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Fatal Truck Accidents

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Due to the sheer size and weight of tractor-trailers, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists involved in collisions between trucks and passenger vehicles face an increased risk of fatal injuries. In fact, a 2013 study from the University of California-Berkeley and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that occupants of passenger vehicles are nearly 50 percent more likely to die in a crash if the other vehicle outweighs theirs by 1,000 pounds or more.

If you recently lost a loved one in a fatal truck accident, a wrongful death lawsuit could help you ease your financial struggles, even if that is the last thing on your mind as you try and deal with your grief.


  1. What Causes Trucking Fatalities?
  2. Case Result: $13 Million Settlement in Fatal Rear-End Collision Case
  3. Case Result: $5 Million Settlement After Pedestrian Was Fatally Struck by a Garbage Truck
  4. What if I Don’t Want to Sue?
  5. Fighting for Families Affected by Fatal Truck Accidents

What Causes Trucking Fatalities?

Even as safety technology improves over time, the number of fatal truck crashes continues to increase. Fatalities involving commercial trucks and buses in the United States climbed 40 percent between 2009 and 2017, according to the most recent data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These fatalities often occur due to the size difference between a trailer and a passenger vehicle.

Large trucks such as 18-wheelers or box trucks can easily cause a crash if the driver is not following the rules of the road, or if any of the truck’s equipment is not operating correctly. Employers must be diligent about screening the medical and employment history of new truck drivers and maintaining their vehicles, or they could be held liable for any accidents that occur.

Common causes of fatal truck accidents include:

  • Driver distraction
  • Excessive speed
  • Defective equipment
  • Truck driver fatigue
  • Failure to signal or yield right of way
  • Failure to follow state or federal safety regulations
  • Negligent hiring practices such as failing to vet new drivers

When a fatal truck accident occurs, a thorough investigation is required to determine the cause of the crash and who is legally responsible. Critical evidence, including the condition of the road, the state of the driver, police reports and maintenance logs can all provide valuable information for a claim – provided they are secured promptly. The sooner your attorney begins investigating the details of the accident, the faster your wrongful death lawsuit will be able to proceed.

Case Result: $13 Million Settlement in Fatal Rear-End Collision Case

In 2017, a woman and her three-year-old son were tragically killed when a driver failed to maintain enough space between his 80-ton tractor-trailer and the car in front of him while snow and ice were present on the roadway. The truck rear-ended the Plaintiffs’ car with terrifying force. Of the three occupants of the passenger car, only one survived. The wife and mother of the deceased adult and young child were also in the vehicle at the time of the collision. She awoke to find every parent and spouse’s worst nightmare. An attorney from Massachusetts knew of Daniel O’Toole’s reputation as a trial lawyer and negotiator and reached out to Mr. O’Toole.

Mr. O’Toole traveled to Massachusetts to meet with the grief-stricken survivor and her parents. A meeting such as this is horrible beyond imagination. As a first step in their relationship, Mr. O’Toole shared the worst thing that had ever happened to him as a means of bridging the gap between himself and his client. Mr. O’Toole spoke of the death of his own 7-year-old niece. Hours of discussion regarding the client’s wife and son followed as lawyer and client began to get to know each other. Mr. O’Toole strongly encouraged family and individual grief counseling as a first step in the long journey toward peace and acceptance.

While focusing his client on her own healing, Mr. O’Toole at the same time turned his attention to holding the trucking company and their driver responsible for the tragic death of two beautiful people. One of the first challenges in this lawsuit was ensuring that the best choice of law and venue (New York versus Massachusetts) was made. The accident occurred in New York, and the decedents and survivor were citizens of Massachusetts. Ultimately, Mr. O’Toole and his team of in-house appellate attorneys elected to bring the lawsuit in federal court in New York, applying New York law.

Following the accident, Mr. O’Toole served a Freedom of Information Law request on the New York State Police and sent letters to the owner of the truck and the employers of the driver to preserve the tractor trailer such that it could be inspected by Mr. O’Toole’s accident reconstruction team. Mr. O’Toole also specifically demanded that the truck’s event recording data (black box data) be preserved such that the speed of the truck in the moments prior to impact could be extracted. The event recording data revealed that the truck was speeding in the moments prior to impact despite the snow and ice on the roadway. 

In addition to pursuing cases for wrongful death on behalf of the estate of the spouse and child, Mr. O’Toole also pursued causes of action for the physical injuries sustained by the surviving client as well as a case for negligent infliction of emotional harm.

In addition to the above causes of action, Mr. O’Toole also retained medical experts to estimate the amount of time that mother and child survived and experienced pain and suffering following impact, before death. Mr. O’Toole also brought a case for fear of impending death on behalf of mother and child. Additionally, Mr. O’Toole also made a claim for the economic damages based on the death of a spouse who was working for a local college. In order to pursue this claim, Mr. O’Toole obtained tax returns, payroll records, and benefit plans from the deceased woman’s employer. These records were all provided to an economist who calculated the economic loss of the decedent.

Although no amount of money could ever make the loss of a two people right, Mr. O’Toole was able to resolve this case within one year of the accident for $13,000,000.  The intention of the surviving client was to put that money to good use in the form of a charitable foundation.  It is the hope of Mr. O’Toole and the other lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy that this settlement will compel other trucking companies to train their drivers better such that unnecessary tragedies like this will be avoided.

In addition to the above case, Mr. O’Toole handled the below case.

Case Result: $5 Million Settlement After Pedestrian Was Fatally Struck by a Garbage Truck

Negligence by a trucking company was at the heart of a case our firm handled in New York. We represented the four children of a 47-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a truck. She and her friend were walking down the sidewalk on West 35th Street in Manhattan when a privately-owned garbage truck skipped the curb and mounted the sidewalk. Sadly, our clients’ mother suffered fatal blunt force trauma and died shortly after the accident.

In our investigation, we discovered that the truck driver had experienced a seizure while driving and lost control of the vehicle. The driver later indicated that he had not taken his seizure medication for two weeks leading up to the accident. We brought claims for wrongful death and loss of parental guidance on behalf of the victim’s estate and surviving children. We also argued that the trucking company had violated federal regulations by failing to obtain the driver’s employment records, which would have shown a history of accidents related to his seizure condition.

The case eventually settled for $5 million. While no amount of money can fill the void that the loss of a loved one creates, we were able to secure some financial stability for our clients in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Learn more about our unmatched record of results in personal injury and wrongful death claims.

What if I Don’t Want to Sue?

Understandably, after losing a family member in a fatal crash, survivors may prefer to try and move on with their lives, rather than retain an attorney or bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawsuit cannot change the past. However, a wrongful death claim can help put survivors in a better position to move forward after a tragedy. Families may be able to recover much-needed compensation for funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs. Find out more about financial damages in wrongful death cases.

In addition to the financial benefits of a successful lawsuit, many people who decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit find it helps them attain some emotional closure. Some of our clients feel a sense of solace knowing the responsible party has been held accountable for their actions and will not harm any other families.

Fighting for Families Affected by Fatal Truck Accidents

Only you can decide the right course of action for you and your family. The decision to file a wrongful death suit is yours to make – but our attorneys can provide important information to help you make the best choice.

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, we have a strong record of success bringing successful wrongful death claims on behalf of grieving families. To find out whether a lawsuit can help you following a fatal truck accident, fill out our free case evaluation form or call us at 212-736-5300 to speak with a wrongful death attorney in New York. Serving the boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and all of New York state.

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