If you were seriously injured in a commercial truck crash, you might be confused on your rights. The New York Truck Accident Guide was created by personal injury attorney Daniel Chiacchia to help lead residents through the maze of an accident claim.
Truck accidents cause numerous physical, emotional and financial pains for victims and their families. Have you or a loved one been involved in a truck accident? An experienced New York truck accident lawyer at Chiacchia & Fleming can help.
Truck accidents are on the rise in the U.S. According to the latest NHTSA statistics, accidents involving semi-trucks have risen 17% since 2009. Today, this type of accident accounts for more than 3,800 deaths each year in the U.S.
Have you or a loved one been injured in a truck accident? The attorneys at (LAW FIRM) are here to protect your rights and help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Contact an experienced New York truck accident lawyer who understands what you’re going through. After an accident, you should be concerned with getting better – not fighting with trucking companies and insurance adjusters. That’s our job. Our team will help you manage legal process and fight for the maximum compensation for you and your family. Call today for a free case evaluation.
How a New York Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
To help prevent trucking accidents, professional truck drivers must adhere to specific federal, state and local rules and regulations. Unfortunately, the industry is notorious for bypassing these laws and regulations.
Truck drivers are often pressured to work long hours without sufficient sleeping breaks, and unsafe equipment is used without proper maintenance. These accidents may be caused by numerous other factors, including driver drug/alcohol use, distracted driving, or improper Commercial Driver’s License training.
A trucking company or truck driver’s negligence puts innocent drivers in harm’s way. Yet, the challenge for victims is proving the negligence of the driver or trucking company. Major trucking companies are protected by aggressive legal departments and million-dollar insurance policies. These companies often bully victims into accepting undervalued settlements that don’t fully cover costs caused by their emotional, physical and financial suffering.
A qualified New York truck accident lawyer will work hard to help victims defend their rights and fight for immediate compensation to pay for medical bills and lost wages. When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will investigate your accident, determine fault, and file claims with insurance companies on your behalf.
At Chiacchia & Fleming, our process starts with a thorough investigation of your accident. This helps us prove negligence and strengthen your case. Our investigation process includes:
- Reconstructing the accident scene with industry experts
- Finding and collecting black box information
- Meeting with investigators and first-responders to gather information about the accident
- Investigating a trucking company’s safety records
- Determining if motor safety regulation were violated
- Determining fault in the case
Types of Compensation for Truck Accident Victims
Victims and their families are forced to respond to new stresses following an accident. Medical bills and lost wages puts financial strain on families, and physical pain and emotional stress can take years of recovery. Following a fatal accident, families and survivors may experience a lifetime of emotional distress.
Victims are entitled to financial compensation to pay for the financial, physical and emotional burdens of an accident. Those injured in trucking accidents have two types of compensation available to them: Compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory Damages. Compensatory damages help victims pay for the immediate and long-term consequences of an accident. Compensatory damages help cover:
- Medical bills and rehabilitation
- Lost wages and disability
- Loss of normal life (e.g. not being able to return to hobbies)
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (e.g. damages for personal relationship strife)
Punitive Damages. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. This type of compensation is awarded by the jury if your case goes to trial, and it is used as a financial punishment for gross negligence or malice. Ultimately, your attorney can help you determine if punitive damages are an avenue to pursue in your case.
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in an Accident
In the immediate aftermath of a truck accident, you may be badly injured or in shock. The safety of yourself and your passengers should be your top concern. If you’re able to, there are several steps you can take help protect your case.
- Call 911 – Contact first responders immediately if you’re able to. Your safety and the safety of your passengers should be your most important concern. Wait for medical help at the scene. If you’re in harm’s way, move to a safe location within visible distance of the scene.
- Talk with Police – You may be in shock or seriously hurt following an accident. In this case, you won’t be able to talk with law enforcement. Yet, police officers will want to hear your recollection of the accident and the steps that led up to it. Provide them with as many details as you can remember, but do not admit fault.
- Collect Evidence from the Scene – If you’re able to, begin collecting evidence. Take photographs and videos of the scene with your cellphone, and collect the names and contact information of witnesses. Additionally, document any injuries that you might have with photos and note where you feel pain.
- Do Not Admit Fault – The trucking company’s lawyers and insurance companies may contact you. You’re not required to talk with them. In fact, it’s best that you don’t. If you do talk with them, DO NOT admit fault. This can be used to harm your case, even if you inaccurately admit to being at fault. The best solution: Refer any legal or insurance inquiries to your lawyer.
- Seek Professional Legal Advice – The legal process can be overwhelming. An attorney helps you manage the process immediately and fights for immediate compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, etc. You can contact a lawyer from the scene, if you’re able to, or within a few days of your accident. The key is to move quickly: A lawyer will help you protect your rights immediately following an accident.
Frequently Asked Questions | New York Truck Accident Guide
When Should I Contact a Truck Accident Attorney?
After a commercial truck accident, you want to make sure that you get a lawyer involved immediately because the investigation stage of that accident is very important. There could be several different insurance carriers on the line as it relates to a specific truck. The truck itself may be owned by one company. The trailer may be owned by another company. The box that’s being towed by the company may be owned by somebody else. There may be another company that secured the load to the truck. Say the accident happened because a load shifted in a truck; there may be another company involved that was responsible for securing the load to the truck before it got on the road.
There are a lot of different moving parts to these types of accidents, so it’s really important to make sure that you get a lawyer involved right away to start pursuing that investigation. That investigation may include making sure that video is secured. If the accident happened on an interstate or something, they may have some video. That could be very important in determining who caused the accident.
What Are the First Steps in a Truck Case?
The recommended steps after a commercial truck injury are really kind of two-fold. One is to make sure that your medical treatment is being paid for. We would like to make sure that you file your no-fault application promptly to make sure that you are getting your medical paid for, your lost wages, and things like that.
The second part of that is doing the investigation. We make sure that we have the names of all witnesses that may have seen the accident. We get written and recorded statements from them. Memories fade over time. It’s not enough that you just got a name and number from somebody; that’s easy. You want to get that person’s recollection of the accident while it’s fresh in their mind. There’s nothing worse than talking to a witness two years after an accident versus a month after an accident, because the recollections are going to be totally different; people’s memories fade, so it’s important to get involved right away and get those people locked in.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident Injury?
If you’re seriously injured in a commercial truck accident, of course the first thing you have to worry about is your medical treatment at the scene. If you can, be aware of what’s going on around you. If there are witnesses that come up to you and say, “Hey, I saw everything that happened,” try to get their number or their name, because many times, when the police get to an accident scene, things are kind of chaotic and they may not get the names and numbers of all the witnesses. If you can do that, it’s really important.
Going forward, you may have some obligations as far as filing a claim with your car insurance company, even though this truck may have been at fault for your accident. Your medical expenses and lost wages are going to be covered through the no-fault provisions of your car insurance policy, so you have an obligation to file an application for those benefits within 30 days. You want to make sure you do that as quickly as you can.
Should I Talk to Insurance Companies?
We discourage our clients from talking to the trucking company lawyer or the insurance company for the trucking company because, you have to understand something, they don’t really care about you. They may act like they do, but they don’t. Your best interest is only going to be looked after by your lawyer, not them. They want to make sure that they pay the least amount of money possible on claims. They’re not out to make sure that you’re fairly compensated, so don’t ever think that.
Many times, you get involved in conversations with them, and they start asking you a lot of different questions. You may become confused. You end up saying something that may not be correct. You’re locked into that because, many times, these conversations are recorded. Your best practice is when you get contacted by the company or their insurance company, is to say, “I have a lawyer. Let me talk to him, and then maybe we can have a discussion jointly down the road.”
Who Can I Sue?
There could be many people that you can sue regarding a commercial truck accident. Of course, you have the operator of the truck, the owner of the tractor of the truck, the trailer that’s being pulled, and the company that may be doing the maintenance. Another person or entity that could be sued could be a construction company or a municipality, or the New York State Thruway Authority might be on the hook. Say that you’re involved in an accident with a commercial truck, but the reason that commercial truck deviated from his lane is because maybe there was a barrel from a construction site in its way and they were trying to avoid it, or there was a hole in the road as a result of improper maintenance or construction that caused this vehicle to leave its lane or do something that caused the accident. We have to make sure that we have all those angles covered. There may be a multitude of defendants, and you’re not going to get that information unless you get involved early on in the investigation and get people in the know that can tell you who is responsible for maintenance, or who is the person directly responsible for overseeing the work at the construction site where the accident occurred. There are a lot of moving parts, and that’s why you want to get your investigation done early.
How Much is My Truck Accident Case Worth?
With a commercial truck case, determining the value of your injury is a case-by-case basis. We look at the severity of the injury. Did someone lose a limb? Did they, God forbid, lose their eyesight or something really catastrophic? Those cases are actually somewhat easier to value. It’s the other cases where you may have a neck injury or a back injury that are harder to value. Those injuries may prevent you from working or doing your normal and customary activities. When you have those kinds of cases, making sure you get fully compensated is really important.
Sometimes we have to hire experts, because you may have this back injury and you may need future back surgeries, so we need to determine how much medical care you’ll need in the future and what that future care would be. With that, what future household services will you need? Say your injury was such that you need to hire someone to plow your driveway, cut your lawn, things like that. There’s a value to that, and we hire experts to make sure that those values are presented to a jury or an insurance company to make sure you’re fully compensated.
Last but not least, you have your pain and suffering damages and of course that’s a case-by-case basis. Someone who has a serious physical injury at age 20, is going to have a case worth more than someone that may be at age 70, just because of life expectancy. This person that’s 20 has another 60 years of pain and suffering they have to live with, so that could increase the value of their claim.
Will My Truck Accident Case Go to Trial?
Commercial truck injury cases go to trial usually when there’s a dispute about what happened during the accident. Many times, the value of a case can be resolved between the attorneys if there’s a clear indication of how the accident happened. If both sides are pointing fingers at each other and there are other defendants involved, those are the kind of cases that end up in a court room and go to trial because there’s no clear indication of who did something wrong. Of course, there could be disputes over the value of an injury, and sometimes you get insurance companies that are locked in and say, “No, we only think this case is worth x number of dollars,” and we think it’s worth much more than that. Those are the cases that are going to see the inside of a court room.
What Should I Know About Truck Accident Claims?
Commercial truck accident claims are a little different than car accident claims in that many times you have a lot of different defendants involved. We talk about the simple car accident case: someone runs a stop sign, for example, and there are two cars involved in an accident. When you have a commercial vehicle involved, there are more moving parts because the owner of the tractor that’s pulling the rig may be different from the rig that’s being pulled, and there may also be a maintenance company involved in maintaining the trucks.
We recently had a lawsuit against the company that was involved with maintaining the vehicle. Our claim was really based on what they did in causing our client’s injuries by failing to maintain the vehicle properly. There are a lot of moving parts to these cases. There could be a multitude of defendants. We want to get that case going right away because, when you have a multitude of defendants, we end up having a lot of litigation and that takes a lot of time, especially if there are appeals to higher courts about court rulings. It’s better to get involved in these cases early and get them moving.
How Long Do I Have to File?
There are certain time limitations of filing claims against a commercial trucking company; usually it’s three years if it’s a private entity. With that, we’re not telling you that you should wait three years. Some of the reasons that make that quite obvious is that we want to make sure that if witnesses are going to be questioned, that their memories are going to be fresh. If you wait the three years to start lawsuits and questioning witnesses, you may get some very different answers to your questions than if you would have got involved right away and tried to hurry the process along.
Also, there are situations where you could be involved in a municipality truck accident. If that’s the case, you may have different limitations in bringing actions and that could be 90 days filing a notice of claim and then a year and 90 days from the accident in bringing an action or you’re going to be out of luck.
Last but not least, time limitations are different from state to state. That’s why it’s important to get a lawyer involved. You’re going to want to know if there are certain time limits. Say you’re a New York resident and you’re on vacation, and you get in an accident in Virginia with a commercial truck, what are your rights down there? How long do you have to bring your claim down there? There are a lot of moving parts to these cases. You want to make sure that you have your time limits cemented so we know that we don’t miss anything.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Truck Accident Case?
Sometimes with truck accidents, they can be very severe, severe enough where someone loses their life. When that happens, that’s the ultimate catastrophic event and there are a lot of steps that have to be taken when there’s a death involved. We do our usual investigation of the claim, but because it’s a wrongful death action there are certain things that have to be filed in other courts. For example, in Erie County you have to start opening an estate of the person who was deceased and make sure that their beneficiaries are compensated in the end.
With a wrongful death claim, we’re trying to determine full value, and many times in a wrongful death case, you may have dependents. Say a gentleman is in his 40s unfortunately loses his life. He has young children. He has a spouse, a home to support, kids to put through school. That future loss of income stream to support that is a big part of that person’s damages, and we have to make sure that we get the proper experts in place to make sure that the jury and the insurance carriers know what the full extent of those damages are.
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If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, don’t hesitate to call Chiacchia & Fleming today. We provide 100% free, no-obligation case evaluations for victims and their families. Talk with an experienced New York truck accident lawyer today about your case, learn what next steps to take, and how we can help you.
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At Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP, our mission is to deliver the finest quality legal representation while providing clients with the personal attention they deserve. Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Buffalo and the surrounding area have successfully handled every type of personal injury case from auto accidents, slip and falls, sex abuse, construction accidents, truck crashes, and dog bites.