New York Truck Accident Law
While any car accident can cause devastating harm, truck accidents tend to be especially serious because of the size and weight of the truck. The impact can crush a passenger car and result in life-changing disabilities or even tragic deaths. People who have suffered catastrophic injuries in New York truck accidents, such as spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, and severe burns, should consider taking legal action against the driver and any other parties that were responsible. The costs in these situations can be overwhelming, and so can the emotional impact of the accident. These cases also can be complex because of the wide range of parties that may be involved, and they are often fiercely contested, so consulting an attorney is especially important.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Often, truck accidents result from the careless actions of the truck driver, who may have violated federal or state regulations in causing the crash. For example, hours of service rules impose limits on the consecutive hours that a driver can spend behind the wheel and require breaks of certain length between periods of driving. Drivers must maintain accurate logbooks of their hours to demonstrate their compliance. If a driver violates the hours of service regulations, they may fall asleep behind the wheel or become too tired to respond promptly to situations that arise on the road. This situation likely would support liability for an ensuing crash. Some other examples of careless truck driver behavior include making excessively wide turns, failing to leave a proper stopping distance, failing to properly load or secure cargo, or using alcohol or drugs before driving.
Identifying All Parties Responsible for the Truck Accident
In many cases, a truck driver works as an employee of a trucking company. This can expose the company to liability for an accident caused by the driver under the doctrine of vicarious liability. To apply this doctrine, the crash must have occurred while the driver was acting in the course and scope of employment, such as if they were delivering cargo for the employer. (If the driver were running a personal errand, by contrast, vicarious liability probably would not apply.) Some trucking companies are aware of this rule and try to classify drivers as independent contractors, but vicarious liability may still apply if the victim’s attorney can show that the driver meets the definition of an employee.
Sometimes a trucking company may be held not only vicariously liable for its driver’s actions but also directly liable for its own negligence. These legal theories include negligent hiring (or retention), negligent supervision, and negligent training. If a driver falsifies his logbooks, for example, a trucking company should take action to discipline the driver and require his compliance. If they turn a blind eye to this conduct, they may be liable for an accident that results when the driver falls asleep. Also, if a trucking company fails to review a driver’s history before hiring him, and he turns out to have several DUIs on his record, the trucking company may be directly liable to a victim in a crash caused by the driver’s intoxication.
An investigation of a truck accident also may reveal that a defective vehicle or component played a role. When this happens, a truck accident lawyer can bring the manufacturer of the vehicle or component into the lawsuit. These claims are based on a theory of strict product liability, which is different from the standard negligence theory in personal injury claims. Rather than proving that the manufacturer failed to use the proper care, the victim’s attorney simply would need to show that the vehicle or component had a manufacturing or design defect, and this defect caused or contributed to the accident.
Compensation for Truck Accident Victims
Victims of truck accidents in New York can recover many types of compensation to address their physical, emotional, and financial harm. Damages are often classified as either economic or non-economic. Economic damages are those that are relatively objective and easily quantified, such as hospital bills, therapy costs, medications, and other medical expenses related to the crash. Lost income is another example of economic damages. By contrast, non-economic damages cover items such as pain and suffering or a reduction in the victim’s quality of life. Victims also may be able to recover compensation for future damages if they can be proven with reasonable certainty. In many cases, a victim’s attorney will retain medical, vocational, and other experts to discuss the extent of the victim’s injuries and explain their future impact on the victim’s life.
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