Bringing Claims against Negligent Truck Drivers in Wisconsin
Truck drivers who are responsible for injuring or killing a person while negligently operating a semi-truck can be held accountable† by the criminal justice system. Those who have been hurt as a result of trucking accident have a right to bring a civil claim against the truck driver and, in some cases, also against the commercial carrier that employed the driver. If the injury victim lost his or her life as a result of the accident, then the victimís family can bring a wrongful death claim.
Truck Driverís Negligent Homicide Case Set for Trial
A Wisconsin judge has set the trial date for Jeremy M. Pearce, a 39-year-old truck driver from North Carolina who allegedly hit and killed a motorcycle rider in Ixonia, Wisconsin this past August. Pearce faces charges of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle after he made an illegal u-turn on Highway 16 in front of motorcyclist Craig R. Conway. Conway was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
A witness said that Pearce told her he did not see Conway when he made the turn. In initial interviews with the police, Pearce claimed he was trying to make a left turn when the accident occurred, but later admitted he made a u-turn. Pearce also admitted that even though he had been trained how to make u-turns with tractor trailers, his trucking company did not permit its drivers to make the turns and would fire them for doing so.
If convicted of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle, Pearce may be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and have to pay up to a $10,000 fine.
Trucking Accidents and Civil Liability
Truck drivers who are responsible for injuring or killing a person while negligently operating a semi-truck can be held accountable not only by the criminal justice system, but also by the civil system. Those who have been hurt as a result of trucking accident have a right to bring a civil claim against the truck driver and, in some cases, also against the commercial carrier that employed the driver. If the injury victim lost his or her life as a result of the accident, then the victimís family can bring a wrongful death claim. The decedentís estate also may pursue a survival action.
A civil claim may be brought before the criminal charges have been resolved. Additionally, a civil claim can be brought even if the truck driver is not convicted of any criminal acts. The civil lawsuit is completely separate from the criminal case. The burden of proof in a civil action is lower than the burden in a criminal trial. With criminal charges, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver committed the criminal act. In a civil case, however, the injured person need only prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the truck driver acted negligently and, as a result of that negligence, the individual was injured and suffered damages.
Likewise, wrongful death and survival actions may be brought before, during or after any criminal proceedings against a negligent truck driver. In a wrongful death action, the surviving family members seek damages for the losses they suffered as a result of losing a loved one. In contrast, a survival action is a claim brought by the decedentís estate for losses the decedent suffered prior to death. Under Wisconsin law, there is a three-year statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death or survival action.
Damages Available in Wisconsin Civil Claims
The types of damages that may be recoverable in a civil lawsuit vary depending on the type of claim that is filed. In a negligence case, some of the typical damages that may be recoverable include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning potential, and pain and suffering.
In wrongful death actions, the types of damages that are available and the amounts that may be recoverable are limited by Wisconsin law. Under the wrongful death statute (ß 894.04), the following damages may be available:
The Wisconsin wrongful death statute places caps on the amount of compensation available for loss of consortium, society and companionship to $350,000 for the loss of an adult and $500,000 for the loss of a child.
Wrongful death actions typically are brought by the decedentís spouse and/or minor children. If the decedent was unmarried, then the decedentís parents or siblings may file a wrongful death action.
Survival actions are somewhat different. They may only be brought by the representative of the decedentís estate. This may be the executor of the decedentís will, or if the decedent died without a will, then a court-appointed representative. Some of the losses that may be recoverable in Wisconsin survival actions include medical expenses before death, loss of earning capacity before death, and conscious pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages also may be available in survival actions.
Truck drivers are professional drivers. They receive special training not only in how to operate semi-trucks, but also how to do so safely. The trucking industry is heavily regulated by state and federal law. These regulations cover everything from the size of the load the truck can haul to the number of hours a truck driver can operate a commercial vehicle in any given day. The purpose of these regulations is to protect the safety of the drivers and those they share the road with. When truck drivers fail to follow these important regulations and operate their vehicles in a safe and appropriate manner, catastrophic accidents can and do happen.
For more information on filing a civil claim against a negligent truck driver, contact a Wisconsin personal injury attorney today.
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The law office of Aiken and Scoptur, S.C. Milwaukee Wisconsin litigation attorneys is distinguished by a history of successful personal injury recoveries, by settlement and verdict, in medical malpractice, car and truck accident claims and nursing home neglect litigation. Contact an experienced attorney for a free consultation at 414-326-4979 or visit our web site at http://plaintiffslaw.com/