You might think that if you or someone you love gets hit by a commercial truck in New York you should seek out a New York car accident lawyer. You would be wrong. Suing a commercial trucking company for personal injuries is NOT the same as suing for a run-of-the-mill car accident. You need a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable in the hyper-specialized field of truck accident litigation.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many important similarities between truck accident and car accident litigation. For starters, both trucks and cars are subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic law, a set of “rules of the road” that applies to all vehicles on New York State roads (even bicycles!). Thus, for example, all vehicles must stop at stop signs and red lights, yield at yield signs, and signal turns, etc.
But in addition to being subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, commercial trucks are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)(adopted and codified in New York under Title 17, Section 820). This is an additional set of safety rules that applies only to commercial trucks. A lawyer with a working knowledge of these rules is better armed to take on the trucking insurance company. He or she can find additional ways to lock in liability against the negligent truck operator, his employer, and the owner of the tractor and trailer.
What are these additional safety rules? For example, there are strict requirements for who can drive commercial trucks. The driver must be at least 21 years old (as opposed to only 16 for car drivers), pass a physical exam, have a special commercial driver’s license, and furnish a list of violations or certificate to his or her employer. The driver is required to have eight days of prior logs available in his truck at all times. There are also important limitations on the number of hours a commercial truck driver can drive.
The employers are also subject to stricter requirements: They must annually review their drivers’ driving records and list their violations. The employers must closely monitor the hours their drivers actually drive and ensure they keep a correct log recording those hours.
The FMCSR also contains strict truck-maintenance, load-weight and load-securing requirements.
Why are the driver and employer of commercial trucks subject to stricter safety requirements than car drivers and owners? Because commercial trucks are heavier, can’t stop or steer clear of danger as quickly, can cause much more harm, and are thus more dangerous.
Far more dangerous. If you or your vehicle are hit by a truck you are far more likely to die or get seriously injured than if hit by a car. Large trucks are disproportionately involved in fatal accidents. And the danger is growing. The death toll in truck-involved crashes rose 17 percent from 2009 to 2016, and it is still rising.
A skilled truck accident lawyer knows how to convincingly present these heightened dangers to the jury so as to convince them to hold the negligent truck operator, owner or employer liable so as to protect all of us from danger.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a commercial truck accident case is just a big car accident case. It is much, much more. Choosing the wrong lawyer for a truck crash case may result in your case crashing, too.
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Syracuse NY Truck Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.