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Tractor Trailer Wrongful Death Kills Four

Big rigs tend to attract a lot of attention. Unfortunately, much of it is the result of them being in yet another horrendous wreck.

This wrongful death case captured the attention of a lot of people when it happened in 2006. Four were brutally killed on the highway after they had stopped to avoid another accident that had taken place. The driver of the big rig that was behind the woman never saw the line of other vehicles stopped to wait to get the all clear signal from the police before proceeding.

The result of this accident, when the rig plowed into the line of waiting cars, was the death of four people who never knew what hit them. The wrongful death lawsuit in that case ultimately settled for $35.25 million, including damages and compensation. And the driver? The driver was tried on four counts of second-degree manslaughter and found not guilty.

“We may never know all the reasons why the court decided to find the trucker not guilty criminally, but it is clear that he was found responsible civilly for the death of this woman and the three others. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil suits and not to be confused with criminal charges or the criminal courts,” said Stephen M. Ozcomert, an injury lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, who practices personal injury, accidents and malpractice law.

What may be claimed in a wrongful death action? In many states, including Georgia, there is an action separate from the wrongful death suit itself and it is referred to as a survival action. Damages in this area may include pre-death mental and physical suffering, loss of enjoyment of life prior to death and pre-death economic loss.

“Survival and wrongful death claims may also focus on punitive damages aimed at the at-fault person who caused the accident. Typically, if the actions of that party are egregious, malicious, intentional or grossly negligent, the courts may award punitive damages to punish the defendant,” Ozcomert said.

What does an injury lawyer do to assist the family of someone who suddenly dies as a result of another’s negligence? “Most often we will help deal with opening the deceased’s estate in probate, making sure there is a qualified person appointed; help the family deal with the probate process; protect the family’s rights; investigate the accident fully and open negotiations with the defendant and/or insurance company to try and reach a fair settlement. If one cannot be agreed upon, then we proceed to trial,” Ozcomert said.

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