If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably been in a scrape or two between passenger cars — hopefully, nothing more than a parking lot dent or fender-bender. Those kinds of collisions happen to everyone at one time or another.
But truck accidents can be much more serious, and they can result in long-lasting injuries, permanent disability, or death.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports on traffic safety facts. In 2017, 4,471 people were killed nationwide in accidents involving large trucks. Of those fatalities:
Looking specifically at New York truck accidents, here’s what the statistics show: In 2017, there were 1,366 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in New York. Of those, 115 (8.4%) were large trucks.
|New York truck accident-related fatalities in 2017|
|Truck occupant fatalities in single-vehicle truck crash||10|
|Truck occupant fatalities in multi-vehicle truck crash||3|
|Fatalities for person in other vehicle||75|
|Non-vehicle occupant truck crash fatalities||33|
|Total 2017 truck accident-related fatalities in New York||121|
Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, 2017 data
One reason why truck accidents are more likely to result in fatalities than passenger car collisions is simple physics — they’re huge! The legal weight for an 18-wheeler is 80,000 pounds before an oversized load. In comparison, the average passenger vehicle weighs about 5,000 pounds.
Collisions don’t necessarily fit into neat little categories. Anything can happen, and an accident can be the result of more than one cause. In many cases, a truck accident is caused by driver error — either yours or the truck driver’s.
Here’s how driver error can cause an accident:
Driver error is a real hazard on New York roads, and although some accidents are just that — accidents — quick reaction time and proper training can prevent tragedies from happening.
Here are some of the ways that truck accidents happen:
Both cars and trucks can have tire blowouts. When that happens, it can cause the vehicle to swerve into another lane, roll over, or jackknife. A tire blowout is usually caused by wear and tear, defective manufacturing, or routine maintenance deficiencies.
If a truck tire blows out, the debris from the broken tire could hit other cars, or the truck could collide with other cars if it swerves out of its lane.
A “jackknife” is when the cab and trailer portions of a big rig fold at the joint. If the back of the trailer moves faster than the cab, it creates a sharp angle that causes the truck to face 2 directions. If this happens, the driver no longer has control over the vehicle. A nearby car could collide with the swinging trailer or wedge underneath the rear of the truck.
A passenger car can slide underneath a truck, either from the rear or the side. The height difference in the vehicles could mean that the top or front of the car could be crushed and its occupants seriously injured.
“Hazmat” stands for hazardous materials. This classification could include anything from gasoline, to pesticides, to lithium batteries, to dry ice. What classifies cargo as hazardous is if it’s either highly flammable or could become harmful to breathe if it becomes airborne.
A hazmat accident can affect not just the drivers on the road, but also anyone in surrounding areas. If a toxic substance is released into the air or certain bodies of water, it can affect people in nearby communities.
There are many federal regulations for loading cargo, and the main consideration is that the haul must be immobile and secure. The truck’s restraint system must be strong enough to keep cargo from sliding or shifting.
There are 2 ways an unsecured load accident could happen:
The basis for personal injury law is establishing liability, or fault.
When you’re involved in a car accident, there’s a likelihood that fault can be assigned to one or both drivers (or more, if there were more cars involved). But it’s not always that simple for truck accidents.
For starters, there are 3 types of truck drivers:
Determining which type of truck driver is responsible for your crash matters because establishing liability will likely depend on which type of truck driver is involved. If you’ve been in a truck accident, you probably need a lawyer who can sort out important details such as how the driver is employed and who’s responsible for the truck’s maintenance.
Vehicle maintenance could also be an important factor for liability. The person or company that owns or leases any vehicle is responsible for its maintenance. If there’s a contract between the owner and shipper, there probably are provisions in the contract that address maintenance. Even the truck driver might not know who’s responsible for maintenance under the contract, so your personal injury lawyer will likely have to request that information during the discovery process.
If the accident was caused by faulty brakes or other mechanical malfunction, liability could be on the manufacturer or the manufacturer of that specific part. If the accident was the result of improper loading or other cargo issue, or some failure that should’ve been detected during routine maintenance, that would be the fault of whoever had the responsibility to maintain and load the truck — the shipper, driver, owner, etc.
Even if the accident was driver error, it could still be the company’s liability (or the company and the driver could both be defendants). In certain circumstances, an employer is responsible for the negligent acts of an employee. Truck accidents sometimes happen because the driver was on the road for too long, went too many hours without sleep, or didn’t take enough rest stops. The employer can bear some responsibility for those situations.
What if the accident was caused by the truck operator, but you also made a mistake?
It happens. A traffic stop ahead might require you to make a split-second reaction, and you might make the wrong decision at that moment.
There are 4 primary ways that states assess liability and fault. Some don’t allow a plaintiff to recover any damages if they had any responsibility for the accident.
For example, let’s say you’re passing a big rig in the left lane. You see that it begins to swerve (it turns out that it was moving left in order to avoid an obstruction on the right shoulder). You could swerve onto the left shoulder to avoid collision, but you react a moment too slowly and the truck sideswipes you. Although it’s not your fault, the court could find that you bear a small percentage of liability for not moving to the left shoulder fast enough to avoid the crash.
This system is called comparative negligence. If you were awarded damages for the truck accident, the court would reduce the amount of damages you receive according to the amount of liability you have for the accident.
Look at it like this:
In the above scenario, the court awards you $100,000 for the damages to your car and your personal injuries. It finds that you were 10% responsible for the accident. Therefore, your damage award is reduced by 10% (which is $10,000). You would receive $90,000.
You can recover damages in a New York personal injury claim for costs associated with your physical or emotional injuries, property damage, and other financial losses.
Truck accidents can often result in serious and disabling injuries, which means you might require coverage for not just medical costs you’ve already incurred, but also future medical expenses and costs of living if you’re no longer able to earn the salary you had before the accident.
Damages after a truck accident include:
If you’ve already made a full recovery and are certain you won’t require additional treatment, you might be able to calculate your total expenses.
If you require additional treatment or are continuing to lose time from work because of your injury, it’s probably wise to consult a personal injury lawyer. Handling disability or social security claims, calculating future loss of earnings, and assessing future medical treatment costs can be tricky. Your lawyer will work with accountants, actuaries, and medical experts to make sure that the damage calculations are accurate so that you get what you deserve. The last thing you want is to be short-changed because of miscalculated damages.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more