Can Commercial Truck Drivers Be Held Responsible for Accidents Caused by Bad Weather in New York?
Weather-related accident liability in New York depends on multiple factors. Since weather alone doesn’t necessarily lead to collisions, looking at the driver’s behavior is essential. A truck driver can be responsible if they don’t take the necessary precautions to keep the people around them safe and avoid causing a crash.
Truckers are responsible for driving carefully to avoid harming others – especially in poor weather conditions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations that truck drivers must follow in hazardous weather conditions. These rules state that truck drivers must use extreme caution and slow down when hazardous weather conditions affect traction or visibility.
Truckers must also pull over if conditions become too dangerous. They should wait until it’s safe to start driving the vehicle again. If stopping would increase the danger to the trucker and others, they can drive until they find a safe place to stop.
Poor weather conditions don’t only reduce traction and limit visibility for truckers. Additional weather-related factors can affect a truck driver’s ability to maneuver their truck. Some examples are:
- Altered driving behavior and capabilities
- Infrastructure damage
- High winds powerful enough to pull a car or truck out of their lane
- Lane obstruction from debris, wind-blown snow, and other hazards
- Submerged lanes due to flooding
- Sun glare from snow
- Traffic signal timing
It’s common knowledge that drivers should slow down and be careful when it starts raining or snowing. However, sometimes truckers speed when they know bad weather is on its way. They might try to outdrive the snow or rain to avoid falling behind on their schedules. Or they may believe slowing down is not an option if they encounter poor weather conditions. Making money and staying on schedule may be more important to them than safety. If an accident happens, their careless decisions might mean they are at fault for someone else’s injuries.
It is important to consider all circumstances of a trucking accident to determine if the trucker is at fault. Although bad weather can play a part, looking at other factors like road conditions and driver behavior is also crucial.
When truck drivers encounter hazardous weather, they must think about the truck’s capabilities, their level of preparedness, and road conditions to determine how to proceed. Speeding up in the rain or cutting off another vehicle on icy roads increases the risk of a collision. Those factors can contribute to an accident, making the driver responsible for someone else’s injury.
Holding a truck driver responsible for an accident caused by black ice and other weather conditions might be possible for multiple reasons, such as:
- Disobeying traffic signs or signals
- Distracted driving
- Fatigued driving
- Improper use of headlights or brights
- Not using windshield wipers
- Taking a turn too fast
- Weaving in and out of traffic
Your Legal Options If You Have Been Injured in a Truck Accident
If a truck driver is at fault for an accident, there are two options for holding them responsible and seeking compensation – an injury claim and a civil lawsuit.
Every trucking company must have liability insurance for each commercial truck in its fleet. The coverage required depends on the weight of the truck and the type of cargo it transports. For example, a truck weighing over 10,001 pounds and carrying non-hazardous freight must have at least $750,000 in liability insurance.
You can engage a truck accident attorney to file a claim with the truck driver’s insurance provider if the driver’s actions contributed to a crash in poor weather conditions. When filing a claim, substantial evidence must be provided to prove that the trucker’s negligence caused your injuries in the accident. Negligence can include behavior such as speeding on an icy road or changing lanes in heavy rain without checking blind spots.
The insurance carrier for the truck driver and the trucking company will investigate the claim to determine if its policyholder is at fault. It’s critical to understand that the insurance representative handling your claim is not on your side. Their goal is to save the insurance company money by avoiding a large payout. They will look for reasons to reduce the value of your claim based on anything you say. Accordingly, you should never speak directly with the insurance carrier about your accident or injuries. Your attorney will speak on your behalf in order to protect your rights and preserve the value of your case.
But in any event, the trucking company and its insurance carrier will likely dispute your claim regardless of what actually happened, and a pre-litigation settlement in a truck accident case is highly unlikely due to the complexities of federal, state, and local regulations governing the industry. That’s why a civil personal injury lawsuit is your best opportunity to maximize the value of your case.
If the at-fault driver or their insurer will not cooperate, you can file suit against them. However, you must follow a strict timeframe. In New York, the statute of limitations gives you three years from the crash date to file your personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. If your case involves wrongful death, then New York law requires a lawsuit to be brought within two years of the date of death. Once the timeframe passes, you will lose your right to compensation.
If you’re within the required statute of limitations period, you can file suit against the trucker, the trucking company, and any other party who may be at fault for the accident. Although the truck driver is ultimately responsible for the safe operation of the commercial truck, other parties might share responsibility.
For example, you might be able to hold the trucking company responsible for negligent hiring and training practices if an inexperienced driver was placed on the road. A manufacturer could also be responsible for supplying a defective truck part that caused the truck to malfunction in snowy or icy conditions. Or the freight company could be at fault if they loaded the cargo incorrectly.
Whether you file a claim or lawsuit for a bad weather accident with a truck, the types of compensation you might recover include:
- Reimbursement for ambulance services, hospital stays, physical therapy, and other medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost income
- Lower future earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Scarring or permanent loss of limb
If your truck accident case involves wrongful death, you may also be permitted to recover for loss of parental guidance to children, loss of household services, and loss of consortium.
Punitive damages are sometimes recoverable in a lawsuit. For the judge or jury to award punitive damages, you must prove the defendant’s actions showed recklessness, willful negligence, or a conscious disregard for the well-being of others.
How Our Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help If You’ve Been Injured
Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. as soon as possible after a truck accident. The trucking company will likely hire investigators to obtain evidence and create a defense strategy immediately after the accident to avoid responsibility. You will need your own legal team to help prove what really happened. You must prove your case to hold the negligent trucker accountable for their misconduct.
When you retain our legal services, we will launch a thorough investigation. We’ll secure valuable evidence, such as accident scene photos, traffic camera footage, the trucker’s employment records, and eyewitness statements. Our team works with highly qualified expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists, medical providers, and vocational experts. This helps support your case against the responsible parties.
At Finz & Finz, P.C., we will aggressively negotiate for a full and fair settlement while handling your truck accident lawsuit.