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NYC Commercial Truck Accidents: FAQs, Definitions and Statutes

NYC Commercial Truck Accidents: FAQs, Definitions and Statutes

truck car accident - Frekhtman & Associates Attorneys

Without a doubt, the most dangerous type of vehicle to collide with in an accident is a large commercial truck. Even the smaller ones often weigh far more than the average passenger car that weighs between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. As might be expected, injured passengers of other vehicles (as well as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycle riders) often die of their injuries.

People who manage to survive accidents with commercial trucks are often left paralyzed – or suffering from traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries – or a vast array of other medical problems. While many people improve greatly during rehabilitation, others must adjust to physical limitations and mobility problems for the rest of their lives. Compromising cognitive and psychological issues are also quite common.

Here are some useful definitions, references to applicable statutes – and answers to questions often asked regarding NYC commercial truck accidents.

How commercial trucks differ from other trucks – and how they cause accidents

“Big rigs,” freight trucks, eighteen-wheelers, cement trucks and delivery vehicles are some of the many types of commercial trucks that frequently pass by all of us on local freeways and some surface streets. When the largest ones are fully loaded, they can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds or more.

Since nearly all passenger vehicles weigh below 4,000 pounds – that weight differential clearly explains why so many accidents involving commercial trucks prove deadly — or produce catastrophic injuries. Commercial trucks are also different since they can only be driven or operated by men and women who’ve qualified for a commercial driver’s license.

There are many different factors which can cause commercial truck accidents. Many of their drivers often find it challenging to apply the brakes in a timely manner. Too often, other vehicles suddenly jut in front of big rigs — or there’s a sudden rain downpour that makes it harder for these trucks to quickly stop without jackknifing or hitting other vehicles.

Speeding can also be a problem, especially when it’s coupled with distracted driving. Of course, large commercial trucks do have unusually big “blind” spots that prevent them from being able to see other vehicles (or individuals) traveling or moving near them. In other words, many commercial trucks have “zero visibility” when other vehicles are traveling in their left rear or right rear quarters. That also holds true when other motorists travel directly behind very large commercial trucks.

Can you sue the companies that hired the drivers – or made the hauled materials?

Injured plaintiffs often ask if they can sue anyone besides the driver. This usually depends on whether the driver was an employee of the trucking company — or if that person was working as an independent contractor. As for suing the company that requested that highly dangerous or flammable materials be carried by the commercial truck driver – that often involves finding out if the maker of the dangerous substances clearly communicated their volatility to the driver. Such information is often clearly set forth in written contracts.

One approach a plaintiff’s lawyer may take while preparing a case is to allege that the defendant trucking company was guilty of negligently hiring the driver – especially if that driver had many recent driving violations or tickets (either just before being hired or afterwards).

Can a plaintiff who may have been partially liable for the accident still collect damages?

Recovery under such circumstances normally depends on New York laws that define “comparative negligence.” In a nutshell, such laws may allow a plaintiff to recover in a commercial trucking accident if the plaintiff is found to have been responsible for roughly less than half of the damages sustained. However, you must ask your New York commercial truck accident attorney more questions about this type of liability to find out if the pertinent New York laws have recently changed any.

What basic steps must you take after getting into an accident with a commercial truck?

If you are physically capable of doing so, New York law expects the following from you.

  • Drivers must provide accurate vehicle, insurance and personal driver’s license information to the other driver(s). Be sure you give them accurate information that’s not outdated;
  • You should contact the police. If there are any physical injuries or if the property damage may exceed $1,000, it’s always best to contact the police about the accident so they can create a report. If you don’t do this – then you absolutely must report the accident to law enforcement within 10 days. (Keep proof that you reported it for your records.) Failure to report a serious accident is a misdemeanor in New York – and it can lead to having your driver’s license either suspended or revoked;
  • Move your vehicle. If law enforcement will allow it, be sure to move your vehicle out of a busy traffic area and call an ambulance for all injured parties needing to go to the hospital. Although you must avoid taking photos that invade others’ privacy who’ve been seriously injured, it’s often wise to take photos just before all the vehicles have been moved so you can later accurately describe where everyone “landed” after impact. Do not discuss your opinion of the accident – and how it happened with anyone – unless you’re required to do so while speaking privately with law enforcement.

Be aware that your New York City commercial truck accident attorney will request all pertinent driving records of both the trucker involved and the company that employed that person. We will search for many different types of licensing violations – as well as violations of applicable state and federal laws. While investigating your case, we’ll also try to locate witnesses to the accident who might help us strengthen your case as we prepare for settlement negotiations and a possible trial.

Our law firm will also review all pertinent New York state (and federal) statutes pertinent to the accident. Among the many statutes that may be involved are the following ones.

  • New York Code Section 509-s which requires all commercial carriers to review the driving history of their drivers at least once a year;
  • New York Code Section 388 that involves attributing the negligence of a truck driver to the owner of the truck; and
  • New York Code Section 603-a that governs the type of investigation that the police must conduct when a major accident involved serious injuries or death.

If you have suffered serious injuries as a result of a major accident with a New York City commercial truck of any size, be sure to contact our New York City commercial truck accident law firm right away. We’ll fully investigate the facts of your case and fight hard to win the maximum compensation available to cover all your lost wages, personal pain and suffering, medical expenses and other relevant losses.