In early December 2013, FOX8Live.com reported that a New Orleans jury had awarded $90.5 million in damages to the surviving family members of three people – two of them young children – killed in LaPlace when a semi truck crashed into their GMC Yukon. Reportedly, the driver of the large commercial truck attributed her actions to fatigue.
According to the article, the survivors filed a lawsuit against the transportation company and its ownership in the Civil District Court in New Orleans, a Louisiana state court. The fatal truck-SUV accident happened in the wee morning hours of Christmas Day 2008, when a car with a flat tire was driving at reduced speed on Interstate 10 toward the next exit. The Yukon was following to assist the car driver, apparently also at reduced speed, when the tractor-trailer collided with the SUV, pushing it into the car, after which the Yukon caught fire.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports the following recent numbers of fatalities from large-truck accidents in Louisiana:
The NHTSA also says that in 2011, roughly three-quarters of those killed in crashes involving large trucks nationally were in other vehicles and about one-tenth were not occupants of either the trucks or the other vehicles involved. These numbers speak to the obvious and potentially deadly vulnerability of the human body to the impact of the immense weight of large commercial trucks in crashes, even when the victims are in other motor vehicles.
Finally, the NHTSA looks at the rate at which large trucks are involved in fatal accidents by state. In Louisiana in 2011, 8.7 percent of all fatal crashes involved large trucks, putting it roughly in the middle of the range of states, with a low of 0 percent for Alaska and a high of 17 percent for North Dakota that year.
When someone dies in a crash with a semi truck, several parties – including the truck driver, truck owner, truck or road maintenance company, road or truck designer and more – may be potentially responsible and legally liable if they acted with negligence, recklessness or worse in causing the death of the victim.
Certain family members may be able to file a survivor action for harm suffered by the victim before he or she died, such as pain and suffering. A survivor action represents recovery of damages that the victim would have been able to sue for had he or she survived.
Additionally, certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit for the damages they themselves suffered from the wrongful death of their loved one. Louisiana law sets out a specific order of surviving relatives who may sue in a survivor action or for wrongful death. If none of the eligible relatives survive the victim, the executor of his or her estate has the right to file.
A Louisiana survivor or wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated and deadlines for filing are relatively short. Be sure to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as early as possible after the truck accident if your loved one died so that you can understand your legal rights, deadlines and potentially responsible parties.
Another important reason to bring legal counsel on board early is to launch an investigation on your behalf of the accident. Important, unique evidence in semi-truck crashes can include the driver’s logs, law enforcement and federal safety investigator reports, truck maintenance records and more.