If you were involved in a truck accident in New York and sustained severe injuries and considerable medical bills or damages, you may assume that your trucking accident case is a guaranteed win. Unfortunately, guarantees in the legal world do not exist. This is particularly true in situations in which one party has substantial resources to support a lengthy if unsubstantiated, legal battle.
According to Trucks.com, 11% of truck drivers are independent contractors. This means that a whopping 89% work for trucking companies. These companies are not only backed by armies of insurance adjusters but also, those adjusters have teams of lawyers on their sides.
Together, the trucker, the trucking company, the company’s lawyers, the insurance adjusters and the insurer’s attorneys can frustrate, and possibly hinder, truck accident victims’ attempts to pursue and collect the full compensation they deserve.
Fortunately, you can level the playing field by hiring a truck accident lawyer. Before you assert that you cannot afford an attorney, note that any reputable truck accident attorney works on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay unless and until the attorney secures a favorable verdict or settlement on your behalf in a truck accident lawsuit.
You do not have to pay for legal services upfront is just one of many reasons to hire a lawyer for your New York truck accident case. From being familiar with the rules and regulations surrounding the trucking industry to understanding common tactics insurers use to minimize the value of a claim, the best attorneys have significant knowledge and experience to fight for the best possible outcomes on behalf of clients.
Our team at Accident Help Line is happy to discuss with you the ways in which we can support you from the filing of your claim to a successful outcome, or you can check out the top benefits of hiring a New York truck accident lawyer below.
Knowledge of Complex Trucking Industry Regulations
The trucking industry is shrouded in complex rules and regulations, each of which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) designed precisely to prevent severe and possibly fatal trucking accidents. To encourage truckers to adhere to these rules, the FMCSA imposes stiff fines and penalties for each violation.
Unfortunately, despite rules and consequences, truck drivers violate safety regulations daily. If a violation causes an accident, the victim and/or his or her family member can hold both the trucker and his or her trucking company liable for damages.
However, to prevail in a trucking accident claim or lawsuit, the victim or a representative must be able to prove that the trucker breached his or her duty of care—meaning, he or she violated an FMCSA rule.
Knowing whether a violation took place boils down to knowing which rules and regulations exist in the first place. Knowledgeable New York truck accident attorneys are intimately familiar with these regulations and understand how to use them to support victims’ claims.
Types of violations that may play a key role in your case are as follows:
- Hours of Service Violations: The FMSCA maintains strict hours of service (HoS) requirements for truckers to prevent drowsy driving and related accidents. These requirements limit the number of hours truckers can travel each day and week before they must take mandatory breaks. Unfortunately, due to demands from both customers and the companies for which they work, truckers often violate HoS regulations and drive while fatigued. Several studies show that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drugged or drunk driving.
- Maintenance Violations: Individual truckers and trucking companies have an obligation to keep their equipment in safe working order, and to conduct routine inspections to identify potentially dangerous conditions. If a trucker or mechanic identifies an issue — such as worn breaks, balding tires or an open cargo hatch — they or the company must invest in a fix before sending the truck back out on the road. If a failure of any type exists, regardless of the trucker’s knowledge, and if said failure causes an accident, the victim may hold the trucker, the trucking company, the mechanic and possibly the truck manufacturer liable for damages.
- Cargo Violations: Just as it maintains strict HoS requirements, FMSCA also upholds strict cargo rules. These rules regulate everything from loading and unloading to the securement of cargo to the allowable size of cargo. If a trucker violates a cargo rule and an accident ensues, he or she and the company for which he or she works may assume liability for damages.
- Handheld Device Violations: Due to the dangerous nature of device use while driving, the FMSCA has implemented a no-handheld device policy for truckers. Per the policy, truckers may push just one button to initiate or end a call on a device. Any action that requires more than that is a violation of federal law.
- Drug/Alcohol Abuse Violations: The FMSCA maintains much stricter requirements for truckers than state or federal laws do for drivers of passenger vehicles. Violation of these laws may result in criminal charges and in strict liability in a trucking accident case.
If the truck driver who hit you committed one or several of these violations prior to the accident, your New York truck accident lawyers can use the violation to demonstrate a breach of duty and bolster your case.
Ability To Identify Multiple Liable Parties
Another way in which a truck accident attorney can help you is that he or she can help you identify multiple at-fault parties. In truck accident cases, rarely is the driver the only party at fault.
Typically, due to the theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability, supervisory parties bear liability for the actions of their subordinates if said actions occur within the scope of employment, and regardless of whether the superior had any amount of control over the situation. What this means is that, at the very least, you can sue up to two parties for truck accident injuries or damages, assuming that the truck driver is not self-employed.
However, commercial truck accidents often create liability for several parties beyond the truck drivers and the trucking company. For instance, if a cargo spill or leak causes an accident, the truck driver, trucking company and company that owns the cargo may share liability.
If a mechanical failure led to your accident, you may hold the trucker, the trucking company, the mechanic and the truck manufacturer accountable.
There are dozens of scenarios that can result in a complex web of liability, but all you really need to know is against whom you can potentially file a truck accident injury claim:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The company that owns the cargo
- The maintenance company
- The truck manufacturer
- Manufacturers of truck parts
- Government road agencies
- Other drivers on the road
Your commercial truck accident lawyer will examine every bit of evidence associated with your case and ensure that every at-fault party assumes accountability for his, her or its actions.
Experience With Complex Insurance Policies
Trucks are costly pieces of equipment. Moreover, they pose substantial risks to both drivers and other individuals on the road. To complicate matters, truckers typically haul tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars’ worth of cargo.
Combined, these factors necessitate substantial insurance coverage. Large insurance policies often come with complicated provisions that leave considerable room for interpretation and, therefore, conflict.
A seasoned New York truck accident lawyer is not afraid to enter these conflicts and go to bat on an injured person’s behalf. After thoroughly reading the policy and identifying all relevant provisions, the best attorney will negotiate on multiple fronts to obtain the large possible settlement from each responsible party’s insurance policies.
Experience With Severe Injuries and Extensive Damages
One mistake that injured parties often make is calculating the value of their injuries using medical costs alone. A trucking injury can cause damages that extend far beyond the need for extensive medical care.
For instance, many trucking accident victims face long-term unemployment due to their injuries. They also live with ongoing medical costs, therapy expenses and expenses related to at-home care and services.
Many victims live with emotional scarring, ongoing pain and suffering, and other hard-to-calculate injuries. If you lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you may claim damages for loss of consortium. Your children, if applicable, may claim damages for loss of parental guidance.
If you attempt to see your trucking accident case through from beginning to end on your own, you risk failing to identify all possible damages. Moreover, you may fail to gather the evidence necessary to prove your damages, or you may lack the resources to obtain sufficient evidence to support your claim.
For instance, if you plan to file a claim for lost wages, both past and future, you will need a medical professional to testify that your injuries will prevent you from working in the long-term. If you do not retain a truck accident lawyer, you may not have the funds or the pull to retain such a professional. This is just one of many examples of how failing to hire an attorney can hinder your case.
In addition to possessing the resources and connections needed to hire expert witnesses, an attorney can see you through the entire discovery process. From gathering relevant medical records on your behalf to subpoenaing black-box recordings to securing driver’s logs, the best trucking accident attorneys in New York will get to work quickly gathering any and all documentation in support of your case.
Experience Going Up Against Hard-Hitting Insurance Companies
Nearly all trucking accidents trigger coverage under truckers’ liability insurance policies. What this means for victims is that insurance companies tend to heavily influence the resolution of damages claims and to dictate how much victims may recover, when they may recover and via what means they may recover (through negotiations or litigation).
Unfortunately, insurance companies work for trucking companies. Moreover, they want to protect their own bottom lines by reducing their financial liability as much as possible. Most insurers use a handful of tactics to accomplish this:
- Delaying the Investigation or Processing of Claims: One common tactic that insurers — particularly those of trucking companies — use to avoid having to pay a claim either in part or in full is delaying the investigation. The longer an adjuster takes to initiate the investigation, the more time evidence has to fade away or disappear. To prevent the disappearance or destruction of evidence, most states have laws that require insurers to conduct investigations within so many days of receiving a claim. Failure to do so may be construed as an act of bad faith insurance.
- Failing To Conduct a Complete Investigation: Insurers have an obligation to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the incident in question. Failure to do so may result in insurers overlooking evidence that may weigh heavily in the victim’s favor.
- Misrepresenting the Policy Language or Law: As we mentioned earlier, trucking insurance policies are often intricate and full of complex language. Insurers use this to their advantage when negotiating with individuals by deliberately misinterpreting policy language. A knowledgable truck accident lawyer is not only familiar with this tactic but also, because he or she will have read the policy him or herself, will be able to call out and correct misinterpretations as they arise.
- Trying To Interview Victims Soon After the Accident: Many insurance companies send out adjusters to talk with victims within days or weeks of the accident. They do this not to protect victims’ best interests but rather, in an attempt to get victims to say anything that will free the insurance company from financial liability. For instance, a victim may say, “I know I shouldn’t have been on my phone at the time of the crash,” or “I reached for a bag of chips when suddenly, bam!” Though these are seemingly innocent statements, they could derail a solid personal injury case or, at the very least, devalue it.
- Offering a Lowball Settlement: One of the most common tactics that insurers use to avoid paying claims is full is offering settlements that are far below the true value of a claim. Unfortunately, too many accident victims accept these settlement offers without first consulting with a truck accident attorney. Once a victim accepts an offer, he or she forfeits his or her right to pursue any further compensation. Insurers count on this, which is why it is such a popular tactic.
- Refusing To Pay a Valid Claim: In a final attempt to avoid financial liability, an insurer may refuse to pay a claim entirely. Many do this hoping that victims will give up, and counting on the victim not having the wherewithal to hire an aggressive truck accident lawyer.
In each of these situations, a New York truck accident lawyer can come to the rescue. Seasoned attorneys are familiar with bad faith tactics and can spot them from a mile away. Moreover, they prepare cases in anticipation that insurers will deploy these tactics and take steps to dissuade insurers — and, in the process, protect victims’ rights to compensation — efforts from day one.
Knowledge of Comparative Fault Laws
In just about any type of motor vehicle accident claim, the concept of comparative fault will come into play. At some point, the insurers or the jurors will ask, “Did you contribute to the accident in any way?”
If the answer is yes, you do not necessarily lose your right to recovery. However, the next natural question to answer would be, “To what extent did your actions influence the events leading up to the accident?” In other words, what percentage of fault for the accident can you assume?
While comparative fault laws vary from state to state, your contribution to an accident does not necessarily bar you from recovery in New York. In fact, per New York law, you can recover compensation for an accident to which you contributed so long as you do not assume 100% fault.
That said, the jury or insurance company will reduce your recovery by the percentage of fault you assume. For instance, say a jury determines you were 30% at fault for your accident. It will reduce your settlement or award by 30%.
If you stood to recover $250,000 in damages, the jury will reduce your reward by $75,000, or 30% of the total award. This would reduce your recovery to $175,000. While there is no getting around comparative fault laws, a skilled attorney can work to minimize the amount of fault you assume and, therefore, maximize your recovery.
Contact a New York Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Retaining a skilled truck accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible can result in several beneficial outcomes for your case and, therefore, your future. From using his or her knowledge of complex laws regarding New York truck accidents to establishing negligence to identifying at-fault parties to negotiating on your behalf, a qualified New York truck accident attorney can take your case from strong to unshakable.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-of-service
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/drowsy_driving.html#:~:text=Lack%20of%20sleep%20can%20make,as%20drinking%20too%20much%20alcohol.
The New York State Senate: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVP/1411