If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, a Buffalo truck accident attorney from Cellino Law can help you file a claim for compensation from the truck driver, the trucking company, or both. We can also help you in identifying the other possible defendants who could also be held liable for your injuries. Truck drivers can be held responsible if they are negligent, which you prove by showing that they broke a safety rule or by demonstrating that no reasonable CDL driver would have acted in the way the truck driver did.
Trucking companies can be held liable based on the negligence of their employees since they are considered to be acting on behalf of the company. If the company itself failed to implement or enforce reasonable policies to ensure public safety, such as conducting thorough checks on the trucker’s driving record before hiring, then the company could be considered negligent in its own right. This would also make the company liable for your injuries. In many cases, the insurance policy taken up by the trucking company has large limits, which means more money for paying out to damage claims. Our personal injury law firm in Buffalo can help you decide your best course of action.
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How Are Truck Accidents Different Than Car Accidents?
Truck crashes are a lot more complicated compared to crashes involving passenger cars. As such, victims should always consult a Buffalo car accident lawyer who has experience in handling these complex types of claims. Here are some reasons why truck accidents are typically more complex:
- The average full-size commercial truck is much larger and weighs from 10,000 pounds while empty to upwards of 80,000 pounds when loaded with cargo. This makes truck accidents much worse, with far more physical evidence to evaluate after the accident.
- Most truck drivers have direct employers backing them up. Their investigators and legal teams are dedicated to protecting both the driver and the trucking company from negative financial consequences after an accident.
- There are typically multiple parties involved in the operation of trucks that haul cargo in New York, and one or more may share liability for the accident.
- Truck wreck investigations call for a deep understanding of federal regulations, which essentially cover all aspects of the trucking industry, including reports and records that the drivers and the companies must maintain.
Our lawyers will move quickly following a truck accident to make sure that the records and other evidence are well preserved. We’ll obtain court orders to gain access to the wreckage and demand that the companies turn over their truck’s EDR (Event Data Recorder) or “black box” record of the truck’s operations before the accident, along with any other available data, such as the dashboard video systems.
We’ll also conduct interviews with other employees of the trucking company and other third parties, who might shed more light on the negligent actions that contributed to the accident.
For the more complex accidents, we might seek the assistance of forensic specialists and accident reconstruction consultants, who can help to determine why and how the accident occurred. Along with producing comprehensive reports based on the principles of physics and engineering, these experts will also provide witness testimony and potentially a reenactment that demonstrates to the court and jury what happened.
What Are The Leading Causes of Truck Accidents?
The following are a few factors that we consider during our truck accident investigations:
Truck Driver Negligence
Just like car accidents, commercial truck accidents are often a result of something the driver failed to do or did wrong. Sometimes, truck drivers cause accidents while performing an illegal or unsafe maneuver, such as running a stop sign, doing an improper lane change, or failing to yield the right of way. Sometimes, it could be as simple as failing to look closely or long enough and making a turn into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Below are some of the common types of truck driver negligence:
This is the most common cause of truck accidents. This is according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which ideally regulates the entire trucking industry. It’s widely understood how driving too fast for the prevalent conditions, such as congested traffic or inclement weather, which makes it hard to stop in time or slow down to avoid a collision. Tailgating combined with speeding often causes many rear-end collisions involving trucks.
The FMCSA identifies it as “inattention/distraction”, and is the second most common reason why many truckers cause accidents. Any form of distracted driving, such as texting while driving, is an ongoing problem despite being increasingly documented as a danger and even regulations being implemented prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving. Inattention also refers to thinking about anything or daydreaming, which causes the truck driver to neglect the operation of the vehicle while behind the wheel.
Drowsy or Fatigued Driving
This is often brought about by spending long hours behind the wheel, which is often a violation of the FMCSA Hours of Service laws. There are times where this is the driver’s choice, though in most cases the driver is under direct orders from the employer to stay on the road in order to meet deadlines and avoid taking the mandated breaks.
Driving Under the Influence
This is far more prevalent in the commercial trucking industry than with drunk driving due to the fact that commercial truck drivers are strictly tested for alcohol consumption. Many truckers involved in accidents have been found to be under the influence of stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, and meth (methamphetamine), which they use to stay awake and keep driving for long hours. At the same time, some truckers might overlook the fact that certain over-the-counter or prescription medication can cause drowsiness and other adverse side effects that impair their ability to drive. Albeit rare, drunk driving accidents also occur in the trucking industry.
In a truck jackknife (where the trailer and cab suddenly slide towards each other like a folding knife) or rollover accident, the investigators will consider whether the cargo shift might have led to the accident. When cargo is not secured properly or is improperly loaded, it can move and even break free, which changes the truck’s center of gravity. This could cause a jackknife accident, a rollover, or simply cause the truck to lose control and eventually lead to a crash.
Besides the dangers posed by shifting cargo, cargo spillage accidents might also be quite dangerous to other motorists, who might be hit by the careening or falling cargo or have to swerve their cars to avoid hitting the truck and crash. HazMat (hazardous materials) spills may also result in a broad range of damage, including personal injury and fouling waterways.
Although vehicle-related factors generally contribute to significantly fewer truck accidents compared to human error, they do occur. Accidents may be caused by the failure of tires, brake systems, wheels, power trains, lighting, coupling systems, and many other vehicle components. In a 2010 study cited by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), post-crash inspections of trucks showed that over half of them had at least one mechanical problem that was in violation of FMCSA regulations, and over 30% had at least one condition that should have had the vehicle taken off the road. A truck can also cause accidents due to faulty manufacturing of systems or parts, or ignored maintenance needs.
Occasionally, the lack of maintenance of a roadway or just faulty design contributes to an accident. For instance, overgrown trees or vegetation at an intersection could obscure the view, or neglected potholes make the driver lose control of the vehicle and crash. Local contractors and governments responsible for the roadways might be held liable for the road conditions that contribute to the truck crashes.
Faulty Work Zones
When contractors set up restricted areas for highway maintenance or construction, they should follow proper design protocols that offer motorists adequate warning and time to slow down, accompanied by barriers and ample space between the workers and traffic. The work zone setup should ideally take into account the additional distance needed for a truck to slow down, along with anticipated traffic congestion, posted highway speeds, and more.
As highlighted by these common causes of truck accidents, a personal injury claim can pursue compensation from the trucking company, the truck driver, and/or a third party, such as the government, a contractor responsible for loading the cargo, or a distributor or manufacturer of defective truck parts.
At Cellino Law, we have a team of skilled and experienced Buffalo truck accident lawyers who will conduct a thorough investigation into your accident and identify any liable party.
Truck Accident Injuries
A passenger car is no match for the sheer weight and size of a commercial truck. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh over 80,000 pounds, while most cars typically weigh about 3,000 pounds. For this reason, the injuries suffered by the occupants of the car can be quite severe and are often fatal. Since there’s a high likelihood of the passengers suffering catastrophic injuries, trucking companies are required by law to have insurance policies with high policy limits.
At Cellino Law, we’ve represented many truck accident victims who suffered extensive personal injuries such as:
- Traumatic bleeding and brain injury
- Head injuries, including concussions
- Burns from explosions
- Emotional trauma
- Back injuries and spinal cord damage
- Facial injuries
- Loss of limbs or amputations
- Internal injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
These kinds of injuries often require complex forms of medical treatment, long-term care, and rehabilitation. Our Buffalo truck accident attorneys will work hard to ensure you and your family are awarded the maximum compensation possible to cover all the injuries and damages you suffered.
Truck Accident Statistics
The New York Times recently reported that more people will lose their lives in traffic accidents involving large commercial trucks this year than the total number of lives lost in all domestic airline crashes over the last 45 years. In their most recent review of trucking accidents, the FMCSA determined that over 98,000 people were killed or injured in a truck wreck in 2013 alone. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, over 5,000 people were killed or injured in 2014 by large trucks in the State of New York.
In the U.S. large truck crashes account for over 130,000 injuries and more than 5,000 deaths every year. Nearly 35% of these injuries can be categorized as severe. Big rigs or tractor-trailers that weigh over 10,000 pounds represent only 3% of all the registered motor vehicles, but they’re responsible for 25% of all the fatal vehicle crashes. The main reason behind this is their sheer weight and size. A fully loaded truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, which is about 20 times the weight of the average passenger car, which weighs about 4,000 pounds. These big rigs are also quite powerful, and in an accident, they could strike the other vehicle with a force of 20 cars.
According to the United State’s Department of Transportation (DOT) FMCSA, specifically its Analysis Division for Large Trucks and Bus Crash Facts (LTBCF), the year 2017 saw 121 fatalities in large truck crashes. This was a considerable increase from the 106 fatalities that occurred the previous year, though less than the 126 that happened in 2015. In the last 10 years, most fatalities occurred in 2017 with a total of 155, and the least occurred in 2014, with a total of 98. Of all these fatalities, 841 were the occupants in the large trucks.
In terms of the number of fatal crashes involving commercial trucks, the LTBCF reported that New York had 112 fatalities in 2017, which is an increase from a total 0f 100 in 2016, but less than the 113 that occurred in 2015. The same years has the lowest and highest totals, with the 91 crashes of 2014 being the least and the 137 of 2007 being the highest.
In 2017, New York had a total of 69 multi-vehicle crashes involving large trucks. In the same year, there were 42 single-vehicle fatal accidents that involved large trucks. And with a population of 19,849,399 in 2017, it means New York saw a rate of 5.64 fatal accidents involving large commercial trucks per million people, which is lower compared to a rate of 5.73 in 2010.
In 2017, the states that saw the highest fatal truck accident rates were Wyoming (29.35), Oklahoma (30.53), and Mississippi (31.71), while Hawaii (4.20), Massachusetts (3.94) and District of Columbia (0.00) saw the lowest rates.
The LTBCF report for 2017 stated that the 4,889 large commercial trucks and busses involved in fatal accidents increased 9% in comparison to the previous year. And while the total for 2017 was 7% lower than the peak of 5,231 in 2005, it’s still a 42% increase from the 2009 low of 3,432.
The most recent stats show that there was a total of 119,000 injury accidents involving large buses or trucks in 2016, 180,000 people injured in large truck and bus accidents, and 125,000 large trucks or buses involved in injury accidents. In the same year, there were a total of 418,000 property damage only (PDO) accidents involving large buses or trucks, and a total of 443,000 large buses or trucks involved in PDO accidents.
The IIHS reported a total of 2,797 deaths in accidents involving large trucks in the year 2017, with 68% being passenger car occupants, 17% (683) being large truck occupants, and 14% (580) being bicyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians. The IIHS also highlighted that 97% of the fatalities in two-vehicle accidents that involved large trucks were passenger car occupants. Of these fatal trucking accidents, 74% (3,043 deaths) involved tractor-trailers, 25% (1,042 deaths) were a single unit, while 2% (94 deaths) were unknown.
The IIHS also reported that 32% (1,297 fatalities) in the large truck accidents occurred on freeways and interstates, 52% (2,132 fatalities) occurred on major roads, while 15% (616 fatalities) occurred on minor roads.
Federal Regulations for Large Trucks
Since tractor-trailers are much larger, more powerful, and dangerous to other motorists, the FMCSA has implemented strict regulations for these trucks and their operators. As mentioned earlier, there’s an 80,000-pound load limit, and the FMCSA also stipulates the number of consecutive hours and total hours that a trucker can drive in a day and week. The FMCSA has also mandated that the truck owners perform maintenance checks on their trucks regularly and make the necessary repairs. These regulations are put in place to make the roads safer for all road users.
Unfortunately, there are still many trucking companies that don’t adhere to these rules and go on to encourage their drivers to circumvent the regulations to perhaps increase their profits and beat deadlines. Some of the common illegal practices include:
- Overloading the trailers
- Not taking the required rest breaks
- Driving for more hours than mandated by law
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving in dangerous weather
What Steps Should You Take After a Truck Accident in New York?
If you or a loved one was involved in an accident with a large truck or any other commercial vehicle in New York, there are a few steps you can take to protect your possible truck accident claims or lawsuits for compensation:
Call 911 Immediately to report the accident
If you are involved in a truck accident, you should report the accident to the police, whether you feel or appear injured or not. This will ensure an official report is made, which will be helpful when pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or an insurance claim. Calling 911 will also enable the police and emergency responders to arrive at the scene quickly to help the injured and control traffic.
Seek Medical Care
Trucking accidents often result in severe injuries. So, never hesitate to be checked over by the paramedics or go to the emergency room following the crash. The physician will ideally conduct a full body examination and look for any injuries that might not be visible immediately, such as traumatic brain injuries and other internal injuries.
Document the Accident Scene
If you or someone around you can, be sure to take photos and videos of the crash scene. This should document the injuries and damages to the vehicles and surrounding property as thoroughly as possible.
Exchange Contact Information
Request the truck driver to provide you with their name and contact details, along with their employer’s name and contact information. You should also get their insurance information, and provide your details in return.
Seek Witness Information
In case there were any witnesses who saw the crash happen and/or stopped to help, be sure to ask for their contact information. Your truck accident attorney will contact them on your behalf to obtain their statements.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Be sure to notify your insurance company as soon as you can that you were involved in a truck accident.
Get in touch with a Buffalo Truck Accident Attorney
If you were involved in an accident with a truck in New York, you should consider working with a personal injury lawyer with specific knowledge and experience in handling commercial truck accidents.
What Damages Can Be Awarded After A Truck Accident?
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicle reported that over 5,000 people lose their lives or are injured by large trucks every year in the state. Due to the weight and size difference of large trucks and passenger vehicles, these crashes often cause greater damage than those caused by smaller cars. If you were injured in a truck accident, the Buffalo truck accident lawyers at Cellino Law will help you pursue compensation for your damages, including:
- Current and future medical bills caused by injuries related to the truck accident
- Physical therapy and costs for rehabilitation from the injuries
- The pain and suffering caused, including emotional distress and mental anguish
- Any necessary vehicle and home modifications, including lifts and wheelchair ramps
- Any form of permanent disability, injury, and property loss or damage
- Loss of earning capacity or career, including the lost earnings from time off work
The exact amount of damages you can be awarded depends on your specific situation. There are generally two types of damages that people pursue: compensatory and punitive. You most likely will be pursuing compensatory damages, which are intended to have the responsible parties pay for the costs you incurred due to the injuries you suffered. These include tangible things like how much you owe the hospital in bills and how much you lost in earnings, and intangibles like pain and suffering.
In case you lost a loved one or received extreme injuries, punitive damages can be pursued. These are meant to punish the responsible party a bit more for their actions, and that’s why they aren’t included in most lawsuits.
How Can A Lawyer Help My Truck Accident Claim?
At Cellino Law, our truck accident attorneys have extensive experience in handling truck accident claims and truck accident cases. We can uncover the necessary evidence to build you a strong case, which we achieve by interviewing witnesses, obtaining surveillance videos of the accident, photographing the scene, and working with accident reconstruction experts.
There are a number of documents that must be obtained, including the driver’s Trip Sheet, Log Books Time Card, and Route Schedule, along with all the driver’s manifests, logs, and other documents prepared by or on behalf of the driver within the last 30 days prior to the accident.
Our law firm will also request inspection reports, which include inspection reports prepared for the truck, the first inspection report, the inspection report for the date of the accident, and the truck’s checklist following the accident. Our Buffalo truck accident lawyers have the knowledge and skills to quickly identify the documents that will be critical to resolving the case as effectively as possible.
Due to the devastating impact that the injuries could have on the life of the individual, people who are hurt in a truck crash or accident might be entitled to pursue financial compensation for their damages. No one should have to bear the burdens of another person’s recklessness or negligence in a truck accident that they were not at fault. A successful personal injury suit can help you secure the financial assistance you need and deserve to pay for the medical bills, the lost earnings, and other damages.
Is The Truck Driver Or Their Employer Responsible For An Accident Caused By Impaired Driving?
Commercial truck drivers in New York are not allowed to drive their trucks when their blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.04% or higher. In case you or a loved one was injured in such an accident, both the driver and the trucking company that hired them can be liable for the injuries and damages you experienced.
Who Can Be Held Liable If A Mechanical Failure Causes A Truck Accident?
Depending on the specific circumstances, the truck’s owner, the driver, and the company the driver works for could all be liable for the damages you incurred. If the employer company or truck owner failed to inspect the tires correctly, they could be liable for your injuries. In case the tires had any inherent defects, the manufacturer could be liable for the damages.
Should You Talk With An Insurance Company Without A Buffalo Truck Accident Lawyer?
The best approach is to communicate with the other insurance companies unless you’re letting them know that you have legal representation. At this point, let your Buffalo personal injury attorney know if they initiate any communication. Also, never sign anything without having your lawyer present, as you risk limiting your compensation. Your truck accident attorney will communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf.