New York Truck Accident Lawyer
A tractor-trailer, which was carrying compressed natural gas, overturned on I-88 in New York, not only killing the driver of the truck, but resulting in the evacuation of nearby residents as well. Witnesses observed the driver swerving to miss a deer before the accident occurred, then crashing into a barrier, overturning, and sliding across the eastbound lanes.
The driver was ejected during the accident and died at the scene. One of the four CNG tanks that he was hauling ruptured during the crash and spilled the hazardous materials on the roadway. Crews spent hours offloading the other three tanks, while about 80 homes in the area were evacuated as a precaution.
Commercial motor vehicles like the tractor-trailer that was hauling CNG provide an essential service to society, transporting goods across thousands of miles of interstate roadways. However, during this necessary transport, these massive trucks also pose risks to other drivers and even residents living near the roadways they regularly use.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), New York is among the top ten states for commercial truck crashes. Those states represent more than half of all of the commercial truck crashes and half of all of the fatalities in crashes involving a commercial truck. More than 4,000 truck accidents took place in a year’s time, resulting in more than 4,500 fatalities. Only 16 percent of those fatalities were the occupants of the trucks—a 4 percent increase from the year before. The rest of the casualties were occupants of other vehicles on the roadway, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
The Dangers of Big Trucks
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, commercial trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car. Their massive size presents many dangers to the occupants of other vehicles, including:
- More distance required for stopping. The bigger the vehicle, the more time it takes for the brakes to bring it to a complete stop. Commercial trucks take 20-40 percent further to stop than a passenger car. The space needed for stopping increases with speed, as well as on wet or icy roads.
- Significant blind spots. Most vehicles have blind spots on the side rear area of the vehicle. These are areas where the driver cannot see vehicles in adjacent lanes in their rear view or side mirrors. These blind spots are much larger in tractor-trailers and are present on all four sides of the vehicle, posing a danger to drivers who are traveling the roadway close to the truck.
- High centers of gravity. Tractor-trailers have a high center of gravity, which makes them top-heavy and prone to rolling over in accidents or when attempting to negotiate a sharp corner or turn.
- Wide turns. To maneuver the enormous truck through a turn, truck drivers must make wide turns. Every commercial tractor-trailer you see has a warning sign on the back of it to alert other drivers of these wide turns, as they can result in unaware drivers becoming trapped between the truck and the curb, experiencing a sideswipe while completing a turn alongside a truck, or even being struck on the front of their car by pulling so far into the intersection that the truck doesn’t have room to safely complete its turn.
- High ground clearance. Large trucks sit high off the ground, which presents an extreme risk of other vehicles sliding underneath them and becoming trapped during an accident, even having the tops of those smaller vehicles sheared off—a phenomenon known as an underride.
What Causes Commercial Trucks to Crash?
There are many reasons why trucks crash, not all of which are the fault of the truck driver. Truck drivers are held to higher safety standards than other drivers, including additional insurance, regular drug and alcohol testing, regular maintenance of their vehicle, mandatory break times to decrease fatigue, and much more. However, truck drivers are still found liable for the accidents they cause. Some truck driver errors and behaviors that result in accidents include:
- Fatigued driving: In spite of regulations on the amount of time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel before taking a break, many truck drivers are still working while drowsy. An FMCSA study revealed that about 13 percent of truck drivers who were involved in an accident were fatigued at the time of the crash. In addition to having a job with long hours and plenty of stress, a large number of truck drivers also suffer from sleep apnea, which is a breathing disorder that causes interruptions in breathing while the sufferer sleeps, often leaving them still feeling tired even after they had a full-night’s sleep. Extreme fatigue in drivers often presents similar deficits in the skills needed for driving as those experienced by drivers impaired by alcohol, including difficulties steering, scanning the roadway, controlling speed, and responding to hazards.
- Alcohol or drug impairment: In spite of being subject to mandatory testing for alcohol use and some kinds of drugs, some truck drivers still indulge in their use while on the job. Additionally, drivers may be unaware of the effects of over-the-counter and prescription medication that can also cause the driver to be impaired.
- Speeding: As previously mentioned, large trucks require more distance to come to a safe stop after the driver detects a hazard on the roadway. Speeding not only increases the distance needed but also decreases the time the driver has to perceive the danger and increases the severity of the impact when a collision occurs.
- Distracted driving: Truck drivers endure the same temptations as other drivers to multi-task. This means they have ample opportunity to become distracted by texting and other cell phone use, eating or drinking, smoking, and adjusting vehicle controls. Truck drivers also have many electronic devices, including GPS systems and logging systems, that assist them in doing their job but also may increase the distractions the driver must contend with while doing his or her job.
- Improperly loaded cargo: Truck drivers are required to undergo training in the proper loading and securing of cargo. That said, cargo shifts are a major cause of truck accidents as they lead to an imbalanced load that makes the truck more difficult to maneuver and increases the likelihood of the vehicle rolling over. Improperly securing the load is a concern, as well, as it can result in the truck losing its load and dropping dangerous obstacles onto the roadway or striking other vehicles with the cargo it is carrying.
- Getting lost: Truck drivers are often expected to make deliveries in cities that they are unfamiliar with. This can result in the driver becoming lost while attempting to complete his or her delivery. Lost drivers are a hazard to others on the roadway, as it can cause them to enter a one way street or ramp going the wrong direction or to make improper and dangerous lane changes to make a last-minute turn to get back on their route. Following navigation apps could take them off of truck routes and onto roads that were not intended for 18-wheelers, or that are reserved for passenger vehicles, like the Sprain Brook Parkway in Wetschester.
- Inclement weather: Inclement weather conditions, including wet or icy roads or poor visibility, puts the maneuverability issues surrounding large trucks on display as they struggle to make deadlines. One of the most alarming and well publicized problems with large trucks operating in bad weather is multi-vehicle pileups on interstates around the nation, which are not only often caused by the trucks being unable to stop on icy roads, but can also feature more severe injuries or even death if there are one or more trucks involved.
- Poorly maintained trucks: Commercial motor vehicles are required to undergo regular maintenance. If this maintenance is not performed or the individual conducting the maintenance procedures fails to recognize or correct a problem, it can lead to an accident. Some of the most common causes of accidents involving poor truck maintenance include faulty braking systems, faulty steering, and blown tires. Tire blowouts, while not at all unusual in the trucking industry, are especially dangerous as they often result in loss of vehicle control. Additionally, the pieces of the blown tire can create dangerous obstacles on the roadway for other drivers to navigate past.
- Defective truck parts: The manufacturers and distributors of the parts and systems that go onto a commercial truck have the responsibility to ensure that these parts—when used as intended—will not create hazards for the truck driver or other motorists.
- Corporate responsibility: Trucking companies are responsible for preventing crashes, hiring and scheduling drivers, and ensuring their trucks are safe. They often saddle their drivers with unrealistic expectations that encourage drivers to violate rules of service regulations and drive faster than the speed limit. They may not properly train or screen drivers, or discipline them when they violate the law or internal company rules. In these cases, you might hold a trucking company responsible when their drivers injure you.
Truck Accident Injury Statistics in New York State
Serious Injuries, Serious Liability
The injuries sustained in collisions with massive vehicles are often serious and life-altering. Many of these injuries even result in death. The survivors of this type of accident may face injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Amputation or disfigurement
- Internal injuries
- Deep lacerations
- Exposure to caustic or toxic materials coming from the vehicles or as a result of the hazardous materials that the truck is carrying.
Along with serious injuries, accidents caused by truck drivers often feature additional liable parties beyond the truck driver. Some potentially liable parties include:
- The trucking company that employed the driver. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that the drivers who work for them and represent them don’t have a negative past driving history, are regularly tested for drug and alcohol use, and are properly trained in the safe operation of the vehicle. After a truck accident, your attorney will carefully examine the details of the case to see if there is liability on the part of the company.
- The shipper. Companies who select a trucking company to transport their products are required to ensure that the company has the proper insurance and does not have a negative record. Shippers are also sometimes responsible for loading the cargo. If improper loading or securing of cargo was the cause of your accident, your truck accident lawyer will look to see who loaded the trailer and other possible sources of liability on the part of the shipper.
- The individual or entity responsible for performing maintenance on the truck.
- The manufacturer or distributor of defective truck parts.
- The drivers of other vehicles. Many accidents aren’t due to the two vehicles that collide but rather caused by the negligent actions of another motorist. This is particularly true when the accident is a chain reaction or pileup collision. Your truck accident lawyer will work to unravel all of the factors related to your crash to determine if another driver may have responsibility.
How a New York Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Truck accidents can be complex situations from a legal standpoint. In addition to determining potential liability and insurance resources that may be available to compensate you for your injuries, your truck accident lawyer will also complete important tasks such as establishing an estimated value to your personal injury claim that is based on the amount of medical expenses you have incurred or will likely incur in the future due to your injuries; the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle; lost wages due to either being too injured to work or required to miss work to attend medical appointments; and the impact that your injuries have had, and will continue to have, on your daily life.
Your lawyer may also serve as a point of contact for you with insurance companies, may negotiate with these companies on your behalf, and may also represent you in court in a personal injury lawsuit. Finally, when a settlement or award is obtained, your lawyer may assist you in the collection of these funds. It is important to choose an attorney who has experience with these types of cases, as they present your best opportunity for obtaining fair compensation for your injuries.
If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced truck accident attorneys in New York, contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, at (877)-565-2993 or contact us using our convenient online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
“If it were not for the integral legal team of experts at Jacoby & Meyers I would not be where I am today with my recovery. I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
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