Truck accidents can obviously have horrible consequences. When truck drivers and trucking companies ignore federal safety regulations, the result can be tragic fatalities. Because of the incredible size difference between commercial trucks and passenger cars, when a collision occurs the car could very well be destroyed. When the damage is this extensive, an accident is often not survivable.
The truck accident attorneys with Penn Kestner & McEwen would like to offer our deepest condolences if you’ve lost a loved one in this type of tragedy. We know the emotions you are experiencing, and we are truly sorry you’re having to go through this. Our legal team will be here if you want to make sure that the parties whose negligence caused your loss face accountability.
What is Wrongful Death?
Whenever someone’s death is caused by another person or entity, that is known as a wrongful death in legal terms. Until the last century, however, those impacted most by a person’s wrongful death could not take legal action against the responsible parties. Thankfully, that has changed – residents of all 50 states can now file wrongful death lawsuits.
In order to be able to file this type of lawsuit, the plaintiff (the person filing) has to be a representative of the decedent’s survivors. In most cases, the plaintiff will be the person who has been designated as the executor of the decedent’s estate. This could be a spouse or child of the decease. Or it could be their parent, dependent family member, or another representative.
What Causes Wrongful Death After a Truck Accident?
More than 4,000 people across the United States died in trucking accidents in 2020. This is a staggeringly high number, considering the fact that most of the country was shut down for a large portion of that year due to the pandemic. As you might expect, most of those fatalities (68%) were occupants of passenger vehicles. Another 16% were either on a motorcycle, bicycle, or walking at the time of the accident.
Drivers of cars, and their passengers, are incredibly vulnerable when an 80,000-pound machine strikes their vehicle. That’s what the average commercial truck weighs. This is anywhere from 20-30 times the weight of the typical passenger vehicle.
Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents
What makes these deaths even more tragic is the fact that the vast majority of them could have been prevented. While there are a lot of different reasons truck accidents occur, most of them can be attributed to some form of negligence – committed by either the truck driver, the trucking company, or both.
Here are a few of the more common causes of truck accidents.
Truck driver fatigue
Big rig operators are under immense pressure to meet deadlines. This often means they will drive incredibly long distances without taking federally mandated breaks. Of course, when a driver is fatigued, they can’t react quickly enough to sudden changes. They might be so tired they simply fall asleep and run off a highway.
Since they’re under so much pressure, truckers will sometimes resort to reckless, dangerous behavior. Examples include making risky lane changes, ignoring blind spots, failing to use a turn signal – and, of course, speeding.
Failure to perform maintenance
Truck drivers, as well as the companies that employ them, have a responsibility to make sure a big rig is in proper working order before it ever leaves a loading dock – or anywhere else. When they’re not, problems such as brake failures or tire blowouts can occur, resulting in a potentially fatal accident.
A truck driver can become distracted just like anyone else who operates any other type of vehicle. They’re not immune to using their smartphone while they’re behind the wheel to send a text, or to have a conversation with someone. Truck drivers’ minds can wander after being on the road for hours and hours at a time. They can lose their focus while doing something as simple as changing a radio station. When they take their eyes off of the road for just an instant, the consequences can be disastrous.
Alcohol and drug use
It almost boggles the mind that someone responsible for such a huge behemoth as a big rig could drive while impaired. But unfortunately it happens far more often than you may think. A lot of drivers will take stimulants in order to stay behind the wheel as long as they possibly can, only to lose control when the effects of the drugs wear off. They may even have a few alcoholic drinks and then drive.
Who is Liable for My Loved One’s Death?
There are actually several parties that could be held liable for the tragedy your family has suffered. Most people assume that the driver of the truck is the one to blame when an accident occurs – and with good reason. But there could be others who are just as responsible. These are just a few examples.
- A trucking company could have imposed unreasonable deadlines on a driver, forcing them to drive far beyond their limitations. Or, the company could have violated federal regulations by failing to make sure the truck was properly maintained.
- The company that loaded the cargo may also face liability. Oftentimes, trucking companies will outsource this task to other businesses. If employees loaded the truck in a negligent fashion, and this led to a load shift that caused the driver to lose control, the cargo company could also be sued.
- There is also a chance that a defective piece of equipment contributed to an accident. It could have been a faulty tire that blew out, a steering column that failed, or a brake line that malfunctioned. The manufacturer of that equipment could also face liability.
What to do After a Loved One Passes Away Because of a Semi Truck Accident
Please don’t let the loss of your loved one go unpunished. Those responsible for that tragedy must face responsibility for their negligence. The truck accident attorneys with Penn Kestner & McEwen are ready to provide the legal representation that will help you do just that. Contact us online or call (800) 732-3070 to schedule a free case review.