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New York Garbage Truck Accident Lawyers

Garbage truck in Manhattan, Garbage truck accident representation

If you or a loved one is injured by a garbage truck, you will require the services of a legal team with experience in handling the specific challenges associated with these vehicles. Garbage trucks in New York City fall under two distinct categories: private (or commercial) and municipal. Whether your accident was caused by a private or municipal truck will affect how you proceed with your case.

  • Municipal sanitation trucks, owned by the New York City Department of Sanitation and funded by City tax revenue, serve residential areas as well as government agencies and many nonprofits. If you live in New York City, the garbage truck that serves your house or apartment complex is most likely a municipal truck. These trucks tend to operate during daylight hours.
  • Private or commercial sanitation trucks, owned and operated by private companies, serve virtually all businesses in New York City. These private companies are paid by the businesses themselves, from restaurants and markets to office buildings and complexes. Privately-owned garbage trucks primarily operate at night.

What all sanitation truck operators, municipal and private alike, have in common is the weighty responsibility that comes with the use of a heavy vehicle in urban and suburban spaces. Municipal trucks are governed by regulations outlined by the Department of Transportation (DOT), while commercial drivers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are deeply familiar with the workings of New York garbage truck accident cases and have a strong track record of settlements for persons injured by both private and municipal trucks. Read on to find out more about the types of garbage truck accident cases they typically encounter and what your own case might entail.

In This Article

Case Study: $3 Million for 78-Year-Old Victim Hit by Municipal Sanitation Truck in Bicycle Lane

In one case settled by Block O’Toole & Murphy for $3,000,000, a driver for the New York City Parks Department steered a sanitation truck into a designated bicycle lane in the West Village, hitting a 78-year-old woman who was riding to her daily gym appointment on an electric scooter. The driver understood that the lane was marked exclusively for bicycle and pedestrian use: in fact, when handling attorneys Daniel O’Toole and Frederick Aranki traveled to the scene of the accident, one of the first things they found was a sign at the lane entrance reading NO TRUCKS. But illegally using the lane made it easier for the municipal driver to move garbage from the adjacent park.

Because this driver wanted to shave a few minutes off his schedule, our client, an active woman who valued her independence, would require the assistance of a home health aide for the remainder of her life.

Important Steps in Lawsuits Involving Municipal Garbage Trucks

Cases involving municipal garbage trucks highlight the importance of retaining a skilled attorney early in the process. Pursuing a case against a municipal truck will require you to sue the City of New York, which gives you only 90 days from the date of the accident to file a notice of claim, and one year and 90 days from the date of the accident to file the lawsuit itself.

Although you may ask the court for permission to file a notice of claim beyond the deadline, failing to file on time will give the city potential grounds on which to dismiss your case. After filing the notice of claim, you will be required to undergo a 50-H hearing, a hearing similar to a deposition which takes place under oath, and for which you should be thoroughly prepared by your attorney. For more information on suing the City of New York, see here.

A municipal case also may prompt your attorney to serve a Freedom of Information Act Request. A FOIA request requires a government entity to share certain records which pertain to the issue your legal team is examining. Such records—from recordings taken inside the truck to training and operating manuals dealing with the proper handling of municipal vehicles—may be critical in proving negligence on the part of the driver. 

Municipal entities may take a long time to deliver on FOIA requests, so the process should be started as early as possible and is best handled by an attorney with experience in dealing with such specific procedures. Our attorneys are known for their tenacity and relentless pursuit of FOIA results and have personally traveled to municipal offices if other methods of correspondence are being ignored.

Further Information on the Private Sanitation Industry in NYC

Safety abuses in New York City’s private garbage truck industry have been a cause of concern for the city for some time. According to a 2021 report released by the United States Department of Transportation, commercial garbage trucks in New York City were responsible for at least 43 fatalities over the course of the previous decade.

It’s not hard to see why: commercial sanitation trucks are responsible for transporting over half of the City’s overall waste. Their drivers undertake this mission by operating after dark to take advantage of quieter roads, at times conducting dangerously lengthy shifts to complete the amount of work they need to do in one night. They have fewer witnesses, less accountability, and a more immediate incentive to maintain their jobs than to strictly follow the rules of the road.

At the time of publishing this article, New York City is engaged in implementing long-awaited industry reforms—such as the assignment of specific companies to specially-established “commercial waste zones” in the city—which were stalled in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that these reforms will create a safer atmosphere and that the City of New York will continue to prioritize this highly important issue.

Because commercial trucks are not owned by the City of New York, a more standard time limit for personal injury cases applies: you will generally have three years in which to pursue your case. Time remains of the essence, particularly because gathering details may prove challenging as compared to similar municipal cases, due to greater employee turnover and less rigid company documentation.

Case Study: $5 Million Settlement After Mother of Four Was Killed by a Commercial Sanitation Truck Driver

Hear our lawyers discuss the heartbreaking case of a mother killed by a private sanitation truck.

Although commercial trucks are not governed by the Department of Transportation, they have clearly delineated legal responsibilities, being obligated by federal law to follow the guidelines of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which include careful screening of potential drivers. In another case handled by Daniel O’Toole and Frederick Aranki, skillful research uncovered exactly the type of fact that this process, when followed correctly, is intended to reveal.

A 47-year-old mother of four, visiting from the UK with a friend, was returning to their hotel when the driver of a passing commercial garbage truck had a seizure, losing control of the vehicle. The vehicle mounted the sidewalk on West 35th Street and struck the woman and her friend, killing them both and injuring a third pedestrian on the sidewalk. The driver admitted to investigators that he suffered from a seizure condition for which he took medication and that he stopped taking it two weeks before the accident.

The company that employed the driver argued that they were not aware of his seizure condition and therefore could not be held responsible for what therefore amounted to an unforeseen medical condition. Examining the FMCSA regulations, O’Toole and Aranki discovered that the company had a responsibility to find the past employment records of drivers hired to handle the type of vehicle concerned in the accident. Tracing the records themselves, they found that the driver had been terminated from a previous driving job for similarly suffering a seizure while operating a truck. Had the company been following federal law, they would have discovered the driver’s condition during the hiring process and would have been aware that they had a responsibility not to hire him. The case on behalf of the victim’s estate and surviving children was settled by our firm for $5,000,000.

Block O’Toole & Murphy: Attorneys Who Go the Extra Mile

In the aforementioned cases and others, Block O’Toole & Murphy has shown a particular aptitude for helping the victims of garbage truck accidents and their families, with many other multi-million-dollar results, including:

  • $4,750,000 settlement for a union signalman who was crossing the street in Brooklyn when he was struck by a turning NYC sanitation vehicle that did not fully stop at the intersection
  • $2,750,000 settlement for a woman who was driving on the Belt Parkway when she was struck by a sanitation truck that collided with an overpass
  • $2,100,000 settlement after a cyclist was hit by a garbage truck in Long Island City, Queens
  • $2,000,000 settlement in a lawsuit against the City of New York after a municipal sanitation truck hit a car and seriously injured the front-seat passenger
  • $1,750,000 settlement after a city-owned garbage truck rear-ended a car at a red light
  • $1,250,000 settlement for a man who was struck by an NYC sanitation vehicle while stopped at a red light

Our attorneys not only prioritize an attitude of compassion for accident victims and their families but prize it as essential to the proper handling of a case. In the previously mentioned case of the 47-year-old mother from the UK, our handling attorneys faced the challenge of their clients being situated overseas. Handling attorneys O’Toole and Aranki made it their business to bridge the gap, starting when O’Toole traveled to the victim’s rural village in England at the outset of the case, meeting with her family personally. O’Toole valued the opportunity, not only to better aid the family by meeting them where they were, but to gain a sense of the victim’s reality, life, and perspective that he would not have been able to surmise from his office—a body of insight which helped him greatly during the court proceedings.

The team’s determination to go the literal distance on behalf of our clients further defined the proceedings when Aranki suggested taking the deposition of the victim’s payroll supervisor, a non-party in the case. This made it incumbent on the defense to travel to the UK for the deposition, meaning that our clients did not have to pay to travel to New York, and that their own depositions, for which they were extensively prepared by our attorneys, could be taken with greater comfort.

Aranki was also instrumental in facilitating the family’s healing process by helping them to seek appropriate counseling—a step which our firm always encourages, whether it serves as an element of the case (in many instances, treatment records made by therapists give voice to our clients in a way that courtroom testimony cannot) or simply helps them to deal with life after the case is over.

If you were involved in an accident involving a garbage truck or any other vehicle in New York State, Block O’Toole & Murphy is here to help you. Contact our experienced attorneys by calling 212-736-5300 or by filling out our Contact Form.

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