Are Trucking Companies Required to Compensate Families of Fatal Accidents?
Having represented hundreds of families who have lost loved ones, we certainly know that money is not the primary motivation for filing wrongful death lawsuits. But, in America, civil justice is meted out by forcing bad actors to pay their victims. And while most people understand that fatal accidents often ultimately result in compensation, it might surprise you to learn that trucking companies are not required by law to compensate you for your losses. That's because in our legal system, it is the burden of the plaintiff to prove the defendant is liable.
In short, you are not owed anything until you prove, with verified evidence that the truck driver and, by extension, their employer, was at fault for the accident and caused your damages. Despite this fact, many people believe that such compensation is automatic or that the law compels the trucking company to recognize their own fault and do the right thing. In 25 years of practice, we've seen trucking companies move heaven and earth in an attempt to avoid liability, but we've almost never seen them voluntarily take the blame when so much is on the line.
With this in mind, there are a couple issues I'd like to discuss at greater length. While the law doesn't automatically entitle you to fair compensation after a crash, there are some things you can do to give your claim the best possible chance of success.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- Is the trucking company required to compensate me for my loved one's accident?
- What can I do to protect the integrity of my case?
- What should I do if I want to discuss my case with an attorney?
The Best Reason to Pursue a Wrongful Death Case
We are of the opinion that no one should ever feel pressured to file a lawsuit. Some people simply have philosophical or ethical objections to doing so, and such opinions are equally as valid as the opposite view. But in the interests of helping you make an informed decision, we should point out that seeking compensation is not the only reason to sue the trucking company who took your relative's life.
In addition to compensating victims for their losses, compensation in civil cases can often act as a deterrent to future misconduct. In other words, the payment of money is the means to several ends, of which one is discouraging future bad behavior.
And while it's incredibly unlikely that your family will ever suffer at the hands of the same trucking company again, odds are that, unless they're punished effectively through a large payout, the trucking company won't change their ways, and it's just a matter of time before someone else's family goes through the same heartbreak as yours.
A Word About Insurance Companies
Even if there was a trucking company that was built on family values and had an earnest desire to do right by the victims of their drivers' carelessness, it would be of little consequence. At the end of the day, trucking companies are required by law to carry high-value insurance policies, and the law requires insurance carriers to defend their customers. This means that ultimately, insurance companies and their lawyers are the ones who call the shots in litigation, not the trucking company.
It will likely not surprise you to learn, however, that most trucking companies are more than willing to help their insurance carrier fend off your claim. If it's not obvious at this point, understand, in no uncertain terms, that the law does not require the insurance carrier to pay you unless you mount a strong enough case against them to either beat them in court or thoroughly convince them that you're in a position to do so, prompting them to want to settle. As such, there is no reason to speak with the insurance carrier. Their job is to try to find any way they can to undermine your claim, so your best bet is to avoid contact with them altogether.
But you may be wondering, "Do insurance carriers ever offer a settlement before hiring a lawyer or going to trial?" Sure, it can happen, but it strains credulity to think that it would ever be for a reasonable amount. Pretend you're the insurance carrier, and the law requires you to protect your insured. You could easily conclude that offering a little "go away" settlement and closing the matter out will protect your insured from the possibility of a multi-million dollar lawsuit. But you'd also consider that there are a thousand steps along the way to trial wherein the victim or their lawyer could make a mistake, so why in the world would you just assume that they're going to prevail against you, before the case even starts, and pay them a fair settlement on that basis? That would be pretty foolish business decision.
Of course, even in that scenario, you could always justify offering 10 cents on the dollar just to make the problem go away. In fact, prior to our involvement in a case we're currently litigating, in which a truck driver killed a woman in her 20s, the insurance carrier's lawyer told her family that he would offer them about $100,000 in compensation to drop all claims against the company. That is a considerable amount of money, no doubt, but as of our last negotiation, after substantial work building a strong case, the trucking company was offering our client $1.5 million. We rejected that offer, and are still negotiating at the time of this writing. The point is that there is no good reason for an insurance carrier to offer fair compensation until you've built a case against them and have made them scared enough of what a jury may make them pay if push comes to shove.
What Steps Can I Take to Protect the Integrity of my Case?
In order to put your claim in the best possible position, there are a few things you'll want to do:
- Get in touch with an experienced attorney about your claim.
- Take steps to document and preserve evidence from the site of the accident.
- Refrain from posting about the accident on any kind of social media.
- Avoid any communication with the trucking company or their lawyers or insurance carrier.
- Act quickly so that all of the evidence that currently exists can be gathered up by your lawyer before it is lost to time.
Call Grossman Law Offices for More Information
I can't stress enough how important it is to quickly contact a lawyer and get them on your claim. Commercial vehicle accident cases are quite different from car accident cases, and they need to be handled accordingly. An experienced semi-truck accident attorney knows the right sequence of actions that needs to take place in order to maximize your claim's chance of success. We have lawyers available 24/7 at (855) 326-0000 to speak with you about your case.
Related Articles about Truck Accident Law:
- How Accidents Work Where an 18-Wheeler Run a Red Light
- Using Cell Phone Data to Hold Negligent Truck Drivers Accountable
- What You Need to Know about Truck Accident Insurance