An average commercial truck weighs about 20-30 times as much as passenger cars, clocking in at about 80,000+ pounds. Given their size, truck collisions can be incredibly traumatic. If you’re lucky, you might be able to escape with a few scrapes and bruises.
But in some cases, the outcome is far more heartbreaking. A total of 4,714 people died in large truck crashes in 2021- a 17% increase from 2020.
If your loved one perished in a fatal semi-truck accident, it’s important to know you have legal options to seek compensation. We’ll share what they are in this post.
What to Know About Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Like most of us, you probably aren’t in the headspace to think about money right after losing a loved one. What’s more, you might even have insurance to cover the funeral and burial expenses.
However, you shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for a preventable tragedy. It’s best to file a wrongful death action to hold the negligent trucking company/trucker responsible for your loss. While the money won’t bring back your loved one, it can help you move on with your life.
1. Talk to a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Wrongful death claims are highly complex, meaning you shouldn’t tackle them without a lawyer’s support. A reliable semi-truck accident attorney can gather, analyze, and present evidence such as medical records, reports, video footage, and witness testimonies in a neat package. They’ll also take care of all the paperwork so you don’t miss any important dates.
That’s not all. Having a lawyer on your side lets you focus on grieving, honoring your loved one’s memory, and picking up the pieces. With a semi-truck accident attorney tending to your case, you can focus on recovering with your family and friends.
2. Determine if You Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Each state has its own laws determining how wrongful death suits are filed in court. For example, wrongful death claims in Utah need to be filed either by the victim’s survivors or a personal representative.
In this regard, the ‘heirs’ who may file a wrongful death claim include:
- The surviving spouse
- The surviving children
- The surviving parents or adoptive parents
- Other blood relatives, if none of the other persons survive
It’s worth mentioning that if the victim’s personal representative files a wrongful death claim after a fatal semi-truck accident, any damages recovered will go to the surviving family members.
3. Take Note of the Statute of Limitations
Regardless of who files the wrongful death claim after a fatal truck crash, it must be submitted within the statute of limitations. As per Utah law, all wrongful death claims need to be filed within two years of the date the death occurred.
However, we advise against waiting till the deadline is close to due. Instead, try filing your lawsuit as soon as possible. Filing right away means you won’t have to wait too long to receive the benefits you deserve. Furthermore, the evidence you’ll need to support your claim will be easier to compile.
4. Determine What Type of Damages You Will Sue For
Because every wrongful death claim is different, there’s no singular way to decide the type of compensation you can get for your specific case. Certain economic and non-economic damages that can be awarded for a semi-truck accident in Utah are as follows.
Economic damages are relatively easy to quantify. Examples include:
- The lost value of any inheritance the victim was supposed to leave behind
- The lost value of services the victim performed
- The loss of the victim’s income and financial support
- Any additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the decedent’s death
Unlike economic damages, these are harder to put into dollars and cents. But they’re equally significant and compelling in wrongful death claims. Usually, they are:
- The love, affection, and comfort offered by the victim
- Emotional and moral support
- Protection and counsel
There’s no rule to assign a value to these losses. The judge may consider the victim’s death, their survivors, and the quality of relationships they shared before deciding on an amount.
Punitive damages- or damages intended to punish the defendant- are often awarded when the victim’s death was caused by intentional or reckless misconduct.
Again, it’s hard to put a number on the exact damages you can recover. Your semi-truck accident attorney in Utah can create an itemized list and collate a ballpark figure for your claim.
5. Establish Liability
It’s crucial to establish liability to pursue a successful wrongful death claim. In fatal truck crashes, multiple parties can be at fault, including the truck driver, trucking company, vehicle manufacturer, maintenance providers, or even government agencies responsible for road maintenance. Your semi-truck accident attorney will investigate the accident thoroughly and work with experts to assign blame.
6. Follow Your Attorney’s Instructions
Although your Utah truck accident lawyer will handle virtually all lawsuit-related tasks, they might advise you on what to do over the coming weeks as they settle the claim or sue the defendant. Here’s what you can expect to hear.
- Don’t discuss the claim with people outside your family or legal team, especially on social media.
- Let your lawyer handle all communication from the defendant or insurance company. This way, you can avoid making any dual statements.
- Never accept a settlement without talking to your attorney first. Insurers may trick you into accepting lowball payouts that don’t cover your needs.
7. Prepare for a Trial
It’s rare for a personal injury claim to go to court. Usually, the parties and their insurance companies will enter negotiations for a potential settlement. Your Utah truck accident attorney will advocate for your best interests during these discussions, ensuring you receive fair compensation.
In case the settlement discussions fall through, you can take your case to court. Here, they will present evidence, call witnesses, and argue your case before a judge/jury. A skilled semi-truck accident attorney will do everything to secure a favorable outcome on your behalf.
The Bottom Line
Losing a loved one in a fatal truck crash is an unimaginable tragedy that can change your life forever. Under such circumstances, you must understand your rights and legal options to pursue justice for yourself and your family. Hopefully, this post has given you some insight into the basics of a wrongful death claim, so you can navigate the situation with ease.
Filing a wrongful death claim after a fatal semi-truck accident is as emotional as it is challenging. Fortunately, the team at Carlson Injury is here to support you through this ordeal. Oursemi-truck accident attorneys in Utah can help you with the legal complexities of your case. Contact us for a free consultation today.