Semi-trucks and large commercial vehicles pose a safety concern in the Syracuse area, especially along the I-81 and I-90 corridors. Heavy truck traffic is common on those busy roads. As a result, the risk of getting into a collision with a tractor-trailer is exceptionally high. The negligence of truckers and trucking companies makes matters only worse.
If you were injured in a truck accident or lost a loved one due to the careless or reckless conduct of another party, you need to take immediate action to protect your right to pursue full and fair compensation. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, in Syracuse today. We can review your case in a free consultation and launch an investigation of your accident right away.
What Causes Tractor-Trailer Accidents in New York?
Tractor-trailers, or 18-wheelers, are just one type of commercial vehicle on the road. Straight trucks, box trucks, rock haulers and dump trucks are a few other types. Tractor-trailers are regulated by state and federal law. Their operators must also undergo strict training to drive these massive vehicles in New York.
The majority of truck drivers are responsible professionals. They are dedicated to their trade, and they focus on safety. Still, some drivers give truck driving a bad name. They put the public in grave jeopardy. When these negligent drivers cause serious accidents, our lawyers at Powers & Santola, LLP, aggressively seek justice for victims and their families. Here are just a few of the ways these accidents happen:
- Speeding – This is the most common cause of tractor-trailer accidents in the Syracuse region and across the country. When a driver operates a truck, the driver may carry a total gross weight of 40 tons or more. Stopping a rig with that much weight requires time and distance. So, if a driver is traveling at an unsafe speed, it can lead to a catastrophic collision.
- Aggressive driving – Some truck drivers use their large vehicles to threaten, harass or intimidate others on the road. Often, drivers are in a hurry to meet a deadline, so they take dangerous actions like cutting off others or making unsafe passes. Whether the driver is acting out of frustration, stress or fatigue, this type of conduct can be deadly.
- Texting and other distractions – Despite New York’s anti-texting laws and federal motor carrier regulations that prohibit truck drivers from using hand-held devices, many drivers break those rules. Tractor-trailers can be challenging for drivers to operate. If a driver fails to focus all of the driver’s attention on the safe operation of the rig and surrounding traffic, the driver puts everyone on the road in jeopardy.
- Fatigued driving – Many companies pressure drivers to push their physical limits. They force them to meet delivery deadlines which ultimately require drivers to violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours-of-service regulations. Those rules limit the number of hours that truck drivers can be on the road, and they are designed to prevent accidents. A fatigued driver can fall asleep at the wheel or suffer from impaired judgment and motor control.
- Impaired driving – A truck driver who is under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or certain types of prescription medications can lack the physical and mental faculties to safely operate a rig. The blood alcohol concentration limit for commercial drivers in New York is lower than the limit for other drivers, 0.04 compared to 0.08, for a good reason.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we conduct immediate investigations into truck accidents. We want to get to the accident scene and take steps to preserve and collect evidence as soon as possible in order to make sure no evidence is lost or destroyed. For this reason, you should contact us as soon as you are ready to act after a tractor-trailer crash in Syracuse or the surrounding area.
Why Are Commercial Vehicles So Much More Dangerous Than Cars?
It’s not just the size of tractor-trailers that makes these vehicles so dangerous. Some industry-specific issues lead to accidents, too. Consider these unique aspects about commercial vehicles and their operation:
- Negligent hiring and supervision practices – Before they hire drivers, trucking companies must conduct background checks, drug screens and a review of the driver’s qualifications. Sadly, many companies fail to take those steps. In turn, they put unqualified and potentially dangerous drivers on the road. Additionally, many companies fail to adequately supervise drivers and/or ignore a driver’s pattern of unsafe conduct.
- Pay by the mile – Unlike local drivers who operate on an hourly pay basis, many interstate drivers are paid by the mile. So, the more miles they drive, the more money they make. FMCSA regulations should limit the number of hours a driver works in a given day. Still, drivers will break those rules and push their physical and mental limits in order to earn income. In some cases, drivers fake their log entries (and some companies encourage or turn a blind eye to it).
- Poor inspection and maintenance – Even the biggest trucking companies can be lax when it comes to conducting mandatory inspection and maintenance of the vehicles in their fleet. This negligence can lead to broken tandems, bad brake lines and other serious safety issues which contribute to crashes.
- Careless loading – If drivers, warehouse workers or others fail to properly load and secure cargo, the cargo can shift or spill while it is being transported. Many rollovers and jackknife accidents occur due to negligent loading.
It’s important to note that trucking companies can be held liable if their drivers act negligently and cause a crash. This is called vicarious liability. However, trucking companies and others in the industry can also be liable if their own negligence contributes to an accident. The above practices are all examples of conduct that could lead to that type of liability.
Common Injuries in Commercial Truck Accidents
Truck accidents typically result in significantly worse injuries than other types of motor vehicle collisions. This is mainly due to the size and weight of commercial motor vehicles. When 40 tons of steel and cargo fail to stop on time in order to avoid a crash, even low-speed collisions can be horrific. In some cases, large tractor-trailer vehicles have crushed smaller passenger vehicles simply by turning and riding over the top of them. Some of the most common injuries in these accidents in Syracuse and surrounding areas are:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Disc injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Soft tissue damage
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
When you work with Powers & Santola, LLP, we will gather all of your medical records, speak with your doctors and, if necessary, review your case with other medical experts. We also consult with life care planners, who can help us to determine the medical care that you will require moving forward. We want to make sure that any settlement or verdict that you receive allows you to get the care and treatment that you need for your physical and mental recovery.
How Do You Prove A Semi-Truck Accident Injury Case?
Trucking companies work closely with their insurance carriers to avoid liability at all costs. They may even do unethical or illegal things to keep from being held responsible for serious injuries. The key to fighting back is to act quickly.
Once you contact an experienced truck accident lawyer from Powers & Santola, LLP, we can rush investigators to the scene to photograph it and investigate the crash. Additionally, we can take immediate steps to gather evidence such as logbook records, bills of lading, toll booth receipts, inspection and maintenance records, cell phone records, GPS data, black box data and toxicology test results. We will also interview witnesses who can describe what they saw, heard or even smelled at the crash scene (such as alcohol on a truck driver’s breath).
We also regularly consult with knowledgeable professionals in fields such as accident reconstruction, trucking safety and engineering. They can help us to determine why your truck accident happened and who should be held responsible for the harm that you or a loved one suffered. We believe that a timely and thorough investigation is crucial for our clients.
Our Syracuse Truck Accident Attorneys Are Ready to Help You
Since 1987, the attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, have aggressively protected the rights of truck accident victims and their families in Syracuse and throughout Upstate and Western New York. We know how to effectively investigate and litigate these cases and how to pursue the compensation which our clients deserve. Insurance companies know that we zealously advocate for every client we represent and prepare cases for trial. We never compromise the full value of a case for a quick settlement.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we accept only a select number of cases for a reason: We want to ensure that each client receives the full extent of our attention and resources. Our goal is to make a meaningful difference in our clients’ lives. To learn more about how we can serve you after a truck accident in the Syracuse area, call or reach us online today for a free case review.