf—or on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate.
Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Surviving family members can pursue wrongful death damages when a negligent truck driver causes a fatal car accident. First of all, surviving family members should set up an estate. During that process, the court will appoint a personal representative. When filing a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer will note the estate’s personal representative in the suit papers.
Wrongful death claims proceed in much the same way as other car accident claims. In a wrongful death action, the claimant will need to demonstrate that a truck driver behaved recklessly and negligently under the circumstances, that their negligence caused the accident, and that the accident caused a fatal injury.
Before filing a wrongful death claim, your lawyer can help you gather all of the necessary documents, including lost wage information and photographs of their injuries. Your lawyer can obtain copies of the police report and any eyewitness statements that police officers took at the scene.
Once your lawyer submits the wrongful death claim to the insurance company, the insurance company adjuster may make an offer to settle the claim. If the insurance company does not offer total and fair compensation, your lawyer can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits become necessary when the insurance company refuses to offer fair compensation in the case. A wrongful death lawsuit begins when a lawyer files a legal complaint in the court system. The lawyer will then need to serve copies of the complaint on the defendant, which may be the truck driver who caused the accident, the trucking company, or another entity.
Once the defense lawyer becomes involved in the litigation, the parties will exchange written discovery responses. The defense lawyer may also take the personal representative’s deposition during the discovery phase of litigation.
At a deposition, the defense lawyer can ask questions about how the accident happened, the personal representative’s relationship with the deceased individual, and the losses that the personal representative and other family members experienced due to the decedent’s untimely death.
Once litigation is complete, the parties can still settle their case. However, if the parties do not settle, the case may go to a jury trial. Since wrongful death losses can be challenging to prove, settlement is sometimes better. However, if the insurance company is acting unreasonably, then litigating the case at trial may garner a more favourable result. Your lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or take the case to trial.
Pursuing Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy. The process becomes even more complicated when the loved one dies in an accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence. When surviving family members file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, they technically pursue damages on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Although recoverable damages can never bring a loved one back, they can bring about a sense of finality and closure for these family members.
First of all, a wrongful death claimant can pursue compensation for the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses. They can also recover damages for the pain and suffering that the deceased individual experienced until the time of their passing.
Surviving family members depend upon a deceased individual’s income in many instances. When that is the case, a wrongful death claimant can pursue compensation for the deceased individual’s future lost wages. In addition, surviving family members can file a claim for loss of the decedent’s future care, comfort, and companionship.
A compassionate wrongful death lawyer in your area can help you pursue all of these damages following your loved one’s death to make you and your loved ones whole again.
Speak With a Knowledgeable Truck Accident Lawyer in Your Area Today
When it comes time to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, you should never go it alone. A compassionate and supportive wrongful death lawyer in your area can explain every step of the process and work to maximize the compensation that you recover from an insurance claim or a wrongful death lawsuit. For more information, please reach out to our truck accident lawyer. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.