Damages Awarded In A Wrongful Death Claim
Are There Any Circumstances Where Punitive Damages May Be Awarded In A Wrongful Death Claim Resulting From A Trucking Accident?
Yes, in Louisiana, punitive damages can be awarded in wrongful death cases resulting from a trucking accident under certain circumstances. Specifically, when the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Louisiana law generally does not permit an award of punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from similar behavior. Awards in such cases are typically limited to reasonable compensation for the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.
However, an exception to this rule is laid out in Article 2315.4 of the Louisiana Civil Code. This provision allows for the award of exemplary damages (another term for punitive damages) if the plaintiff can prove that the injuries leading to the wrongful death were caused by a defendant's "wanton and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others."
This essentially means that the defendant's conduct must be significantly more egregious than simple negligence. They must have acted in such an unreasonable manner, given the known or obviously perceived risks, that harm was highly probable. This typically includes a conscious indifference to consequences, almost amounting to a willingness that harm should follow.
The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must establish that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident and that this intoxication was a significant factor leading to the wrongful death. If these conditions are met, then punitive damages may be awarded in addition to the compensatory damages.
What Steps Can Be Taken To Gather Evidence and Strengthen a Wrongful Death Claim in Louisiana Involving a Trucking Accident?
Gathering strong evidence is critical in any wrongful death claim. In trucking accidents, we employ several strategies to ensure we have a robust case:
We engage an expert to extract digital information from the Commercial Motor Vehicles' black box, Infotainment System and ACM Download. Depending on the make and model of the CMV the technology may vary.
We issue a preservation letter, demanding the responsible parties preserve any evidence related to the truck and its condition at the time of the accident.
We send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to acquire any publicly available information about the incident reported by government agencies.
After conducting discovery and depositions of the driver, their supervisor, and possibly the person in charge of safety and training, we make this information available to a standard of care expert. They can then evaluate whether there was any deviation from industry norms that could have led to the accident.
What Role Does Insurance Play in a Wrongful Death Claim Arising From Trucking Accidents?
Insurance is typically the main source of financial recovery in a wrongful death claim. An individual trucker, for example, is usually living paycheck to paycheck and does not have substantial assets. On the other hand, a company might have profits and assets, but a large judgment could lead them to declare bankruptcy.
The insurance company, therefore, provides the funds for the payout of each claim and also covers the defense costs. The primary route of recovery is usually from the insurance, as an individual or company may not be solvent enough to compensate for a significant injury or death.
Are There Any Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods Such As Mediation Or Arbitration Available For Resolving Wrongful Death Claims in Louisiana?
Yes, alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or arbitration are available in Louisiana. In federal courts, mediation is often mandated by a magistrate. State courts, however, leave the decision to mediate up to the involved parties.
While mediation can be beneficial to the plaintiff in cases with substantial complexities, it's typically advantageous only when a discovery cutoff date and a trial date are established. Without these dates, the defendants may not arrive at a conclusion that they have enough exposure to offer a fair settlement, rendering mediation useless for a plaintiff.
For more information on Damages Awarded In A Wrongful Death Claim, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (225) 267-9729 today.