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Truck Accidents in New York

Due to a combination of different factors, the number of large truck crashes recently hit an all-time high. A severe truck driver shortage, which began around 2010, should continue well into the future. At the same time, the demand for consumer goods escalates almost every year. So, many of the trucks on the road are bigger and heavier than ever, and the drivers behind the wheel are less experienced than ever. Therefore, these wrecks often cause serious injuries, such as severe burns and head injuries.

The experienced New York truck accident attorneys at Pianko Law routinely handle these cases throughout the Five Boroughs and beyond. So, we know what it takes to obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries. Since we build claims based on solid evidence and sound legal theories, we are normally able to settle these claims out of court. As a result, victims have more control over the outcome, and perhaps more importantly, they get their settlement checks sooner.

What Causes Truck Accidents in New York?

Substance abuse, fatigue, and mechanical issues are among the leading causes of truck accidents in New York and elsewhere.

Frequently, the substances involved are legal to consume. Truckers often rely on stimulants, like caffeine and diet pills, to get through their days. Then, they turn to over-the-counter sleep aids at night. Daytime stimulants impair judgment and motor skills. These substances often cause drivers to take unnecessary risks behind the wheel. Furthermore, stimulants make drivers jittery and prone to over-reaction. Nighttime sleep aids often have lingering effects. They could cause drowsiness, even several hours after the person awakes.

Speaking of drowsiness, fatigue is a serious problem for truck drivers. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load instead of by the mile. Thus, truckers must stay on the road as long as possible in order to make money on a given run.

Alcohol and fatigue affect the body and brain in similar ways. In fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial operators in New York.

Pre-existing conditions often contribute to the problem. Sleep apnea, a disorder which affects many truckers, is a good example. The breathing problems associated with sleep apnea mean that these individuals basically doze all night. So, they do not feel refreshed, even after a full night’s sleep.

As for mechanical problems, most truckers drive as many as 100,000 miles a year. The most well-made machine on earth can only withstand so much wear and tear. Common issues include braking and steering issues. Because semi-trucks are so large, even a minor problem can cause a major accident.

Establishing Liability

To obtain compensation for the aforementioned injuries, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, evidence is critical for a New York truck accident lawyer.

Frequently, a combination of the police accident report, medical records, and the victim’s statement provide the necessary evidence in a truck crash claim. However, such evidence is not always available, especially in fatal accident claims. The victim’s testimony is obviously unavailable in these situations. Furthermore, the police report only contains one side of the story.

Electronic evidence, such as a truck’s Event Data Recorder, often supplements this proof. Most EDRs measure and record information like:

Vehicle speed,
Steering angle,
Engine RPM, and
Brake application.
To obtain compensation for the aforementioned injuries, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, evidence is critical for a New York truck accident lawyer. Frequently, a combination of the police accident report, medical records, and the victim’s statement provide the necessary evidence in a truck crash claim. However, such evidence is not always available, especially in fatal accident claims. The victim’s testimony is obviously unavailable in these situations. Furthermore, the police report only contains one side of the story. Electronic evidence, such as a truck’s Event Data Recorder, often supplements this proof. Most EDRs measure and record information like:
  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.
A skilled attorney, often in partnership with an accident reconstruction engineer, can put these pieces of evidence together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Establishing Liability

Usually, truck drivers have a duty of utmost care. This legal responsibility means they must go above and beyond when it comes to accident prevention.

Following distance illustrates the difference between a noncommercial driver’s duty of care and a commercial operator’s level of responsibility. Most car and truck drivers should keep about two seconds between themselves and the vehicles in front of them. The recommended trucker following distance is at least six seconds, in most cases.

The higher duty of care makes it easier to establish liability for damages. As the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Drowsy driving arguably violates this duty. Fatigue impairs both judgment and motor skills. Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Driving under the influence of legal or illegal drugs violates the DUI law, and the aforementioned mechanical issues violate the traffic code.

Drivers are legally responsible for the damages they cause. Typically, the shipping or transportation company which owned the truck is financially responsible for damages. The respondeat superior rule applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee who was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the wreck.

New York law defines these elements in broad, victim-friendly ways. For example, even though most truck drivers are independent contractors or owner-operators for financial purposes, they are generally employees for negligence purposes.

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