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John Doe is a hardworking delivery truck driver. He is a model employee, always completing his work on time, with a smile on his face. Then one snowy day, his boss asks him to make a delivery. He questions the safety of the roads, but his boss says he must make this delivery. He cautiously begins driving in the snow, when suddenly, the vehicle next to him begins to veer into his lane. Maybe she was texting and driving, or maybe she lost control of her own vehicle, but it does not matter. He starts to slide all over the road and ends up landing in a ditch. He looks up to realize he’s slammed his head on the steering wheel. He is in pain… all because the delivery could not wait.

Your Rights as a New York Employee

In New York, these types of winter car accidents happen all too often. However, as a truck driver, you have rights.  An employer can be liable for forcing employees to risk their safety by making a delivery in inclement weather or hazardous winter conditions, if by doing so, other motorists on the road are injured as a result.

The United States Code of Federal Regulations [49 C.F.R. §392.14] provides in pertinent part as follows:

Hazardous conditions; extreme caution. Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.

According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), a motor carrier employee has the right to refuse to drive when he or she is afraid for his or her safety. This means an employer cannot fire, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for such refusal.

Additionally, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) (49 U.S.C. §31105) protects a whistleblower from retaliation for reporting safety violations committed by their employers. The STAA also protects truck drivers who refuse to drive in objectively unsafe conditions, such as, they refuse to drive because they are ill, because they would be violating hours-of-service regulations, or because they believe their load is unsafe, or because it is unsafe due to hazardous weather. The STAA protects you from retaliation by your employer.

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Know When You Can Refuse To Drive

There are several situations when a driver can refuse to drive due to adverse weather conditions:

  • A driver may refuse to start work if the weather is sufficiently hazardous at or near the time he is scheduled to begin if it is unsafe to operate a commercial vehicle on the highways.
  • A refusal to drive must be reasonable and based on the driver’s personal observations, weather reports from the radio and television, calls to the Department of Transportation or Highway Patrol, and, if possible, information received from other drivers if such information is available.
  • Additionally, the driver should be able to articulate the precise facts that led him to believe that it would have been unsafe for him to operate a commercial vehicle on the highways.
  • A driver cannot speculate unreasonably into the future regarding what the road conditions will be beyond a few hours.

Who Is Liable for the Auto Accident During Work Hours?

Normally, if you are at fault for an auto accident, you are liable. However, employers may be held liable under certain circumstances. If you, as an employee, were completing an activity you were hired to do, within the scope of employment, on the clock, and the employer benefited from the activity of what the employee was doing at the time of the car crash, it may be a case of vicarious liability. In other words, any car accidents such as a weather-related or distracted driving incident that occurs on your way to do a service that your employer hired you to do, could mean the employer is at fault.

 

 

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to hazardous weather, The People’s Lawyer can help. Any other car accident lawyer can help in a car accident lawsuit, but Brindisi, Murad & Brindisi Pearlman will go above and beyond to ensure you get the compensation you rightfully deserve. Contact our office for free legal advice today.

 

 

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