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Truck Accidents

Ellipse

New York Truck Accident Lawyers

Big rigs and large commercial trucks are an essential part of our society. They account for about five percent of all vehicles on the road today. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, they have the same fatal crash rate as passenger vehicles. Because they are so much larger and their drivers spend more time on the road, big rigs are more likely to be involved in serious accidents.

 Anyone who has been trapped between two semis at rush hour knows that just being close to a speeding truck is frightening. Any kind of accident has the potential for serious injury or death. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a semi or commercial vehicle, you may need extensive medical care and rehabilitation. If the accident that caused your injuries wasn’t your fault, Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law is here to help you get compensation for your accident. Call us at 800-724-6529 for a free and confidential review of your case.

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Determining Fault in a Truck Accident

Unlike in a car accident, where there are usually only two parties involved, a commercial vehicle accident case may have multiple liable parties. Because of the way commercial vehicles are owned and operated, it’s important to know how the accident occurred to determine which parties were responsible. Some possibilities include:

The driver

Some drivers own their own trucks and drive as independent contractors. Others work for the company they drive for. Some may work as owner-operators of their own truck, but their cargo is controlled by their company.

The trucking company

Whether a driver is an independent owner-operator or a company employee, the company they are hauling for may be liable for any accidents. The legal doctrine of “vicarious liability” means that an employer or company can be legally responsible for the acts of its employees or agents.

The shipping company

In some cases, an independent driver may be a contractor for a company that picks up and delivers trailers or cargo containers with a third party’s goods. Depending on the cause of the accident, this third company could be responsible for part of the damages as well.

The truck’s manufacturer.

If a faulty part or system on the truck caused the accident, the manufacturer could be held liable.

An example of multiple responsible parties might go like this: a driver could own their own truck, but the company they work for has been sending them on runs without enough downtime for maintenance. The driver picks up a trailer to haul upstate, but the trailer suffers a blowout and causes an accident. All three entities could have some liability in the accident.

After an Accident

If you have been involved in an accident with a big rig, you should first be seen by a doctor. The size and weight of the truck almost guarantee that you’ll be injured. Even if you feel okay at the time of the accident, it’s best to have a doctor make sure. 

When you get information after the accident, you need not only the driver’s information, but that of the company they work for, and even information about the trailer. A bonded and licensed trucking company should have its name and ID number visible on the driver’s door. 

You should try to get the license plate number for the truck and also for the trailer. It is common for trucks to be licensed in one state and the trailer to be licensed in another. Get all the information you can. 

Witness names and information are essential. Truck drivers might be from out of state and could be returning there. Witnesses may be local. They might also be able to provide details about the driver’s actions before the accident. 

As with any accident, try to get photos or videos of the scene. Getting a clear picture of the truck and trailer at the scene of the accident should be one of the first things you do. All trailers tend to look alike, so having a photo of this specific trailer will help your case. 

Black Boxes and Driver’s Logs

Starting in 2018, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) began requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) on all large commercial vehicles. Like flight data recorders in airplanes, these ELDs monitor the truck’s performance and maintenance. It also tracks the driver’s hours and breaks according to federal requirements. 

These logs are a critical part of any accident investigation. The FMCSA requires all data stored or recorded in the ELD to be backed up and stored for six months in a separate recording device. Any other logs kept by the driver must also be kept for the same period.

Because the company is allowed to erase, overwrite, or destroy its logs after six months, getting copies of the log data soon after the crash is critical. You need to request them from the company in a manner that lets the company know they cannot delete the data. This is known as a “spoliation” notice. Your attorney will be able to send this notice to the company.

truck accident

Accident Causes and Concerns

Because of the length and weight of a big rig (a truck pulling a fully loaded trailer can be 50 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds), accidents are more of a concern than with smaller vehicles. Some types of accidents are not the driver’s fault, but many are related to poor driving or poor maintenance.

High profile

The driver sits nearly eight feet above the highway. The trailer can rise even higher. When the wind blows broadside to the truck, it is like hitting a sail. Even if the driver is paying attention, the trailer can swerve in a gust of wind and cross the lane markers.

Blowouts

You may have seen videos of huge truck tires speeding along bridges on their own or passed large chunks of rubber in the roadway that peeled off a truck tire. The tires themselves are deadly missiles when they break free of the rim. The multiple tires on each axle are supposed to prevent loss of control when one blows out, but this is not always the case.

Blind spots

A big rig pulling a trailer has blind spots, or no-zones, that extend up to two lanes on the right of the cab and a lane on the left. There is a blind spot directly in front of the truck and one directly behind. Even if you can see the mirrors, you may not be visible to the trucker if you are riding in one of these blind spots. Many accidents happen when a truck pulls into the next lane and hits a car the driver didn’t know was there.

Underriding

Container trucks typically consist of an “I”-shaped frame with wheels at each end. The container fits onto the frame. These trailers are high enough that smaller vehicles fit under the frame and can be dragged along, sometimes for many miles.

Load failure

A poorly secured load on an open truck bed can easily come toppling into the traffic lanes. Improperly secured and stored hazardous materials are becoming an increasing danger on the road. If the load itself is unbalanced, it can contribute to an accident by destabilizing the trailer.

In any of these cases, both driver error and mechanical failure can be a cause of the accident. Drivers should be paying attention to the road and to their surroundings. However, even the best driver may be unaware of poor maintenance back at the shop. Companies are supposed to allow drivers sufficient time for rest and vehicle maintenance, but that may not always happen.

Truck Driver Fatigue and Distraction

A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that people who stay awake too long act just like people who are drunk. Someone who has gone 18 hours without sleep has the same reactions as someone with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. This is higher than the federal legal BAC for a commercial trucker. After 20 hours, the sleepless driver might as well be legally drunk. 

Fatigue is the result of inadequate rest, poor nutrition, and repetitive work. A truck driver who pushes through for 16 hours, eating nothing but truck stop hot dogs and energy drinks, is a ticking time bomb. Although federal regulations require drivers to take breaks at least every eight hours, the punishing grind of trucking often forces them to keep going. 

Everyone gets tired on a long drive, but not everyone is at the wheel of 80,000 pounds of steel traveling at 60 miles per hour. Fatigue causes some dangerous symptoms that don’t mix well with big rigs.

Slow reaction time

Fatigue slows everything down. Tired people often don’t see what’s right in front of them, and if they do, they are slower to respond. For a commercial driver, this slowed response and reaction can spell an accident.

Road hypnosis

Long periods of monotonous driving can result in drivers looking at nothing but the road in front of them. This open-eyed sleep means that drivers see nothing until after it’s too late.

Reduced judgment

Fatigue begins long before an accident. Being tired means making decisions that aren’t logical in hindsight. A tired trucker may decide to drive the extra hundred miles to get home rather than take their break.

Micro napping

Studies have shown that when the brain reaches a certain point, it will sleep. The brain can even shut itself down during a blink if it’s reached that stage of exhaustion. Micronapping is thought to be a cause of car accidents, train accidents, and even airplane crashes.

Truck logs and the ELD can help establish whether the driver was too tired to be on the road. The ELD keeps track of the driver’s hours driving, sleeping, and resting. However, witness statements can be important. The driver may be adding extra hours to the rest log, and “ghost drivers”—imaginary drivers who “drive” while the driver is supposed to be sleeping—are common.

When You Need a Lawyer

If you’ve been hit by a big rig or commercial vehicle and you were injured as a result, you should contact an attorney right away. Getting the information you need from the trucking company or driver may not be as simple as just asking. Some unscrupulous companies encourage drivers to take shortcuts, and others may simply be pushing their drivers too hard.

Once the ELD and other information from the trucking company have been obtained, your lawyer can begin to work on getting you the compensation you need to recover from the accident. A truck accident claim is basically a personal injury claim, but your losses are likely to be larger. Depending on the nature of the accident, you could recover:

Medical expenses

This can include hospital visits, surgery, rehabilitation, and medical assistance devices, such as braces or walkers.

Care going forward

If you need additional physical therapy or rehabilitation, you can recover the reasonable costs of that treatment. If you need long-term care or assistance, you may recover compensation for that as well.

Lost income

If you are lying in the hospital, you can’t work. You should be able to recover any wages you lost as a result of the accident. If you’re disabled and can’t work, or if you must go back to a different job with a lower wage than the one you had, you can recover your lost future earnings or the difference between your old job and the new one.

Property damage

Most of us have comprehensive insurance, but you may still have a deductible. If anything else was damaged or destroyed in the accident (such as personal items inside your car), your car insurance might not cover those. You can claim them in your personal injury case.

Pain and suffering

Damages are available for pain and suffering.

 When it is time to contact a truck accident attorney in New York, you need the legal team at Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law. Our truck accident lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve so you can get back on your feet after the accident.

Call Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law today at 800-724-6529 for a free and confidential consultation about your truck accident case. We will work hard to get you the compensation you need.

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