I-81 is a main artery through Syracuse, for individuals driving passenger cars and those driving commercial trucks into and out of the city. However, the congestion on I-81 has gotten so bad that city and state officials, with the backing of the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, are planning to tear down the I-81 viaduct.
A boulevard integrated into a grid system would replace the route. However, the city hasn’t decided what to do with the truck traffic in the city. The boulevard would require commercial truck drivers to either take their big rigs through many red lights or loop around the suburban area on the eastern side of town.
Traffic is a major factor in blind spot accidents involving commercial trucks. If you were injured in a blind spot truck accident, you know how serious this type of collision is. What we can tell you, however, is that there is a process known as a personal injury lawsuit, by which you can obtain compensation for your injuries.
An experienced Syracuse truck accident lawyer can help you understand this process.
What is a Blind Spot?
Blind spots are areas of the vehicle—often along the rear sides of passenger cars—where the driver cannot see when they look in the rear or side-view mirror. Instead, they must look over their shoulders to clear the area before changing lanes, turning, or backing up.
Nearly every vehicle has a blind spot. However, the blind spots on a commercial truck are far larger because of the massive length, width, and height of the vehicle. They surround all four sides of the vehicle.
The blind spots in a truck are so large we call them no-zones to encourage drivers to avoid lingering in them.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a truck’s no-zones include:
- 20 feet in front of the truck
- 30 feet behind the truck
- The entire travel lane along the driver’s side of the truck, from the front of the truck to about the halfway mark on the length of the trailer.
- Two entire travel lanes along the passenger side of the truck, from the front of the truck to several feet behind the truck.
The Risk of Blind-Spot Accidents in Syracuse
Winter weather is a common source of truck accidents in Syracuse as drivers on tight work deadlines often choose to take the risk of driving on unsafe roadways. However, the previously mentioned issue—congestion—is a source of many blind spot truck accidents. The blind spots are so substantial in trucks that—without the use of special mirrors intended to reduce blind spot risks—the drivers cannot see the travel lanes alongside them.
This makes things difficult when the truck driver attempts to change lanes or turn. In addition, the front and rear blind spots on the truck increase the risk of the truck driver not seeing a vehicle that cuts into the travel lane too close to it or being unaware of a driver tailgating the truck.
Other factors that increase the risk of blind spot truck accidents in Syracuse include:
- Truck driver fatigue: Truck drivers are often on tight schedules and are known to drive far longer than is safe because of the pressure to get the job done. This was one of the main reasons why the federal agencies that oversee the trucking industry implemented the Hours of Service regulations that require truckers to take regular off-duty breaks. Syracuse is in the far northeast section of the country, hundreds of miles away from some of the country’s largest shippers. This means the drivers delivering products from those locations have to drive longer and farther to get here. Fatigue creates deficits in the skills needed for safe driving, including the presence of mind to ensure a travel lane is clear before pulling into it.
- Road construction: Work zones on local roadways are a source of confusion for all drivers, as they often feature heavy roadside activity, lane closures, and temporary changes to the alignment of travel lanes. All this activity serves to place confused drivers in the blind spots of confused truckers.
Who is Liable for a Syracuse Blind Spot Truck Accident?
When searching for information about blind spot truck accidents, you are likely to find many websites with detailed lists of the actions drivers can take to avoid such an accident. Even the term “no zone” indicates that the onus is on other roadway users to avoid driving alongside a truck. However, the truth is this: If you were in an accident with a commercial truck while driving in the no-zone, the liability for that accident almost always falls on the truck driver.
New York traffic laws prohibit any driver from changing lanes or turning without doing two things: 1) Signaling intentions to other drivers traveling behind the vehicle; and 2) ensuring that the travel lane that the vehicle is moving into is clear. Failing to take these steps constitutes an improper lane change violation. In fact, the law states that the vehicle cannot move from left to right in travel lanes unless the driver knows that they can do so with a reasonable degree of safety.
To establish liability and recover compensation for your injuries, you must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the actions that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would take to protect the health and property of others. For example, a truck driver owes a duty to operate a motor vehicle safely and legally.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. This means that the at-fault party violated the duty of care. Failing to ensure the travel lane is clear before changing lanes breaches the duty of care because it is not safe and it violates New York’s traffic laws.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries and associated expenses and impacts.
Recovering Damages after a Blind Spot Accident
While a personal injury lawsuit involves filing a claim in court—generally within three years of the date on which the accident occurred—very few truck accident cases see the inside of a courtroom. Instead, most resolve through a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement occurs when both sides of the lawsuit negotiate on the amount of the claim until both sides agree on an amount of compensation and other terms, as necessary.
Settlement negotiations begin when your attorney submits a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster. This package details the facts of the case, presents the expenses and impacts you incurred, and demands payment for that amount.
The insurance adjuster has three options at this point:
- Accept the claim as submitted and issue payment.
- Reject the claim outright.
- Make a settlement offer.
Insurance companies rarely accept a large claim and issue payment immediately. Usually, if insurance companies offer an initial settlement, it won’t cover your expenses and impacts.
The job of the insurance adjuster is to save the insurance company money by finding ways to reduce the payouts on claims. One of the ways this is done is by offering a low settlement in exchange for a quick resolution. These claims usually do not offer enough compensation to cover all of your expenses.
Your attorney will employ negotiation skills to get a higher offer. After this continues for some time, you may decide, with guidance from your attorney, to file a truck accident lawsuit in court. This begins the discovery process, when your attorney begins gathering evidence from the defendant and deposing witnesses. This also is a point when insurance adjusters become more motivated to settle.
Settlement negotiations can continue even after the trial has begun, but before the court has reached a judgment. This means that while your legal team prepares to litigate your case, your attorney continues to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.
The discovery phase in a truck accident case is often more involved than in other types of accident claims. The trucking industry is heavily regulated, and the trucking company faces vicarious liability for the actions of its drivers. This results in additional evidence that your lawyer must request study thoroughly.
If there is still no settlement when your trial date comes around, your attorney will provide experienced litigation services, including delivering opening and closing statements, presenting evidence, and examining witnesses. After reaching a settlement or decision, your attorney will also assist you in collecting your compensation.
The Compensation You Can Receive
New York allows truck accident claimants to seek the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages. This means you may obtain compensation both for the expenses you have incurred from your injury, as well as the subjective impacts.
Some of the common expenses and impacts in this type of accident include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment, ambulance transport, hospitalization, surgical and physician services, prescription medication, diagnostic testing, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. You can also recover the costs of assistive devices such as prosthetic limbs, a wheelchair, or crutches.
- Lost wages for the work you missed because of your injury.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury causes permanent deficits and you can no longer earn what you did before.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when the accident occurred.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment of life if your injury deprived you of the ability to partake in activities you previously enjoyed.
Wrongful Death Claims After a Syracuse Blind Spot Truck Accident
If you lost a loved one due to a blind spot truck accident, you can claim compensation for items such as lost earning capacity and loss of care, companionship, guidance, and support through a wrongful death claim. Plaintiffs must usually file wrongful death claims in Syracuse within two years of the date on which the death occurred.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.