Crashes involving commercial trucks have extremely high fatality rates for the occupants of passenger vehicles. SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and sedans simply don't provide much protection from the force involved in this type of accident. However, the surviving family members of the deceased may be entitled to compensation.
About Wrongful Death Claims Resulting From A Truck Accident
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit initiated after a fatal accident. Under Louisiana law, the following family members can file a wrongful death claim:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Surviving parents, when there is no surviving spouse or child
- Surviving siblings, when there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent
- Surviving grandparents, when there is no surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling
- The estate of the deceased person, if there are no other surviving family members
The statute of limitations requires that all Louisiana wrongful death claims be filed within one year of the deceased person's death. If you do not file within this timeframe, the defendant will be able to have the motion dismissed as time-barred.
Building Your Wrongful Death Case Against The Trucking Company
A successful wrongful death claim must prove that the trucking company and/or driver was negligent and is liable for the death of your loved one. Some of the different types of evidence you may need include:
- Crash reports
- Dashcam footage
- 911 recordings
- Witness testimony
- Black box data
- Post-accident drug and alcohol test results
- Notes from driver's log book
- Vehicle inspection reports
- Vehicle maintenance reports
- Citations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation results
- Independent accident reconstruction analysis
Evidence becomes more difficult to locate as time passes, which is why it's always recommended to begin the process of filing your claim as soon as possible.
Types of Available Compensation
A wrongful death claim includes two types of compensation: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those with a value that can be readily verified. These include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical care up to the time of death
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages are those which compensate for the intangible losses associated with a wrongful death. These include:
- Pain and suffering of the deceased person in his final moments
- The family's loss of the care, companionship, and support provided by the deceased person
The biggest difference between wrongful death claims involving commercial motor vehicles and those involving private passenger cars or trucks is that insurance typically supports a higher settlement. Current FMCSA regulations require all commercial trucking companies to have a commercial insurance policy of at least $750,000. However, most motor carriers have a minimum of $1 million of coverage.
Overlap With Criminal Cases
In some circumstances, a wrongful death claim may be based on facts that also constitute the basis of a criminal charge. For example, if your loved one was killed by a commercial truck driver who was under the influence at the time of the accident, the at-fault party would also be facing a DUI charge.
The evidence used in a criminal case can support your wrongful death claim. However, the penalties in a criminal charge are entirely separate from the damages awarded in a wrongful death claim. A criminal charge can result in penalties such as fines, jail time, or the suspension of driving privileges. A wrongful death claim is only focused on awarding monetary damages to the surviving family members.
Protecting Your Right to Compensation
Wrongful death claims can involve complex legal issues, and insurance companies are typically in no hurry to settle a claim after a commercial trucking accident. To protect your right to compensation, it's recommended that you retain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The dedicated attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are committed to assisting Louisiana residents who've suffered the loss of a loved one in receiving the compensation they are entitled to under the law. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation at one of our six convenient office locations throughout the state.