Fatal Truck Accident: Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Encountering commercial trucks as you drive on highways and country roads requires a high level of caution. However, sometimes caution just isn’t enough. Accidents happen, often due to negligence on the part of the truck driver or defects in the truck. Hopefully, if this happens, you walk away with only a broken bone, or better yet, a few bruises and shaken nerves.
Yet, worse can happen. Losing your family member in an accident with one of these trucks is devastating. Not only are you at a loss of that love and companionship, but you also may suffer financial worries. You may have depended upon that family member to support you and your children. Where do you turn now, not only for justice but for financial solutions? One option is seeking legal advice and pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When your family member is involved in a fatal truck accident, you can contact a truck accident lawyer to help you file a wrongful death lawsuit. The claim could be brought to court if the death involved resulted from neglect, the fault of another, or a wrongful act.
This lawsuit is filed against the parties responsible for the accident, which may include any or all of the following:
- Truck driver
- Employer of the truck driver
- Owner of the tractor-trailer or cab
- Manufacturer of the truck or truck parts
- Those involved with the truck’s maintenance
Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the accident, a bar that served drinks to the truck driver may also be included, as well as others.
A legal duty exists for truck drivers to exercise safety in operating their trucks at all times. There are also state and federal regulations that must be followed, not just by the driver, but also by truck companies and manufacturers. When any of these fail to follow these regulations and death results, one or more of them can be held liable.
Wrongful death claims must follow procedures outlined by law. These procedures are steps you must take to file a wrongful death lawsuit and to recover any compensation. These laws may differ in each state, so this is where an experienced wrongful death attorney can help.
What Damages to Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages sought in a wrongful death lawsuit vary depending upon the case and the state. They can include both economic and non-economic damages for the surviving family members or select others.
Economic damages cover those costs associated with any medical treatment received prior to your loved one’s death, and also funeral and burial costs. In addition, lost wages, loss of benefits (such as pension plans), and the value of certain services (such as childcare expenses), and goods the deceased would have provided if still alive are included.
Non-economic damages involve a more complex determination as they include amounts for loss of your companionship and the survivors’ pain and suffering. A surviving spouse, children, parents, or others can seek these types of non-economic damages.
If the defendant in the lawsuit acted in extremely reckless or harmful ways, which contributed to the fatal accident, you might also receive exemplary damages.
In 2017, 72% of those killed in truck accidents were in vehicles other than the truck involved. While filing a wrongful death lawsuit can’t bring your loved ones back, it is a way to find closure and provide for the future.
Who Can File and Recover Under a Wrongful Death Action?
A wrongful death action is filed by whoever represents the survivors and is often the one who also represents the deceased loved one’s estate. Each state might differ when it comes to who this can be, but usually includes one or all of the following options:
- A spouse
- Children of the deceased
- Parents if deceased was unmarried
- Domestic or life partner
- Other financially dependent persons
For example, in addition to the above, Michigan law allows for the children of the deceased person’s spouse to file a wrongful death action and the beneficiary of any property in the deceased’s will.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing?
The statute of limitations for filing most wrongful death lawsuits in Michigan is three years from the date of the death. Because the statute of limitations may vary, you should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. While you’ll need that initial time to grieve, it is essential to note the limited filing time and take action before the time limit expires.
What to Expect From a Wrongful Death Lawyer
There’s no doubt you will be caught up in a whirlwind of things you must do after losing a loved one. Some days all you can do is make it through the day, or help your children make it through their day. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in wrongful death cases to navigate the court system and file a lawsuit can provide relief, at least financially.
You can expect your attorney to respect your grieving process while they get to work on your case. They will gather and preserve evidence, open up conversations with insurance companies, and notify all parties to the lawsuit’s filing.
As part of a legal review and compilation of evidence, your attorney obtains various documentation from the truck driver’s company and also whoever owns the truck involved in the accident, if not the employer. Examples of this documentation are truck driver logs and any maintenance records.
Early on in the case, witnesses are interviewed before they have time to forget important details.
Your legal team taps into their network of experts to hire. This may be an accident reconstruction specialist to evaluate street conditions and many other factors contributing to the accident. It may also include an expert in the mechanics and maintenance of the type of semi-truck involved.
Actions such as these are taken on by your legal team, providing you with the time and space needed to grieve and piece together your new life realities.
Contact our Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
While no wrongful death lawsuit is simple, those involving truck accidents add a complex dimension. Our accident attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., have experience filing wrongful death lawsuits and expertise in truck-related accidents.
When you’re ready to seek help after a loved one has passed as a result of a truck-related accident, call our law office at 866-MICH-LAW and schedule a free consultation.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.