Tractor-trailers, also known as 18-wheelers or big rigs, are some of the most economically vital parts of the U.S. economy, delivering billions of dollars in cargo across the country every year. Many communities in Orange County and throughout California rely on commercial trucking for the shipping services they need every day. However, while commercial trucking is a critical component of the U.S. economy, it is also a risk to drivers on U.S. roads.
Large commercial trucks are much heavier than standard passenger vehicles, lack the maneuverability of smaller vehicles, and generally require much more time and room to slow down and stop when traffic patterns change. It is difficult to say what was the deadliest truck accident in Orange County. The area has witnessed many deadly truck accidents in the past. Due to the size of most commercial tractor-trailers, accidents involving these large vehicles typically also involve several other smaller vehicles, resulting in tremendous damages.
How Do Truck Accidents Happen?
Tractor-trailers are vulnerable to accidents for many reasons. These large vehicles have more complex internal mechanics and spend much more time on the road than standard passenger vehicles, leaving them vulnerable to wear-and-tear and equipment breakdowns. All commercial trucks require consistent maintenance, and it’s crucial for truck owners and maintenance personnel to identify and address any mechanical issues as soon as possible.
Mechanical failure is just one possible way for a tractor-trailer accident to happen. If the party responsible for truck maintenance fails to address a foreseeable equipment issue or does not perform appropriate service on a commercial truck and this causes an accident, that party may absorb liability for the resulting damages. It’s also possible for a truck manufacturer or parts manufacturer to face a product liability claim if a defective truck or truck part is found to be the cause of a truck accident.
Truck drivers may also incur liability for trucking accidents as well. If drivers are negligent, drive at excessive speeds, or operate their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol they could easily absorb liability for a truck accident. However, the legal concept of vicarious liability can come into play in these situations. This legal statute upholds that an employer may be vicariously liable for damages their employee causes under certain conditions. For example, if a truck driver causes a DUI accident and their employer failed to conduct a background check that would have shown the driver was a DUI risk, the employer will likely face liability.
Many commercial trucks are also responsible for carrying special cargo, such as lumber, building materials, and even smaller vehicles. When cargo isn’t properly secured, it can become unbalanced or dislodged in transit. This can either directly cause an accident or make it impossible for the driver to control the truck safely.
Ultimately, truck accidents can happen for many reasons, and these incidents often result in devastating losses for those involved. Both truck drivers and the other drivers involved in these accidents can sustain life-threatening injuries and substantial economic damages. Additionally, due to the very large size of most commercial trucks, severe truck accidents often cause fatalities.
What Happens When a Driver Dies in a Truck Accident?
If a driver is injured in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence, the victim has the right to pursue compensation through the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy and a personal injury claim if insurance won’t fully cover their losses. However, if a truck accident causes a death, the victim’s family must take a different route to recovery.
A wrongful death claim can effectively replace a personal injury claim when a victim does not survive their injury. If your loved one died in a truck accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you and your family can file a wrongful death claim to hold them accountable. Depending on how they caused the accident, they may face criminal charges as well.
California upholds various wrongful death statutes you must understand if you and your family intend to pursue a wrongful death claim. First, California follows the law of intestate succession to determine who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Typically, the surviving spouse is first in line, followed by surviving children or parents. Siblings and extended family may also pursue wrongful death actions, and if the deceased had no living family, then anyone who can prove financial dependence on the deceased may file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.
Wrongful death claims seek to compensate the surviving family’s loss. They can claim compensation for reasonable funeral and burial expenses as well as their pain and suffering resulting from the unexpected death of their loved one. As far as damages to the deceased’s estate, such as their final medical expenses and lost income between the accident and their death, the family can file a separate survival action to seek compensation for estate damages. Money cannot replace a lost loved one, but it can help your family manage the economic fallout a death in the family is likely to cause.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Experiencing the sudden death of a loved one is never easy, but the difficulty of this experience can escalate dramatically when you know the death resulted from another party’s negligence or recklessness. Attempting to handle a wrongful death claim on your own is extremely difficult, especially when you and your family are struggling with the financial aftermath of the death. Hiring an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney will not only allow you and your loved ones to mourn in peace knowing your case is in capable hands, but it will also increase the chances of maximizing your recovery.
Chris and Frank are Orange County attorneys with years of experience representing clients in truck accident claims, both personal injury cases and wrongful death cases following fatal truck accidents. We understand how devastating it is to lose a loved one because of another party’s negligence, and we want to help you approach your wrongful death claim with peace of mind and understanding. If you are ready to take legal action for a recent wrongful death from a truck accident in Orange County, contact us today and schedule your consultation with our team to learn more about your legal options.