Survivor Rights Following a Fatal Truck Accident
When a semi-truck or tractor-trailer is involved in a traffic crash, the people involved are at great risk for serious and even deadly injuries. In fact, truck accidents are the most deadly types of collisions that can occur on the road. Although car and pedestrian accidents account for more annual fatalities, the proportion of truck accidents that are lethal far outweigh those of car accidents. As a result, every time you drive near a large truck, you are placing your life and the lives of your family on the line.
Impact of Vehicle Size on Accident Risks
The average tractor trailer, when fully loaded, is between 20 and 30 times heavier than the average car. Since trucks are massive compared to standard cars, they have a disproportionately greater risk for accidents caused by the following:
- Decreased maneuverability. Due to the truck’s massive size, precise control of the vehicle become difficult, increasing the risk of an accident—an accident that can easily cause catastrophic damage to you and your defenseless vehicle.
- Longer brake times. The amount of time and space it takes for heavy trucks to brake is significantly longer than that of a passenger vehicle. As a result, drivers aren’t able to stop on a dime in the event of an emergency.
- Unpredictable weight displacement. Depending on the cargo, a truck’s weight distribution may be unstable (one side of the trailer may be heavier than the other). As a result, turns and hard braking can cause the trailer to tilt, increasing its risks for a rollover or jackknife accident.
- Increased crush ability. In an accident, the weight of the trailer can crush, shear, and mangle surrounding vehicles without much effort.
Although all of these factors make trucks dangerous, the real threat for a truck accident is human error and negligence, such as irresponsible driving, poor loading of cargo, and a failure to sustain proper maintenance—all of which place your family in jeopardy.
In the event that a truck accident causes a wrongful death, surviving parties may be eligible for three types of damages. These include:
- Economic damages. Economic damages are those awarded for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, lost benefits, child care costs, and loss of inheritance.
- Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages cover emotional and psychological costs such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded as an additional consequence for the negligent behavior. If the liable party caused the death through incompetence or malice, an additional compensation may be awarded to the surviving parties.
Unfortunately, before these damages can be awarded two factors must be established—who is eligible to receive them and who is liable to pay for them.
Truck Accident Liability and Claim Eligibility
The Texas Wrongful Death Act and the Texas Survival Statute allows surviving family members (parents, children, or spouse) as well as the estate of the deceased to file a claim up to two years after a wrongful death truck incident. In order for family members to pursue a wrongful death claim, there must be proof that the accident was caused by someone other than the deceased. Likewise, for an estate to sue, liability must first be determined before the estate can pursue a claim on behalf of the person who died for the pain and suffering they experienced prior to passing away.
Several different parties may be liable for a truck accident, such as the deceased person himself, the driver, the truck company, and the truck manufacturer. However, to pursue a successful claim, the plaintiff (family member or estate) must be able to prove negligence. The best way to prove liability is with evidence; and the best way to secure evidence is with an experienced lawyer.
Securing Your Claim
At the offices of Steve Lee, Attorney at Law, we have spent over 25 years helping families through the toughest times of their lives. Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing a loved one because of someone else’s negligence is even harder. We’re here to not only lend you support, but also to help you get the compensation you need to go on living. In addition to verifying your claim, we can strengthen your case by:
- Sending a spoliation letter. A spoliation letter is a memo to the trucking company requesting that they preserve evidence related to the collision.
- Inspecting the truck. We’ll initiate a thorough inspection of both the tractor and trailer to deduce if any maintenance issues may have been the cause of the accident.
- Obtaining documents from the trucking firm. Documentation such as driver’s logs and maintenance records can help to determine liability and provide evidence of negligence.
- Interviewing witnesses. We’re diligent with interviewing witnesses, trucking company employees, and others to get a clear account of what may have led to your loved one’s death.
- Hiring accident reconstruction specialists and expert witnesses. We hire forensic engineers and other experts to illustrate the events leading up to the accident as well as what may have occurred to result in the fatal accident.
When it comes to a wrongful death you need all the help you can get to secure your rights. Don’t make your loss greater by choosing the wrong lawyer. Contact us today to see how we can help put your mind at ease and allow you to grieve properly. We’re waiting to hear from you.