If You Lose a Loved One in a Catastrophic Truck Accident

If you lose a family member suddenly in a catastrophic truck accident, lawyers and lawsuits may be the last thing on your mind, but you will need to speak – as quickly as possible – with a Jefferson County wrongful death attorney about your family’s rights and your legal options.

Of course, a sum of cash can never reduce or eliminate a family’s suffering after a loved one’s loss, but a favorable settlement or a favorable jury verdict after a beloved family member’s wrongful death may complement the healing process and help to provide closure.

If your loved one’s wrongful death was the result of a traffic accident that involved a large commercial truck, how do you pursue a claim for wrongful death, who may be held liable, and what compensation will your family be eligible to receive?

How Many Truck Accidents Result in Fatalities?

Across the U.S. in 2022, large commercial trucks were involved in more than 160,000 traffic accidents that caused more than 5,000 fatalities. That year in Missouri alone, large trucks were involved in more than 5,000 accidents with 140 deaths and more than 2,200 serious injuries.

A large commercial truck’s weight and momentum may cause catastrophic and life-threatening injuries in an accident. While every traffic crash is potentially fatal, accidents that involve large commercial trucks are the most devastating traffic collisions.

A large truck, fully loaded, can weigh forty or more tons; the average automobile weighs only about 3,000 pounds. If a truck and a car collide at high speed, considerably more damage will be done by the truck and sustained by the auto and its passengers.

Who May Have Liability for a Fatal Truck Accident?

When a large truck is involved in an accident, even if the driver is directly at fault, it may be difficult to determine who is liable for the damages. How is liability assigned after a truck accident that results in a wrongful death?

In a wrongful death case, a trucking company – or another party – may have liability for a truck accident and the subsequent wrongful death. One of your wrongful death lawyer’s first steps will be determining who may be held liable for the crash and for the loss of your loved one.

Under the legal concept of vicarious liability, an employer may be held liable for an employee’s on-the-job negligence, provided that the negligence was not intentional and happened in the “course and scope” of the employee’s job duties.

When Does Vicarious Liability Apply to a Truck Accident?

Vicarious liability can shift the liability for a truck accident to a negligent driver’s employer. Whether the concept applies to any particular truck accident depends on the answers to these questions:

Was the driver an employee of the trucking business or an independent contractor?

Did the negligence, the crash, and the injury occur in the course and scope of the driver’s job duties?

Was the driver’s negligence unintentional or intentional?

A trucking company may be held liable for an employee’s negligence, but employers have no liability for the negligence of an independent contractor. If a driver is an independent contractor, vicarious liability doesn’t apply.

What Steps Can Grieving Families Take?

If a family member dies due to negligence in a truck accident, your Missouri truck accident lawyer will identify every potential source of compensation, hold negligent parties accountable, and advocate for the justice and compensation that your family is entitled to by law.

If a truck’s brakes or tires were defective, if the cargo was improperly loaded, or if the truck’s maintenance was improperly conducted or entirely neglected, multiple defendants may share liability for the accident and the wrongful death.

Wrongful death cases with multiple defendants may be difficult to resolve out-of-court. Your family may reach a settlement with one defendant, for example, while still pursuing a claim against other defendants.

What Can Your Family Receive After a Wrongful Death?

If you lose a spouse, child, or parent accidentally in a truck collision, it will be a difficult time for you, but you must have – as quickly as possible – the advice of a Missouri truck accident lawyer who can explain your family’s legal rights and options.

A wrongful death claim may be filed by a decedent’s immediate family members, the lineal descendants of the decedent’s deceased children, or by the parents of the decedent. The decedent’s family may pursue damages for:

the decedent’s hospitalization and treatment costs prior to the decedent’s death
the decedent’s lost income, earning capacity, and benefits
the decedent’s funeral and burial or cremation expenses
the family’s loss of inheritance and the spouse’s loss of consortium

What Else Should You Know When You Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

The statute of limitations in Missouri gives the families of wrongful death victims three years to take legal action, but do not wait three years. Memories fade and evidence deteriorates (or can get lost) over time.

The sooner you speak to a Jefferson County wrongful death attorney, the more likely it is that your wrongful death claim will prevail. If you’ve lost a family member in a truck accident, your first meeting with a wrongful death attorney is provided with no obligation or cost.

In fact, you won’t owe any fee to a wrongful death attorney unless and until that attorney recovers your family’s compensation with a privately negotiated out-of-court settlement (which is how most wrongful death claims are resolved) or with a favorable trial verdict.

Grafe & Batchelor Will Fight for Your Family’s Rights

With more than thirty years of combined wrongful death and personal injury experience, the attorneys at Grafe & Batchelor will fight aggressively and effectively for your family’s rights if you lose a family member in a truck accident or any other wrongful death scenario.

We work on behalf of families in Jefferson County, the greater St. Louis area, and across the State of Missouri.

If you’ve lost a loved one in this state because another party was negligent, if that happens in the future, or simply to learn more about your family’s rights, promptly schedule a no-cost evaluation of your case by calling Grafe & Batchelor at 636-220-5934.