Damages in Commercial Driver Vehicle Collisions

Posted on May 29, 2019 in

Way back in 1998, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the Empire State, struck down the longstanding common carrier rule. This legal doctrine held taxi drivers, truck drivers, Uber drivers, and other commercial operators to a higher duty of care.

This landmark decision triggered considerable hand-wringing among many New York personal injury attorneys. But this opinion did not radically change the law. It’s still possible to hold commercial drivers responsible for the crashes they cause. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also still possible to hold employers vicariously liable for damages.


First Party Liability in Commercial Vehicle Collisions

Negligence, which could be a lack of care or a violation of a statute, causes most of the commercial vehicle collisions in New York. Some common kinds of negligence include:

To help establish liability, victim/plaintiffs often use the tortfeasor’s driving record. Until very recently, it was very difficult to obtain truck operator driving records. Most of these drivers have licenses in several different states.

But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now keeps a database on these drivers. This database includes information on crash history, substance abuse, HOS (hours of service) compliance, and other issues.

Significantly, this information usually comes from law enforcement sources. If a truck driver gets a speeding ticket and takes defensive driving, the ticket may not appear on a traditional driving record. But it will pop up in the FMCSA database.


Third-Party Liability

Many commercial car wrecks, especially large vehicle collisions, cause wrongful death and other catastrophic injuries. New York has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, individual tortfeasors may not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these cases.

Fortunately, New York also has very broad employer liability rules. Respondeat superior (let the master answer) is probably the most common one. It applies if the tortfeasor was:

Empire State courts define both these elements in broad, victim-friendly terms. For example, an “employee” is any person who the employer controls. That could be a regular employee, independent contractor, owner-operator, or even an unpaid volunteer.

In the unlikely event that respondeat superior is unavailable, another doctrine, like negligent hiring or negligent entrustment, may apply.


Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Commercial drivers and their employers may still be liable for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. P.C.

In over a decade of legal practice, Attorney Michael Redenburg began his career defending cases for the clients of insurance companies. Initially defending no-fault claims at a Long Island-based law firm, he then moved on to a Manhattan-based firm where he defended the clients of insurance carriers in an auto accident and premises liability matters.

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