John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. Today I’m here with Russell Guest and Richard Allen of Guest and Brady, a personal injury law firm in Greenville, South Carolina. Today, we are talking about what you need to know about semi truck accident fatalities. Russell and Richard, welcome.
Russell Guest: John, this is Russell. Glad to be here today.
Richard Allen: Good afternoon John, this is Richard, thanks for having us.
How Often Do Semi Truck Accident Fatalities Occur?
John: Sure. How often do semi‑truck accidents actually result in a fatality?
Russell: John, this is Russell and these statistics are available from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is a federal agency that collects this data and presents it. It is from the year 2013. From 2009 to 2013, there was a 17% increase in fatalities on the roadway due to trucks.
That could be for a number of reasons. It could be that the economy is doing better and there are just more people out on the roadway, more trucks carrying more goods. That’s going to naturally occur if we’re not able to do something to either regulate or put additional safety equipment onto the trucks.
At least one in eight of all fatalities on the roadway in 2013 were caused by a tractor‑trailer truck’s negligence. Which is significant, because they don’t account as to that percentage of trucks on the roadway compared to cars. They disproportionately cause more injury or fatalities than do cars.
Semi Truck Accident Fatality Expenses
John: What kind of expenses will a family see after a loved one is killed in a truck accident?
Russell: I am going to tell you the story about one that we’re finishing up right now, where a family was traveling down the roadway in their Honda Odyssey van. It’s really sort of an idyllic story where this family, much like many others on the roadways, were driving down the road on I‑85 in South Carolina.
They were traveling to go and visit with their sister, who was having a surprise birthday party in Atlanta.
They were traveling down, doing the normal family thing. Some debris in the road caused them to collide with it and their vehicle to become stalled. It’s a mother and a father and two little girls in the middle row, buckled up in child safety seats as they were only three and five.
As they were stalled there in the roadway, a tractor‑trailer comes along side behind them and fails to notice that they were stalled in the roadway. Although, we believe there was significant time for him to be able to make that detection. He just did not do so. We believe [it was] because he was distracted.
There is technology on these trucks which you can gather to help show that he just was distracted because, in this instance, he didn’t even put on the brakes until he had already collided with the vehicle. There was clear opportunity to see it. There’s nothing in his vision that would’ve stopped him from being able to see this particular vehicle.
He went through this vehicle at about 70 miles an hour. He sent the Odyssey van hurtling down the roadway, spinning, and eventually hitting a concrete median in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, both the parents died in this accident. Fortunately, the two young girls survived.
They are now young and without parents because of this trucking accident. What happened there is that this very family that they were going to celebrate that surprise birthday with, ultimately adopted or took custody of those two little girls. This was an accident that was some years ago [because it] requires many years to litigate these things.
We’re just now resolving [the case], but they have maintained custody and are providing for those two little girls during that time. I’ve talking to this family for several years now.
The expenses that they incur are the things that you might normally think of in raising children. They had one child, now they have three, which they are lovingly willing to do this and take care of the children, but from a reality standpoint, now they have significantly more expenses.
They don’t have the income of the mother or the father of the children. They have to rely on their own income. They are getting it multiple ways. We were able to settle this case at a couple of different time frames, doing various coverages that were available at different times.
We were able to help them to cover the increase in housing costs. They had moved to a house that was larger, they had to get a larger vehicle. They had to incur additional insurance costs. They have additional schooling cost, clothing costs. There are housing and clothing allowances.
There are a number expenses that they are now incurring, that they would not have incurred [if not] for the loss of these two parents.
In a death case, you got to open up an estate. We have a family that has significant assets where they have property, then there’s expenses that you might incur with estate cost. The transferring of certain titles or deeds out of the estate to the proper people who were to be the heirs of that estate. These are additional expenses that are incurred whenever there’s a fatality.
Like we said earlier, it is true that fatalities can happen with just a regular automobile accident, but they happen disproportionately more frequently with whenever a tractor‑trailer is involved.
How Can a Family Get Closure After a Semi Truck Accident?
John: Richard, what recourse does the family have to get compensated for some of these expenses that Russell was talking about?
Richard: John, I think it’s important to be proactive in protecting yourself by purchasing the appropriate insurance. As Russell was discussing, you are dealing with fatality and these parents were sole source of income.
For instance, let’s say, you have the loss of a primary breadwinner, it would important to maybe have short‑term disability or long‑term disability policies. These are the types of coverages that you can have through your employer. A lot of employers make these available. Or you can purchase them privately through company like GEICO or Aflac.
These types of coverages would kick in during any time and not necessarily in a fatality but when you have some time off work. They would help you bridge that gap for the time that you’re out of work and have this lost income.
There is also called a “PIP coverage” or Personal Insurance Protection, and that’s also a type of coverage that you can purchase that would provide some relief during any periods out of work.
Medical payments coverage, that’s another type of coverage that allows payment for medical bills. It’s a common misconception that the at fault driver’s liability insurance is going to pay your medical bills as you incur them, which is simply not the case. We see clients all the time that need treatment, but are having to pay it out of pocket.
That’s another type of coverage and obviously you need to have health insurance, but even with health insurance, lots of times clients are faced with having to pay out‑of‑pocket copayments, simply because not being covered by the health insurance 100%.
I feel like this is becoming one of our mantras. I am fine with that because it’s so critically important and that is the under insurance coverage. It’s so important to have that coverage.
Uninsured coverage, that’s when the other driver is not carrying liability insurance. It’s important and that’s a mandatory coverage in South Carolina. But you also have the ability to purchase excess uninsured motorist coverage. That’s another important coverage to have.
If you’re dealing with a fatality or the very likely serious injuries that can result in a tractor‑trailer accident, it’s just very important to make sure you have these various types coverages in place.
John: What about the situation where a family just doesn’t have that life insurance or automobile insurance coverage that will cover all of these types of expenses where somebody is killed in a truck accident? Are there other ways to get compensated for their expenses?
Richard: I think it’s important to make sure you have an experienced tractor‑trailer accident attorney involved. There are various types of liability coverages or just insurance coverages in place on the part of the tractor‑trailer driver.
The actual employer that that tractor‑trailer driver works for, it could be of the leased vehicle. There could be a different owner of the actual tractor. There are various types of coverages that may apply, for instance, when the tractor‑trailer is driving without pulling a trailer.
That’s another important reason to make sure that you’re identifying all the various players and all the various types of coverages that may be in play when dealing with the tractor‑trailer accident.
John: OK, that’s really great information. Russell and Richard, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Russell: Thank you, John.
Richard: Thanks John.
John: For more information about Guest and Brady, visit their website at guestbrady.com or call 800‑903‑8101 or 864‑233‑7200