How Joint and Several Liability Affects Truck Accident Claims in the State of New York

Parked trucks

Have you been injured in a big truck accident in New York that wasn’t your fault? Paying for medical care can devastate your finances, but it should not. You have the right to seek compensation. New York’s joint and several liability rule can make it even easier to get the money you deserve.

An attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C. can explain how this law might impact your case. Discover the benefits it provides you for recouping all the money owed from every liable party.

Joint and Several Liability Defined

Joint and several liability applies in cases with more than one potential defendant. For example, in a big truck accident, both the driver and the trucking company could be responsible for your injuries.

Under this rule, you can hold each party independently liable for the full compensation you seek. Fault does not necessarily play into the amount the court will require each party to pay. For example, if the court finds the driver is 75% at fault and the company is 25% at fault, the court can still require the company to pay 100% of the award.

The Impact of Insurance Coverage

Your attorney will obtain copies of the insurance policies of all parties who were at fault for the accident so they can ascertain the policy limits of the applicable coverage. This will show whether the full value of your case will be covered by the available coverage.

Law of New York Chapter 28 Article 53 Section 5303 only requires truck drivers to carry minimal insurance coverage. The limits are the same as passenger vehicles:

  • $25,000 bodily injury for one person
  • $50,000 death for one person
  • $50,000 bodily injury for more than one person
  • $100,000 death for more than one person
  • $10,000 property damage for a single accident

The National Safety Council reported the comprehensive costs for car crashes are much higher than insurance requirement limits. For example, the economic cost of a single death in 2020 was $1,750,000.

Because your costs will likely far exceed the amount of insurance the truck driver carries, joint and several liability will also allow you to go after the trucking company. Federal laws require the trucking company to carry insurance coverage in the following amounts:

  • $300,000 – When the truck carries up to 10,000 pounds of non-hazardous freight
  • $750,000 – When the truck carries 10,000 pounds or more of non-hazardous freight
  • $1,000,000 – When the truck carries oil and hazardous substances. This coverage is required for any quantity traveling interstate, but applies to intrastate loads heavier than 10,000 pounds
  • $5,000,000 – When the truck carries 10,000 pounds or more of hazardous material

The Role of Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

New York is a competitive negligence state. Under NY Civil Practice Law and Rules Chapter 8 Article 14-A Section 1411, the court will reduce your award by the percentage of fault they assign to you.

Before making an award determination in a personal injury case, the court determines who was at fault for the accident. For example, if the judge or jury determines you were 10% at fault, the court will reduce the amount of your compensable losses by 10%. If your losses totaled $100,000, you could recover only $80,000 in this scenario.

How Does Joint and Several Liability Apply?

If the court determines that the truck driver is 20% responsible for that accident that injured you, the trucking company is 75% responsible, and your compensable losses are $200,000, the court can choose from a variety of ways to order the at-fault parties to pay your compensation. Using joint and several liability, they could direct the truck driver to pay up to their insurance policy limits, or $25,000, which is 12.5% of the award, and direct the trucking company to pay the remaining $175,000, or 87.5%. Alternatively, still using joint and several liability, the court could direct the trucking company to pay the entire award. The court could also direct the at-fault parties to pay their assigned percentages of your compensable losses: $40,000 from the truck driver and $160,000 from the trucking company.

How an Attorney Can Assist with Your Case

Personal injury law is complex. The many details involved in putting together a lawsuit might be challenging to handle alone. Hiring an attorney increases your ability to understand your rights and learn how the law applies to your case. Your lawyer advocates for you, helping you know what you can get in compensation and how the law will work in your circumstances.

Your attorney will take over your case so that you don’t have to do anything. They’ll investigate the accident to determine which parties are at fault and how much insurance is available to cover your losses. Your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim, including acquiring the truck’s black box data, interviewing witnesses, engaging expert witnesses if required, and acquiring your medical records to demonstrate the extent of your injuries.

Your lawyer will handle all communication with the at-fault parties and their insurance companies. They’ll provide settlement demands and negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to get adequate settlements. If appropriate settlements cannot be reached, they’ll take your case to trial and present your case before a judge or jury to fight for your rights.

Throughout the process, your attorney will be a source of comfort and a guide. They’ll keep you informed about what is happening and what to expect. You’ll have someone to rely on to manage the legal aspects of getting the compensation you need and to stand up for you.

Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. Today

The attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. are ready to take on your case. We have a proven track record of helping those injured in accidents with big rigs. Our firm secured the largest truck accident settlement in state history of $24.5 million, and we’ve helped clients recover over $1 billion in awards and settlements.

Since 1984, we have fought for the rights of people hurt by the negligence of others. We have a passion for protecting victims. We want to protect you, too. Contact us today for a free case review. Find out how our firm can work for you by calling 855-TOP-FIRM.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.