Syracuse Truck Accident Attorney
Whether on I-81 or any of Syracuse’s other busy roadways, you have undoubtedly encountered commercial trucks along the way. The American Trucking Association reports that trucks carry about 72.5 percent of freight weight in the United States. While the commercial trucking industry plays an important part in the economy, it is also a major source of death and serious injuries in Syracuse and elsewhere.
Truck accidents often produce catastrophic injuries resulting in a lifetime of necessary medical care and major impacts on the injured person’s quality of life. While nothing can fully undo the harm of such a terrible accident, Syracuse truck accident victims have options to seek compensation for their injuries to relieve a significant amount of burden.
The experienced Syracuse truck accident lawyers at Finkelstein & Partners can help you understand this process and ensure you receive the maximum compensation available to you.
Our recent results include a $6.8 million jury award for a woman who was seriously injured in a multi-vehicle collision caused by a negligent truck driver.
Contact our firm for a free case evaluation of your Syracuse truck accident case. Meanwhile, read on for more information about truck accident cases and a basic overview of the process for seeking compensation.
Why Are Commercial Trucks Dangerous?
Each year in the United States, there are about 450,000 traffic accidents involving commercial trucks, resulting in around 5,000 fatalities. Three-quarters of the fatalities from truck-involved accidents are the passengers of vehicles other than the truck.
Commercial trucks, commonly referred to as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, are massive vehicles that typically measure 72 feet long and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This is about 20 to 30 times the weight of other vehicles on the roadway. From the size differential alone, commercial trucks pose a risk to Syracuse motorists in smaller vehicles.
The size of the vehicle creates maneuverability issues and physical restrictions that increase the risk of an accident, including:
- Significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle.
- A longer distance required for the brakes to pull the truck to a safe stop when the driver perceives a hazard. The distance required to stop can significantly expand on wet or icy roads or when the truck travels faster.
- A higher ground clearance, which can result in an often deadly underride accident, which traps a smaller vehicle under the truck.
- A high center of gravity, which makes a truck more susceptible to turnover when the driver attempts an emergency driving maneuver or when taking a sharp corner or curve at too fast a speed. An improperly loaded trailer can increase the risk of this happening.
- Wide turns, due to the truck’s length, which requires the driver to swing the truck into other travel lanes to complete the turn. Drivers who are not careful when doing this or other roadway users who are unaware that the truck is making a wide turn increase the risk of an accident occurring during the turn.
Causes of Syracuse Truck Accidents
The most common causes of Syracuse commercial truck accidents are much the same as causes of accidents involving only standard passenger vehicles, such as speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving. However, some significant causes of Syracuse truck accidents are unique to trucks.
- Fatigued driving: Any driver can experience driving fatigue that places them at increased risk of experiencing an accident. However, truck drivers are particularly susceptible to fatigued driving due to such things as the long hours they work, and the fact that they’re often working during the night, when the body wants to sleep and the mind naturally becomes drowsier. These conditions compound if a truck driver has a medical condition that prevents good rest, such as sleep apnea, which can exhaust an individual even after a full night’s sleep. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing and regulating the trucking industry, reports that 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents report being fatigued at the time of the crash.
- Blind spot accidents: Commercial trucks have blind spots on all four sides. These areas are significantly larger than a normal passenger vehicle’s blind spots, and are often called no zones. In no zones, a truck driver can’t see anything, including other vehicles in adjacent lanes. Thus, a truck driver who doesn’t clear a no zone can turn into another vehicle or even a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Impairment: Truck drivers are required to undergo regular screening for illegal drug and alcohol use. However, some drivers choose to use these substances while working, despite the danger. Truck drivers can also become impaired through common prescription or over-the-counter medications, such as those used to treat allergies or sinus congestion.
- Inexperience: It takes advanced skill to operate such a large vehicle on Syracuse roadways. While drivers receive some safety and operational training to pass their exam for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), such courses cannot teach how to deal with many real-life on-the-job hazards. While some trucking companies require new drivers to ride along with more experienced drivers when they first start, the country’s truck driver shortage has caused many companies to send new drivers on solo routes without first adequately training them on the conditions they will likely face.
Federal Regulations and Liability
The mass of a commercial truck and the danger it poses to other roadway users has resulted in the regulation of the trucking industry. Those regulations require truck drivers to obtain a CDL, undergo regular drug and alcohol screenings, and have a doctor clear them medically to drive each year. Truck drivers must record the hours that they drive on an electronic monitoring log, visually inspect their vehicle before each trip, and ensure regular maintenance and service on their trucks.
Trucking companies are also heavily regulated to make the transport of goods safer for everyone. Trucking companies must verify the qualifications of each driver, ensuring each has and maintains a CDL, checking drivers’ backgrounds and driving histories, and requiring drivers to submit proof that they are healthy enough for the rigors of the job. The company needn’t provide any specific training, except in special cases, such as HAZMAT endorsements or other specialized services.
Shipping companies also have responsibilities for safely transporting goods and making sure that the trucking company and the truck driver are properly insured and do not violate FMCSA regulations.
Other parties may have responsibilities as well. One of the services your Syracuse truck accident lawyer can provide is to determine all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can compensate you. As the above demonstrates, a few different actors could be responsible for an accident for different reasons.
Determining responsibility requires looking beyond the truck driver to determine whether the trucking company and the shipper fulfilled their legal duties to ensure safety. For example, an attorney might check the truck company’s record to see whether it did its due diligence to make sure the driver was qualified, using the driver’s driving history and other documentation related to their employment.
Filing a Syracuse Truck Accident Claim
To obtain compensation from an at-fault party after a Syracuse truck accident, one may file a lawsuit. This is a legal claim filed in civil court, by which the claimant asks a court to order those responsible for the claimant’s injuries to pay compensation for expenses and impacts the claimant has incurred because of the responsible parties’ misconduct. Some worry about the cost of hiring an attorney and may even file a claim on their own.
But Syracuse truck accidents can be extraordinarily complex. Furthermore, an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney has legal education and on-the-ground knowledge of how Syracuse truck accident cases work that can greatly increase the chances of recovering compensation. An attorney will know how to file and by when, and what critical evidence to collect, such as medical records and employment documentation.
If you were in a Syracuse truck accident, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Finkelstein and Partners today to discuss your case and determine a path forward. We don’t want financial barriers to prevent you from protecting your rights, and thus offer a convenient contingent fee payment plan so that you don’t have to pay for our legal services until there is a successful outcome in your case. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind about filing a truck accident lawsuit that we will discuss further in the context of your specific case when you call us for a free case evaluation.
The Statutory Deadline for Filing Your Syracuse Truck Accident Claim
Those wishing to file a lawsuit after being injured in a Syracuse truck accident must file their claim in court within three years of the accident date. While this may seem like a lot of time, it passes quickly, especially with the immediate fallout truck accident victims have to deal with immediately after an accident. Failing to timely file a lawsuit will generally forfeit your right to compensation for your injuries.
Proving Liability in a Syracuse Truck Accident
Establishing liability, a term referring to legal responsibility for injury, is the foundation of a successful outcome in a Syracuse truck accident case. To win a truck accident lawsuit, you must prove the liability of a defendant. If negligent actions of the truck driver caused the accident, you can hold the driver liable. However, other parties might bear liability as well because of their legal duties.
As mentioned previously, a truck company is legally responsible for ensuring their drivers are properly trained and qualified for the position. Failing to do so may make them liable for an accident caused by one of their drivers. Other potential sources of liability for a truck accident include the manufacturer or distributor of defective parts on the truck, the entity that services and maintains the vehicle, and other drivers whose actions could have also factored into the accident.
To prove liability, you must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the way a reasonable person would have responded under similar circumstances. For example, the duty of care owed by a Syracuse truck driver to others on the roadway would be to operate the vehicle safely and in accordance with New York and federal trucking and traffic laws.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. “Breach” refers to actions that the at-fault party took that were contrary to the duty of care. If a truck driver was speeding at the time of the crash, speeding is a breach of the duty of care as it is neither safe nor legal.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused your injury and the expenses and impacts related to that injury.
Damages Available in Syracuse Truck Accident Cases
In Syracuse, individuals injured in truck accident cases may seek compensation for both the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred because of their injuries as well as for the impacts the injury has had on their quality of life. In the legal arena, compensation is called damages.
Syracuse truck accident claimants can receive damages for expenses and impacts such as:
- Medical treatment for the injury, including emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department, transport to the hospital via ambulance or medical aircraft, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgical and physician services, prescription medication, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair.
- Wage loss resulting from being out of work due to the injury.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your injury results in a permanent disability and you can no longer work or earn what you did before.
- Property damage, such as the cost to repair or replace your vehicle that the accident damaged.
- Physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering.
Syracuse Truck Accident FAQs
According to the national transportation research group TRIP, deteriorated or congested roads in Syracuse cost the average area driver an additional $1,560 per year in driving costs.
Furthermore, around $1.3 trillion in goods flow into New York each year—mostly via commercial trucks, also known as tractor-trailers. Weighing 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car, commercial trucks lack the maneuverability that can help a driver avoid an accident.
If you have sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident in Syracuse, read on for some answers to the questions that we hear most often from our clients regarding Syracuse truck accidents.
How Do I Obtain Compensation if I Sustained Injuries in a Truck Accident in Syracuse?
If you have sustained an injury in a Syracuse truck accident that someone else’s careless or reckless actions caused, you can seek compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of your injury through a personal injury lawsuit. This process will involve filing a legal claim in civil court that seeks to prove who caused your injuries and to show the types of expenses and impacts that you have endured as a result.
In Syracuse, plaintiffs must file their truck accident lawsuits within three years from the date of the accident. Liability refers to legal responsibility.
To prove liability in your case, you must show the following:
- The truck driver owed you a duty of care. All users of Syracuse roadways owe a duty of care to other roadway users. Duty of care describes the actions that a reasonable person would take in a set of circumstances to protect the safety and property of others. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry. Because commercial motor vehicles are such massive vehicles in comparison to other vehicles on the roadway, truck drivers have an increased duty of care, which includes the requirement of additional liability insurance, the provision of a commercial driver license (CDL), hours of service regulations, random drug and alcohol screenings, and more.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care, which means someone acted contrary to the duty of care owed in the circumstances. Truck drivers don’t constitute the only potential source of liability in a trucking accident. Other liable parties can include the trucking company that the driver works for, the shipper, the manufacturer of parts used on the truck or other vehicles on the roadway, and even the drivers of other vehicles who may have operated their vehicles unsafely or illegally on Syracuse roadways. Additionally, the TRIP report revealed that 41 percent of the major roads and highways in Syracuse are in poor to mediocre condition, indicating that roadway issues can also cause motor vehicle accidents in the area.
- The breach in the duty of care resulted in an accident in which you became injured, and your injury caused you to incur impacts and expenses.
What Type of Compensation Can I Receive for My Syracuse Truck Accident Injuries?
In New York, individuals can seek compensation for the associated expenses that they incurred as a result of becoming injured in a truck accident. Some damages involve specific financial loss, and thus your attorney can easily assign them a monetary value.
Some of these damages include:
- All necessary medical expenses, including ambulance transport, emergency treatment, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, the provision of long-term care services for the most extreme and permanent injuries that this type of accident can cause, as well as purchasing mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, crutches, or prosthetic limbs.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if the injuries prove serious enough to alter your ability to earn in the same capacity as you did before the accident.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when the accident occurred.
Following an accident, you may incur damages that prove more difficult to assign a monetary value. Despite their complexity, you don’t want to forget to include these types of damages in your legal claim, or you risk missing out on compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries.
For example, you can also seek compensation for your associated quality-of-life impacts, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
My Husband Died in a Syracuse Truck Accident. Can I File a Lawsuit?
Losing a loved one in a catastrophic truck accident ranks among one of the most difficult experiences one can encounter. Family members can seek to obtain compensation for their losses through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Like a personal injury claim, a wrongful death lawsuit is a legal claim filed in civil court. Only a named or appointed personal representative of the estate can file such an action, and must do so within two years of the date on which the death occurred for the benefit of family members, including the deceased’s spouse, minor children, adult children, or parents.
Through a wrongful death lawsuit, claimants can seek to recover compensation for:
- Expenses associated with the medical treatment of the deceased’s final injury, as well as all reasonable funeral and burial or cremation costs.
- Loss of financial support that the decedent provided to his or her loved ones.
- Loss of household services that the decedent performed.
- The value of parental care, nurturing, and guidance that the decedent provided to children.
- Loss of inheritance.
- Conscious pain and suffering that the decedent endured from the time of injury to the time of death.
Can I Bear Partial Liability for Driving in the Truck’s No-Zone at the Time of the Accident?
All vehicles have a blind spot, an area—generally along the rear sides of a passenger car—that the driver cannot see by using his or her rear or side-view mirrors and must, instead, look over his or her shoulder to ensure the area is clear before turning, backing up, or changing lanes.
Commercial trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides, with the largest one occurring along the full length of the passenger side of the vehicle for up to two adjacent lanes. Some refer to these blind spots as no zones, indicating that drivers of other vehicles should stay out of these areas.
Despite the name, other drivers don’t have any legal responsibility to stay out of a truck’s no-zone at all times. Rather, truck drivers bear a responsibility to check their blind spots before changing lanes or turning.
Attempting to shift liability onto the victim constitutes a common insurance company tactic used to trick personal injury claimants into believing they don’t qualify for compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney can assist you in countering this tactic simply by understanding how liability works in this type of case.
Who Bears Liability for My Syracuse Truck Accident: the Driver or the Trucking Company?
It depends on the circumstances of your crash and the truck driver, as many truck drivers work as independent operators, which removes an employer’s vicarious liability for the actions of their employees during working hours.
However, even if the driver works as an independent contractor providing service to a trucking company, the company must ensure that the driver has the proper license and insurance coverage to drive and complies with all other federal trucking regulations.
Depending on who owns the truck involved in the accident, the trucking company can also face liability for maintenance issues, as trucks must undergo a visual inspection before each trip and regularly scheduled maintenance and service.
The Truck Driver in My Accident Blew a 0.05. Why Did He Get Charged With DUI?
Federal regulations surrounding the maintenance of the CDL set the legal level of impairment when operating a commercial motor vehicle at 0.04 blood alcohol content (BAC), which is 0.04 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, as determined through breath, blood, or urine tests. Most states, including New York, have adopted this federal impairment limit for commercial drivers.
What Type of Evidence Will a Personal Injury Attorney Look for in a Syracuse Truck Accident Claim?
The amount of evidence your attorney will want to look at in the process of investigating your claim can make truck accidents particularly complex.
The federal regulations present in the trucking industry result in an increased amount of evidence that can prove liability, including:
- The official accident report.
- The inspection reports on the truck, which can indicate the truck’s condition when the accident occurred.
- Black box information from the truck, which can provide details, such as the speed of the truck and when the driver applied the brakes.
- The truck driver’s hours of service logbooks.
- The truck driver’s qualifications, including work history, training, and personnel file.
- The results of the driver’s most recent health and drug/alcohol screenings, as well as the results from post-collision drug and alcohol tests.
- Weigh station and loading dock reports.
- Testimony from witnesses at the scene, as well as from expert witnesses, such as those involved in accident reconstruction.
- Other evidence from the scene, such as pictures of the skid marks or damage to the roadway caused by the accident.
- Information from your medical providers regarding the types of treatments you have received, in addition to your prognosis and treatments you will likely need in the future.
I Can’t Afford an Attorney. Can I File a Syracuse Truck Accident Lawsuit on My Own?
As listed above, the amount of evidence needed in truck accidents can prove daunting. Gathering and organizing this evidence is the type of work that an attorney with a legal team engages in, not something left for one person without the benefit of legal training. In addition to gathering evidence, you will also have to handle settlement negotiations in which the other side most certainly will make use of legal counsel to pay as little on the claim as possible.
If your case makes it to court, the insurance or trucking company’s attorneys will outmatch you, and the court will expect you to know, understand, and observe its formalities. The experience provided by a personal injury attorney who has spent years obtaining training and knowledge to assist you in your claim is one of the very foundations for having a successful claim.
That said, we understand that concerns over the cost of an attorney prevent many people from seeking the amount of compensation they need to move forward with their lives after a serious injury. Because legal representation can change the course of your accident claim, many attorneys will provide two special services focused on ensuring that anyone who needs legal help has access to it.
These services include:
- A free case evaluation, during which you meet with an experienced truck accident attorney, who can provide answers to your legal questions about your case, advise you on the options available for you, and give you an overview of the services the firm can provide to help you with your claim.
- Contingent-fee payment. Under this type of payment scheme, you won’t owe your attorney for legal services until you successfully recover compensation in your case. Because you only have two years to file a wrongful death claim, and three years (in most cases) to file a personal injury claim, this allows your attorney to get started on your case right away, without waiting for you to have the means to provide an initial payment.
Let an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney help you begin making sense of the legal process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. Contact an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney at Finkelstein & Partners for your free case evaluation, during which you can discuss the details of your accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your best course of action.
Trust the Syracuse Truck Accident Lawyers from Finkelstein & Partners
For seven decades, Finkelstein & Partners has been assisting New York and New Jersey residents injured in accidents to recover the compensation they deserve. Our firm’s staff of 85 attorneys and more than 170 paraprofessionals are here with the experience and readiness to help Syracusans recover fair compensation after truck accidents. Contact us today or dial (315) 453-3053 to learn more about how we can help you.
108 West Jefferson Street,
Syracuse, NY 13202