What Can Families Do After a Trucking Accident Fatality?
May 25, 2022 | Truck Accidents
You never want to receive the news that an immediate family member died in a truck crash. This call will undoubtedly alter your future, not only causing overwhelming grief but also potential financial concerns. While your loved one is no longer here to seek compensation for personal injury, certain family members can qualify to seek financial recovery for wrongful death. If you or someone you know is in this devastating position, you can learn more below about what you should do. Never hesitate to speak with a truck accident lawyer about your options.
Protecting Your Rights After a Fatal Truck Accident
There are steps families can take following a truck crash that killed their loved ones. While this is already a stressful time, doing a few things can improve your chances of a full financial recovery for your loss.
You should immediately contact a truck accident lawyer – never wait. Not only are there time limits to claims, but having someone representing your family right away is critical to evidence preservation.
Truck companies might send investigators or representatives to an accident scene right away. They might review the data from the truck’s black box or any dashcams. If the data indicates the truck driver was to blame, the trucking company might take steps to conceal the evidence.
Once you have a truck accident lawyer handling your case, they can notify the trucking company that it must preserve all evidence. This includes records, video recordings, maintenance reports, and more. Once the company receives this notice, it can face penalties if it hides or destroys any evidence. Having your lawyer send this evidence preservation notice is imperative to the success of your case.
You might hesitate to call a lawyer right away, as you are already dealing with a lot. However, know that a lawyer will not add to your stress – they will relieve some stress for you. You will no longer have to wonder if you need to take legal action or what that might entail. Your attorney will assess your rights and handle every step of the process for you.
The number one thing that families can do after a trucking accident fatality is to consult with a truck accident attorney.
Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death statutes allow close family members to seek compensation for their various losses from a preventable death.
To qualify for such a claim, you must show that:
- The death happened due to someone else’s negligence or intentionally wrongful act
- The death resulted in losses to your family
In many states, spouses, children, or parents can file wrongful death claims. In others, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate must file the claim on behalf of the family.
When filing for wrongful death, families seek compensation for the financial and intangible losses they suffered.
Different states make different losses available for wrongful death, and these might include:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of the financial contributions the deceased family member would have provided to the household, often from the time of death throughout their projected working life.
- Loss of practical services of the deceased, including childcare, household chores, yard work, and other things they did that served your family.
- Loss of consortium, love, companionship, support, and other intangible offerings.
- Emotional grief and suffering of the surviving family
Many states allow families to seek coverage of the deceased’s medical bills (if they received treatment before passing away) and their pain and suffering. However, the personal representative might have to file a claim called a survival action. The proceeds of a survival action go to the estate and then pass through to proper family members.
If the truck driver or company’s actions were particularly egregious, punitive damages might be available. For example, you might get punitive damages if a truck driver purposely rammed into your loved one’s car or drove a semi-truck with a very high blood alcohol content.
How Do You Establish Negligence?
Negligence is the basis for most wrongful death claims, and this goes for truck accident cases, as well. Most claims cite negligence of the truck driver or company as the reason for the wrongful death, but insurance companies will not simply take your word. Instead, families must provide evidence to prove negligence, and this can be challenging.
Negligence can take many forms in truck accidents, including:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Improper truck maintenance or inspections
- Fatigued driving
- Aggressive driving
The evidence your lawyer will need to establish negligence depends on the specific conduct that caused the crash.
You will need to show that:
- The negligent party owed your family member a duty of care
- The negligent party breached their duty
- The breach led to your loved one’s death
- Your family suffered losses as a result
This can be more difficult to prove than you might imagine, even if it is clear to you that the driver was negligent. You need a lawyer to handle this proof and process for you.
Proving negligence can also force truck operators to adhere to safety regulations moving forward, which can prevent other families from suffering the same tragic loss. These safety regulations ultimately reduce risks to other drivers.
What are the FMCSA Regulations for Truck Drivers?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that both the driver and company follow strict guidelines whenever operating a truck or trailer.
The driver is responsible for maintaining a daily log and abiding by hours of service restrictions. Drivers must also always have their last seven days of driving records on hand. They must perform a daily vehicle inspection at the end of the workday and before shifts. Additionally, they must maintain a record of driver and training credentials plus submit roadside inspections to their carriers within 24 hours.
The commercial carrier’s responsibilities include enforcing a 60/70 driving rule and proving that the driver has at least ten hours off before starting a new trip.
Companies must retain long-haul records for six months and short-haul for seven days. They must also maintain maintenance records for up to 12 months, including vehicle identification, inspections, and repair records. They must retain inspection reports for 14 months and place a copy in the truck while in operation. Lastly, they must submit evidence of any repairs to the state and keep a copy for 12 months.
Why is it Essential to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney Immediately?
When it comes to truck accidents, timing is crucial for those filing wrongful death claims. The law sets out deadlines for filing lawsuits, which can be necessary for many truck accident claims. Before you consider filing a lawsuit, your lawyer will likely go through the insurance claim process to negotiate a settlement directly, which takes time.
Keep in mind that the truck driver already has legal representation. You want to be equally ready to protect yourself from any legal maneuvering aimed to protect their interests instead of you and your family.
Are There Benefits of Hiring a Truck Accident Attorney?
Yes, and these benefits can significantly improve your family’s future.
Some benefits worth mentioning are:
- The ability to recruit accident reconstruction professionals to prove negligence.
- They have the financial capabilities to hire other experts to establish liability.
- Truck accident attorneys know how to document accidents through images, video, or witness accounts.
- They understand how to examine records and find mistakes or omissions.
- Truck accident attorneys take time to interview police officers, first responders, or any other medical staff to show the accident-related injuries led to your loved one’s death.
- Truck accident attorneys understand the legal requirements to represent a client in court proceedings properly.
When you seek compensation for wrongful death from a truck crash, you will face off against the corporate insurer for the trucking company. This insurance adjuster has one goal – to limit liability for the company. The less insurers pay grieving families, the more money the company keeps. These are the principles you must work against.
Insurance adjusters are not on your side, and they will use what you say against your claim whenever possible. They might allege that your loved one died due to a pre-existing condition instead of truck accident injuries. They might challenge that the driver or trucking company was liable for the collision. They might state that your claim is worth much less than you demanded.
However the adjuster challenges your claim, you want the right legal professional standing up for you and your family. Never deal with insurance companies alone – always have representation.
You want only the best on your side to fight for what you rightfully deserve against trucking companies and their insurers. You want to be ready to take them on, and the perfect way to do that is by hiring an experienced truck accident attorney. If you want to ensure you receive the highest quality protection, consulting with the right truck accident attorney is what you need to do.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
After losing a loved one in a truck accident, you need a qualified truck accident lawyer on your side. As you can see, truck accidents are more complex than regular motor vehicle accidents. If you decide to try to handle a lawsuit on your own, you may be setting yourself up for disaster.
Experienced truck accident lawyers handle all negotiations with other parties and their insurance companies. That is why you should never speak with an insurance adjuster without first discussing what happened with your attorney.
You can expect your attorney to conduct a thorough investigation of your claim to accurately identify all liable parties. Also, it is up to your attorney to obtain the necessary documentation to support your claim.
Reach out today for the help your family needs after a fatal truck crash.