Truck Accidents In New York
April 18, 2017 | Personal Injury
Many people admire truckers for their determination to deliver their cargo without any excuses. Now, with the rise of autonomous vehicles just beyond the horizon, many truckers are determined to prove that they can stay on the road longer and be more reliable than machines. Unfortunately, this environment creates a need for truck accident lawyers in New York, because the roads in the Empire State are arguably more dangerous now than at any other time in recent history.
A recent White House study predicted that driverless vehicles may displace 1.7 million truckers, between 80 and 100 percent of the total, by 2037. On-demand drivers for Uber and other services may be nonexistent by then as well. The report optimistically predicted that many of these drivers could still find work in the trucking industry, primarily as loaders/unloaders and salespeople, but that remains to be seen.
The pressure on drivers is mounting. Many feel that they must prove they can stay on the road longer than a machine in order to keep their jobs. That’s good news for shipping companies, but bad news for motorists who must share the road with fatigued truck drivers.
What Causes Truck Crashes?
According to the landmark Large Truck Crash Causation Study, fatigue may cause up to 30 percent of the 3,800-plus roadway deaths attributed to large truck crashes every year; after several decades of decline, the figure has inched up steadily over the past several years.
Fatigue and alcohol affect the brain in basically the same way, since both impair judgement ability, inhibit concentration, and slow reaction times. In fact, per one study, driving after 18 hours without sleep is almost like driving with a .08 BAC, which is above the legal limit in New York.
Shift workers, like truck drivers, are especially at-risk for fatigue-related accidents. In fact, even if they slept for a sufficient amount of time the previous night, most divers are naturally drowsy at certain times of the day and night, increasing the risk even further.
Truck Crash Injuries
Fully-loaded tractor-trailers usually weigh 80,000 pounds. That limit changes frequently, as shipping companies constantly harangue the government to change the rules and allow bigger trucks. As a result, it’s not unusual to see double tractor-trailers, which are essentially freight trains that are literally off the rails.
The weight and size of these vehicles means they are almost impossible to maneuver in an emergency or stop quickly, even if a veteran driver is behind the wheel. As a result, tuck accident lawyers in New York often deal with serious injuries, including:
- Serious Burns: Large trucks carry vast amounts of diesel fuel, which burns at a different temperature from ordinary gasoline. So, victims typically suffer severe third and fourth-degree burns, which always require painful skin grafts and have a rather high mortality rate.
- Blood Loss: Since passenger vehicles are often pinned underneath the big rigs in these collisions, it usually takes some time for first responders to reach the victims. By that time, their blood loss may be so severe that they are on the edge of hypovolemic shock and organ failure.
- Crushed Bones: Broken bones nearly always heal normally, given time and the proper treatment. But a truck’s excessive weight often crushes bones, and it is much more difficult to recover complete mobility after injuries such as these.
Because of the serious nature of the injuries, damages in large vehicle wreck cases nearly always include compensation for economic losses, such as lost wages, and noneconomic losses, such as loss of enjoyment in life.
Evidence in Truck Crash Cases
Computerized drivers are not yet in the mainstream, but computerized evidence collection is already here. Instead of piecing together bits of evidence from eyewitnesses, and hoping that the insurance company lawyers do not eviscerate these witnesses during cross examination, truck accident lawyers in New York can often rely on electronic evidence, including:
- ELDs: In some cases, to prove fatigue, lawyers must rely on automatic onboard recording devices; these analog gadgets are rather easy to manipulate. But many vehicles now contain electronic logging devices that are virtually hack-proof and usually impossible for the driver to access manually. Shipping companies fought the ELD rule for years, but it takes effect in December 2017.
- EDRs: Most vehicles contain event data recorders, which are essentially like a “black box” in a commercial airliner. EDRs capture and record vehicle speed, steering angle, RPM, brake application, and other critical metrics used to build a negligence case.
Electronic evidence is essentially impossible for insurance company lawyers to challenge in court, so it is almost always admissible as is.
There are some pretrial legal issues. New York has a vehicle privacy law, so in most cases, unless the owner consents, a truck accident lawyer in New York must obtain a court order to inspect the EDR and download the information it contains. Similarly, in many crash cases, the insurance company disposes of the vehicle and all its contents, including the ELD, in a matter of days. So, an attorney will immediately send a court-approved spoliation letter to the insurance company, instructing it to preserve all electronic and physical evidence in the case.
Truck accidents often involve complicated legal and factual issues. For a free consultation with an new york truck accident lawyer, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC today, because the sooner you call, the stronger your claim for damages will be.