Motor vehicle accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are among the leading causes of fatalities and related wrongful death suits. A wrongful death is defined as:
“The taking of the life of an individual resulting from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons.”
If a death occurs from a trucking accident, the surviving family members of those killed by a crash often pursue wrongful death lawsuits against the driver and/or insurance company citing some form of negligence.
Trucking Accident Fatalities and Negligence
In a traffic accident involving a large commercial truck and another vehicle, investigating officials may look closely at the conditions at the accident scene as well as the collision dynamics to determine an exact cause. At times, different types of negligent actions, either on the part of the driver or the motor carrier responsible for the trucking equipment, may have led to the events that caused a fatal crash.
- Driver Fatigue / Drowsy Driving: Can result from long shifts, company’s unlawful demands pushing drivers on tight deadlines, or violations of HOS (hours of service) provisions which mandate safe work/rest cycles for drivers. A driver and/or motor carrier can be liable in nearly any case where a fatality results from a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
- Drunk / Impaired Driving: For truckers, having a BAC over 0.04 or driving after taking medication with sedative qualities is prohibited. Any alcohol-related crash is likely to put immediate liability on the driver. DOT provisions strictly prohibit operation under influence of alcohol whatsoever.
- Inexperienced or Improperly Trained Operators: Local/small companies might substitute inexperienced or unlicensed operators to meet demand and cut costs. An inexperienced operator who rolls a semi-truck due to a lack of training may produce serious liability if a traffic fatality results. Exceeding posted speed limits to shorten delivery times and exceeding safe operational speeds in poor weather (ice, snow, or fog) may also be considered negligent driving.
- Non-compliant / Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance & Inspection: Cutting corners on equipment inspections, performing shoddy “in-house” repairs and failing bring equipment to OEM spec, improperly testing safety equipment or air-brake systems. Tire failures (blowouts) from overuse of recycled (re-tread) tires. A driver may be told by his employer that his truck is up to code, but inadequate repairs may lead catastrophic component failures on the highway.
- Improperly Secured Loads: Failing to distribute loads (evenly), using unsafe or inadequate anchor points, aged/worn/frayed ratcheting connectors and straps can lead to rollovers or lost cargo which can crush nearby passenger vehicles.
- Inclement Weather / Poor Road Conditions: Driving in slushy and snowy conditions, heavy precipitation, dense fog, or black ice. NOTE: In certain cases, poorly maintained roads may cause a fatal trucking accident. Depending on the circumstances, local government may be found liable in a wrongful death suit for failing to maintain safe roadway conditions. This may also apply if there is a lack of signage, such as signs warning of sharp curves ahead.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If a fatality occurs from a collision with a CMV, it is crucial that all of the details be thoroughly investigated. While some cases are unfortunate accidents, many others occur due to motor operator negligence that could have been prevented.
Family members of those wrongfully killed in a trucking accident deserve to have an experience law firm working on their behalf. Anyone who has lost a loved one due to a fatal accident with a truck or other CMV may want to consider discussing their potential wrongful death case with an experienced personal injury attorney.