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How to Prove Wrongful Death in a Truck Accident

Truck accidents often have fatal consequences. According to the National Safety Council, most of these fatalities involve passenger vehicle occupants as opposed to truck drivers.

This means that most truck accidents cause fatalities of people outside the truck as opposed to inside. This can be tragic because, many times, those killed in truck accidents had no role in causing them.

Such a situation may result in a “wrongful death.” A death is considered wrongful when it was preventable and resulted from someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.

In the wake of such a tragedy, it may be beneficial to file a wrongful death claim. Such a claim has several benefits that can help a family move forward. Learn how to file a wrongful death claim after a truck accident and what you must prove in one.

Truck Accidents Often Have Devastating Consequences

The consequences of truck accidents are not just physical, particularly in the event of a wrongful death. The long-term repercussions of a wrongful death in a truck accident can send shockwaves throughout a family forever.

Family members who have lost a loved one can recover noneconomic damages for the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support. They may also be entitled to damages for the loss of the decedent’s training and guidance.

Additionally, a family may face financial challenges if the person who died in a truck accident was the main provider for the family. A wrongful death often carries significant financial costs, including end-of-life and funeral expenses. Once this stage is complete, the financial hardships may continue for a family when they lose a major source of financial support or household help.

How Filing a Wrongful Death Claim May Help You

While taking legal action may seem daunting after a loved one’s death, it’s important to remember that it can help your family significantly in the long-term. Additionally, when you work with an experienced legal team, you may find the process is much easier than you believe.

By filing a wrongful death claim, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages compensate families for financial losses that bills, receipts, and other financial documents can verify. Often, you may also be able to recover compensation for future economic losses, such as lost future income.

Economic damages may include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial expenses
  • Costs of medical care provided to the loved one before death
  • Lost past and future financial support of the loved one
  • Lost gifts or benefits the loved one would have provided
  • The reasonable value of household services that the loved one would have provided

A loved one’s loss cannot be calculated in only financial losses. There are also (often more significant) non-economic losses. As such, the court may award you the following non-economic losses through a wrongful death claim:

  • Loss of love
  • Loss of affection
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations (when appropriate)
  • Loss of training and guidance

Working with a qualified firm will increase your chances of recovering maximum possible compensation.

What to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim

In order to recover the aforementioned damages, you will need to demonstrate several key elements in a wrongful death claim. In general, these elements include:

  • A human being died.
  • The death was the result of another party’s negligence and/or intentional conduct or the result of a defective product.
  • Surviving family members suffered damages stemming from the death and/or a personal representative was appointed to administer the deceased person’s estate.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

It’s important to note you only have a limited amount of time after a loved one’s death to file a wrongful death claim. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” In general, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years in California. There are, however, certain exceptions to this, including:

  • If a healthcare provider was negligent, the statute of limitations is three years from the date the patient was injured.
  • If a lawsuit is based on tort liability of a government entity, the statute of limitations for filing a claim against the government is six months.

There are other restrictions on filing a wrongful death claim, including who can file on behalf of the decedent. California’s wrongful death statute permits the following surviving relatives to bring a wrongful death action:

  • A spouse or domestic partner
  • Children
  • Other heirs, such as parents or siblings
  • The personal representative of the person’s estate

Additional people may file if they depended financially on the deceased person, including:

  • A putative spouse or a putative spouse’s children (Someone who believed they were married to the deceased person, even though the marriage was not valid.)
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents

Gathering Evidence After a Truck Accident

Trucking companies can be protected by experienced defense teams and near-limitless resources. However, with the right team on your side, you have a fighting chance at recovering the compensation you deserve.

By hiring a qualified attorney, you will take the first step to strengthen your case. One of the first things your attorney can do is conduct an inspection of the accident scene and of the vehicles involved, assuming they are still in their post-accident condition and haven’t been destroyed or tampered with. This is why it’s vital you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

There are several key pieces of evidence in a truck accident that can prove liability for the death of your loved, including the following:

  • Electronic control modules (ECMs): ECMs are known as the truck’s “black boxes,” similar to those found on airplanes. These devices record data about the truck before the crash occurred, such as the speed the truck was traveling and how hard and when the brakes were applied. The EMCs may be used to prove that a truck driver was traveling too fast for conditions, did not apply brakes when needed, or performed some risky move that led to the accident. There may also be an ECM in the vehicle your loved one was driving/riding in that may have relevant information.
  • Truck cameras: Some trucks are now equipped with cameras inside the driver’s cabin and outside the vehicle. The footage from these cameras may provide insight as to whether the trucker was distracted right before the crash, was fatigued or asleep when the crash occurred, or whether there was a defect or some mechanical failure in the vehicle that caused the incident.
  • Electronic logging devices: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that truckers take breaks in between long periods of driving. This is known as the “hours-of-service” regulation. The electronic logging devices installed on trucks can provide information as to whether the trucker stopped to take a break when they were required to. They may also prove that a trucker violated the hours-of-service regulation and that this violation contributed to the crash.
  • Witness statements: Sometimes, the most valuable information can come from witness statements. If more than one witness observed the same thing about a truck accident, their information may be strong enough to provide supporting evidence that the truck driver (or a malfunction with the truck) contributed to the crash.

Need Help Filing a Wrongful Death Claim? Contact Us Today

A wrongful death can be difficult for a family to move past. However, with the right legal team on your side, you may be able to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions and recover compensation to help your family move forward. At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we have extensive experience in cases like these, and we can help your family obtain justice and find peace.

Call Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP at (866) 634-4525 to schedule a free consultation.

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