Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

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Recent posts on this blog have focused on the issue of vicarious liability in personal injury litigation. There are a variety of situations where an employer can become liable for a motor vehicle accident caused by an employee. One common area where this can happen is in truck accident cases.

Trucking is a heavily regulated industry, perhaps not strictly enough according to some, but nevertheless bound by a significant number of rules and regulations. Both drivers and their employers—as well as the independent contractors that work with them—have the responsibility to abide by the various state and federal safety rules governing the industry. These include rules for properly securing cargo, hours of service rules, vehicle maintenance rules, rules for monitoring truckers’ fitness to operate commercial vehicles, and so on. 

Take a common example of a truck safety violation—failure to rest breaks as required under the hours of service rules. While it certainly is the responsibility of each trucker to follow and record compliance with federal rest requirements, it is also the responsibility of the employer to monitor employee compliance with the rules. Trucking companies are expected to properly train and instruct their drivers, and to have processes and systems in place to ensure unsafe driving practices are caught and not allowed to continue.

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Last time, we began discussing the federal hours of service regulations, which are largely intended to address the problem of fatigued driving among commercial vehicle operators. The rules, no doubt, do help to ensure that truck drivers are adequately rested while on the roadway, but there has been a fair amount of wrangling over the rules.

The most recent change with the rules took place in 2014 when Congress passed a bill which suspended enforcement of requirements for the 34-hour restart rule. The previous rule required truckers to take their rest breaks at a certain period of two consecutive nights, but that rule was suspended at the urging of the industry so that its effectiveness could be investigated. It remains to be seen whether it will be reinstated.

The trucking industry has been successful in initiating changes not only in the hours of service rules, but also with size and weight limits and other safety standards. These changes, as has been pointed out, have not been good for the cause of highway safety.

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Truck safety is an important concern when it comes to improving highway safety. Because of their size and the weight they carry, semi-tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles present a serious risk of causing harm or death other motorists when they are involved in accidents.

One particular area where truck needs continual monitoring and improvement is driver fatigue. Long hours on the road and inadequate rest can make truck drivers a roadway accident waiting to happen. Driver fatigue has long been known to be a problem among truck drivers, and federal regulations are in place to help ensure that truckers get enough rest. These federal regulations are known as the hours of service rules. 

The hours of service rules apply to commercial vehicle drivers whose vehicles meet certain requirements. On its website, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a brief summary of these rules. Slightly different rules apply to property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. For the former, the rules include the following:

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Figuring out who was at fault in a car accident can sometimes be challenging. Although the cause of an accident may initially seem clear, an investigation into what happened may reveal more facts that are important to the cause of the accident.

This is often the case with big-rig accidents. Although there are plenty of reasons where passenger vehicle drivers may be at fault, the same goes for the drivers of the truck.

If you are in a passenger vehicle, you typically know that it’s important to closely follow safety procedures when navigating your vehicle near an 18-wheeler. Nonetheless, some drivers still end up making mistakes. A driver may make a left turn in front of a large truck after misjudging their speed. They may merge improperly onto the highway which might make the truck driver hit the brakes suddenly. It can also be really dangerous to drive between large trucks or to drive in their “No-Zone.” A No-Zone is an area around the truck that the truck driver either cannot see or has very limited visibility.

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A recent car accident involving a truck may result in an investigation as to who was at fault and whether there was negligence involved. The accident happened on Long Island and involved a garbage truck and a BMW. The accident apparently happened at about 4 a.m. in an intersection. The two vehicles collided, killing both individuals in the BMW. When the vehicles collided, there was apparently a very loud explosion of flames.

Police say the accident was so serious that it was hard to identify the two individuals who died in the BMW. Authorities took the driver of the garbage truck to the hospital.

When a smaller vehicle is involved in an accident with a truck, no matter the size, the outcome is often quite serious. Smaller vehicles are often no match for these large vehicles. Whether it’s a garbage truck or a semi, there are a variety of reasons why a truck accident might occur.

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The number of individuals expected to die in trucking accidents during the coming year exceeds the numbers of those who have died in commercial airline accidents during the past 45 years. According to a New York Times opinion piece, there is increased suspicion that the trucking industry is getting off too easily when accidents occur. And there are concerns that Congress is not creating the kinds of regulations that will help improve these circumstances.

Recently, Congress has made proposals allowing for truckers to work a maximum of 82 hours per week rather than 70 hours of work over an eight-day period. House members also apparently have discouraged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from making investments in wireless technology used to monitor drivers and their trucks. Congress has shown a willingness to approve of heavier and longer trucks used upon the roads which will create dangers. And there has been discussion of reducing the minimum age of drivers who travel interstate from 21 to 18.

Truck crash fatalities rose 17 percent from 2009 until 2013. While deaths due to truck fatalities rose during these four consecutive years, car drivers, truck drivers and passengers are commonly the victims of such crashes.

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There are many car accidents occurring across our country on a daily basis. Some may be just one-vehicle accidents with minor damage while others may involve several cars and a complicated pileup. We know that a lot of accidents occur on Interstate 90 and Interstate 81 near Syracuse, but we also have to take into consideration that some of these accidents involve semis. Large commercial trucks and semis use these interstates to move products within New York and to other states.

Although some of the over-the-road drivers are very experienced at what they do, they still end up working extremely long hours. Those long hours and overnight drives can cause them to be fatigued, which could result in an unfortunate accident with another vehicle on the freeway.

So what happens when you are involved in a truck accident? Oftentimes the injuries that come from such an accident are tragic, either resulting in long-term disability or death. Weighing up to 40 tons, these trucks can cause a lot of damage to any vehicle that may be hit.

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We note on our legal website the often devastating consequences that ensue for New York drivers and occupants in passenger vehicles when they become involved in crashes or collisions featuring large commercial trucks.

In fact, we cite the obvious regarding big rigs on the Syracuse Truck Accident page at the personal injury law firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, noting that, given their unrivaled size and weight, “they can readily mow over, crush or crumple a two-ton car.”

That is flatly scary. Moreover, the prospect of such accident outcomes might readily conjure up in the minds of drivers in passenger cars and trucks other factors that increase the accident odds for 18-wheel rigs and other highway behemoths.

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In a number of our posts, we have highlighted the dangers that semi-truck pose to the driving public. Indeed, truck drivers are specially trained to handle the largest vehicles on the road, but there are a number of myths that are prevalent that could lead to truck accidents. Through this post, we will highlight these myths and the truths that dispel them. 

Myth: Truck drivers don’t need seatbelts – The truth is that truck drivers, like drivers and passengers in cars, need to wear their seatbelts. Even though a truck driver is not likely to be crushed when involved in an accident, he or she still runs the risk of being thrown from the vehicle. Because of this, truckers must wear their seatbelts.

Myth: Truck drivers are capable of driving fast in bad weather – The truth is that excessive speed increases the risk of an accident in ideal weather conditions, and that risk increases when road conditions deteriorate. So when roads are wet or packed with snow or ice, truckers must reduce their speed just like everyone else.

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We have noted in a number of our posts that semi trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Their size may be helpful in transporting large quantities of goods from region to region across New York and the northeast, but they also post a danger to common motorists. For instance, the average size of a semi truck is 20,000 tons (i.e. 40,000 pounds), where a car may weigh in at 3,000 pounds.

That does not bode well for those in passenger vehicles. Because of this danger, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sponsored national Brake Safety Week. The purpose is to make sure that trucks and buses across the nation are in compliance with national safety rules. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, braking violations make up the largest portion of out-of-service violations found during roadside inspections. 

Properly functioning braking systems should be of the utmost importance for truck drivers, trucking companies, law enforcement agencies and the public alike. After all, if a large vehicle has trouble slowing down and stopping, it is an accident waiting to happen. As such, state and federal officials conducted safety checks to identify loose or missing parts, worn brake pads, rotors and drums, as well as potential problems with hydraulic fluid.

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