When it comes to large trucks and commercial vehicles, even the slightest mistake by their drivers can put other drivers in danger of injury or death. The danger that these vehicles pose is far worse when a driver engages in what is known as aggressive driving.
According to data for the most recent year available from the New York Traffic Safety Statistical Repository (TSSR), road rage was the cause of 64 truck accidents, unsafe speed accounted for 1,230 crashes, and another 2,917 accidents were the result of trucks following too closely behind the vehicles in front of them (tailgating).
Thankfully, when a collision does occur as a result of a truck driver’s aggressive driving behaviors, victims have the right to pursue compensation through legal means. Whether through an insurance claim, or by suing the truck driver and the company that owns it, victims and their families can be covered for their damages. However, depending on the circumstances of the accident, certain means of compensation may be more viable than others.
What Happens if You’re in an Accident with an Aggressive Truck Driver?
If your injuries are minor after an accident with a truck then, typically, you will be able to rely on your own health or auto insurance coverage to cover the medical costs. In New York, auto insurance policies are required to include what are known as first party or personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, which will cover your medical expenses. However, if your injuries are particularly serious or have significantly worsened your quality of life, then you will most likely need to sue a liable driver to receive compensation because PIP benefits are limited in how much they can cover and will not cover non-economic expenses (like pain and suffering).
If you decide to sue, you will likely settle out of court with the driver, their employer if they are liable, and their insurers. This may take up to a full year, but most parties will recognize that they are unlikely to win a personal injury case that is clearly caused by a wrongful act, such as aggressive driving on their part. A settlement will give you certainty of compensation, though you will not be able to appeal the amount after the matter if you realize that the compensation is not enough to cover your expenses.
If you don’t settle out of court, then your attorney and the other party’s legal representatives will begin a process of discovery in which evidence is gathered on your case. This will take up to a year with negotiations still taking place, and once the process is completed, then a trial date will be set if a settlement has not been reached. During a trial, which may take several years, the two sides will present the evidence and their arguments for the case before a judge and jury.
When a jury must determine compensation for a case, they will use what is known as a pure comparative fault model. This means that they will compare the liability of the parties involved and will reduce the victim’s compensation if they are partially responsible for an accident. This may affect your decision to sue, as if you are partially responsible for an accident, then the compensation you may receive might not be enough to cover the expenses you have incurred and the legal costs that it will require to pursue a lawsuit.
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Proving a Truck Driver Was Speeding or Aggressive
Criminalized under NY Veh & Traf L § 1180, speeding is generally considered to be a form of aggressive driving. However, because of the sheer abundance of speeding violations, it is often mentioned independently of other forms of aggressive driving and is treated under the law as a separate offense.
Obviously, speeding is exceptionally dangerous to drivers, and it along with aggressive driving are punished through citations and fines that can carry serious legal repercussions for drivers. Although those fines don’t go toward compensating victims, the
There are many ways that an attorney might be able to argue and prove that speeding was a key factor in a case. Eyewitnesses, such as other passengers and pedestrians, can often be contacted if they provided their information to the police and the drivers involved, and police officers who issued tickets to liable parties can be called upon to provide testimony. Additionally, traffic and store surveillance cameras, as well as GPS systems, can be used to provide electronic evidence of a truck driver violating the speed limit. Forensic experts who are called to the scene of an accident can also study the environment and determine if a driver was speeding when an accident occured, especially if they attempted to brake abruptly before impact.
Truckers are also sometimes required to use what are known as electronic logging devices (ELDs).
It’s like an airplane’s black box. An attorney can legally request access to the data if it relates to a case they are handling, as well as collect all other potential evidence needed to prove their case.
What Is Aggressive Driving?
The term “aggressive driving” can be quite vague, as it is typically described as any deliberate behavior performed that puts others at risk while driving. Even legally speaking, there is not a definite set of behaviors that New York treats as aggressive driving. As noted under NY Veh & Traf L § 1212, reckless driving, as it is known under the law, is any behavior involving the use of a motor vehicle or motorcycle in a way that unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway or unreasonably endangers others.
Still, there are certain common behaviors that are regularly considered aggressive driving and are ticketed as such. These include:
- Running red lights
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Cutting off cars
- Blocking cars from changing lanes
Any of these behaviors are dangerous, but the risk they pose is greater when done by truck drivers. They can simply overwhelm smaller vehicles. For this reason, truck drivers often have a greater responsibility, and the courts will often not look kindly upon reckless truck drivers who injure others.
What Is Road Rage?
There are times where aggressive and reckless driving goes beyond negligent behavior that did not intend harm to others. When drivers are particularly aggravated or frustrated, they may engage in what is known as road rage, an extreme form of aggressive driving that goes beyond breaking traffic law and instead breaks one of a variety of criminal statutes.
The criminal acts that can be involved range from simply threatening another driver or passenger to deliberate homicide on the part of a driver. These actions will typically carry more serious penalties, such as large fines or imprisonment, depending on the exact nature of the criminal act performed.
In extreme cases, a court may decide that the criminal acts of the liable party require further punishment beyond having to pay compensatory damages to the victim. The judge or jury will award punitive damages that go beyond just the financial needs.
While a victim can still sue in these cases, truck drivers and the companies that own trucks are reliant on insurance policies to cover the damages caused by their actions. If they are unable to receive insurance coverage for road rage, then a person might be better off suing as a victim of aggressive driving, not road rage. Road rage will often see a higher amount of damages be awarded, but aggressive driving is far more likely to be covered by the liable party’s insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
The reports filed by the police for your accident will include details that might aid in determining if the driver was speeding, such as skid marks. Forensic experts will be able to use this documentation and their own observations of accidents to understand if the drivers involved may have been speeding. Street cameras and eyewitnesses as well can provide evidence for the case. All of this information can be acquired by your attorney with due diligence, so if you recall a detail such as a street camera at your accident, do not hesitate to mention it.
Yes, and while it does not directly provide you compensation if they are convicted of a crime, such a conviction if connected to your accident can act as strong evidence for liability on their part during a lawsuit.
If you choose to settle out of court, then the compensation will be determined through negotiations between your attorney and the liable party’s legal representative. Typically, the settlement will be based on whatever medical expenses caused by your injuries, though there may be additional compensation based upon the long-term suffering you will face as a result of the injuries.
If you go to trial, then a judge and jury will hear your case and assign liability based on the evidence presented. Once that liability is assigned, the court will then determine an appropriate amount of compensation that accurately reflects the liability of the parties involved.
Who Should You Contact if You’ve been Injured by an Aggressive Truck Driver?
If you or a loved one has been injured by an aggressive truck driver, contact Rosenblum Law for a free consultation today. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can guide you through the process and get you the best settlement or verdict possible. Call 888-815-3649 or email us today.