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.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, (NHTSA) 5,000 people are killed in crashes involving tractor-trailers or big rigs each year.
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:
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:
Other factors also lead to large truck and tractor-trailer accidents:
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.
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:
As you move forward and recover:
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
you may have a lot of questions, such as how to file a lawsuit, prove liability, and potentially ask for workers’ compensation. Our seasoned New York attorneys have years of experience working in personal injury law and can help you through your journey. 888-BIG-WIN-LAW Today.