What Can Families Do After a Truck Accident Fatality?

Experience Lawyer for Truck accident

Getting into an accident with a large truck, such as a tractor-trailer, is a harrowing experience that can severely injure or kill the occupants of smaller passenger vehicles. When a loved one dies in a California truck accident, the surviving families often wonder what they can do after a truck accident fatality to get compensation for their losses.

On average, large, commercial trucks cause thousands of fatal accidents each year in California, so you are not alone if a trucking accident kills a close family member.

Although that likely offers little comfort, you should understand your options for pursuing compensation following a fatal truck accident and the steps you should take to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine has helped many surviving family members of fatal truck accident victims throughout California. We can review your case at no cost and advise you of your options, which may include filing a wrongful death claim against the negligent truck driver and other liable parties.

Our truck accident lawyers can assist you with all aspects of the process and fight to help you get the full and fair compensation you need.

California Fatal Truck Accident Statistics

California Highway Patrol publishes annual reports of fatal traffic accidents throughout the state, including fatal truck accidents. According to the most recently published reports, 9,888 people sustained injuries in truck accidents in California, and 392 people died.

The counties with the highest rates of truck accident fatalities were Los Angeles County (66), San Bernardino County (40), Riverside County (35), Kern County (27), and San Diego County (21).

Orange, San Joaquin, Alameda, Santa Clara, Sacramento, and Fresno counties all reported double-digit figures for truck accident fatalities as well.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that can be filed on behalf of the estate of a deceased person when another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct caused the individual’s death.

The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to allow certain surviving family members and other beneficiaries to obtain compensation for the losses they suffered by the individual’s passing.

How Do I Know if I Have a Valid Wrongful Death Claim?

To determine whether you have a valid wrongful death claim, you must have the proper legal basis. Wrongful death claims are based on the legal concept that individuals or entities have a duty of care to act reasonably and responsibly, and when their actions or omissions breach that duty and result in someone’s death, surviving family members can hold the responsible parties accountable.

To have a valid wrongful death claim, your attorney must show:

  • A death occurred.
  • The death resulted from another party’s negligence or intentional actions.
  • Surviving family members experienced financial injury as a result.
  • A representative has been selected for the decedent’s estate.

Common Causes of Fatal Truck Accidents in California

To succeed in a wrongful death claim following a California truck accident, your attorney must show the truck driver caused the crash because of their carelessness, recklessness, or wrongful actions.

Along with driver error, a truck accident can result from mechanical issues or improperly loaded or unsecured cargo.

Some common causes of truck accidents in the state include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Intoxicated driving
  • Speeding and reckless driving
  • Inadequate truck driver training
  • Lack of truck maintenance
  • Load shifts or falling cargo
  • Defective components, such fault brakes, blown tires, or suspension problems

Other factors can cause fatal truck accidents as well, and an attorney can thoroughly review the accident to determine the likely cause and may enlist accident reconstructionists and other professionals to offer expert opinions and testimony.

Who Can a Family Hold Liable for a Fatal Truck Accident in California?

Depending on the nature of the accident and its cause, your attorney could hold any number of parties liable for the death of your loved one.

They include:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company that employs them
  • The owner of the truck, if different than the trucker or their employer
  • The truck’s manufacturer
  • The manufacturer and distributors of any defective parts that failed
  • Those in charge of the truck’s maintenance
  • Cargo loaders

After a careful and complete investigation, your attorney may identify other parties that bear liability, and they can work to hold them accountable as well.

What Evidence Can My Lawyer Use to Support a Wrongful Death Claim Resulting From a Fatal Truck Accident?

In a wrongful death claim resulting from a fatal truck accident, your lawyer will gather and present evidence to support your case.

Here are some key pieces of evidence that can establish liability and damages:

  • Accident reports: Your lawyer will obtain copies of official accident reports, including police reports and any reports generated by relevant regulatory agencies. These reports often contain important details about the accident, including the parties involved, road conditions, witness statements, and preliminary determinations of fault.
  • Eyewitness statements: Witness statements can provide valuable testimony about the accident. Your lawyer will interview individuals who witnessed the accident and obtain their statements. These statements can establish the sequence of events, the actions of the truck driver, and any other relevant details.
  • Accident expert analysis: Your lawyer may consult with accident reconstruction experts who can examine the scene, review available evidence, and provide their professional opinion on factors such as vehicle speeds, braking distances, and the cause of the accident. Expert analysis can establish liability and demonstrate the negligence or wrongdoing of the truck driver or other parties involved.
  • Driver logs and records: Commercial truck drivers are required to keep detailed logs and records of their driving hours, rest breaks, and maintenance. Your lawyer may demand these records to investigate violations of federal and state regulations, such as hours-of-service violations or inadequate vehicle maintenance. Discrepancies or violations can help establish negligence on the part of the truck driver or trucking company.
  • Trucking company records: Your lawyer may request records from the trucking company, such as driver hiring and training records, disciplinary records, vehicle maintenance records, and compliance with safety regulations. These records can provide insight into the company’s practices and potential negligence.
  • Black box data: Many commercial trucks are equipped with event data recorders (EDRs) or black boxes that capture critical data about the vehicle’s operations before, during, and after an accident. Your lawyer may seek access to this data, which can include information such as speed, braking, acceleration, and engine performance. Black box data can provide objective evidence about the circumstances leading up to the accident.
  • Medical records: Medical records of the deceased can help establish the cause and extent of injuries sustained in the accident. They can also provide evidence of the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their death.
  • Medical and financial expert testimony: In wrongful death cases, expert testimony can be crucial. Your lawyer may engage medical experts to testify about the cause of death and the impact of the accident on the deceased. Economic experts can provide assessments of the financial losses suffered by the surviving family members.

It’s important to note that the specific evidence required will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident, identify the necessary evidence, and build a strong case on your behalf.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

In California and most other states, only certain individuals may file a wrongful death claim. In most cases, immediate family members may file a claim since they are usually the ones most affected by the individual’s death. This typically includes spouses, children, and parents of the deceased. In some cases, other heirs and next of kin may file if no other immediate family members exist.

In cases where several parties are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, claimants can select a personal representative to the decedent’s estate to file on behalf of all claimants. This can greatly simplify the process and help to avoid conflict.

A wrongful death attorney can review your case and help you determine who may file a claim and assist with the process.

What Damages Can I Recover From a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Truck Accident?

In a wrongful death claim resulting from a fatal truck accident, you may be able to recover various types of damages. The specific types of accident damages available and their eligibility for recovery depend on the laws of the jurisdiction where the claim is filed.

Here are some common damages you may recover in a wrongful death claim:

Economic damages: These damages are intended to compensate for the financial losses suffered by the surviving family members due to the death.

Economic damages may include:

  • Medical expenses: Compensation for the medical costs incurred for the deceased person’s treatment and care before their death.
  • Funeral and burial expenses: Reimbursement for the reasonable costs associated with the funeral and burial services.
  • Loss of financial support: Compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s income, including potential future earnings and benefits that would have been provided to the family.
  • Loss of services: Damages to compensate for the value of the services the deceased person provided to the family, such as household chores, childcare, or other support.

Non-economic damages: These damages are intended to compensate for the non-financial losses experienced by the surviving family members.

Non-economic damages may include:

  • Loss of companionship and consortium: Compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s love, care, guidance, and companionship.
  • Emotional distress: Damages for the emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish experienced by the surviving family members as a result of the death.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: Compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s ability to enjoy life’s pleasures and activities.

Punitive damages: In certain cases, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages punish the at-fault party for their egregious conduct and deter similar behavior. However, the availability and limits of punitive damages vary by jurisdiction and require a showing of willful misconduct, malice, or reckless behavior.

An experienced truck accident attorney can assess your claim and identify all the applicable damages you may seek. They can also accurately calculate the amount of compensation you need to cover all your losses and fight to get everything you need.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Wrongful death claims have specific time limits, known as statutes of limitations, and you must have your lawyer file your wrongful death lawsuit in a California civil court within two years of the date of the wrongful death.

Certain situations can toll or suspend the statute of limitations, such as cases involving minors or when the defendant can’t be located. Claims against a government entity have very short timeframes on when you can file, which is six months after the injury or death.

It’s crucial you contact a California truck accident attorney immediately to discuss your case and learn of your options for filing. You do not want to wait and risk forfeiting your rights to obtain compensation.

Will I Have to Take My Fatal Truck Accident Wrongful Claim to Court?

It depends. In most cases, insurance will provide wrongful death benefits to surviving family members, but so much can depend on policy limits and other factors. Still, your attorney will likely pursue filing a claim with the at-fault parties’ insurance companies to seek compensation.

If the insurance companies will not offer a fair settlement or deny your claim unjustly, your lawyer may have no other option but to take them to court and sue for the money you need. They may also take your claim to court if the insurance company acts in bad faith regarding your claim or the settlement agreement.

Additionally, your attorney may advise you to take your case to trial if strong evidence exists to support your claim, or if they feel you could receive maximum compensation, and even punitive damages, if the judge or jury sides in your favor.

Contact an Experienced California Fatal Truck Accident Attorney Today

Mickey Fine, Car Accident Lawyer in Bakersfield

Mickey Fine, Truck Accident Attorney in California

You and your family are still reeling from your untimely loss, and you want to obtain justice for all you have endured and the compensation to help you cover related damages. While successfully navigating a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties can help your family through this tragedy, you need an attorney on your side to protect your rights and fight for you throughout the process.

Contact a personal injury attorney in Bakersfield, CA today for a free consultation regarding your wrongful death claim following a fatal truck accident and how we can help your family.

Truck Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on