What Do I Do If A Garbage Truck Damaged My Car?

Before contacting an insurance company, you may wish to first discuss your vehicle damage and any bodily injuries with an attorney experienced in assigning fault. Under New York State’s pure comparative negligence rule, insurance carriers may review the facts concerning vehicle accidents and then assign a percentage of fault to each party involved. You may only recover for damages if the insurer finds that carelessness on your part did not contribute 100% to the accident.

How Likely Is It That a New York City Garbage Truck Will Cause Some Type of Property Damage?

The odds may favor the chances of a New York City sanitation truck causing some form of property damage. The city has a fleet of more than 2,000 garbage trucks serving the five boroughs. The Big Apple generates more trash than any other city on Earth, about 14 million tons of it each year; that also generates a great deal of collection activity taking place on the streets.

Many of the city’s sanitation trucks perform their collection activities during the evening hours; they also tend to start and stop often during the course of their routes. In addition to the garbage trucks owned and operated by the city, private commercial haulers pick up trash from about 100,000 New York City businesses.

Because of their large size and heavy weight, accidents involving garbage trucks often cause a great deal of damage and harm. They must, however, also adhere to certain safety standards whether they are city-owned or operated by private companies. Overall, a greater number of accidents involve garbage trucks than most people think.

Insurance Carriers May Assign Fault to One or Both Parties

When determining fault, an insurance carrier’s typical approach is to look for a way to reduce the amount of money paid out in a third-party claim. In this respect, New York’s pure comparative negligence rule could work in the carrier’s favor.

A representative from the insurance company may request information from the involved parties and officials that could provide more details about the events that led up to the accident. If, for example, you violated a traffic law by speeding or using a cell phone, the carrier may attempt to deny your claim by assigning 100% of the fault to you.

The amount of damage compensation you receive could depend on the percentage of fault assigned to the garbage truck driver. If, for example, the truck driver drove through a red light, the insurance carrier may not have much choice other than to assign the driver with 100% of the fault; you could then recover 100% of your damages.

In cases where it appears that both parties contributed to an accident the carrier may allocate a percentage of fault to each driver. If, for example, the carrier assigns you 30% of the liability for the collision, your compensation may not exceed 70% of the damages. Based on the Empire State’s pure comparative negligence system, however, you may obtain damage compensation even if the truck driver had at least 1% of the fault.

The Owner of the Truck May Resist Accepting Blame for the Damages

Either the Department of Sanitation or a private waste-collection company may own the vehicle that caused the damage. Both the owner and the truck’s driver have a right to present information to help reduce their assignment of fault. The driver may even attempt to counter your damages claim by placing the blame for the accident entirely on you.

To assign all of the fault to you – or a greater percentage of it – the truck’s owner, driver or insurance carrier may need to prove that you operated your vehicle in a careless or negligent manner. If, for example, they obtain what might serve as reasonable proof of recklessness, it could become easier to shift all of the blame over to you. If, for example, the accident occurred late at night, they might argue that you fell asleep at the wheel and caused an unavoidable collision.

Report the Collision and Gather Evidence To Help Prove Fault

You may report a collision involving one of the city’s sanitation vehicles regardless of who caused the accident. The city may not, however, handle claims filed more than 90 days after the accident occurred. If you suffered any bodily harm, however, you have up to three years to file a personal injury lawsuit. The personal injury statute of limitations provides more time to recover from the accident and gather evidence to prove another individual caused the harm.

You could assist in proving fault by visiting the scene of the accident and taking pictures that help to explain the chain of events. Under certain circumstances, sanitation workers may have greater flexibility in operating their vehicles than passenger cars; your pictures could prove helpful in presenting your side of the story.

In some cases, malfunctions or poorly maintained vehicles cause accidents. If a garbage truck has a defect, such as a broken headlight, the vehicle’s owner has a duty to repair or replace it before sending its driver out on the road. The new sanitation vehicles may have also contributed to damage-causing mishaps. Since 2020, the New York City Department of Sanitation has used electric garbage trucks to collect trash; these battery-powered heavy vehicles, however, appear to have shown that they may not perform well during a heavy snow accumulation that may require an extended length of time on a trash collection route.

You May Need To Prove That You Drove More Carefully Around a Sanitation Truck

The Solid Waste Association of North America notes with great concern that data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that accidents involving garbage trucks have increased. Collisions reportedly occur when motorists drive while distracted or fail to drive more carefully when they approach a large sanitation vehicle. As a result of the increase in accidents involving garbage trucks, a number of states, including New York, have enacted Slow Down to Get Around laws.

The new laws require motorists to slow down or move over when passing waste and recycling vehicles that are collecting trash. To absolve itself of full or partial liability, a garbage truck’s owner may claim you contributed to your reported accident by not following a Slow Down to Get Around law. You may also need to argue against an allegation of driving while distracted and should have paid more attention to the road rather than looking at a mobile device. The insurance company or its legal team may ask the court to request your cell phone records. They may attempt to show that you sent a text message while driving and caused the accident.

Contact an Experienced New York City Truck Accident Attorney

Damage claims involving sanitation trucks owned and operated by the City of New York or one of its private commercial trash haulers could get complicated. When you file a claim, you may find yourself up against an insurance company that hopes to pin some or all of the blame on you.

To learn more about how an insurance carrier or the court may decide to allocate fault in a vehicular damage claim, contact us to schedule some time with one of the experienced truck accident attorneys on the Cellino Law team. We’ll also build a solid case for you and prepare the evidence to back it up; you have a right to receive the full compensation you deserve.



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  • Choosing the right attorney to represent you after an accident can make all the difference. This is no cliche. I recently experienced these words to live by first hand. After a tractor trailer rear ended me at high speed in 2017 I retained Allan Silverstein to handle my case. I quickly realized that bringing a lawsuit rapidly snowballs into a mountain of details that can make or break your results. Documents, case histories, doctor visits, bills, and lots of phone calls all need to be accurately kept track of if a successful outcome it to be attained. To complicate matters I reside in New York and the incident took place in New Jersey. Luckily, Allan was licensed in multiple states. I was fortunate to find Allan to handle this matter from the New York area. Armed with an accurate account of the facts Allan went to work on the difficult job of negotiating with the defending insurance company as well as my no fault carrier in order to obtain the best possible outcome for my set of circumstances. In a lawsuit communication is key and and events can be of a timely nature. Allan never failed to return my calls - usually the same day! He fought skillfully and respectfully to get me the best possible settlement. He is easy to deal with and a likeable down to earth guy. He always listened with compassion and respect to my issues. He guided me with objective understanding as well as a realistic analysis of the merits of my case. When we finally settled Allan got me a fair agreement beyond my expectations and negotiated with my doctors to make sure all my bills were paid. It was a great experience having Allan represent me. Quality work in any aspect of life is hard to find. Quality is what I got with Allan Silverstein. I highly recommend him if you find yourself in need of a personal injury attorney.


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