There is a Thin Line that Separates Sleep and Death: A Fatal Reality in Truck Accidents

On the night of January 27, 2014, an Illinois State Trooper, a bright yellow Tollway assistance vehicle and a heavy-duty tow truck all parked along the rightmost lane of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway to assist a Chicago-bound big rig which had stalled out in the same side of the tollway.

Aside from the flares that were sputtered on the pavement, the red and blue light of the state trooper’s squad car also strobed into the frozen night, while the Tollway truck’s amber hazard lights and large blinking arrow flashed visibly up to about 10 miles.

While everyone was busy assisting the driver of the stalled rig, another flatbed big rig that was loaded with three massive rolls of steel, approached on the same lane where all the said vehicles were parked. The approaching rig’s driver neither saw the flashing bright lights nor the flares as he was falling asleep (this was discovered during the court investigation) while driving at 63 miles per hour. Failing to change lanes, the flatbed rig rammed into all parked vehicles, bursting the patrol car’s gas tank, injuring the driver of the stalled big rig and instantly killing the driver of the Tollway vehicle.

Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that from April to July 2015 alone, 21 individuals died in a string of four big rig accidents, all due to big rigs’ drivers nodding off. These 21 deaths due to drowsiness are significantly small, according to authorities, however, as no blood test or roadside exam exists which would determine drowsiness; many truck drivers, who survive deadly accidents (and many of them do due to the massive size of their vehicle), would also not admit to having fallen asleep prior to the accident. Despite the lack of admittance from so many drivers, authorities remain convinced that most fatal truck accidents are due to truck drivers falling asleep – unless there are other reasons that would explain why many of them completely fail to notice other vehicles ahead or the bright flashing lights.

Thousands of fatal accidents occur due to people’s carelessness or negligence. Though acting or behaving in ways that will not endanger another person is a fundamental responsibility to every driver, millions seem to be oblivious of this legal responsibility once they get behind the wheel. Due to this, and due to choosing to act without regard for the safety of others and causing them harm as a result, the law allows innocent victims (or their families) to seek and receive compensation from liable, negligent truck drivers.

The worst consequence of a negligent act is the untimely or wrongful death of someone else. A tragic truck accident, though, is not the only cause of wrongful death. There are also car accidents; motorcycle accidents; construction accidents; medical malpractice; defective products; slip and fall accidents; and nursing home abuse/negligence.

In a wrongful death claim lawsuit, the family or dependents of the deceased can name the liable truck driver and/or his/her employer as defendants in the lawsuit. This lawsuit is for the benefit of the surviving family members and the decedent’s other dependents; all of them are legally identified as “real parties in interest.” A wrongful death claim is actually a special kind of personal injury lawsuit that is filed for the purpose of seeking compensation for whatever pecuniary or financial damages the dependents may suffer, like loss of the decedent’s financial support, loss of services and companionship, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses.

According to a Georgetown wrongful death lawyer, it is understandable to feel incredible hurt and anger upon learning that the death of someone you loved was senseless and preventable. While legal action will do little to truly address your loss, a wrongful death claim may be used as a tool to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and to address any expenses you’ve accrued as a result. Moreover, successful litigation of these claims can serve as a powerful deterrent and, hopefully, prevent future accidents from occurring.

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