Truck Overturned on Highway Due to Accident

Truck Accidents & Wrongful Death 

Gerstner Adam Law Dec. 7, 2022

Accidents involving trucks end with some of the most devastating results. Few vehicles are a match for the sheer size and weight of semi-tractors and trailers in a crash. It is the driver of the smaller vehicle that usually pay the price.  

In any motor vehicle accident in Montana, a driver whose negligence caused the crash is financially liable to those injured as a result. That is because Montana is a fault state. Those injured can file a personal injury claim against the negligent operator’s liability insurance coverage. Should someone die due to their injuries, as is often the case in an 18-wheeler accident, a wrongful death claim can be filed instead.   

If your loved one has been killed in a truck accident in Billings, Glendive, Sidney, or Miles City, Montana, Gerstner Adam Law may be able to help. Helping clients recover compensation for the financial loss of a loved one is what we do.  

Why Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim? 

We often see survivors struggle with filing wrongful death claims. Some believe that doing so is capitalizing on their tragedy. While it is true that a wrongful death recovery will never bring back the person you have lost, there are two key reasons to file such a claim. 

First, a wrongful death claim against the truck driver and any other parties whose negligence led to your loved one’s death holds those parties accountable for their actions or inactions. Whether your financial recovery is for compensable damages, or a Montana jury awards punitive damages for a willful act or omission or for gross negligence, it can spur operational, training, procedural, and other changes that may keep another family from suffering a loss such as yours.  

Second, such a loss almost always causes financial hardship for those left behind. There are medical, funeral, and burial expenses, and a loss of the income your loved one would have contributed to your lives for years to come. A wrongful death recovery can make a tremendous difference.  

What Does Wrongful Death Mean in Montana? 

If the death of someone is the result of someone else’s failure to the duty of care everyone owes to everyone else, it is considered wrongful death under Montana law. Such a failure is negligence, and the law holds the negligent financially responsible for the damages they cause.  

If your loved one could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived, a wrongful death claim can be filed if they do not. If you file a wrongful death claim, you must prove negligence. That requires proof that the truck driver and other related parties owed your loved one a duty of care, they failed to uphold that duty of care, and as a result of that failure, your loved one died.  

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Semi-Truck Accident? 

Every party whose negligence contributed to the truck accident should be held liable for their role. In most 18-wheeler crashes, the driver doesn’t operate alone. Others may have played a role in the tragedy, including: 

  • The truck company 

  • Manufacturers 

  • Those responsible for maintenance 

  • Those who loaded the truck 

The truck driver is insured by the company they work for which makes the trucking company liable for the acts and omissions of their drivers while operating in the scope of their employment. Truck company liability insurance policies have high limits due to their exposure. Moreover, it’s the company that is responsible for the training, supervision, scheduling, and fitness of their drivers as well as their vehicles.  

If the truck itself contributed to the crash and death, the manufacturer of the semi-tractor or trailer, or the manufacturer of defective parts of the equipment, could also be held liable.  

If those responsible for ensuring the maintenance of the semi-tractor or trailer failed their duty of care to make certain the equipment was safe and fully operational, such maintenance personnel and their employers can be held liable.  

Finally, if the shifting of inappropriately loaded cargo contributed to the crash, those who loaded it and their employers could also be held liable.  

The potential culpability of so many parties is why it is critical to fully investigate truck crashes and to the preservation of evidence that may otherwise be intentionally or unintentionally destroyed. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to conduct a thorough investigation using top-notch experts.  

Can Anyone File a Wrongful Death Claim in Montana? 

Wrongful death claims in Montana can only be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If the person had a will, the personal representative would be named in it. If they died without a will, the court will appoint one. A wrongful death action must be settled with the insurance company or a wrongful death lawsuit filed within three years of the date of death.  

Although the personal representative files the claim, they do so for the benefit of the estate and its beneficiaries, not for their own gain. The wrongful death claim would assign a value to the damages suffered by the heirs to the estate, not the damages of the decedent.   

If your loved one did not die right away and suffered damages such as those for a personal injury claim, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, the representative can also file a survival action to recover compensation for those damages. Again, the proceeds would benefit the estate and its heirs, not the representatives themselves.  

What Damages Can Be Recovered? 

Damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim are those suffered by those left behind. They include funeral expenses, loss of future financial support, mental anguish, and loss of comfort, society, love, and affection.  

Skilled & Assertive Legal Counsel 

Truck companies are required to carry large liability policies. As such, they and their insurance company attorneys will fight in every possible way to avoid paying fair compensation in wrongful death claims or try to deny the claim altogether. You need personal injury attorneys on your side with compassion for your loss and tenacity for justice.  

If you have lost a loved one in a truck accident in Billings or anywhere in Montana, contact Gerstner Adam Law right away so we can begin preserving crucial evidence. Our consultation is free. Our experience is invaluable.