Trucks are ubiquitous on our roadways, even in the heart of NYC. Sadly, auto accidents involving large trucks occur every day on the streets of New York City, and these crashes can be very dangerous and often deadly for other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
An average semi-truck weighs 80,000 pounds, compared to 3,000 pounds for a typical compact car. Even an average dump truck weighs more than 26,000. This weight difference makes large commercial trucks the most hazardous vehicles on the road. Large trucks require more stopping and merging distance, and they have large blindspots at their front and sides.
Adding to this danger, many big-rig operators and other commercial truck drivers from outside the city are unprepared for the congestion, chaotic traffic patterns, and inconsistent roadway maintenance of New York City. The sheer number of pedestrians and bicyclists, along with vehicles of all types on our streets present serious risks.
If you have been injured in a truck crash, you deserve fair compensation for those injuries. Don’t try to go it alone and negotiate with insurance companies without an experienced truck accident attorney. Employees of the trucking company’s insurer are working to protect their bosses’ interests and bottom line — not yours. You deserve a legal team with years of experience winning for large truck accident victims in New York City. We can help at Chaikin LaPenna, PLLC.
Below is an outline of the laws and regulations that apply to truck accident lawsuits in New York City. To understand the details of your case and how they affect the potential outcome of your commercial truck accident claim, call today to speak with a member of our experienced personal injury team.
Table of Contents
- Large Truck Crashes
- Common Truck Accident Injuries
- Causes of Truck Accidents
- What to do if you or a loved one Is Injured in a truck accident
- Responsibility for Damages in a Trucking Accident
- New York Law and Commercial Truck Accidents
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Facts: Large Truck Crashes
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, (NHTSA) 5,000 people are killed in crashes involving tractor-trailers or big rigs each year.
- Four out of five people killed in semi-truck accidents are occupants of the other vehicle, pedestrians or bicyclists.
- A third of all fatal crashes that involve a large truck are head-on collisions.
- Another 30 percent involve the front of the truck hitting the back or side of another vehicle.
- Deadly crashes involving large trucks typically happen on weekdays during daylight hours.
- More than 20 percent of all large-truck drivers involved in a fatal crash had at least one prior speeding conviction.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Commercial truck accidents can be devastating for those in smaller passenger vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. It is not uncommon for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers or passengers in regular vehicles to sustain the severe–even life-threatening–injuries in the event of a crash with a large truck:
- Broken bones: The blunt-force trauma in a truck crash or rollover can cause a person to suffer a broken leg, foot, ankle, arm, hand, collarbone, pelvis, sternum, or ribs. A simple broken bone may require several weeks in a cast. If a person suffers a compound or complex fracture, the person may require surgery, a lengthy hospital stay and ongoing treatment and physical therapy.
- Whiplash: As an occupant of a vehicle hit by a truck, you may experience whiplash from the extreme forces. This can cause your head to bend backward and then snap forward, straining and spraining the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons in the neck. Whiplash typically clears up in a few weeks. Some people with whiplash, however, develop chronic pain or severe neck problems.
- Brain injuries: When your head makes contact with another object suddenly, as is common for pedestrians or cyclists hit by a large truck, the resulting trauma can cause short- or long-term brain damage, or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Severe TBI can permanently harm a person’s physical and cognitive abilities. The accident victim may require long-term medical care and assistance with daily life functions. Severe TBIs can lead to premature death.
- Spine injuries: A blow to the back or sudden awkward movement in a truck crash can break the vertebrae of the spine or tear the spinal cord. These serious and often life-threatening injuries can produce ongoing pain and loss of mobility despite surgical repair and long-term treatment. Damage to the spinal cord can cause permanent paralysis.
- Internal injuries: Blunt trauma from a truck accident, especially those involving pedestrians and cyclists, can damage internal organs like the heart, liver, kidneys. Lungs can be damaged by fractured ribs. Damaged organs and internal bleeding typically require surgery and long recovery times. The injury may cause life-threatening shock or lead to secondary infections, which can be fatal.
- PTSD and Depression: The trauma of a catastrophic injury or witnessing a loved one’s serious injury or death in a truck accident can cause tremendous psychological harm, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A long, painful recovery and the loss of enjoyment from a serious injury or disability can lead to depression.
Causes of Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that in more than half of serious truck crashes leading to injury or death, the large truck caused the accident. The most common factors involved in truck driver error were:
- Speeding (23% of crashes): When truck drivers are in a hurry, sometimes they travel too fast for conditions or exceed the speed limit in busy areas. In NYC, that can be incredibly dangerous with so many pedestrians and cyclists. A truck driver is perhaps liable for your injuries if they drove over a posted speed limit within the city. While they may have been under pressure to make a delivery, there is never an excuse for driving too fast and putting lives at risk.
- Unfamiliar with roadway (22% of crashes): This lack of knowledge about roadways is especially dangerous in NYC where a quick turn off of an arterial roadway can place a trucker on a narrow residential street crowded with other trucks, cyclists, pedestrians, delivery vehicles, and more. Traffic patterns can change on a dime, and constant construction can mean unexpected lane closures and changes that require constant vigilance from truck drivers operating in NYC.
- Over-the-counter drug use (17% of crashes): Many legally obtained and commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drugs affect a user’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Cold and allergy medicines, antidepressants, opioids, sleep aids, stimulants and other medications can all cause side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision, which put truck operators–and especially others on our roadways–at risk.
- Inadequate surveillance (14% of crashes): A truck driver’s failure to check the large blind spots at the front and sides of their truck can mean life or death for a pedestrian, cyclist or occupant of a passenger car. Checking a cell phone in stop-start traffic in NYC can mean whiplash or worse for drivers and grave injuries for people on foot or a bike.
- Sleepiness or Exhaustion (13% of crashes): Too many companies overwork their truck drivers to the point that the latter literally fall asleep behind the wheel. Fortunately, laws exist from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that are supposed to prevent this from happening. Truck accidents still happen from drowsiness, often because truckers are under unreasonable pressure to deliver goods on time. Sometimes they have to work overtime to make that happen. In a busy metropolis like New York City, it can mean the potential for serious accidents.
Other factors also lead to large truck and tractor-trailer accidents:
- Lack of Truck Maintenance: Sometimes a third-party also bears some responsibility for the truck accident or is, in fact, the negligent party, rather than the truck driver. The company hired to maintain the trucks before hitting the roadways perhaps became lax on their regular maintenance checks. As a result, brake failure could occur on the truck, leading to a collision with your car or while you were out walking. Other technical mishaps could occur as well due to lack of technical care. In these scenarios, the entire company owning the truck is possibly liable.
- Dangerous Road Maintenance: Some chaos is to be expected on aging roadways connecting a city of 9 million with the nation’s busiest corridor of commerce. But the city and state have a duty to create and maintain roadways that are reasonably safe. Dangers that can lead to truck and other vehicle accidents in NYC include:
- Lack of signage or warning regarding hazards
- Malfunctioning traffic signals
- Faded or missing lanemarkers or crosswalks
- Debris on road
- Bad Weather Conditions: Other times, it is just inclement conditions on roadways that lead to truck accidents. The driver may still be liable due to not taking enough care to prevent an accident on an icy or wet road.
Only available evidence tells the full story of who is really liable for your particular injuries. A skilled personal injury attorney with experience winning for truck accident victims will help you sort through the details of your case, determine how liability may be assigned, and build the strongest possible claim for compensation.
What to do if you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident
If you or a loved one is a truck accident victim you owe it to yourself to protect your interests. Here are the steps you should take.
At the scene of the accidentally, if you are able:
- First and foremost, make sure you and others involved get immediate medical attention if anyone is injured. Call 911 right away. Make sure you are not at immediate risk from oncoming traffic or other roadway hazards.
- Make sure the accident is reported immediately and that you get a police report. Call 911 and explain the situation. If the emergency is non-life threatening, the operator may advise you to call 311 or another local service.
- If you are able, gather as much information and evidence at the scene as possible. Use your cellphone to take photos at the scene that show angle of impact, damage to your vehicle. Get contact information for all witnesses at the accident scene. Take photos of insurance cards of any vehicle operator involved. This will be invaluable later as your legal team prepares evidence to build the strongest possible case.
- If you were driving a vehicle at the time of the accident, report the truck accident to your insurance company.
- Being in an accident can be confusing and disorienting. Do not admit fault or make any statements about your injuries or those of others to anyone until you have gained a full picture of what happened.
As you move forward and recover:
- Most importantly, talk to a skilled personal injury lawyer to understand your legal rights and how the specific facts of your case could affect an award for damages.
- Keep a file of all accident-related medical records, medical treatments, medical bills, and accident-related correspondences.
- Document any lost work time or wages. If you or your loved one misses work because of the accident or resulting injuries, you may receive compensation for these monetary damages.
- Do not sign or agree to any offer from an insurance adjuster before consulting an experienced truck accident lawyer. An adjuster’s job is to help maximize insurance profits and this often means limiting losses (or payouts for damages). You and your family members deserve someone who is on your side, protecting your interests at every step of the way. Call us today.
Responsibility for Damages in a Trucking Accident
Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations changed some things in recent years regarding trucking companies making truck drivers independent contractors. At one time, trucking companies contracted drivers independently to eliminate any chance of being sued if a trucking accident occurred.
Changes to FMCS regulations now eliminate this distinction between a driver and the company. Now drivers are statutory employees of all trucking companies across the nation.
Those of you in NYC suffering injuries from a truck now have a source for liability, even if the truck driver was initially to blame. This means trucking companies are responsible, no matter if they lease their vehicles.
Others can also be liable beyond the trucking carriers. These other entities or people may be solely or partially responsible.
Other Liable Parties in Your Trucking Accident
Various individuals or third-parties could end up being liable once evidence is analyzed by your legal team. A trucking accident may involve a long chain of people who are negligent in preventing it from happening in the first place.
As an example, the maintenance company the trucking company hired to do truck repairs may be liable in part. The trucking company owners maybe told them to do maintenance at set times during the year. Yet, the owners are still responsible for hiring the maintenance company.
Another liable third-party is maybe the manufacturer of a truck part that failed. A tire manufacturer is a prime example here where a defect in the tires went entirely unnoticed when delivered. Brake manufacturers are also the same, or even a company manufacturing the trucks as a whole.
Freight loading companies could also be to blame. Your legal team should have thorough familiarity with FMCA cargo regulations. These are specific laws that can mean freight loaders taking the brunt of liability.
Municipal agencies may have liability as well. In this scenario, it means the city itself being responsible for not properly maintaining a street. Just one deep pothole not repaired for years could cause a truck to veer out of control and hit you.
Or, maybe the truck leasing company is to blame for not inspecting the vehicles before leasing them to the trucking carrier.
New York Law and Commercial Truck Accidents
Requirement to Stay at the Scene and Report Accidents
New York State law requires you to report any accident within 10 days that caused a fatality, personal injury or damage over $1,000 to the property of any one person. Failure to do so within 10 days is a misdemeanor. Your license and registration can be suspended until a report is filed.
Beyond the requirement to report, leaving the scene of an accident where an injury has occured — hit-and-run — is a serious offense in New York State. Drivers involved in a truck accident are required by law to stop and share insurance information with the other driver(s), pedestrian or cyclist before leaving the accident scene. If anyone is injured in the accident, the driver/s are also required to call the police and wait for an officer to file a report. Failure to do one or both can mean being charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries is a crime that can involve fines, license revocation, and even jail time. Leaving the scene of a truck crash involving serious injuries or death is a felony with a potential sentence of up to 7 years.
Liability Under New York Law
Because of the inherent risks of large trucks, especially to other motor vehicle operators, pedestrians and cyclists, truck drivers have a duty to use “reasonable care” in operating vehicles. Trucking companies have a similar duty of care. Essentially, an injured party seeks damages based on the negligence (either actions or failure to act) of the parties that caused the accident.
Types of Damages
When a trucker, trucking company and other responsible parties cause an accident, that duty is breached and injured parties hold them liable for failing to use reasonable care. They must compensate victims for the “damages” they caused.
Truck accident victims can seek compensation for:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses related to the accident
- Lost wages (past and future earning capacity)
- Future medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Scarring or permanent disfigurement
Punitive damages are also possible under New York State law, though they are less common. Punitive damages are intended to punish the responsible person to deter others from doing the same thing in the future. Punitive damages are appropriate when the actions of the person who injured you were intentionally dangerous or extremely reckless, such as a truck company brazenly ignoring trucking industry safety regulations or a truck driver operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs or injures someone in an act of road rage. Juries can double or triple awards in the event of particularly egregious actions.
New York commercial truck accident judgements are subject to comparative negligence law. This means that a court can find you, the victim, partially at fault for the accident. You can still recover damages for your case. But the court may reduce your award by the percentage that it decides you were at fault. So, if you would have received a $100,000 award and you are found to be 20% at fault for the truck accident, your award would be reduced by 20% to $80,000. A claims adjuster with an insurance carrier will use the same logic in determining what it will offer as a settlement.
Obviously, there is no empirical measure of fault, so any assignment of liability is really a judgement call that is subject to your ability to negotiate with insurers or persuade a judge or jury. A skilled, experienced attorney with knowledge of past awards and how “fault” is determined can be invaluable in helping you through this process.
Statute of Limitations
In New York, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases gives a victim, or the family of a victim in the event of wrongful death, three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against those responsible for the accident.
A wrongful death claim may be possible if a loved one was the victim of a fatal commercial truck crash. Only a court-appointed representative of the deceased can bring a wrongful death action in New York. To prevail, the representative must prove:
- The responsible party or parties acted negligently.
- The negligence caused the death.
- The deceased has a surviving spouse, children, or other beneficiary.
- The survivor has suffered financial damage as a result of the wrongful death.
Only two types of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death case: economic loss and the conscious pain and suffering of the deceased. Survivors cannot seek damages under a wrongful death suit for their own pain and suffering caused by the death. Surviving spouses can recover the value of support and services. Children of the deceased may receive compensation for the loss of parental nurturing, guidance and education.
Hours of Service Regulations
Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to comply with federal trucking industry regulations, including following FMCSA hours of service regulations, if they transport goods across state lines. According to these regulations:
- A truck driver can drive no more than 11 hours during a 14-hour window. This 14 period includes breaks and begins after a driver has been off-duty for 10 hours straight.
- A driver must take a 30-minute break if they have been driving for more than eight hours straight.
- A driver can not drive more than 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70-hours in an 8-day period. To reset the clock, a driver needs a 34-hour break.
Proving an hours of service violation after a truck accident can be difficult. Truck drivers are required to keep track of their hours of service, but a trucking company or truck driver could falsify some of these documents. Records that can help prove an hours of service violation include:
- Logbooks: Truckers are required to keep a written log of their driving information.
- Electronic records or black box recordings: Any truck from 2000 forward must have electronic logging devices that automatically record hours of service.
- Cell data: Call logs, text messages, GPS activity, emails, and more can help prove a truck driver’s activity during their hours of service.
- Bills of landing: These documents are often time-stamped by the shipper or receiver of the goods the truck driver is carrying.
- Receipts and Records: Inspection and weigh station records, tollbooth tickets, gas station and food receipts, and more can establish a trucker’s timeline.
Commercial Truck Insurance
Under current federal laws, commercial large truck drivers that travel across state lines are required to have a minimum liability coverage from $300,000 (up to 10,000 lbs) and $750,000 (over 10,000 lbs), rising to $5 million for certain hazardous cargoes. New York State has similar requirements for local commercial truck operators. In addition, trucking companies will carry liability insurance to protect their business.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the first step to take after a truck accident?
Your most important first step is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after the accident. Gather as much evidence as you can, even if your attorney can gather it for you if your injuries prevent you from physical activity.
The legal team takes things from here so you can recover from your injuries. In the interim, they analyze your case and represent you should you choose to seek compensation. More evidence is gathered, including medical records and bills and correspondences, that show the extent of your injuries and financial hardships caused by the accident.
What is the typical truck accident settlement?
The amount that defendants and their insurance companies ultimately agree to pay in a settlement, or that a jury awards in the event of a trial, depends on a number of factors. Factors include:
- the severity of your injuries
- the anticipated length of recovery
- the conduct of the responsible party or parties
- insurance coverage
The more permanent and severe the victim’s injuries are, the larger the settlement may be. Loss of limb, death, permanent scarring, persistent pain, inability to enjoy life, and mental anguish following a particularly devastating injury can all lead to a larger settlement. For serious injuries, settlements can range from several hundred thousand to millions of dollars.
What is the difference between a truck accident and a car accident?
While typically the at-fault driver of a motor vehicle is liable for the damages they cause in an auto accident, there can be special circumstances when a commercial truck is involved. It is important to understand your legal rights if you’ve been injured in a crash with a large truck. A skilled truck accident lawyer with experience winning for New York City residents can help you navigate the process to ensure maximum compensation for your injuries.
How do I find a lawyer for my truck accident?
If you or a loved one is injured in a truck crash, you will want to consider the following when choosing a lawyer to handle your claim:
- Experience: When it comes to truck accident cases, experience is key. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to represent your interests, the procedures that must be followed, how to gather evidence, and how to put together a case quickly and effectively for the best possible outcome.
- Truck Accident Case Experience: Because truck accidents claims can be complex and involve state and federal regulations, you should choose a personal injury firm with strong experience settling and litigating these types of cases. Relevant experience winning truck accident cases means
- Location: Does the practice focus on New York City personal injury? Is it conveniently located? These practical considerations are more important than you think. Large multi-state personal injury firms may not provide the depth of local experience or personal service your case deserves.
- Client testimonials: There is no better indicator of a firm’s quality than the good things past and current clients have to say about their experience.
- Past results: You will want to choose a law firm with a strong, consistent track record of success in NYC truck accident cases.
- Personal attention: You deserve a legal team that is available when you have questions or concerns. You also should feel confident with the case they are building for you, that it is receiving the personal attention it requires, and that your attorney respects you enough to ensure you are clear on and comfortable with every step of the process.
Contact Chaikin LaPenna, PLLC
If you are looking to file an truck accident claim, you need legal help that you can trust. Not only are these types of accidents incredibly complicated and require detailed evidence to show fault and damages, but they also require a solid understanding of New York’s laws. However, when you retain an experienced personal injury attorney from Chaikin LaPenna, PLLC, our attorneys will:
- Go Over Your Concerns: We can go over your case in detail, answer any questions you have, and figure out which legal options you can pursue.
- Investigate the Accident: We can promptly and thoroughly investigate your accident, gather critical evidence, and interview relevant witnesses that can help substantiate your claims.
- Handle Negotiations: Discussing your case with the insurance company or the defense attorneys can be stressful. However, when our lawyers step in, we can handle these negotiations and discussions for you. Ensuring you do not say anything that can impact your claim.
- Take Your Case To Trial: If the other side is unwilling to negotiate, we can take your case to trial and fight for the compensation you need.
If you or a loved one has been injured in truck accident. Do not wait any longer. Contact Chaikin LaPenna, PLLC today and let our attorneys fight for the justice you deserve.
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