In New York City as in other parts of NY State and across the country, garbage collection is much needed to maintain a clean and healthy community but can also endanger the safety of garbage truck drivers and the public. Sanitation workers face dangers inherent in their jobs. In fact, sanitation workers and other jobs in waste management face the threat of injury or even death on a daily basis and are statistically ranked in the ten most dangerous jobs in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report which listed garbage truck workers as the seventh most dangerous occupation in the country. The rate of deaths due to accidents on the job was nearly 30 fatalities for every 100,000 sanitation workers.
In New York City, the Department of Sanitation (“DSNY”) is responsible for garbage collection. DSNY has over 5,000 vehicles in service nearly 2,000 large trucks including garbage collection trucks, dual-bin collection vehicles, and street sweepers. The SDNY is the largest sanitation department in the world. Workers collect and handle over twelve thousand tons of trash each and every day. A typical garbage truck weights between 20-30 tons or more. The volume of work coupled with the massive size of these vehicles can lead to serious injuries or death. In one recent year, sanitation trucks in the City of New York were involved in more than one thousand accidents with the Controller’s Office paying out nearly $40 million in settlements and verdicts.
New York Garbage Truck Worker Injuries
Sanitation and waste management employees were ranked as the fourth most dangerous job when evaluating which occupation has the highest occurrence of work accidents and injuries.
Common sanitation worker injuries include:
Cuts, Lacerations, and Crush Injuries: This is the most frequent injury sustained by sanitation workers. Lacerations or cuts can occur due to falls from a garbage truck, moving equipment and parts on a sanitation truck, as well as falling objects. Crush injuries can occur when a part of a garbage truck malfunctions or is used incorrectly. For example, a rear loader sanitation truck dumpster can dislodge, fall, or crush a worker’s hand. Negligent use of hoist controls may contribute to this type of accident. OSHA has published a safety bulletin about rear loading trash truck accidents.
Struck by a Garbage Truck: Another type of accident is when a sanitation worker, bicyclist, or pedestrian is struck by a garbage truck. This often happens as the trash truck is backing up without first ensuring it is safe to do so or when a garbage truck driver’s rear view or side mirrors are obstructed. Additionally, if a garbage truck is parked or stopped in an unsafe area, sanitation workers can be struck by other vehicles especially in high traffic areas where a worker may suddenly dart out at the side of a truck near moving traffic.
Duties of Garbage Trucks in New York City
Collect trash on a daily basis from private homes, apartment buildings, and businesses and other commercial facilities
Starting and stopping the sanitation truck which is often done on narrow streets open to pedestrian and vehicular traffic
Plow snow after bad weather
Sweep the streets
Causes of Garbage Truck Accidents
Common causes of dump truck accidents include:
Blind spots the sanitation truck driver cannot see
Pedestrians or cyclists getting caught under the side of a sanitation truck with no side rails
High center of gravity on the dump trucks which increase the risk of a rollover accident
If the dump truck is carrying hazardous waste, it can be easily burst into flames in the event of an impact
Emergency road conditions such as snow, ice, or other bad weather are especially dangerous for garbage truck drivers because trash trucks maneuver poorly, are harder to slow down or stop, and are difficult to handle in bad weather.
Recommendations to Decrease Accidents and Improve Garbage Truck Safety
Garbage Truck Side Guards
Garbage Trucks should have side guards installed. This dramatically reduces the chances of pedestrians or cyclists being caught in the space between the road and side of a sanitation truck. A comprehensive report on this issue was recommended to the City of New York.
Sanitation Truck Rear Back-up Cameras
While some private garbage trucks do have rear back -up cameras, many trucks still do not have this technology. This can lead to serious accidents especially in busy and high traffic areas such as Manhattan. In residential areas, kids ride bikes and play on sidewalks and curbs where garbage trucks often stop and reverse. This enhances the danger.
Dump Truck Driver Blind Spots
A garbage truck driver cannot see:
What is immediately in front of the cab he or she is sitting in
What is to the right of the cab
What is behind the driver’s window
What is behind the rear of the dump truck / tailgate area
Using reflective clothing such as bright yellow vests with orange stripes
Making sure garbage truck drivers and workers use safety equipment and proper protective gear
Sanitation workers should stand to the side of the truck while compacting of trash is ongoing
Making sure the equipment is in the OFF position when workers are in the compacting area to prevent accidental crush injuries and other danger
Use of safety lockout / tag out (“LOTO”) procedures which ensure the power source is off in an area before work commences
Making sure pedestrian traffic does not congregate in the immediate vicinity of a sanitation truck that is operating
Damages following a Dump Truck Accident
Common damages and the experts used to prove these damages at trial include:
Personal physical injury & pain and suffering (medical doctors, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and other medical specialists)
Lost wages (past and future) – (Economists, Vocational Rehabilitation experts in cases where the injured party cannot return to their previous occupation)
Past medical expenses (economists and doctors)
Cost of future medical care and other related expenses (such as the cost of a surgery which can be very high) – (economists and doctors).
Property damage to your vehicle.
Types of physical injury after a garbage truck accident includes:
In the case of a private garbage truck, the time limit is three (3) years from the date of incident.
What to do after a Garbage Truck Accident
If you or a loved one is involved with an accident with a garbage truck there are a number of first steps that are important to take:
If you are feeling pain get medical care and treatment (your health always comes first ! )
Call the police at the scene of accident and make sure they file a police accident report. If the police do not come to the scene, file an MV-104 report with the Department of Motor Vehicles if you are a driver of a vehicle involved in the accident.
Write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident
Take a photo of the garbage truck’s license plate using your cell phone. Take photos of any damage to your car or the other vehicles involved as well as photos of the accident location
Do not speak with anyone other than your lawyer about how the accident happened or other crucial details
Keep receipts documenting your out of pocket costs and expenses
How Can an NYC Garbage Truck Accident Lawyer Help Me?
After a garbage truck accident, the experienced truck accident lawyers at Frekhtman & Associates can help an injured individual by evaluating the merits of the case, coordinating medical treatment to ensure a quick recovery, and launching a full investigation into the accident to prove liability. Our firm:
gathers evidence including photographs of damage to vehicles involved in the garbage truck accident, photos of the accident location, photos of injuries to parties, photos of applicable traffic control devices/ street signs, and other evidence that will help prove fault
interview witnesses and obtain witness statements; when needed we subpoena non-party witnesses for depositions under oath
obtain copies of police accident reports, MV-104 reports, and reports made by the City of New York and DSNY including incident reports and driver statements
obtain and review video footage from cameras including traffic cameras or surveillance videos used by local businesses or homeowners that captured the accident
demand discovery in litigation including the truck’s electronic data recorder also known as a black box, the garbage truck driver’s cell phone records, and other useful information
obtain repairs, maintenance, and inspection records for the sanitation truck involved in the accident
coordinate your medical care by ensuring you see the top medical specialists for all symptoms and injuries you sustained in the accident
hiring experts to prove liability including safety experts, engineers, and accident reconstruction experts to reconstruct how the accident happened to prove fault on the part of the defendants in the case
keep in constant contact with you as our client via phone, face to face meetings, text messaging, email, or other preferred methods of communication.
Contact an Experienced NYC Garbage Truck Accident Attorney