Understanding Wrongful Death Claims: Insights from Expert Fatal Truck Accident Attorneys

Commercial truck accidents commonly lead to serious or catastrophic injuries and even death. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 40 tons, which is about 30 times as much as a standard passenger vehicle. When these smaller vehicles are involved in collisions with freight-bearing trucks, they are simply outmatched.

If you are considering taking legal action on behalf of a loved one who was killed in a commercial truck accident, you need the advice of a wrongful death lawyer with experience handling these kinds of claims. Burg Simpson has decades of experience in handling fatal truck accident claims all across the country.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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Wrongful death is a death arising from the negligence or willful misconduct of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that a victim’s family can bring against the individual or entity responsible for the death of their loved one. It is essentially an avenue for bringing a claim on behalf of a person who would have had grounds to bring their own personal injury suit had they survived the accident. The settlement provided by a successful wrongful death lawsuit can help surviving family members maintain their financial obligations and ensure they are not subjected to costly damages arising from another person’s negligence.

Commercial truck accident victims do not always die immediately in the collision. Instead, many of them sustain a severe injury that demands a lengthy hospitalization, one or more surgeries, and other supportive measures designed to keep them alive.

Common truck accident injuries that lead to these situations include:
● Traumatic brain and head injuries
● Spinal cord and neck injuries
● Internal organ damage and internal bleeding
● Severe burns
Often, victims fight through their injuries only to succumb days, weeks, or even months after the fact. In the meantime, the medical debt generated by their treatment and rehabilitation often reaches staggering sums that are ultimately left to be paid by the surviving family. This is why a wrongful death claim may become necessary for a family to avoid financial fallout after losing a loved one.

As if the death of a loved one wasn’t devastating on its own, the loss of the financial contribution they made to the household will add further struggles for those left behind. Without adequate financial compensation, many families are forced to file for bankruptcy or potentially face eviction, making it virtually impossible for them to move on with their lives. When a trucking accident ends in death, the deceased’s relatives might be advised to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party.

An overwhelming majority of truck accidents are caused by the negligence or recklessness of the truck driver or an entity in the trucking industry, such as the driver’s employer. If negligence was responsible for the untimely passing of your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit is likely the best way to collect the damages to which you and your family are entitled.

Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Every state has its own set of laws concerning who is entitled to bring a claim of wrongful death on behalf of the deceased. In most states, the executor of the deceased’s estate or their next of kin is eligible to bring such a claim. This usually means a surviving spouse or child, although other relatives may be permitted to file, especially if they were financially reliant on the victim. The parent of a deceased child is also entitled also file a lawsuit.

In some cases, siblings, grandparents, nephews, nieces, uncles, and aunts have also done so based on the specific circumstances of the death. If you have questions regarding who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your deceased loved one, consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney in the state in which the death occurred.

How Is Liability Determined in a Fatal Truck Accident?

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The named defendants in a wrongful death claim can be any person or company who caused or contributed to the death through a negligent or deliberately harmful act. Wrongful death lawsuits involving commercial trucks typically have multiple named defendants, such as:
The truck operator
● The freight company
● The truck owner
● A cargo loader or loading company
● The cargo owner
● A maintenance company, mechanic, or repair shop
● A defective part manufacturer or distributor

A truck accident lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation into your truck accident, determine liability, negotiate with the insurance companies on behalf of your family, and if necessary, represent you in court.

What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Again, this is something that varies a bit from state to state, but damages that are usually compensable in a wrongful death claim include economic damages, non-economic damages, and, in rare circumstances, punitive damages.

Economic Damages

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Economic damages almost always include any medical bills accrued by the victim prior to their death, reasonable funerary expenses, loss of financial support, and more. If the deceased was the breadwinner, meaning other members of the household relied on their salary for living expenses, your lawyer might also recommend suing for:

● Loss of future earnings
● Loss of job-related benefits such as medical insurance and pension plans
● Loss of inheritance due to untimely death

Economic damages also take into account the value of goods and services once contributed to the household by the victim, such as child care, that will now have to be paid for.

Non-Economic Damages

In some states, non-economic damages are intended to indemnify the family for the pain and suffering the victim endured in the time leading up to their death. In others, this form of compensation can only be obtained through a survival action. Other than that, non-economic damages usually include loss of consortium and the emotional trauma experienced by surviving relatives.

Punitive Damages

Dissimilar to economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not awarded as a form of compensation. Rather, they are meant to penalize the at-fault party for conduct that is considered especially wanton or egregious and to discourage others from engaging in similar actions.

Although no amount of money can bring back your loved one, many families find that a wrongful death lawsuit gives them a sense of justice and closure by bringing the negligent party to account.

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