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Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer

Trucking accident

As the third-largest city in New York and less than an hour’s drive from New York City, Yonkers sees a lot of traffic, including commercial vehicles. Unfortunately, those commercial vehicles sometimes cause an accident that injures another driver, a pedestrian, or a cyclist. While most of the process of handling a commercial vehicle accident is the same as an accident between two private vehicles, there are some distinct differences, including the potential for severe injuries and who may be liable. Individuals who have been injured in an accident with a large truck or other commercial vehicle may want to speak with a lawyer to gain a more thorough understanding of their legal options. Call Stufano Law at (914)752-7746 to speak with a commercial vehicle accident lawyer about your legal rights. 

What Is a Commercial Vehicle?

New York State Police defines a commercial vehicle according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 390.5. This regulation indicates a commercial vehicle is any motor vehicle that is self-propelled or towed on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight, gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is higher. Vehicles that have been designed and are used to carry more than eight passengers (counting the driver) for compensation, have been designed and are used to carry more than 15 passengers (counting the driver) and not used to carry passengers for compensation or used to move materials identified by the Secretary of Transportation as hazardous by 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in quantities requiring placards are also considered to be commercial vehicles under this regulation. 

Many commercial vehicles do not meet these thresholds, however. For example, United States Post Office mail delivery vehicles, vehicles for electric, plumbing, or landscaping services, and even Uber or Lyft rideshare vehicles may all be considered commercial vehicles, even though they do not meet the requirements of federal regulations, when they are used for business purposes. A commercial vehicle accident lawyer may be able to assist you in determining whether the other vehicle in your accident is considered a commercial vehicle.

What Are Some Commercial Vehicle Accident Statistics?

From 2018 to 2022, large truck crashes have increased each year in New York, according to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research. Additionally, fatal and personal injury crashes involving large trucks are more likely to involve multiple vehicles than all fatal and personal injury crashes. 

The National Safety Council found that 5,837 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2022. This was a 1.8% increase from 2021 and a 49% increase in the last 10 years. They also determined that large trucks made up 6% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and are responsible for 10% of total miles driven. 

How Do Commercial Vehicle Accidents Happen?

Many of the same causes responsible for car accidents between private parties are also responsible for commercial vehicle accidents. However, liability is relatively straightforward in most car accidents: one or both drivers are typically at fault. In commercial vehicle accidents, it is possible for someone other than the driver to be responsible and for multiple parties to be liable at once. A commercial vehicle accident lawyer from Stufano Law may be able to assist commercial vehicle accident victims in finding out the cause of their accident and who is liable. 

Driver Liability

When a commercial vehicle accident occurs due to the driver, it may be because of distracted driving, driving while fatigued, failure to adjust to the road or weather conditions, or driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. The driver may also be speeding or driving recklessly. They may overreact or underreact to traffic events that take place around them. 

Company Liability 

Sometimes, the company that owns the commercial vehicle may be responsible for the accident. They may have failed to adequately train their drivers, neglected to maintain the vehicles properly, or engaged in negligent hiring practices such as not looking at the applicant’s driving record. Some employers also encourage their drivers to ignore driver break periods. Safety defects and long hours have contributed to commercial vehicle accidents for decades, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

Third-Party Liability

In some instances, a third party may be responsible for a commercial vehicle accident. A manufacturer may be responsible for defective parts on the vehicle, or a mechanic may be responsible for failing to properly repair a problem on the vehicle. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that tires and brake systems were the most common vehicle-related factor for fatal large truck crashes, indicating the potential for third parties, such as manufacturers or mechanics, to be responsible. A loader may have improperly loaded the cargo, creating an unstable distribution of weight that makes the vehicle more difficult to control. A third driver in another vehicle may also cause some accidents. 

Combined Liability 

Complicating matters further, there may even be the possibility of combined liability, where there is more than one party responsible for the accident. For example, if a mechanic failed to properly repair a commercial vehicle’s brake system and a loader improperly loaded the cargo, the two conditions combined could cause the driver to be unable to stop quickly enough to avoid hitting another vehicle. If the driver’s employer encouraged them to skip a mandated break and the driver was speeding and tired, both the driver and their employer may be responsible for the accident. 

What Kind of Injuries May Result From a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Commercial vehicle accidents can result in many of the same injuries typical car accidents cause. These injuries can include head and brain injuries, bone fractures, lacerations, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, burns, amputations, back and neck injuries, and disfigurement. 

Commercial vehicles are often much taller and longer than passenger vehicles and tend to weigh much more. This size difference means that injuries may be more severe than they would be if the two vehicles were more similar in size. 

Who Can Be Sued in a Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawsuit?

New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. This means that when there is an accident, each driver files a claim against their own insurance company This can create confusion when a driver has been injured and wants to file a personal injury lawsuit. The first step to filing a lawsuit is determining liability. The injured driver may be able to sue the other driver, the other driver’s employer, the commercial vehicle’s manufacturer or other third party, or a combination of liable parties. 

Per New York Civil Practice Law & Rules (CVP) Section 214 Chapter 8 Article 2, the statute of limitations is three years from the accident date. In some instances, this window to file may be much shorter. Individuals may wish to consult with a commercial vehicle accident lawyer to determine who can be sued, as the time spent investigating liability does count toward the statute of limitations. A skilled attorney may have the resources and knowledge to determine liability more quickly than the injured driver. Additionally, the attorney may be able to argue against denials of liability from the other party or parties involved and gain access to any evidence available from event data recorders that may be installed in the commercial vehicle. 

How Can a Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer Assist You?

While commercial vehicle accident victims are not required to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit, several potential benefits exist. An experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer may be able to determine liability more quickly, collect evidence the accident victim may not think of or be able to access, hire experts to testify, and understand the tactics the other side may use to try to settle your claim for far less than it is worth. Contact Stufano Law at (914)752-7746 to schedule a consultation with one of our commercial vehicle accident attorneys and learn more about your legal rights and options. 

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