Accidents involving commercial trucks are not uncommon in Albany, where the distance from the country’s export centers, the weather, and other issues can lead to serious accidents.
Whether you’re taking I-87 north to Canada, I-90 east to Boston, or traveling in another direction, you risk injuries in an accident with a commercial truck. Such preventable accidents may result in severe, life-altering injuries.
New York law provides injured individuals with an avenue to seek justice, but you have to act fast to ensure that you don’t miss out on your right to recover compensation.
If you were injured or have lost a loved one because of an accident involving a semi-truck or other commercial truck, you may seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. An experienced Albany truck accident attorney can help you understand this process. Read on for some general information regarding Albany truck accidents and legal claims.
What Makes Commercial Trucks Dangerous To Other Roadway Users?
Commercial trucks—also known as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, or tractor-trailers—are massive vehicles. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is 20 to 30 times heavier than a passenger vehicle.
This large size can create a hazard for other roadway users, such as:
- Significant blind spots: All vehicles have blind spots, which are generally along the rear sides of the vehicle where the driver cannot see obstacles in the rear or side-view mirrors. Drivers must look over their shoulders to ensure that the lane is clear when merging. Commercial trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle. Known as no zones, these blind spots pose a grave risk of harm for drivers who follow trucks too closely. While plenty of warnings exist, telling people to use care when driving in a trucker’s blind spot, the onus is actually on the truck driver to check those areas before changing lanes, backing up, or merging onto the highway.
- Wide turns: Because of the length of the vehicle, commercial truck drivers must swing their trucks wide to negotiate sharp curves and corners. Drivers who don’t know this and choose to turn in a lane alongside the truck run the risk of being caught between the truck and the curb. Again, despite the warnings, truck drivers need enough experience with their vehicles to negotiate turns without putting other drivers in danger.
- Increased stopping distance: It takes some distance after a driver has perceived a hazard in the roadway and has responded by depressing his or her brakes for the brakes to pull the vehicle to a safe stop. The heavier the vehicle, the more distance required to stop, with commercial trucks requiring 20 to 40 percent more distance to stop than regular vehicles. Additional stopping distance is also necessary to account for speeding, poorly maintained brakes, and inclement weather.
- Inexperience: Truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which comes with instructional time and a test of the driver’s knowledge of how to safely operate a commercial vehicle. However, classroom learning in preparation for obtaining a CDL is far different and less demanding than the situations that the driver will face on the job each day. It is truck drivers’ responsibility to ensure that they have the experience necessary to handle the job. The trucking company must properly vet drivers through a background check and a driving record, have obtained a CDL, and receive the proper training.
- Improperly loaded cargo: Commercial trucks have a high center of gravity that places them at risk of rolling over in the course of an accident, while going around a sharp corner or curve, or when attempting an emergency driving maneuver to avoid an accident. This is particularly true if the cargo in the back of the truck was improperly loaded, resulting in a significant weight imbalance. It is both the responsibility of the shipper and the truck driver to properly load all cargo before transport.
What Are Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Albany?
Some of the causes of truck accidents are more common in places like Albany than in other areas, simply due to location, weather, and other factors. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes of truck-involved accidents in Albany.
Located in the far northeastern United States, Albany is far away from major export states, such as Texas and California, requiring a multi-day journey to transport products to this region from those areas. By the time trucks arrive in Albany, drivers were on the road for a long while and thus are prone to truck driver fatigue.
As explained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the federal agency tasked with regulating and overseeing the trucking industry—driver fatigue comes from physical or mental exertion that results in performance impairments.
According to an FMCSA study, around 13 percent of truck drivers in accidents report feeling fatigued at the time of their accidents. While any driver can experience fatigue while driving, the long and often late hours involved in long-haul truck driving, combined with resting in a sleeper berth and suffering from sleep apnea, place truck drivers at a higher risk of experiencing an accident because of fatigue.
Fatigue mimics many of the deficits caused by alcohol impairment, including difficulty multitasking, difficulty maintaining a travel lane, problems with decision-making, and delayed responses in emergency driving situations.
Albany has a humid climate that features wet, snowy winters. While the snow is beautiful, it creates definite reasons to worry for truck drivers, who are already behind the wheel of a large vehicle with poor maneuverability and difficulty coming to a safe stop.
Like inclement weather, traffic congestion around the city, particularly in the capital district, can slow a truck driver down and can also tempt truck drivers and other motorists to use aggressive driving tactics to get out of the congestion. Aggressive driving is a series of risky driving behaviors that drivers often use in traffic when they become frustrated.
Some examples of common aggressive driving behaviors include:
- Red-light running
- Improper lane changes
- Improper turns
- Erratic lane changes
Other Common Causes of Truck Accidents
There are several other causes of truck accidents not necessarily related to driving in Albany, such as:
- Speeding. As previously mentioned, commercial trucks require an increased distance to come to a safe stop. Other roadway conditions, such as inclement weather and speed, further expand this distance. Speeding not only increases the distance the driver needs to stop, but also reduces the effectiveness of the driver’s safety equipment, reduces the amount of time the driver has to perceive danger and react, and increases the severity of the crash.
- Drug or alcohol use. Truck drivers are required to undergo random drug and alcohol screening to maintain their CDL. However, despite knowing that they may undergo testing at any time, many drivers choose to indulge in these substances anyway. Many drivers fail to realize the profound effects of over-the-counter or prescription medications that can also result in impairment.
- Defective auto parts. The manufacturer and distributor of truck parts must ensure that those parts do not pose an unreasonable risk of injury when used as labeled. Failing to ensure this may result in a product liability case.
- Tailgating. It is dangerous both for a truck driver to tailgate another motorist and for a motorist to tailgate a commercial truck. Following another vehicle too closely virtually erases any cushion the driver has to stop before rear-ending the driver in front of them. Tailgating a truck places you at risk of a deadly circumstance known as an under-ride, which is a dangerous scenario where the higher ground clearance on the commercial vehicle results in a smaller vehicle sliding beneath it during an accident. This risky driving practice also places other motorists at risk of driving in the driver’s blind spot.
Seeking Compensation After Your Albany Truck Accident
If you have suffered injuries in an Albany traffic accident that involved a commercial truck, you may qualify to seek compensation by filing a truck accident lawsuit. You file this legal claim filed in civil court, generally within three years of the date on which the accident occurred.
The claim seeks not only to prove who had liability (legal responsibility) for the accident, but also to show the expenses and impacts that the accident caused you. To prove liability, a plaintiff must establish all of the elements of negligence.
To establish negligence, you must prove:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the way a reasonable person would behave in a similar set of circumstances. The duty of care for a commercial truck driver is to operate his or her vehicle safely, legally, and in concert with the federal and state regulations placed upon the trucking industry.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to the behavior that the at-fault party exhibited that contradicted the duty of care owed to other users of the roadway, such as speeding, tailgating, or fatigued driving.
- The breach caused your accident.
- The accident caused you to suffer damages, resulting in expenses and impacts on your quality of life.
New York allows individuals who have suffered injuries because of another person’s negligence to seek both economic damages—that is, compensation for the expenses of the injury—as well as non-economic damages, which compensate you for the psychological impacts of the injury. Some courts may award punitive damages, which punish at-fault parties for particularly egregious actions, but punitive damages are rare.
Some of the most commonly claimed expenses and impacts include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity, if the injury results in a permanent disability and the inability to earn in the same capacity as before the accident.
- Property damage resulting from the accident, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle that was involved.
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
An Attorney Can Help
If you sustained injuries in a commercial truck accident in Albany, consult an experienced attorney to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries. Some individuals who sustain injuries in preventable accidents caused by another party’s negligence choose to handle their legal claims on their own, but this is a mistake.
Retaining an attorney to handle your Albany truck accident claim has numerous benefits. Most importantly, you can let your attorney handle the complex negotiations and litigation involved in your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries, both physical and emotional. Don’t try to fight the at-fault insurance companies on your own; instead, retain a qualified attorney to handle your truck accident claim.
An experienced truck accident attorney understands that the injuries received in an accident involving a commercial truck are often catastrophic. Truck accident attorneys are devoted to providing aggressive representation to protect their clients’ rights to recover compensation for the full cost of their injuries.
Let an attorney help you understand the legal process of obtaining compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained in an Albany truck accident. Contact an experienced Albany truck accident attorney today and feel confident that you’re doing your best to recover compensation for your injuries.
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.