If a truck driver causes a fatal car accident, the surviving family members may hold their employer financially responsible for every damage resulting from the accident, including the wrongful death.
The toll of wrongful death is immense, harming the individual(s) who dies in the accident and surviving loved ones.
Those affected by fatal truck-on-car collisions generally seek justice by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving loved ones should always hire truck accident lawyers to handle these difficult legal cases.
When a Truck Driver Has a Fatal Car Accident Guide
- What Surviving Loved Ones Should Do After a Fatal Car Accident
- Causes of Fatal Truck Accidents
- Who Is Liable for a Fatal Truck Accident?
- How an Attorney Can Help You After a Fatal Truck-on-Car Accident
- Recoverable Damages in Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
- Let a Truck Accident Attorney Seek Justice for Your Loss
Criteria to Consider When Seeking a Fatal Car Accident Lawyer in Your City
As you consider which law firm to hire for a wrongful death lawsuit, you may weigh:
- Whether the law firm has a record of winning wrongful death cases: The more relevant experience and results a law firm can show, the more confident you may be in that firm.
- Whether the firm has taken wrongful death cases to trial: Those liable for your loved one’s passing may not offer a fair settlement. For this reason, your lawyer must be willing to take your case to court if necessary. If a law firm has a history of winning court cases, you may trust the firm to take your case to trial if appropriate.
- Whether the firm regularly handles truck accident cases: Though your loved one was in a car, the involvement of a truck driver may make your case a truck accident case. This type of case comes with unique considerations and challenges, so you may want to ensure the law firm has successfully handled truck accident cases before.
- What former clients say about the law firm: Client reviews speak volumes about a law firm. Consider both positive and negative reviews as you search for the law firm to lead your case.
- Your experience during the consultation: A consultation may have the power to attract or repel a prospective client. If you feel that the law firm’s representative is helpful and respectful during your consultation, it may be a preview of the firm’s culture.
You may rely on both objective criteria (like a firm’s case results), qualitative experiences (like how you felt about your free consultation), and your instincts when choosing the law firm to lead your case. Choosing a wrongful death lawyer is a critically important responsibility, so do some homework before picking a firm.
Causes of Fatal Truck Accidents
Your lawyer will identify the cause of the fatal truck-on-car accident that claimed your loved one’s life. This may determine liability for your substantial damages.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains that speeding, drunk driving, and failure to wear a seatbelt were factors in 45 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Speeding and drunk driving are two potential causes of fatal truck accidents, too, as is:
Tailgating is especially dangerous for truck drivers because trucks can weigh up to 80,000 when loaded with cargo. Such heavy vehicles take longer to stop than lighter passenger vehicles. If a vehicle in front of a truck suddenly stops while the truck driver is tailgating, there is a substantial risk of an accident.
As alarmingly, trucks may have significantly more crushing force due to their weight. Therefore, truck drivers must maintain several car lengths’ distance from the vehicle in front.
Taking your eyes off the road, a hand off the wheel, or attention off safe driving is dangerous. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that nine people die (on average) every day because of distracted drivers.
The danger of distracted driving is even greater when the distracted individual drives a truck. Their vehicle is harder to stop and heavier, two factors that increase the risk of serious (and possibly fatal) collisions.
Unsafe Trucks and Trailers
Dangerous trucks and trailers can cause accidents.
A dangerous truck or trailer:
- Has a design defect
- Was assembled improperly
- Was assembled with shoddy materials
- Has absorbed wear and tear that makes it no longer roadworthy
Manufacturers, trucking companies, and truck drivers have a duty to ensure equipment is roadworthy before hitting the road.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Cargo loaders must distribute cargo in a trailer according to federal regulations.
Improperly loaded cargo may:
- Slide around
- Topple over
- Fall out the back of the truck
- Cause the truck to roll over
You may hold cargo loaders and truck drivers liable when improperly loaded cargo injures you.
Every truck driver must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but the CDL alone is insufficient to ensure drivers have proper training.
Trucking companies must also:
- Train drivers on safe driving practices
- Train drivers about company-specific policies
- Discipline any drivers who drive unsafely
- Terminate any drivers who repeatedly drive unsafely
These are some of the many possible causes of fatal accidents involving trucks. To pinpoint the exact cause of your loved one’s fatal accident, your attorney will conduct a comprehensive investigation of your accident.
Who Is Liable for a Fatal Truck Accident?
Liability for truck accidents varies case-by-case.
The cause of the fatal accident may determine liability, and defendants in a wrongful death case may include:
- A truck driver: Though a truck driver’s employer may be liable for the driver’s negligence (and a more fitting defendant in a lawsuit), a truck driver may be personally liable when they cause a fatal car accident.
- A trucking company: Trucking companies are generally liable for their own and their employee’s negligence.
- A vehicle manufacturer: If the manufacturer of a defective truck, car, trailer, or other component contributes to a fatal accident, they may be financially liable for resulting damages.
- A municipality: When dangerous road conditions, defective traffic lights, downed signage, unsafe construction zones, or similar hazards cause a fatal accident, the municipality may be liable for the resulting death.
Before an attorney can secure fair compensation for their client, they must identify all liable parties.
How an Attorney Can Help You After a Fatal Truck-on-Car Accident
In addition to establishing liability, a truck accident lawyer will manage every other aspect of their client’s case. A lawyer will have the help of paralegals, investigators, and any experts they hire to help with the case.
When you hire a truck accident lawyer to lead your wrongful death case, they may:
Manage All Communications
Truck accident lawyers protect their clients by handling all case-related communications. Insurers, trucking companies, and others involved in the legal process will deal with the lawyer, not the plaintiff seeking compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death.
By handling communications, your lawyer will:
- Ensure that you can focus on personal matters without being bothered by the legal process
- Protect you from those who might try to violate your rights and diminish your case
- Maintain control over the legal process, as you’ve hired them to do
Your attorney will provide regular updates about your case, ensuring a clear line of communication with you.
Complete All Case-Related Paperwork
Lawsuits generally require significant paperwork. Your lawyer and their paralegals will oversee this critical component of your wrongful death case.
Obtain Evidence of Negligence
Car accident lawyers complete comprehensive investigations of fatal accidents, and they may:
- Interview witnesses to the accident or the conditions that led to the accident
- Secure accident-related video footage
- Photograph vehicle damage, which may indicate how the vehicles collided
- Secure black-box data from the trucking company (and any other useful evidence from the trucking company)
- Get the police report detailing the accident
The strength of evidence is a key consideration in how a wrongful death case unfolds. Your attorney may hire professional investigators and experts to help them document the fatal collision.
Document Damages (from Both the Accident and the Resulting Death)
Your lawyer will document the damages caused by the fatal accident.
Relevant documentation may include:
- Your own account of the pain and suffering you’ve experienced due to your loved one’s unexpected passing
- Mental health experts’ testimony about how the loss has affected you
- Medical bills for the care your loved one received after their accident
- Economists' testimony about the economic harm your loved one’s passing has caused
- Invoices for vehicle repairs (or replacement of a totaled vehicle)
- Invoices for funeral expenses
Each person affected by a fatal accident has unique damages. Your lawyer will seek proof to substantiate every damage you’ve suffered.
Calculate a Settlement Figure
Once your attorney has identified every damage resulting from the fatal truck accident, your lawyer will determine the cost of those damages.
Lawyers consider both damages with a clear cost (like vehicle repairs) and those that are more difficult to quantify (like the cost of losing a spouse’s companionship).
Complete Settlement Negotiations Successfully or Take the Case to Court
Your attorney will likely attempt to negotiate a settlement with legal representatives for liable parties, which may include a trucking company. If your attorney determines the liable parties will not offer a fair settlement, your lawyer may encourage you to let them take your case to court.
Recoverable Damages in Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
Those affected by fatal motor vehicle accidents experience a previously unimaginable loss.
Losing a loved one can mean:
- Losing a spouse’s companionship: Losing a partner means losing the companionship, comfort, security, and intimacy that the partner provided.
- Losing parent’s guidance: Children face an immense loss when their parent passes away in a fatal motor vehicle accident, including the parent’s guidance and security.
- Funeral expenses and medical costs: These are two common economic damages that surviving loved ones face because of a fatal motor vehicle accident.
- Loss of the decedent’s financial support: This includes the loss of the decedent’s income, employer-provided benefits, and household contributions.
- Facing immense grief (and other types of pain and suffering): Perhaps the greatest damage of all is the grief, depression, and other types of pain and suffering that a wrongful death causes. Your attorney may seek substantial compensation for your pain and suffering.
Your attorney will consider these and any other damages you suffer because of a fatal truck-on-car accident.
Let a Truck Accident Attorney Seek Justice for Your Loss
Wrongful death cases are a tragically familiar practice area for personal injury lawyers. Let an attorney handle your case for justice while you prioritize recovery from the trauma you’ve suffered. While monetary compensation cannot reunite you with your loved one, it can provide justice and support for your family.