If you lost someone you love in an accident involving a commercial truck, it may feel like your future has been decided for you. You may feel helpless, without options, and as though you are overwhelmed by the financial burdens and emotional anguish left behind by your loved one’s passing.
While nothing can change the pain of loss, there is a way to make sure the negligent party is held accountable for actions that caused the death of another person. The law in Kentucky works to support victims. It provides the means for the surviving family members of a fatal truck accident to achieve justice, a sense of peace, and the financial stability to move forward while honoring the memory of their loved one.
This is accomplished through a type of civil case called a wrongful death case. To pursue this type of legal action, your family will need to secure many types of evidence that work together to build your claim. Gathering helpful evidence after a fatal truck accident is a complicated undertaking—one that is best achieved under the representation of a skilled attorney.
Important Evidence That Can Help Your Fatal Truck Accident Case
In a fatal truck accident case, the lawyer representing the surviving family members will need to obtain evidence that can:
- Prove the truck driver’s, trucking company’s, or another party’s liability for the accident, and
- Prove the family’s right to recover damages.
Proof of Liability
“Liability” in a civil case means, essentially, “fault.” It means that someone is responsible for causing the accident—and is therefore also financially responsible for the damages suffered by the victim (or their family members) as a result.
After a fatal truck accident, some of the most helpful evidence is that which can prove that the truck driver, trucking company, or another entity is liable for the crash. The plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) in any personal injury case—including one involving wrongful death—must be able to show that the negligent actions of the defendant (the party being sued) are what caused the accident.
In a fatal truck accident case, the truck driver and/or the trucking company are often found to be liable. Driver error and violations of federal trucking regulations are among the most common causes of truck accidents. Examples of the type of negligence that can cause a fatal truck collision are:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver inexperience
- Driver distraction
- Driver intoxication
- Overloaded trucks
- Poorly maintained trucks
- Lack of necessary pre-trip inspections
- Speeding (or driving too fast for conditions)
- Broken traffic laws
- Reckless driving
No matter what type of negligence caused the collision, you must be able to prove it. Evidence that is helpful in proving liability after a fatal truck accident may include:
- Company driver logs
- Electronic logging devices (ELDs) that record driver service hours
- Safety training records
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL) and any endorsements (or lack thereof) held by the driver
- Driver medical records
- The driver’s personnel file and history of past violations or disciplinary actions
- Event data recorder (EDR) information stored in the truck
- Photos of the crash site that can be analyzed by accident reconstruction experts
- Truck inspection and maintenance records
- Driver drug and alcohol test results
- Traffic camera footage
- Dashcam footage
- Driver cell phone records
- Eyewitness testimony
- Post-accident vehicle inspection reports
- The police report made at the accident scene
Proof of Damages
There is a second type of evidence you will need to support your Kentucky wrongful death claim. In addition to proving the other party’s liability, you will also need to prove damages. Damage awards are the legal method for restoring justice to the wronged party.
In a typical wrongful death case, the surviving family may be entitled to recover a monetary award for both economic and non-economic damages. The first category covers financial losses (those that come with bills), and the second category covers non-financial, more subjective losses that often have an emotional component.
Evidence that is helpful in proving the family’s right to recover damages after a fatal truck accident may include:
- Any medical bills incurred prior to death
- Ambulance transportation costs
- Receipts for funeral, burial, and end-of-life service costs
- Paystubs and other evidence of the decedent’s income, benefits, and earning capacity
- Proof showing the deceased’s opportunity for promotion or career advancement
- Evidence that shows the guidance, care, and support provided by the decedent (such as driving children to and from school, housework, cooking, cleaning, tutoring and helping with homework, coaching, landscaping, pet care, garbage removal, and more)
- Hospital records and expert testimony showing the level of pain and suffering experienced by the deceased
- Evidence of the age and health condition of the decedent at the time of their death
- Proof of the impact caused by the loss of the decedent on the survivors’ lives (such as selling a house, changing jobs or schools, mental health counseling bills, and more)
Beyond the compensatory damages listed above, it’s possible that your family may be eligible to recover punitive damages in your wrongful death case. Punitive damages are a separate type of financial award used by the Kentucky court system as a form of punishment. Unlike the damages listed above, it is not a way to make up for a certain economic or non-economic loss suffered by the plaintiff.
The goal of punitive damages in Kentucky is to penalize acts of oppression, fraud, or malicious intent in such a way that the defendant—and others—are strongly deterred from ever engaging in the same behaviors again.
Punitive damages are only applied in a very small percentage of personal injury cases. However, there is a chance that a wrongful death case would qualify for punitive damages, depending on the circumstances. Your attorney can advise whether your situation makes it appropriate to seek punitive damages in Kentucky court.
Why You May Need a Preservation Letter After a Fatal Truck Accident
An accident caused by negligence is bad business for a commercial truck company. It is an even more glaring blemish on a company’s record if an innocent person is killed because one of its drivers was careless or reckless.
In an effort to preserve their reputation and revenue, many truck companies take less-than-legal measures to evade liability. One of the ways a company can do this is by destroying evidence.
Destroying or altering evidence after a truck crash is illegal. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has laws stating that trucking companies must keep many forms of documentation for six months to a year. But many companies are willing to violate these laws to protect themselves.
Your lawyer may need to take swift legal action to prevent a motor carrier company from erasing evidence that could be tremendously helpful after a fatal truck accident.
The preservation of evidence is often attained by using a preservation letter (or spoliation letter). This is a legal document that notifies the trucking company of your intent to pursue legal action. It also specifies the company’s obligation to preserve important evidence related to the case and informs of the legal consequences for violating the terms of the letter.
Using a spoliation letter to preserve helpful evidence is an important part of many fatal truck accidents. It’s essential that you have an experienced lawyer assist with this matter, as even one minor error could render the document invalid.
Get Trusted Legal Guidance From a Plaintiff’s Law Firm in Lexington, KY
Don’t leave the outcome of your loved one’s wrongful death case up to chance. When you are seeking justice for someone whose absence leaves a gaping lack in your life, you need to be able to trust that your legal representative cares deeply about your future on a personal level.
At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we don’t take every case that crosses our desks. We only commit to partnering with individuals and families in whose lives we know we can make a difference. We know many of our clients have been intensely hurt by the actions of others, and we want to use our platform as a Lexington personal injury law firm to change their lives for the better. Through every case we take, we work toward a better, safer future for all of us in Kentucky.
A free consultation is available to your family when you are ready to discuss your legal options. Simply call or fill out our online form to begin a conversation with an attorney from the Law Office of Todd W. Burris.