Truck accidents are an unfortunate risk on California’s busy highways and roads. When they happen, the sheer size and weight of a loaded semi mean truck crashes often turn deadly. Surviving family members are left grieving the loss of a loved one and struggling with practical concerns like lost income and large medical and funeral bills. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California may be an important step in seeking compensation to cover damages. Here is an overview of how these tragic accidents happen and why truck crash victims and their families should consider legal action.
Factors Leading to Deadly Truck Crashes
A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. When driving at highway speeds, that amount of weight and momentum takes a very long distance to stop—much longer than a car or SUV. Some common reasons these crashes turn so serious include.
- Driver fatigue or sleep deprivation, often from unrealistic delivery schedules
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted or inattentive driving behaviors such as texting, eating, talking on a cell phone or CB radio
- Failure to adequately inspect and maintain the truck’s condition including brakes, tires, lighting or cargo restraints
- Violations of hours of service rules that prohibit driving more than 11 hours per day or 60-70 hours per week
- Failure to properly secure cargo which can shift and unbalance the truck
- Speeding, aggressive driving, or tailgating when behind schedule
- Improper training for new truck drivers or inadequate screening of new hires
Blame often lies with the driver, but trucking companies and commercial vehicle manufacturers can also be at fault through:
- Inadequate driver screening, training, or supervision policies
- Demanding delivery schedules that coerce unsafe driving behaviors
- Poor equipment safety, vehicle defects like faulty brakes, or overloaded trucks
- Failure to comply with proper vehicle weight limits, size restrictions, cargo regulations, maintenance schedules and more
- Prior knowledge of or lack of response to driver violations
When one or more of these factors is present, deadly truck crashes are tragically common. Victims can suffer crushing injuries, amputations, severe burns, brain and spinal cord trauma, internal organ damage or simply the catastrophic effects of an 80,000 pound vehicle crushing a smaller passenger vehicle.
Why File a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Fatal Truck Accident
When negligence or misconduct results in a fatal truck accident, injured accident victims or grieving family members must deal with emotional grief as well as medical bills, funeral expenses, lost current and future income, and other accident-related damages. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit allows certain specified family members or representatives of the deceased’s estate to take legal action and recover compensatory damages.
In California, state law permits the following people to have legal standing to bring a wrongful death case after a truck accident fatality:
- Spouse or registered domestic partner
- Parents or Grandchildren, if no surviving children
- Anyone who can verify financial support from the deceased
- Minor children of the deceased born after their death
Damages available through a wrongful death lawsuit handled by a personal injury accident lawyer include:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of financial support and inheritance
- Loss of love, companionship, guidance, training, advice, caretaking and more
- Pre-death pain and suffering experienced by the deceased
- Punitive damages in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct
For some families, these damages may be essential to cope with their loss financially as well as emotionally. Settlements and jury awards can total hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars depending on the economic and noneconomic damages in a case.
The Complex Legal Landscape After Fatal Truck Crashes
Several factors make truck accident cases more complex than other motor vehicle crash cases. Multiple corporate entities may share liability, like the driver, trucking company, shipping company, manufacturer or cargo loaders. Trucking companies frequently fight back aggressively against claims to avoid increased insurance premiums.
Rules like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations establish minimum standards for commercial trucks and drivers on items like training, maximum driving hours, cargo, maintenance and alcohol/drug testing. However, showing violations of these regulations still requires detailed investigation and evidence.
The trucking company may also argue the victim shared partial fault for the accident. Establishing total liability usually needs extensive evidence like black box data, driver communication logs, truck inspection records, and witness statements. An experienced California truck accident attorney has the resources and knowledge to navigate these legal hurdles.
Coping with the Aftermath of a Serious Truck Accident
Recovering from a serious accident can be extremely difficult both physically and emotionally. Focus first on allowing yourself time to heal without feeling rushed or pressured. Surround yourself with a strong support system of loved ones, friends, medical professionals, and consider joining a support group. Don’t isolate yourself. Expressing your feelings and anxieties can aid the coping process. Be patient with the pace of your recovery, seek counseling if you struggle with trauma or depression, and know that there are resources and people available to help if you feel overwhelmed in handling everything on your own after a major accident. Recognizing it’s okay to ask for assistance is important.
Losing a loved one suddenly in a truck accident tragedy can be completely devastating. In addition to grieving, shock, anger, and sorrow, you may struggle with handling daily responsibilities when overwhelmed with emotions. Be gentle with yourself as you cope and adapt to a world now missing someone cherished. Keep close connections to supportive family and friends who intimately understand your loss. Consider grief counseling or support groups specific to those mourning tragic accidental deaths. Finding compassion and gaining perspective from others on this profoundly difficult journey can aid healing your heartache a small step at a time. You need not walk this lonely road alone.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Legal Action After Losing a Loved One
The grief of losing a close family member unexpectedly only compounds the injustice when a wrongful death occurs in a preventable California truck accident. Reach out to an experienced wrongful death attorney from Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys to fully understand your right to legal action, prove liability and negligence in your case, determine all available damages, and negotiate assertively for maximum compensation through a settlement or jury award. With compassion and expertise guiding your claim, you gain help coping with grief while holding all responsible parties fully financially accountable for their misconduct.