Large trucks, especially commercial ones, are a constant presence on New York City streets. Due to their domineering size and heavy weight, trucks can cause serious injuries when they hit a car, pedestrian, cyclist, or even another truck. The most recent statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show there were 4,761 fatalities in accidents involving large trucks in 2017 across the United States. This was a 9% increase from 2016.
Sadly, many of these tragic accidents are preventable. For the family members and friends left behind, it’s devastating. If your loved one was killed in a truck accident involving a tractor-trailer, big rig, semi-truck, garbage truck, or another commercial vehicle, you might be eligible for compensation. To learn more about your legal options or receive a free case evaluation, call the compassionate and experienced NYC truck accident attorneys at the Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm at 212-268-3222.
NYC DOT reports there are nearly 1,000 miles of designated roadway and that the city has one of the “most complex truck route systems” in the United States. Large commercial trucks using this route system must share road space with everyone else. Commercial trucks weigh about 20-30 times more than the average passenger vehicle (40 tons vs. two tons), and the impact that occurs in a truck crash is significant for those on the other side of a truck collision.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports 97% of victims of fatal truck crashes are occupants of the passenger vehicle. Pedestrians and cyclists are also particularly vulnerable. Statistics state these two groups comprise just 5% of all truck-involved crashes, but 18.8% of these crashes result in a fatality. Commercial trucks are a necessary presence on New York City roadways, but this doesn’t mean any catastrophic injuries and fatalities associated with truck crashes are acceptable.
A fatality occurring in a truck accident is heartbreaking, especially when an investigation shows the truck crash was preventable. Unfortunately, numerous accidents involving large commercial trucks and tractor-trailers could be avoided if traffic laws are obeyed and smarter decisions made by truckers and their companies. Many factors can lead to a fatal truck accident in NYC; here are some of the most common reasons these accidents occur.
Distracted driving is the top contributor to any motor vehicle accident, including trucks. The State of New York prohibits any driver from using handheld cellphones by law. Unfortunately, many truck drivers disregard this regulation and use their phones anyway. In the mere seconds it takes to unlock a phone, dial a number, or even answer a call, a driver can lose control of their truck or hit something in their path.
Road rage is a real condition. Drivers under pressure to complete a job get angry at their circumstances and drive unsafely by weaving in and out of lanes, racing through yellow or red traffic lights, or tailgating other drivers in their way. In NYC, this is particularly dangerous due to its crowded streets and problematic road designs. When an aggressive trucker breaks traffic safety laws, it often results in a serious accident.
The freight industry relies heavily on trucks transporting goods from one place to another. Many drivers in the trucking industry are given tight schedules with long hours. Despite federal trucking regulations restricting the number of hours a driver is allowed to spend on the road during a trip, many truck companies put stress on their drivers to expedite their deliveries where they lose valuable rest. This results tired driver who is at risk to fall asleep behind the wheel, although even well-rested drivers sometimes succumb to driver fatigue. The stress associated with driving a heavy truck is mentally exhausting.
We all hope no driver would get behind the wheel while drunk or otherwise impaired. Sadly, it happens more often than we’d like to hear, and truck drivers aren’t immune to the risks associated with driving while impaired. Drivers may have a few drinks to relax from stress or take drugs to boost their alertness. Any type of substance, illegal, or legal that inhibits judgment, creates higher risks for other people navigating NYC streets.
NYC’s road design is not only complex; in many sections of the five boroughs, streets are poorly designed and badly maintained. Potholes, uneven roads, crumbling pavement, obstructed signs, and debris in traffic lanes are common. Drivers who miss these conditions or fail to safely navigate them increase the risk of being involved in a fatal truck accident.
NYC’s winter months are often cold, windy, snowy, and icy. Summer months bring heavy rains and the occasional tropical storm strength conditions. Careless drivers operating trucks on inclement weather days increase already hazardous conditions. Bad weather increases the risk of a truck sliding, flipping over, or jackknifing. Anyone in the path of a wayward truck is more likely to be injured or killed.
Blind spots are another problem that may contribute to any of the above causes of truck accidents. A tractor-trailer truck driver’s blind spot is quite large and, even under the best of circumstances, they may miss a vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcyclist sharing the roadway. Coupled with illegal, erratic, or reckless behaviors, the results could be devastating.
The sheer size of a commercial truck is enough to equate to a devastating truck crash. Victims on the other side of the truck wreck often don’t have a chance to get out of a wayward large vehicle. Any collision with a large commercial truck can lead to serious injury, considerable vehicle damage, and, tragically, death. Common types of fatal truck crashes include:
Commercial truckers who take a right-hand turn without adequately calculating the distance of those in their path or knowing their surroundings can hit people or other vehicles.
Any head-on collision creates risk for a fatality, but when a truck is involved, the sheer size and weight can cause serious enough damage to kill another driver or passenger.
The heavy weight of a commercial truck pushing into another vehicle often leads to a serious accident, which can result in a fatality.
Improperly or carelessly loaded freight is at risk of falling from a truck and striking anyone in its way as it spills onto NYC streets. Trucks moving at excessive speeds or dropping heavy goods will cause a serious accident. Also, exceeding federal regulations for the legal amount of goods that can be loaded can result in trucks losing loads and potentially hitting people who share the city streets.
Truck drivers who illegally run through intersections crashing perpendicularly into another vehicle create a T-bone crash. These are serious since the other vehicle bears the brunt of the crash and weight of the commercial truck.
Truckers who lose control of their rig and tip it over create a rollover situation. It is dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, or smaller vehicles in the vicinity when this type of event occurs.
Big rigs are highly susceptible to jackknifing. It occurs when a trucker pushes the brake hard too quickly, resulting in the tractor-trailer forming a 90-degree angle. Jackknife accidents are commonly caused by driver error and are among the most preventable types of large commercial truck crashes.
When a truck’s tire blows out, the driver can quickly lose control of the truck, especially if traveling at high speed. This is because there is no time or ability to correct the motion, putting anyone or thing in its path at risk for injury or death.
These are several of the common causes of fatal truck accidents; still, there could be other factors as well, including but not limited to brake problems, traffic flow interruption, speeding, unfamiliarity with roadway, and inadequate surveillance.
New York State is a “no-fault” insurance state. This means motor vehicle accident victims must first collect compensation from their own automobile insurance company, even if they were not at fault. However, even though New York is a no-fault insurance state, victims of motor vehicle accidents do have the right to pursue justice and compensation if it can be proven the trucker, or another responsible party, was negligent. To qualify for a wrongful death claim, NYS does require specific criteria to be met.
In fatal truck accidents, there can be many potential instances of negligence. For example:
Unlike a car accident lawsuit where the responsible motorist is typically held liable, a truck accident is often complex. The liable party could be the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, or the owner of the goods loaded on the truck. A skilled accident lawyer can examine the details of a truck accident case and determine if there is cause for negligence and identify the responsible party.
A trucking accident lawsuit can pursue both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are losses where a dollar value is assigned. These include medical bills, funeral, and burial costs, lost wages, diminished earning power, loss of financial support, property damage, and consortium loss. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional distress, loss of quality of life, and enjoyment. Punitive damages may be sought by a personal injury lawyer if malice or extreme recklessness by the negligent party.
The State of New York imposes a three-year statute of limitations on all motor vehicle accidents, including large commercial trucks and semi-truck accidents. This time period starts on the day the fatal truck accident occurs. However, there are some limited exceptions to this NYS regulation. An NYC personal injury attorney can determine if there are any grounds for an extension to this date to file an injury claim.
However, it’s best to get a legal consultation as soon as possible. Truck companies will have their insurance carriers and attorneys working at the accident scene immediately, and victims should protect themselves. Waiting too long to file a case could result in evidence being gone or not enough time to build a strong truck accident claim.
When a negligent party causes a cherished family member’s death, it is often difficult to move forward without closure. No amount of money will make up the loss of your loved one, but you can hold the negligent party accountable for their wrongful acts. The personal injury attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine have over 30 years of motor vehicle accident experience. We will tirelessly work on your behalf to ensure you receive justice and the parties at fault are held responsible for their role in the fatal crash.
Our trial lawyers are thoroughly versed in New York State Traffic and Wrongful Death laws. Our legal team will conduct a case review, investigate the commercial truck accident, determine any contributing factors, identify the negligent parties, and seek compensation for whoever is liable for your loss. We promise to stand with you every step of the way and be your voice in the courtroom to tell your story. Call the Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm at 212-268-3222 or complete our contact form to receive a free consultation.