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Family Legal Rights: Suing for Wrongful Death After a Trucking Accident

An elderly woman with short white hair is sitting on a couch, covering her face with her hands in a gesture of grief and sadness while being consoled by another elderly woman.

If someone is killed either accidentally or intentionally in the state of Georgia, their survivors may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death.

Commercial trucks are massive and have the potential to cause catastrophic damages to property and life. Too often, these drivers act in negligence and recklessness, and other people pay the ultimate price.

Wrongful deaths from trucking accidents are devastating. If you lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your financial and emotional losses. Let an experienced wrongful death attorney remove the burden of legal proceedings while you spend time with your family.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Georgia recognizes the death of one person caused by the “negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another person or entity” to be a wrongful death.

Maybe the truck driver failed to take proper caution when operating the vehicle, maybe they were driving at excessive speeds or while sleeping. Maybe the act was deliberate, and they meant to cause harm. These are all hypothetical instances of wrongful death.

Who Can File a Claim? What Are the Legal Rights of the Surviving Family?

Action must be brought on by the decedent’s surviving spouse, if they have one. If they do not, the right belongs to their surviving children. If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, the right is passed to their surviving parent(s).

Damages are not compensation for the decedent’s survivors, but rather as compensation from the decedent’s own perspective.

The representative for the decedent may file a claim for full value of life. This includes compensation for economic and intangible losses brought on by the wrongful death.

Economic Damages

The economic damages brought on by the loss is determined by the decedent’s estimated lifetime earnings. If eligible, this may also include fringe benefits. Fringe benefits would include compensation for the absence of social security benefits, veterans’ benefits, retirement plan, or any other source of income that ceased upon their death.

Intangible/Emotional Distress

Intangible elements account for companionship, counsel, and support the decedent provided their survivors.

Intangible elements are awarded according to the empathy of the jury and the testimonies provided by lay witnesses. Lay witnesses can be friends, family, neighbors, and others who had a personal relationship with the decedent. The lay witness will attest to the community and social involvement of the decedent, and emphasize their loss. What stood out about the decedent? What were their best qualities? What “special something” did they offer? How is the community impacted by this loss? The answers to these questions allow the jury to understand the deep emotional impact of the tragedy.

Estate Claims

When filing a claim for the full value of life, a claim may also be filed for the decedent’s estate. Estate claims cover the costs brought on by the decedent’s death. These may include hospital bills, funeral and burial costs, and the decedent’s pain and suffering immediately before they passed. 

Gathering Evidence for a Wrongful Death Claim

A thorough initial investigation is key to a successful wrongful death case. It is a very complex process, as there are many elements to consider. This is why it is important to hire an experienced wrongful death attorney, and to do so quickly. As time goes on, witnesses may forget key details, skid marks may fade, and photos may vanish. The initial investigation begins the minute you call our office.

When your case is accepted, the investigation takes off. Your attorney should gather crucial evidence, such as:

Police Reports/911 Tapes

The police report and 911 tapes of the incident provide key information on the accident. They can supply witness claims, photos of the accident, information on the people and vehicles involved, security camera footage, admission/denial of the defendant driver, and information on the law enforcement officers that responded to the call.

Spoliation Letter

A spoliation letter will be sent promptly to the defendant and their company. The letter essentially directs them to not destroy or “misplace” any evidence that could impact the case. The letter also asserts that, if this were to happen, legal action will be pursued.

Insurance Policies

The defendant driver’s insurance company will receive a request for their liability insurance coverage. This provides us all the policies covering the defendant, as well as the policy limits.

Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses are key to gathering information about the incident. These witnesses are people with expert knowledge in the relevant field that can provide a professional perspective and help the jury, and the attorney, understand the case.

In a trucking accident, someone with expertise in the trucking field can assess the case and determine any wrong-doing by the defendant or mechanical issues.

Medical Records

It is important to obtain copies of medical bills for the determination of compensation, but it is also important to look at the decedent’s medical records immediately preceding their death. These records can help determine if the decedent experienced any pain and suffering, what measures were taken to try to save their life, and the extent of their injuries.

Theories of Liability

Evaluating liability helps to build a claim against the defendant. Below is a brief list of the many theories investigated in a wrongful death trucking accident claim.

  • Negligent hiring/training/maintenance
    • Was the driver qualified to operate the vehicle? Were they trained properly? Was the truck in proper working order? Did it meet the safety standards?
  • Distracted/reckless driving
    • Were they texting and driving? Were they speeding? Were they swerving in and out of lanes? Were they tailgating?
  • DUI
  • Failure to monitor the driver
    • Were there proper logs kept of the driver’s hours? Could they have been sleep deprived?

Investigating theories of liability and all other elements of a case is a complicated and pervasive process. It is absolutely vital to hire an experienced attorney to handle your case. Your attorney will handle the legal proceedings and earn you the compensation you deserve while you focus on healing the best you can.

Contact Gary Martin Hays and Associates today for a free consultation.

Hiring a Lawyer

Finding the right wrongful death lawyer can be a taxing and stressful process. Many factors go into selecting the best lawyer for your case.

A few things to note about a great lawyer:

  • They should specialize in wrongful death and have considerable experience in the field. Anyone can say they specialize in a certain area, but they should also have success stories to back it up. An inexperienced lawyer can cost you your entire case. In grievous matters such as these, it is important to place your case in the hands of someone you can trust.
  • For wrongful death cases, they should work for a fairly big firm. Larger firms are equipped with more resources to help you and your legal team succeed. You also won’t have as hard of a time contacting a representative for your case, as larger firms employ more people. This will allow you to remain informed on the status of your case and hopefully alleviate some anxiety.
  • Bouncing off that, your attorney or their representatives should be accessible to you. They should respond to your emails, answer your calls and questions, and keep you updated throughout the legal proceedings. A lawyer who truly cares about your case will be open to communicating with you. If your attorney listens to your concerns, answers your questions, and sympathizes with your situation, you can trust them to advocate for you.

Reasons to Hire Us

The Atlanta wrongful death attorneys at Gary Martin Hays & Associates are experienced and dedicated. They will fight for justice and to get you the compensation you deserve during this incredibly difficult time.

Our team of wrongful death specialists know how to get started on your case and file the correct paperwork and requests quickly. We will contact and hire experts to investigate the collision and follow-up to ask them to write a report and testify if needed.

In tractor-trailer claims, we will often hire someone with experience in the trucking industry to see if the truck driver and/or the trucking company complied with federal and state regulations and minimum safety standards.

Lead attorneys Gary Martin Hays and Sarah Jett even wrote the book, The Authority on Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia, to help grieving families understand their rights. The book is free and available for download. You can also request a copy when you visit our office.

Remember, you only have one shot at justice to recover all the cash and benefits to which you and your loved ones are entitled. Take advantage of our free consultation. This will allow you the opportunity to talk to a wrongful death lawyer about your potential claim without any obligation whatsoever.

If you suffered an injury due to a truck accident, contact our Georgia personal injury law firm today at (770) 934-8000. Consultations are free and confidential.

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