No one ever wants to be involved in an accident with a truck, but the reality is that it can happen to almost anyone, and can result in significant harm. Crashes involving large vehicles like a truck may lead to hefty medical expenses, extended time off of work, and unanticipated obstacles and expenses, such as alterations to one’s home.
One of the first questions that a person may wonder about is how much money they could be paid in a settlement from a truck accident lawsuit. While it is difficult to state a precise number due to the range of cases that arise, such a lawsuit sees compensation in the thousands of dollars to the millions in the most extreme cases. The amount depends heavily on the nature of the injury, including how serious it is, the impact on a person’s life, and last but not least, the strength of the evidence presented and the attorney’s skill in representing their client’s interests.
If you or someone you know has had the misfortune to be involved in a truck accident, it is important to contact an attorney with expertise in these lawsuits as soon as possible to see if you may be entitled to receive compensation.
Minimum Liability Insurance for Trucks
There are many federal laws regulating the trucking industry given the risk that they pose to people and property should an accident come to pass. This is especially pertinent to trucks carrying hazardous material, such as oil. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the following insurance coverage requirements for motor carriers that must be filed with the agency:
- $300,000 for non hazardous freight moved in carriers not meeting the definition of a large truck (a carrier under 10,000 lbs)
- $750,000 for non hazardous freight moved by large trucks (carriers over 10,001 lbs)
- $1,000,000 – $5,000,000 for hazardous substances moved by large trucks
- $5,000,000 for hazardous substances moved by carriers under 10,001 lbs
It is also not uncommon for trucking companies to buy insurance coverage that exceeds the minimum that is required by law. Higher coverage protects them from liability in the event of a deadly crash that involves one of their drivers. Furthermore, truck accident victims can receive damages that exceed the truck’s insurance coverage because trucking companies are businesses with resources that may allow them to pay more out of pocket costs. It is because of these reasons that truck accident settlements tend to be larger than car accidents.
Types of Truck Accidents
Like car accidents, truck accidents may involve head on, rear end, side swipe, and side impact collisions. However, override, underride, squeeze play, rollover, and jackknifes are unique types of accidents that can also occur. All have the potential to cause serious injury to the person and the vehicle on the receiving end.
- Override is a collision where a truck rear-ends a car with so much force that it runs over the car with the potential to crush the car or rip the top off of it
- Underride is when a car slides under the side or the rear of a truck, which can be equally as destructive and shear the roof off the car along with its sides
- Squeeze Play happens when a car trying to pass a truck as it’s making a wide turn gets trapped between the truck and the curb, which can force it under the truck
- Rollovers occur when a truck collides with an obstacle on a highway, when a truck is not properly loaded, or when the driver is not paying attention to the road, leading to the truck rolling over and leaving debris in its path
- Jackknife accidents occur when a trailer swings to the side at a 90-degree angle from the truck cab, potentially blocking all lanes of traffic and posing significant danger to the cars behind the truck who are unable to stop in time
What Is Recoverable?
A truck accident is normally viewed through the lens of a personal injury case. This means that the person claiming injury is entitled to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. In the case of a fatal injury, a representative of the estate can sue for wrongful death. Though punitive damages are rare, they may be available where the at-fault party has displayed an intentional and egregious disregard for the safety of others.
- Refers to the expenses that a person has incurred as a result of the injury
- Medical expenses can include ambulance fees, cost of medical treatment in the hospital, at-home nurses visits, medication, other medical supplies, and home alterations/renovations needed due to the injury
- Lost wages to compensate the injured person for time missed at work due to injuries
- Lost earning capacity, which is similar to lost wages and refers to future earnings lost as a result of inability or diminished capacity to work
- Can be understood as the impact on a person’s internal state, and is usually more difficult to quantify
- Conscious pain and suffering, for which compensation is based on the extent of the injury and impact on the injured person’s life
- Small injuries will not get much, if any, compensation for pain and suffering, while serious life-altering injuries tend to settle for figures in the hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars
- Loss of consortium, which can be claimed by the spouse for damages to the marriage, such as affection and sexual relations
Wrongful Death Action
- Can be brought by the representative of the estate, typically the spouse or children of deceased
- Damages can only be recovered by those who have suffered a financial loss, such as a surviving spouse’s loss of household income
- Includes funeral expenses, medical expenses related to the injury that caused the death, loss of services that were provided by the deceased
- Awarded in the rare case where there has been a reckless disregard for the rights of others and is meant to punish the harming party
- In the event of a fatal injury, the representative of the estate can still claim punitive damages where the deceased would have been entitled to them
No-Fault Rule in New York
New York is a no-fault state. This means that in an accident on the road, regardless of who is to blame, an injured person must seek compensation through their insurance. The amount of money will depend on the policy’s coverage. You can only file a lawsuit against another responsible party in an auto accident if:
- Your economic losses exceed your no-fault benefits, or
- You have a qualifying “serious injury” as defined under New York law.
In order to sue for non-economic damages, a car accident victim must meet the New York requirement for “serious injury.” Under New York Insurance Law § 5102(d), qualifying serious injuries (relevant to whiplash) may include:
- significant disfigurement
- permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
- significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment
Comparative Negligence in New York
New York uses the comparative negligence rule in determining damages. This means that if the case proceeds to trial, the jury determines how much each party is at fault for the accident that happened. If the party claiming injury is deemed to be 10% at fault, while the party being sued is 90% at fault, then the injured party will only obtain 90% of the final damages amount. For example, in a jury verdict of $100,000 in damages, the injured party would recover $90,000.
Case Law Analysis
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that there were 523,796 large truck crashes in 2021. Out of the nearly 5,700 that were fatal, 108 took place in New York state. The following cases involved truck accidents in New York and illustrate what kind of compensation injured persons can get.
Nicolini v. Misti’s Transport Inc.
- Wrongful death action brought when male, employed as a newspaper delivery man, died after his van collided with defendant’s commercial tractor-trailer
- The driver as well as the owner of the tractor trailer were both sued, with the estate claiming the owner was negligent in training and supervising their drivers, and that the driver himself failed to keep a proper lookout, drove while fatigued, fell asleep at the wheel, and failed to warn approaching traffic of the truck
- Parties reached a settlement agreement for $1 million, with $983,271 coming from the defendant’s insurance carrier and $16,729 from the defendant individually
Small v. North Shore Bottling Co.
- A motorist, with a passenger in the car, was attempting to back into a parking space when the car was struck by a truck passing behind them on the street.
- The passenger suffered injuries as a result of the collision and sued the drivers as well as the trucking company for negligent driving and negligent hiring, respectively.
- Damages were sought for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and medical expenses.
- The jury awarded the passenger about $2,000,000 in damages ($74,871.00 for past loss of earnings, $138,360.00 for future loss of earnings, $1,648,051.00 for future medical expenses, and $136,184.00 for past pain and suffering).
Tanasescu v. Cayuga Excavating
- A driver was operating a vehicle with a passenger in the car when a dump truck collided with them at an intersection.
- Both passenger and driver claimed injuries stemming from the collision and sued the driver as well as the trucking company for negligence and recklessness in the use and supervision of the vehicle.
- The parties agreed to settle for $3.25 million.
Why You Need an Attorney
Truck accidents have the potential to be more complex than car accident cases. This is because there could be a lot more responsible parties than just the driver. The truck company could be at fault for negligent maintenance of the truck, or knowingly allowing it to be operated while it was deficient or needed repairs or maintenance. The truck manufacturer could be at fault for making a truck that had a faulty component that led to an accident. These types of situations come up from time to time, and require extensive investigation to determine everyone who could be liable for damages. An attorney with experience in truck accident claims has the expertise to navigate the complexity of these cases.
Because this is a form of a personal injury case, you would typically not be charged a consultation fee, nor attorney’s fees for the duration of the case. The attorney would be compensated by taking a percentage of the trial verdict or out-of-court settlement with the opposing side. The first step, therefore, is to find an attorney that is right for you, and together determine if there is a viable case. If there is agreement to pursue the case, the attorney will file a complaint against all parties deemed responsible and that will begin the official lawsuit. Please see our detailed article which further explains the legal process.
At Rosenblum Law, we have years of experience dealing with truck accident lawsuits. If you have a claim, we’ll guide you through the process and fight on your behalf for maximum compensation. For a free consultation, call us today at 888-235-9021 or contact us through our website.
The National Highway Traffic Administration defines a large truck as any medium or heavy truck, excluding mobile homes, that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. They reclassified this designation in 2016.
Four main categories were identified, listed below in descending order of frequency:
· Decision includes the driver speeding recklessly and following vehicles too closely
· Recognition includes the driver being distracted or inattentive
· Non-performance includes the driver falling asleep, being disabled by a heart attack, or being similarly impaired
· Performance includes the driver panicking or exercising poor directional control behind the steering wheel
· In descending order, the top 10 factors coded for large trucks and their drivers were:
· Brake problems
· Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
· Prescription drug use
· Speeding in hazardous conditions
· Unfamiliarity with roadway
· Roadway problems
· Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
· Over-the-counter drug use
· Inadequate surveillance of road conditions
In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is up to three years after the alleged injury occurred. It is best practice not to delay and consult an attorney right away to give yourself the best opportunity to file a lawsuit in a timely manner.