It is roughly 2,680 miles from Los Angeles to Syracuse, and driving that distance takes about 40 hours. To travel the 1,630 miles from Houston to Syracuse will take about 25 hours. The distance to get here from major export cities in other parts of the U.S. is a major factor in the causes of Syracuse truck accidents, as it often results in driver fatigue.
If a Syracuse truck accident injured you, the factors that led to the crash do little to help pay for the expenses and impacts you have experienced from your injury. Compensation from the at-fault party can help you recover from those expenses and impacts. An experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney can help you do that.
Big, Dangerous Vehicles
More than 3.5 million individuals in the U.S. work as truck drivers. Around 711,000 are employed and self-employed as long haul trucking businesses, meaning they travel across state lines. The trucking industry delivers around 72.5 percent of the nation’s freight.
Commercial trucks—also commonly referred to as tractor-trailers, big-rigs, semi-trucks, or 18-wheelers—are massive vehicles, weighing up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, standing around 13.5 feet tall and measuring about 72 feet in length.
The massive size of the vehicle endangers other roadway users, including:
- Significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle that make it difficult for the driver to see smaller vehicles in these areas.
- An increased stopping distance. All cars require some distance to come to a complete stop after the driver has perceived a hazard on the roadway and pressed the brakes. A loaded tractor-trailer requires 20 to 40 percent more distance for the brakes to pull the vehicle to a safe stop than passenger vehicles do. This distance increases on wet or icy roads, if the truck speeds, or its brakes were poorly maintained.
- A higher ground clearance, which provides enough space for a smaller vehicle to slide underneath, an often-deadly phenomenon known as an underride.
- A high center of gravity, which can make the truck overturn when attempting corners, curves, or emergency driving maneuvers.
- Wide turns, which can collide with vehicles in adjacent travel lanes.
Causes of Truck Accidents
In Syracuse, traffic congestion is a common factor in truck accidents, as is inclement weather that can make it even harder for the driver to maneuver and stop the truck. However, while these factors can contribute to a crash, a human error, such as driving while fatigued, cause the vast majority of traffic-related accidents—including truck accidents.
Other errors resulting in truck accidents include:
- Speeding, which includes not only driving faster than the posted speed but also driving faster than the conditions of the road will safely allow. Speeding in a commercial truck is extremely hazardous, as the vehicle already has a long stopping distance. Speed also increases the distance a vehicle needs to come to a complete stop while decreasing the time a driver has to perceive a hazard and respond by braking.
- Alcohol or drug impairment, which creates deficits in the skills needed for safe driving. Truck drivers are subject to random drug and alcohol screenings to maintain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). Some drivers still indulge, however, and others don’t know that medications—even over-the-counter—can impair driving skills just as illicit drugs can.
- Distracted driving. Truck drivers are not immune to the distractions that cause other drivers to crash, such as texting and other cell phone use, eating or drinking, visiting with a passenger or co-driver, or external distractions such as roadside accident scenes or work zones. There are three types of driving distractions: Those that cause the driver to take hands from the wheel, known as manual distractions; those that avert the driver’s eyes from watching the roadway, known as visual distractions; and those that draw the driver’s thoughts away from the task of safe driving, known as cognitive distractions.
- No zones. The no zone is a term used to refer to the substantial blind spots found on all four sides of the truck. Having blind spots doesn’t relieve the truck driver of the responsibility under New York traffic law to ensure a travel lane is clear before pulling into it.
The Injuries Suffered in Syracuse Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car. In truck-involved accidents, injuries and fatalities almost always occur to the occupants of other cars, not the driver of the big truck. Truck accident injuries tend to be catastrophic, resulting in long recoveries or even permanent disabilities.
Some of the injuries commonly experienced in truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, which often result in permanent deficits, including memory loss, inability to control one’s emotions or impulses, difficulty communicating with others or understanding spoken communication, and difficulty with balanced and coordinated movement.
- Spinal cord injuries, which result in a loss of sensation and function below the site of the injury, which is known as paralysis.
- Other neck and back injuries, which can lead to impaired mobility, chronic pain, and result in the need for surgical intervention.
- Burns, which come with an increased risk of infection and extensive scarring or disfigurement.
- Amputated limbs, which result in lost mobility.
- Broken bones, which can also cause mobility issues as well as chronic pain.
- Internal injuries, which can result in organ loss or extreme blood loss.
Filing a Claim for Compensation
If a truck accident injured you, you can seek recovery for your damages. Recovering damages means obtaining compensation for the expenses (economic damages) and impacts (non-economic damages) of your injury.
Truck accident lawsuits are more complex than other types of personal injury cases for two reasons:
- The trucking industry is federally regulated. To prove liability for your accident, your attorney will need to gather evidence from the trucking company that employs the driver, or directly from a self-employed driver. Your attorney will want to see the truck inspection reports and maintenance records; black box information that will provide a glimpse as to how many hours the driver drove when the accident occurred as well as his or her speed and braking characteristics; the truck driver’s hours of service; qualifications; phone records; dispatch instructions; loading dock reports; and the results of post-collision drug and alcohol reports.
- Truck accidents commonly produce catastrophic injuries that generally result in a loss of earning capacity or a permanent disability that requires around-the-clock care. These are often high-dollar claims that the high-powered insurance companies and their lawyers don’t want to pay. It often takes an experienced attorney who is skilled at negotiations and has a deep understanding of the legal process, the trucking industry, and the type of compensation needed to cover the expenses and impacts of a catastrophic injury to obtain maximum results.
The truck driver is not always the source of liability in a truck accident, and often is not the only source of liability.
Other potentially liable parties in a truck accident case include:
- The trucking company that employs the driver. Trucking companies face vicarious liability for the actions of their drivers during the normal scope of their work duties. Additionally, the company must ensure that the driver is properly licensed and adequately trained. It must follow all other federal regulations regarding the inspection, maintenance, and insurance of the truck. It must conduct background checks and ensure that the driver undergoes annual physicals and routine drug and alcohol screens.
- The shipper, who is sometimes responsible for properly loading cargo and ensuring that the trucking company and driver it hires are properly insured and in good standing with state and federal regulating authorities.
- The entity or individual responsible for providing routine maintenance and repair services on the truck.
- The manufacturer or distributor of defective parts used on the truck or other roadway vehicles.
- Other drivers, whose errors can lead to a multi-vehicle collision involving a commercial truck.
To prove that someone is liable for your truck accident injuries, you must be able to show the following elements in your case:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, which refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in similar circumstances to protect the health and safety of others.
- There was a breach in the duty of care, which refers to the actions the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care.
- The breach resulted in a truck-involved accident that caused your injuries and caused you to incur expenses and impacts.
The type of expenses and impacts that truck accident claimants can receive through a personal injury lawsuit includes:
- Medical expenses, such as the cost of emergency treatment, ambulance or air ambulance transport, diagnostic testing, surgical services, the services of your physician, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. You can also seek compensation for the cost of assistive devices such as prosthetic limbs, crutches, or a wheelchair.
- Lost wages if you were too injured to work or had to miss work to attend an injury-related medical appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when the truck accident occurred.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
In some cases, courts may award punitive damages, not as compensation for injury expenses and impacts, but to punish a defendant for a complete and conscious disregard for the health and safety of others.
The Internal Revenue Service does not consider personal injury settlements or awards as income and does not subject compensation to tax. It does, however, tax punitive damages because you do not receive those in compensation for injury.
Additionally, if you claimed your medical expenses as a deduction and then later received compensation for them, the IRS will expect you to repay the deduction.
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.