Legal Options for Families of Victims Killed in Negligence-Related Truck Accidents

car_and_semi_accidentDeadly truck crashes happen daily on America's roadways. If you lost a loved one in a serious truck accident, you're not alone. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), nearly 4,000 people died in large truck crashes in 2015.

Every day, the victims of fatal truck accidents leave behind families who not only love them, but also depend on them for financial support. This can force family members to spend time and energy worrying about how they'll make ends meet, at a time when they should be able process their grief and celebrate their loved one's lives.

However, these families aren't without legal options. Often, they're eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court and seek damages from the at-fault party. While a monetary award could never replace a lost loved one, it aims to compensate family members for expenses associated with the death, as well as financial support the decedent would have provided.

If you're considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit after a truck accident, here's what you should know.

What Makes Truck Accidents So Deadly?

Semi-trucks, big-rigs, 18-wheelers, and large buses outmatch passenger vehicles in both size and weight. The average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,500 pounds; a large truck or bus can weigh 20–to–30 times as much—up to 80,000 pounds.

Larger commercial vehicles are also much taller than passenger vehicles, which means they have greater ground clearance. During an accident, this clearance may allow passenger vehicles to slide underneath the truck and become wedged there. Known as underride crashes, these accidents are particularly deadly, as the passenger compartment of a smaller vehicle is often torn off or crushed.

Large trucks and buses also handle differently than passenger vehicles due to their size and weight. As a result, they can take much longer to stop after braking: 20–to–40 percent longer than the average car, according to information from the IIHS. Required stopping distance for commercial trucks and buses also increases in inclement weather, or if the truck's brakes aren't well maintained.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

  • Drowsy driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Drunk or drugged driving
  • Inadequate hiring and training practices
  • Improper maintenance
  • Equipment failure
  • Cargo loaded improperly

Do I Have a Wrongful Death Case?

Commercial truck and bus drivers owe other motorists a duty of care. This means they're required to follow federal regulations, observe all traffic laws and carefully maintain their vehicles in the interest of safety. If the driver's failure to do so leads to a fatal truck crash, they—and in some cases, the trucking company that employees them—could potentially be held liable for injuries and deaths related to the accident.

However, not everyone is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit after a loved one's truck accident. Most states limit the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit to a small group, which includes:

  • Spouses
  • Domestic or life partners
  • Children (biological or adopted)
  • Parents of unmarried children
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Other financial dependents

Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

When a large commercial truck or bus collides with a passenger vehicle, more often than not it's the driver or occupants of the passenger vehicle who end up paying the ultimate price. If you lost a loved one in a horrific truck accident, McGartland Law is here to help. We can review your case to determine if you're eligible to seek compensation for your loved one's medical, funeral, and burial (or cremation) expenses, as well as lost wages, loss of love and companionship, and more.

Contact McGartland Law today to schedule your free, no-obligation case analysis.