Anyone who has ever driven near an 18-wheeler or large commercial truck knows how tense and nerve-racking it can be. Commercial vehicles are so big, so heavy, and so hard to stop that one wrong move could cause a tragedy.
Unfortunately, truck accidents do happen — and more frequently than you might realize. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that more than 100,000 Americans suffer injuries in large truck accidents each year. Another 4,000 are killed.
Too often, these accidents are the result of preventable negligence, either by the truck driver or the company they work for.
If you have been injured a truck accident in White Plains, Manhattan, or anywhere else in New York, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages.
Similarly, if you have lost a loved one in a tragic truck accident, you and your family may be entitled to compensation under New York wrongful death law.
Sadly, the trucking companies and their insurance carriers do not always step up to the plate and do what’s right. As we will see in the sections to follow, the insurance companies are not on your side. They tend to oppose truck accident claims aggressively. On your own, getting the full and fair compensation you deserve can be a challenge.
The New York truck accident lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help. We have a long record of standing up for our clients and getting them the financial justice they deserve.
We take these cases personally, and we fight for our clients as we would fight for our families. We would like to help you navigate the claims process and protect your best interests at every turn.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in New York
As with other auto accidents, most truck accidents happen because of driver error. Commercial trucks are complex pieces of machinery. Operating them requires special skill and attentive care. Proper maintenance, training, and compliance with regulation are essential.
When truckers drive carelessly, or when truck companies allow safety to slip through the cracks, they put everyone else on the road in mortal danger.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents in New York include:
- Driver exhaustion
- Distracted driving (e.g. texting and driving, CB radio, etc.)
- Improper loading / excessive cargo
- Poor condition of the trucks
- Driver inexperience
- Too many hours on the road in violation of federal trucking laws
- Aggressive driving
- Intoxication from alcohol, drugs, or medications
- Defective trucks, tires, or parts
There is no excuse for negligent truck driving. Truckers and the carrier companies they work for have a duty to act reasonably and to follow the law.
Likewise, manufacturers have a duty to ensure the safety of any vehicle, tire, part, or accessory they sell.
Common Injuries After a Truck Accident
Truck accidents are associated with especially serious injuries, which may include:
- Neck and back problems: Injuries to the neck or back can cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from chronic or acute pain to numbness, reduced range of motion, and even paralysis.
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is particularly vulnerable to injury in a truck accident. Damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves surrounding it may cause pain, loss of mobility or function, changes in strength or sensation, and a variety of other problems.
- Broken or shattered bones: The human body is not built to withstand the blunt force of impact from a large truck. Arms, legs, ribs, and other bones are at risk of fracturing or shattering.
- Knee damage: The knee is one of the most sophisticated parts of the human body. The force of impact during a truck accident can cause significant damage affecting the bones, bursae, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles, disks, and other structures that make up this complex joint. A knee injury may require extensive medical care, which can include rehabilitative care and/or surgery. Some knee injuries never heal.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Brain injuries can happen in one of two ways during a truck accident: a direct blow to the head or a jostling of the head, which causes the brain to move around and sustain injury. Concussions are the most common form of TBI and can be very serious.
- Internal organ damage: Bleeding, bruising, or acute injury to the internal organs or anatomy can cause serious or life-threatening complications, sometimes without obvious symptoms.
- Wrongful death: Tragically, many large vehicle accidents result in the loss of life. If your loved one was killed in one of these terrible accidents, an experienced New York truck accident lawyer can help your family fight for the compensation you deserve under New York wrongful death law.
Even minor accidents can yield serious injuries, and even moderate injuries can yield substantial financial damages.
For example, one of the most common injuries after a truck accident is ordinary whiplash. While many people assume whiplash to be a “minor” injury, in reality, whiplash can cause substantial pain and interference in your daily life, sometimes for months or years. Whiplash can even cause concussion and TBI.
Differences Between Car and Truck Accidents
If you’ve been in a car accident in the past, you might assume that your truck accident claim will proceed in a similar fashion. There are, however, a number of critical differences between car and truck accidents. Here are a few of the most important:
Severity of the Damages
Humans are simply no match for the sheer size of a tractor-trailer. In any accident involving an 18-wheeler, “big rig,” or other large commercial vehicle, the victims are at risk for serious injuries. The financial damages can quickly amount to many thousands of dollars or beyond, not to mention the immense emotional pain and suffering typically associated with a serious truck accident.
Carrier companies and their insurance providers are keenly aware of just how high the stakes can be in a truck accident claim. They are prepared to defend against them aggressively.
As a rule of thumb, the more serious the injuries, the more complex the claim. From complicated medical evidence to high-pressure insurance tactics, the process can be more challenging than it ought to be. After all, you and your family have enough on your table as it is. An experienced New York truck accident lawyer can help to protect your interests and level the playing field.
State and Federal Trucking Laws
New York personal injury law applies to virtually all auto accidents in our state, including truck accidents. But in truck accident claims, there are special state and federal laws that might also apply.
The trucking industry is subject to extensive state and federal regulation. In particular, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA) promulgates rules governing the safe operation of these potentially dangerous vehicles.
Among other things, your claim may involve special rules or regulations pertaining to:
- Hours of Service (the number of hours spent on the road before stopping for rest)
- Truck driver schedules
- Training, hiring, and licensing of personnel
- Safe maintenance of the truck fleet
- Driver logs and employment records
- The use of drugs, alcohol, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medications
Unique Types of Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks and passenger cars might both be referred to as “vehicles,” but they are very different machines. Commercial trucks ride on many tires, with many moving parts, and there are numerous opportunities for something to go wrong.
Indeed, some of the most common types of truck accidents involve malfunctions that simply do not (and cannot) occur in other vehicles:
- Jack-knife accidents: When a truck’s trailer turns in on its tractor
- Improper cargo accidents: When a truck malfunctions (crashes, rolls over, catches fire, or explodes) because its cargo is improperly loaded (overloaded, poorly balanced, or contains dangerous or unlawful materials)
- Runaway truck accidents: Large trucks must be driven differently than regular cars. Improper braking, speeding, reckless driving, or improper maintenance can cause the driver to literally lose control of the vehicle, which may rocket down the road at full speed without brake control.
These are only a few examples. It is important to work with a New York truck accident lawyer who has specific experience in handling complex commercial truck crashes.
Unique Types of Evidence
In addition to the various types of evidence involved in an auto accident (e.g. police reports, tire skid marks, medical evidence, photographs, video footage, etc.), truck accident claims often involve:
- Black box data: Like airplanes, most large trucks today are equipped with a “black box,” which can give us vital information about what was happening at the time of the crash (e.g. how long the truck had been consecutively in operation, the truck’s speed, whether brakes had been applied leading up to the crash, whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt, etc.).
- Truck driver logs: In addition to black box data, the truck driver’s own logs and work schedule may help us to establish the cause of our client’s accident.
- Employment records: The truck driver’s employment history may help to establish a breach of duty on the part of his or her employer.
- Toxicology reports: Impaired driving is a common factor in Manhattan and White Plains truck accidents. For that reason, it’s important to ascertain as much information as possible about the driver’s physical and mental state at the time of the accident.
As New York truck accident attorneys, we at Lever & Ecker, PLLC work diligently to build a strong evidentiary foundation for each of our clients’ claims.
Number of Parties Involved
Whereas a typical car accident claim might involve just two drivers and their insurance companies, truck accident claims may involve many more parties: multiple drivers, the company that owns and operates the truck, multiple insurance companies, and so on.
With multiple parties involved, the path to resolution can grow cumbersome quickly. The various parties may deny liability and/or make crossclaims or counterclaims. So while it is always advisable to consult with an attorney after an accident, in these cases, working with an experienced New York truck accident lawyer is especially imperative.
New York Truck Accident Laws
In addition to the state and federal trucking regulations described above, your claim may be subject to certain procedural rules and limitations. Here are at least two important New York truck accident laws you should be aware of:
Statute of Limitations for a Truck Accident Claim in NY
A statute of limitations refers to the narrow window of time for filing a legal claim after an injury.
In New York, the statute of limitations for a truck accident claim is three years from the date of the accident. As a general rule, failure to file your claim with the court during this time period will permanently prohibit you from filing the claim at any point in the future.
However, calculating the statute of limitations can be more complex than it seems. Various exceptions, limitations, or special considerations might apply. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may have more or less time than the general three-year rule would allow. Never make an assumption about your timeframe for taking legal action.
Likewise, never wait until the last minute, as truck accident claims take time to investigate, research, and prepare. Instead, talk to a New York truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
How New York’s No-Fault Insurance Rule Applies in Truck Accident Claims
New York is a no-fault auto insurance state, which means that auto accident victims must typically rely on their own car insurance policy to compensate them after a crash. Except in the case of certain serious injuries, victims generally cannot file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or seek pain and suffering damages.
The rules are different, however, when large commercial truck carriers are involved. Please do not assume that you are limited by New York’s no-fault insurance rules. You may be able to seek compensation (including pain and suffering compensation) directly from the truck company and/or truck driver. Talk to a New York truck accident lawyer at Lever & Ecker, PLLC about your rights and options.
How Long Does a Truck Accident Claim Take?
How long your claim takes to resolve will depend in part on how serious your injuries are.
As a general rule, it is important to give your injuries a chance to heal before finalizing your claim. Settling too quickly, for example, can make it impossible for you to get additional compensation later if your injuries turn out to be more complicated than expected.
Most truck accidents require at least several months to resolve; some may require a full year or more.
At Lever & Ecker, PLLC, we understand that an important part of recovering from a truck accident is putting the whole matter behind you once and for all. We are committed to doing all we can to handle your case as efficiently as possible without compromising the strength of your claim. Our ultimate goal is always to fight for the best possible outcome for you and your family.
If you’ve been in a truck accident in White Plains or Manhattan and would like to learn more about the potential timeline for your claim, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our office. One of our New York truck accident lawyers can take a closer look at your specific legal matter.
How Much Compensation Can I Get After a Truck Accident Claim?
Every truck accident is different. How much money you can claim will depend on the facts of the crash, the nature of your injuries, and the relevant insurance policy limits, among other factors.
Generally speaking, the damages available to a truck accident victim in New York include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Future loss of earnings
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress / PTSD
- Paralysis, disability, or disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
- Burial and funeral expenses (in the case of the wrongful death)
- Loss of love and support (in the case of wrongful death)
These are all examples of compensatory damages. In other words, they are intended to reimburse or compensate the victim for a loss they have suffered (whether economic or emotional in nature).
New York personal injury law also recognizes another category of damages called punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not intended to reimburse the victim. Instead, they are intended to punish the defendant.
Punitive damages are only available in cases involving egregiously negligent or reckless conduct by the defendant. A jury may award punitive damages if they feel it’s important to send a message to the defendant or to the public. In those cases, the victim is awarded the punitive damages total in addition to their compensatory damages total.
While punitive damages must be reasonable and are not awarded in most personal injury cases, when available, they can add substantially to a victim’s overall recovery. A New York truck accident lawyer at Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help you determine whether you might have a case for punitive damages.
Can I Still Be Compensated If I Was Partially at Fault?
In a classic auto accident claim, one party is clearly at fault for the crash. But the other side might allege that you were negligent too.
New York follows a rule called pure comparative negligence. If you are partially at fault for your own accident, you can still recover damages, but they will be reduced by your percentage of fault. An experienced New York truck accident lawyer can fight for the smallest possible apportionment of fault in your case, with the goal of maximizing the compensation available to you.
Benefits of Hiring Lever & Ecker, PLLC to Handle My Truck Accident Claim
The Manhattan & White Plains personal injury attorneys at Lever & Ecker, PLLC have handled just about every type of accident and injury claim in the past, from automobile accidents and property injuries to construction accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death actions, and beyond.
We have extensive experience specifically in the area of truck accident investigation, negotiation, and litigation. We are capable of handling the entire claims process from beginning to end.
It is our mission to shoulder the whole burden of the process for our clients, standing in their corner and working exclusively in their best interest — as is our duty under the law.
Our attorneys have successfully represented thousands of clients, with a track record of substantial settlements, awards, and legal judgments. While we cannot promise a particular outcome in any given legal matter, our attorneys take a hands-on approach in every situation.
We have over 55+ years of combined experience practicing law, and we are committed to giving each client the time and attention they deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation with our New York Truck Accident Lawyers
If you have been injured in a truck accident in New York, no matter what the circumstances may be, we encourage you to contact our office to discuss your situation in depth.
Please do not sign a settlement agreement with an insurance company or carrier company until you have talked to an experienced attorney. Doing so will permanently impact your legal rights. You may be entitled to more compensation than you realize.
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York truck accident law firm located in White Plains and serving clients throughout the state, including New York City’s five boroughs (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island), as well as Westchester County, Rockland County, Long Island, and beyond.
We are proud to offer bilingual legal representation for our Spanish-speaking clients.
We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Your initial consultation is completely free with no obligations whatsoever.
To schedule your confidential consultation, please call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan), or simply contact us online.