Commercial vehicle wrecks are some of the most destructive accidents on the road. Because of the size, weight, and configuration of large trucks like 18-wheelers, the consequences of a collision are usually catastrophic and often fatal.
Particularly dangerous are rollover accidents. When a big rig driver loses control of the vehicle and tips over, passenger vehicle occupants caught in the devastation rarely survive.
Family members searching for answers after a commercial trucking accident have legal means to seek justice for the wrongful death of a loved one. A skilled attorney can help families determine who’s at fault after a fatal rollover accident and then work to hold the liable party accountable.
If you have questions about a truck accident case in which you or a loved one were involved, contact DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.
What Causes Rollover Accidents?
A rollover accident occurs when a tractor-trailer loses balance and rolls over onto one side. Driver error is a common cause of rollovers. If a trucker takes a turn too fast, brakes improperly, mishandles slippery surfaces, fails to safely navigate dangerous weather, or loses control on a steep downhill grade, a rollover may result. Errors like these can be a product of carelessness, inattention, distraction, or even intoxication. But in some cases, truck drivers may have never received adequate training to know how to handle these adverse conditions.
Rollovers can also be caused by mechanical failures, particularly tire blowouts. Uncovering who’s at fault after a fatal rollover accident caused by a truck part malfunction can be difficult. Poor maintenance, lack of inspections, or a design or manufacturing flaw can all cause a truck to be sent out on the road under less-than-safe conditions.
Another major cause of rollover accidents is loss of stability due to improperly loaded cargo. Trucks already have a high center of gravity, and each load must be secured and fastened in the way determined safest by regulatory agencies such as the FMCSA.
In a rollover, cargo may have been stacked and loaded in such a way that the truck was unbalanced and vulnerable to tipping over. Or cargo could have been poorly secured, easily coming loose en route and throwing a truck off balance on the road. Both scenarios are dangerous to truckers and those sharing the road with large commercial vehicles.
There could be many causes of a rollover accident. In summary, some of the most common causes include:
- Driver error, such as speeding and miscalculating turns
- Driver inexperience or lack of training
- Tire blowout or other vehicle malfunction
- Adverse weather and poor road conditions
- Improperly loaded cargo or unsecured cargo
- Poor truck maintenance
What Parties May Be Liable in a Rollover Truck Accident?
Determining who’s at fault after a fatal rollover accident will require expert investigation skills. As we have seen, a rollover can be caused by any number of unfavorable conditions. As such, there could be multiple potentially liable parties. The actions of a person at the scene—or someone far removed from the scene—could have contributed to the accident.
For example, an intoxicated truck driver could have misjudged a turn and caused a rollover. This is a fairly direct example of causation and could be proven through evidence such as truck black box data and toxicology reports. On the other hand, if a negligent tire manufacturing company produced a faulty tire that blew out and caused the trailer to tip over, fault may be traced back to negligence that was committed months or more before the actual accident.
Similarly, as rollovers are known to be caused by improper loading, the actions of those responsible for loading and securing the truck’s cargo may need to be investigated. While the trucking company may be involved in this task, truck accident attorneys often need to trace the cargo’s journey back to the shipping or loading company that first handled the truck’s load. If an act of negligence at that stage led to a poorly-secured shipment that later became loose on the highway, the rollover accident may have been doomed to happen before the driver ever took the wheel.
Parties responsible for inspection and maintenance may also be culpable if a problem that should have been prevented was never noticed and addressed. Because there are so many different parties involved with ground-based cargo shipment, there are equally many parties who may be at fault if a fatal rollover accident occurs. Even another motorist on the highway who engages in reckless driving may be liable if their behavior causes a truck driver to lose control of the vehicle.
Some of the entities that may be at fault for a rollover accident include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- A loading or shipping company
- Truck maintenance personnel
- A truck parts manufacturing company
- Another motorist on the road
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in West Virginia
In West Virginia, a wrongful death claim may be brought against the negligent party by a representative of the deceased, known as a “real party of interest.” If a person loses their life in a fatal rollover accident, a close family member can act as a representative and take legal action on behalf of the family. Under West Virginia law, those eligible to file a wrongful death claim after a fatal accident include:
- Parents (including parents of a deceased fetus)
- Financial dependents
- Other parties financially impacted by the loss of the decedent
What Compensation Can Surviving Family Recover After a Fatal Rollover Accident?
Losing someone close to you is emotionally devastating. Many people don’t realize how financially devastating it can also be.
It’s typical for surviving family members to face an onslaught of bills after losing a loved one in a fatal rollover accident. When this heavy financial burden was caused by the negligence of another party, the law states that the at-fault party should be responsible for these bills, not the family of an innocent victim. There are also noneconomic damages—losses that don’t come in the form of bills—that a family will certainly suffer. These losses, too, should be paid by the party responsible for the family member’s death.
By filing a wrongful death claim, families can recover compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses, such as:
- Medical bills incurred prior to the decedent’s death
- Bills for burial or cremation, funeral home services, and other end-of-life arrangements
- Lost income and benefits for family support
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of guidance and companionship
Find a Lawyer With Experience in Wrongful Death Cases and Truck Accident Law
If you lost a loved one in a fatal rollover accident, you will need an attorney who has experience in both truck accident litigation and wrongful death law. These cases are highly complex. It is not advisable that you attempt to file a lawsuit against a trucking company on your own.
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we have devoted decades of our legal careers to fighting for those who have unjustly lost loved ones in preventable accidents. We also specialize in commercial vehicle collisions in West Virginia caused by truck driver and trucking company negligence. We are available to offer our seasoned legal advice to your family during a free, no-obligation case evaluation. If you decide we are the right law firm for you, we will do everything in our power to see you secure justice.