A Comprehensive Guide To Truck Accidents And Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Perhaps no outcome is more devastating in a truck accident than one in which a driver or passenger is killed. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 3,864 fatal crashes on American roads involving large trucks in 2016. More than 60 percent of these fatal truck crashes occurred on rural roads, and approximately 27 percent took place on interstate highways.

The loved ones of those killed in truck accidents are often overwhelmed with grief. As they adjust to life without their family members, they may also struggle with the loss of income and support the deceased provided to them.

Wrongful death lawsuits allow families harmed by fatal truck accidents to demand responsibility from the people responsible as well as receive compensation for their losses.

What Types Of Truck Accidents Lead To Fatalities And Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

While each truck accident has its own set of unique factors and causes, some common themes exist. In the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA, some of the top factors contributing to crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles included:

  • Driving too fast for traffic or road and weather conditions
  • Driver inattention, fatigue or illness
  • Distracted driving (especially texting or using a mobile device while driving)
  • Inappropriate interpretation of another driver's actions
  • Making an illegal maneuver

At the California law firm of Girardi | Keese, our lawyers have decades of experience helping victims of truck accidents obtain compensation for their losses. From our office locations in Los Angeles and San Bernardino, we assist clients throughout the state.

What Are The Steps Needed For A Wrongful Death Case?

To bring a wrongful death action against a negligent truck driver or trucking company, many factors must be present. The death must be due to the negligence of another person or a business. The lawsuit can only be brought by a legal family member such as a spouse, domestic partner, child or grandchild. The family members filing the suit must demonstrate that they have suffered financially as a result of their loved one's death. Keep in mind that California's wrongful death statute requires that the lawsuit be filed within two years of the accident victim's death.

How Does A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Differ From A Criminal Trial?

With a wrongful death claim, the case will be decided by a judge or jury unless it is settled before the trial begins. One other significant difference is that the burden of proof in a civil trial is lower than that of a criminal court. This means that those blaming the negligent driver or business do not need to provide evidence to the same level as required in a criminal case, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Types Of Losses Can Be Compensated For In A Wrongful Death Claim?

Whether wrongful death lawsuit is settled in civil court or through a negotiated settlement, the amount of compensation granted to the plaintiffs (those bringing the lawsuit to court) will be based on several types of calculations. Most commonly, families will request compensation for economic losses such as:

  • The cost of the funeral and burial
  • Medical bills related to the deceased's final illness or injury
  • Lost income that the deceased could reasonably have expected to have earned in the future had he or she lived

Other losses that can be included in a truck accident wrongful death claim are called non-economic losses. These losses are completely subjective, but a personal injury attorney can help the plaintiffs put a dollar value on them for the sake of the claim. They can include things such as:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering resulting from the loved one's passing
  • Emotional distress

A third type of damages, which may be awarded by the jury to a plaintiff, is known as punitive damages. This type of compensation is intended to punish those who are negligent. One of the goals of awarding punitive damages is to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior.

Driving Tips For Avoiding Fatal Truck Crashes

Drivers of all types of vehicles, large and small, can take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of a serious crash involving a truck:

  • Brake slowly and avoid "panic stops" on the highway
  • Signal your intention to brake or turn well ahead of when you need to
  • Stay aware of the position and behavior of other drivers
  • Use extra caution around drivers who are driving erratically or aggressively
  • If you are driving a car, stay out of the truck driver's blind spots since this is where more than a third of all fatal truck-car accidents happen

Building A Trucking Culture That Prevents Tragic Accidents

Beyond the responsibility of individual drivers to protect themselves and others around them, trucking companies can take steps to reduce the chances of catastrophic collisions ever taking place. Many of these steps involve following existing state and federal regulations more rigorously. Trucking companies can make things safer by:

  • Obtaining an accurate background report and driving record for job applicants
  • Ensuring each new driver has a valid commercial driver's license
  • Enforcing federal regulations relating to a ban on cellphone use and texting while driving
  • Auditing driver logs to ensure employees are taking mandated rest and sleep breaks
  • Demonstrating that all vehicles in their fleet are inspected and maintained on a regular basis

Helping You Make The Transition From Grief To Justice

At Girardi | Keese, our attorneys have recovered more than $10 billion dollars on behalf of our personal injury clients. If you have lost a family member in a trucking-related accident, we are well-equipped to represent you in a wrongful death lawsuit. Our 20 attorneys are veterans of dozens of trials, so we do not bluff our way through settlement negotiations. We will take your case to trial if that is what it takes to get you justice.

Free Consultation ~ Contact Us Today

Let us show you how we can help you in your quest for justice, accountability and compensation. To make an appointment at either our Los Angeles or our San Bernardino office, call us at 800-401-4530 or send us an email.

All personal injury claims are handled on a contingency basis. This means you pay no attorney fees unless you win.