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It’s a fact of life that if you live in Suffolk County, New York you are going to need to drive a car. Mass transit is nearly impossible to use, so our roads are always crowded, especially at rush hour. On top of that, we have many eighteen-wheelers and box trucks traveling through our county every day. Therefore, safely sharing the roads with big rigs is a must.
As a Long Island truck accident lawyer, I have seen my share of injured people, many of whom have been in accidents with larger, heavier trucks. As a result of seeing so many truck accidents, I’ve been able to develop some tips for drivers sharing the road with trucks.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.
Commercial trucks, or “big rigs”, are used to transport commercial goods. Eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery trucks, etc., are generally used for such services. The size and weight of an ordinary vehicle pales in comparison to that of a commercial truck. A large, fully-loaded truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile generally weighs 3,000 pounds. If an accident between a commercial truck and an average automobile occurs, it’s likely that the operator and/or passengers of the average automobile will incur severe injuries. Commercial truck accidents aren’t exactly like accidents between two ordinary vehicles, though. You need an experienced Truck Accident Attorney who understands the logistics of a truck accident lawsuit to represent you in fighting for the compensation you’re entitled to.
Determining liability between drivers in a commercial truck accident is very similar to determining liability in a two-car accident. Commercial truck drivers, however, have much more stringent rules and regulations when it comes to operating their vehicles on the road than your ordinary motor vehicle operators. Still, determining liability between both drivers is handled comparatively, apportioning a percentage of fault to each party. But, other parties may be held liable for the accident as well.
In most car accident cases, the party’s directly involved in the accident are held responsible. But in commercial truck accidents, the truck driver’s employer may be held liable. Hiring a driver without a Commercial Drivers License, failing to properly supervise drivers, encouraging their drivers to violate rules (such as hours-of-service), failing to service their trucks etc. are all examples of negligence on behalf of a company. Therefore, a claim can be brought against the company. Additionally, if a mechanic is found to be liable for a faulty repair of the truck (which caused or contributed to the accident), they may be found liable as well.
However, for a truck company to be held liable for the accident, they must have an employment relationship. Under the legal term “respondeat superior”, if an employment relationship does exist, it can be claimed that the company is vicariously liable. But if no such employment relationship is shown (ie. the truck driver is an independent contractor), establishing liability on the employer’s behalf may be problematic.
A lot of times, a commercial truck accident may be caused by cargo that is not properly loaded. Shipping companies many times load these trucks. If improperly loaded cargo was the cause of an accident, a claim may be brought against the shipping company.
If the truck contained hazardous materials that caused an injury, the shipper may be held liable, especially if they failed to advise the truck driver of the hazardous material they were hauling.
This is why it’s so important to retain a Truck Accident Attorney who has experience dealing with these types of cases.