My Wife was Killed by an 18-Wheeler. What Should I Do Next?
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When your loved one dies suddenly as a result of someone else’s negligence, no amount of money can alleviate your pain. However, it may rid your family of any financial hardship that may have been caused by the death of your loved one.
What To Do After A Deadly Accident
1. Contact A Wrongful Death Lawyer
If your wife was killed by an 18-wheeler, finding the right wrongful death lawyer can save you money, time, and stress. Your attorney should have a proven record for handling complex wrongful death cases and 18-wheeler cases. They should also have the ability and resources to fully investigate, negotiate a settlement, and try your case.
Your lawyer will first review all the information pertaining to the claim. This involves interviewing you about the accident, getting any medical records and bills from the accident, and getting past medical records of the deceased.
After this, if your attorney determines that you have a claim, they will file your claim.
2. Document the Accident
When an 18-wheeler accident occurs, it is important to call 9-1-1 so that a police officer can file and create a report. You should also get the names of everyone involved in the accident. Find out the names of any witnesses and get their contact information. Additionally, find out the insurance company that insures the 18-wheeler and any other vehicles involved in the accident. It may also be helpful for you to take pictures of the scene.
3. Keep Receipts and Invoice
An important part of your case will be calculating damages. It’s helpful to keep receipts and invoices of all expenses that were a result of the accident. This may include receipts and invoices from funeral expenses, medical bills, property repair, and emergency transportation. Keeping these receipts and invoices can help expedite the settlement process and may help you get a larger settlement.
4. Notify Insurance Company
When an accident occurs, it’s important to inform the insurance company of the deceased because it’s possible that they will cover some of the costs incurred as a result of the accident. You should also notify the other side’s insurance company. When your attorney files a claim, the other side’s insurance company will be notified.
5. Build Your Wrongful Death Claim
When your lawyer determines that you have a wrongful death claim, they will review all the information pertaining to your claim. There are 4 factors that the plaintiff must prove to establish wrongful death.
There must have been a duty owed to the deceased. When 18-wheelers are driving on the road, the driver has a duty to operate the vehicle safely. The owner of the 18-wheeler also has a duty to maintain a safe vehicle.
To prove that a wrongful death occurred, the defendant must have failed to comply with the duty in some way. If the driver is the defendant, an example would be that the driver was texting while driving. If the owner of the 18-wheeler is the defendant, an example would be that the owner failed to get the truck inspected as often as the law requires.
The plaintiff must show that by breaching their duty, the defendant caused the accident that resulted in death of the deceased. For example, the driver was texting while driving and that caused him to not see the deceased’s car in front of him slow down. Another example is that the owner of the truck failed to get the 18-wheeler inspected as the law requires and as a consequence did not know that the oil needed to be refilled; consequently, the truck caught fire and hit the car of the deceased.
The plaintiff must show that there were damages. For example, someone died, was injured, or was traumatized from the 18-wheeler accident.
6. Negotiate with Insurance Company
The involved insurance companies and claims adjusters will investigate your claim and evaluate the damage. They may consider how the death occurred, where it occurred, whether it was preventable, and any medical costs incurred as a result of the accident. Once you and your lawyer determine that you want to pursue settlement, your lawyer will make a demand to the other side’s attorney or insurance company. Depending on the nature of the claim, it may take a while for your lawyer to negotiate with the insurance company. Wrongful death cases tend to yield larger settlements, and thus may take longer to negotiate.
Most wrongful death cases are settled before reaching trial. It can take a long time to get a fair settlement because of the insurance company. As a tactic, insurance companies may delay the settlement to get you to settle for less money than you deserve. This is true especially when the claim involves a lot of money.
Waiting can be tiresome and unfair. If you can afford to wait, you should not settle a wrongful death case until you have reached a point where the settlement is as good as it’s going to get.
Once you cannot afford to wait any longer, you may have to settle for significantly less money than what you could get if you waited. If need be, you may be able to settle your wrongful death claim quickly as long as you are willing to accept less money.
Once you settle a claim, you are finished with that claim forever. You will not be able to re-settle or take that claim to court. Before you accept a settlement, it is important to ensure that the offer will cover medical costs and lost wages. You should consult with your attorney to weigh the costs and benefits of settling early. Ultimately, accepting a settlement is your decision.
How to Calculate the Value of Your Claim
There are 3 main kinds of damages that a the family of the deceased may seek to recover from a wrongful death case:
Economic damages are losses that can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents with reasonable precision.
- Medical expenses - This may include emergency room visits, ambulance or helicopter transportation, prescription drug costs, surgery expenses, rehabilitation or therapy expenses, and any other medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
- Financial support- Any financial support that the deceased would have provided the plaintiff during a typical life expectancy. Most often, this is the deceased’s potential earnings and wages. Lost benefits, such as pensions or insurance are also recoverable.
Non-Economic (Intangible) Damages
Non-economic or intangible damages are usually given to compensate for any psychological harm. You may be able to receive compensation for suffering, loss of companionship, loss of love, and loss of care. Calculating and predicting the value that will be given to your intangible damages is difficult. When a loved one dies, it is not uncommon for six- or even seven-figure awards to be given.
Punitive (Exemplary) Damages
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are designed to punish the defendant in cases of serious wrongdoing. For example, if the driver of the 18-wheeler was intoxicated at the time of accident, punitive damages may be awarded.
Will a Lawyer get a Larger Settlement for Me?
There is no hard and fast rule about how much a lawyer may be able to increase your settlement. However, lawyers who are experienced in wrongful death cases may know how to effectively work with and negotiate with insurance companies. Hiring an attorney can also help you by eliminating the stress that you may feel. The law can be a complicated subject and having an attorney who is familiar with your state’s law may be advantageous.
Legal Time Limits
After an 18-wheeler accident occurs, the plaintiff has a limited time to file a lawsuit. This time limit is called the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is typically 2 years, unless the case falls into one of the exceptions. These exceptions include the following:
- The deceased is a minor
- The negligence of defendants was not known during those 2 years
- A mental or physical impairment of the plaintiff prevented them for filing a claim during those 2 years
- Fraudulent activity was involved
Statutes of limitations can vary by state. If your spouse’s accident occurred more than 2 years ago, you should still consult with an attorney to determine whether you can still file a claim.
Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced wrongful death lawyers have helped thousands of people. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you seek the full compensation you deserve.
Our firm believes that the deceased’s loved ones should have access to high-quality legal representation, which is why we operate on a contingency fee basis. That means you will owe nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement for your wrongful death claim.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.