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What Happens When a Truck Driver Has a Fatal Car Accident

What Happens When a Truck Driver Has a Fatal Car Accident

When a fatal accident involves a commercial truck driver, several parties must take immediate action to ensure safety and preserve evidence. Everyone involved should get medical care if hurt. Then, the truck driver and victims should expect a thorough investigation by law enforcement, state or federal agencies, the trucking company, and others.

Legal implications for a careless or reckless truck driver who causes a fatal accident can be severe. The driver and their employer could face criminal charges, a civil lawsuit, penalties from regulatory agencies, and more. The specific details of the accident play a crucial role in what will ultimately happen to the truck driver.

If you lost a loved one in a fatal auto accident caused by a negligent truck driver, reach out to a wrongful death lawyer near you.

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What Happens Immediately Following a Fatal Truck Accident?

A series of events begins after a serious or fatal truck accident. This includes actions on the scene, immediately following the accident, and over the coming days and weeks. In time, thorough investigations, detailed reporting, and case reviews for potential legal implications will occur.

Immediate Actions at the Scene of a Truck Accident

Immediately after a crash, emergency services—usually police, fire, and medical—will secure the scene and ensure everyone with injuries receives the necessary care. This generally includes taking all injured parties to the hospital.

The truck driver will likely need to go to the hospital or a clinic to submit to alcohol and drug testing. This is standard after any collision involving a commercial driver.

Investigation and Reporting After a Deadly Accident

Fatal truck accident

Police officers will secure the area, gather evidence, take witness statements, and create a detailed accident report. They may also take photographs and measurements at the scene. Most police departments handle fatal accident cases more carefully than a typical crash. This could mean a more in-depth report.

The police, the trucking company, and possibly an attorney representing victims will likely inspect the truck. They will look for compliance with safety regulations, maintenance records, and possible mechanical failures. They will check the driver’s logbook or electronic logging device (ELD) for hours-of-service violations.

The trucking company must report the accident to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and possibly other regulatory agencies. Any of these agencies could investigate the collision, as well.

If the police investigation finds evidence of reckless driving, drunk driving, or other criminal behavior, the truck driver could face criminal charges. This could range from DUI to vehicular manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.

The victim’s family could pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver, the trucking company, or both. These lawsuits seek compensation for the emotional, physical, and financial harm suffered because of the fatal crash.

The FMCSA could fine the driver or company or revoke their operating licenses. The company can also suspend or terminate the driver based on the outcome of the investigation. If the truck driver caused the crash, the accident will appear on their commercial driving record, which could affect their future employment opportunities.

What Are the Most Common Ways Commercial Truck Drivers Cause Fatal Crashes?

Driver error or other related factors cause most truck accidents, including those involving at least one fatal injury.

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Truck drivers cause these accidents by: 

  • Running Red Lights
  • Failure to Yield
  • Improper Lane Changes
  • Lane Departures
  • Rollover Accidents
  • Wide Turns
  • Oversteering or Understeering
  • Jackknifing

Other Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Sometimes, something else can go wrong and cause a crash.

This could include:

  • Cargo shift due to improperly secured or overloaded cargo
  • Brake failure due to poor maintenance or faulty parts
  • Tire blowouts due to lacking maintenance or defective tires

Contributing Factors Common in Fatal Truck Accidents

In addition to direct causes of truck accidents, many truck drivers engage in risky behavior that can contribute to a collision.

These behaviors can also increase the risk of liability for a crash, fines or penalties, or losing their jobs.

  • Speeding: When a truck driver significantly exceeds the posted speed limit or drives too fast for the road conditions, the chances of a serious accident increase dramatically.
  • Distracted Driving: Distracted driving could play a role in most traffic collision cases. They can be difficult to prove unless the driver was on their phone, texting, or sending messages. However, in-cab distractions that take the driver’s mind off the road are incredibly common.
  • Drunk or Drugged Driving: All drivers undergo post-accident drug and alcohol testing. If they test positive, they could lose their CDL or face other serious consequences, including criminal charges.
  • Drowsy Driving: Drivers must abide by hours-of-service regulations. When they fail to do so, they could be too tired to operate the vehicle safely. The trucking company and individual driver could face penalties for these violations.

Who Is Liable for a Fatal Truck Accident?

Liability in a fatal truck accident depends primarily on the circumstances of the collision. When a negligent driver causes the crash, you can hold the trucking company vicariously liable.

When Trucking Companies Are Vicariously Liable

Because drivers are acting under the direction of the trucking company, the company is responsible for their actions. Respondeat superior applies in Georgia collision cases when the truck driver performs tasks related to their job, such as transporting goods, making deliveries, or traveling to a designated location.

Under respondeat superior, you can hold trucking companies accountable for the actions of their drivers, so victims and their families generally seek compensation from the company and its insurance, not just an individual driver. This encourages companies to maintain high standards of safety and oversight.

This doctrine applies even when the driver loses their job or their CDL. Sometimes, the trucking company is directly liable. This commonly occurs when they fail to maintain the truck or push a driver to violate hours of service regulations.

How Does the Civil Case Work After a Fatal Truck Accident?

The family of a fatal crash injury victim has the option to pursue compensation and hold the trucking company or another liable party accountable. The process required to do so includes:


The family will need to conduct a thorough investigation, which may include surveying the accident scene, examining the truck’s maintenance records, and analyzing the truck driver’s logs.

They may also need to secure expert witnesses—often doctors and accident reconstruction specialists—to provide professional opinions on the accident's cause and the case's potential value. These steps can be difficult or impossible without help from an experienced wrongful death lawyer.

File a Wrongful Death Claim

At the very least, the family must calculate a fair settlement range for the case and demand compensation from the liable party and its insurance carrier. Sometimes, they may need to prepare and file the necessary legal documents to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.

There are deadlines for filing lawsuits, so they must ensure they file the claim within the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, which is generally two years in Georgia.

Pursue a Fair Settlement

The family’s lawyer will likely negotiate with the trucking company’s insurance provider to seek a fair settlement. This requires evaluating any settlement offers to see if they cover all related expenses and losses before accepting.


If you cannot settle, your lawyer can prepare for trial, gathering all necessary evidence and securing witness testimony. Families must show the driver caused the crash and the trucking company is liable to recover compensation.

What Compensation Is Available for Family Members After a Fatal Truck Crash? 

Surviving family members can recover several types of damages after a fatal truck accident. These damages compensate them for the financial and emotional losses suffered due to the untimely death of their loved one and also hold the responsible parties accountable.

The types of compensation available could include:

Economic Damages

  • Medical Expenses: Any medical treatment of the deceased before death
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: Funeral, burial, or cremation services
  • Loss of Income: Compensation the deceased would have earned if they had lived, including wages, benefits, and potential future earnings
  • Loss of Benefits: Value of benefits the deceased provided to the family, such as health insurance, retirement benefits, and other employment-related perks

Non-Economic Damages

  • Pain and Suffering: Physical pain and emotional suffering experienced by the deceased from the time of the injury until death
  • Loss of Companionship: Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support the deceased provided
  • Loss of Consortium: The loss of marital companionship, sexual relations, and emotional support
  • Loss of Parental Guidance: The loss of guidance, nurturing, and education the deceased would have provided to their children

Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer to Handle Your Family’s Atlanta Truck Accident Wrongful Death Case

Hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer to handle a fatal truck accident case offers numerous benefits. Some key advantages to having a knowledgeable legal team on your family’s side during this stressful process include:

An experienced lawyer understands the applicable wrongful death and truck accident laws, including federal regulations governing the trucking industry.

Dealing With the Insurance Company

Truck accident lawyers are skilled at negotiating with insurance companies, which often have extensive teams of adjusters and lawyers fighting to minimize payouts. A seasoned attorney can effectively counteract these tactics to secure a fair settlement.

Building a Complex Case

An attorney will investigate the truck accident in-depth, going beyond the initial police report to uncover additional factors that might affect the case. They know what evidence is crucial and how to preserve it, including accident reports, witness statements, truck maintenance records, driver logs, and electronic data from the truck’s onboard systems.

Working With Expert Witnesses

Experienced lawyers have a network of experts—accident reconstruction specialists, medical professionals, and economists—who can provide key testimony to strengthen the case.

Maximizing Compensation for the Family

An attorney can accurately assess the claim's value and then pursue all economic and non-economic potential damages.

Case Planning

An experienced lawyer will develop a strategic plan tailored to the case's specific details, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Trial Experience

You need a lawyer with courtroom experience if the case goes to trial. They have the knowledge, skills, and resources to present a solid case to a judge and jury, cross-examining witnesses, and making persuasive arguments.

Emotional Support and Guidance

An experienced wrongful death lawyer can handle all parts of the legal case, allowing the family to focus on healing. Throughout the process, the attorney will provide objective advice, helping families make informed decisions without the influence of emotions that might otherwise cloud their judgment.

No Upfront Costs

Most wrongful death lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if they win the case. This arrangement makes legal representation accessible to all families since they do not have to worry about the burden of upfront legal fees.

Attorneys prepare and file all legal documents on time, which is crucial in adhering to statutory deadlines and avoiding procedural errors that could jeopardize the case.

By hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer, surviving family members can significantly improve their chances of obtaining justice and fair compensation after a fatal truck accident. You do not have to try to manage a case based on your loved one’s truck collision death on your own. Our team can help.

Discuss Your Loved One’s Fatal Truck Accident With Our Team

Our personal injury attorneys at Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group will review your case and discuss your legal rights for free. We help families seek and secure the compensation they need and deserve after a wrongful death. Contact us today to get started: (833) 285-9467.

Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert - Owner & Attorney

Attorney Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert was seriously injured in a collision and experienced firsthand dealing with uncooperative insurance companies. She knows what it is like to feel overwhelmed and under-educated about your rights after a collision. That is why she has dedicated this firm to fighting for accident victims and their loved ones. The goal of The Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group – Gore LLC is to provide you with excellent legal advice, based on our experience in representing injured automobile drivers and passengers from all across the State of Georgia.

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