Watch Out for those New York City Sanitation Trucks

Watch Out for those New York City Sanitation Trucks

Author: Carol L. Schlitt

Watch Out for those New York City Sanitation Trucks

We see sanitation trucks every day hauling away tons of New York City garbage and recycling materials. We couldn't live without the work performed by those trucks and the men and women who work on them. According to a new report by the Comptroller's Office, we all need to watch those sanitation trucks a little more carefully. New York City sanitation vehicles caused over 1,000 accidents in 2009 and cost taxpayers over $17 million in claims.

Sanitation Trucks Caused over 6,000 Crashes in Three Years

The New York Post reports that sanitation vehicles were involved in more than 6,000 crashes in the past three years. That number is all the more startling since there are only 5,500 vehicles in the Sanitation department fleet. That means that each vehicle is involved in an accident once every three years.

To be fair, most of these accidents are fender benders. Many involve property damage when a truck sideswipes a parked car or knocks off a side view mirror. Many of the accidents occur during snowfalls when the trucks add a plow. However, last year, accidents with sanitation trucks injured 294 people, some very seriously.

These accidents cost all of us. Not only do these accidents pose a danger to citizens and visitors, but also they cost the City money. In 2009, the City paid out over $17 million in claims related to sanitation truck accidents.

Lawsuits Lead to a Safe City

Why am I, a personal injury attorney, writing about this report from Comptroller Jon Liu's office? Naturally, I am concerned when individuals suffer injuries or property damages. I have represented many clients who have been hurt by City trucks and vehicles. I am always willing to assist people injured in accidents with sanitation trucks.

Yet this situation speaks to a matter of public policy and the role that personal injury lawyers play in making the City safe. I began my legal career working the New York City Law Department where I defended the City against lawsuits. I learned that the City government, like any large business, pays attention when an issue involves money.

I believe that the City government from Mayor Bloomberg on down to the every sanitation driver would like to reduce the number of sanitation truck accidents. However, it is when lawyers hold the City accountable for damages caused by these accidents that the City pays attention.

When the City has to pay the price for the negligence of the truck drivers who cause these accidents, then we all benefit. When a Sanitation truck driver injures a person or causes property damage, it is important to seek damages not only to compensate the individual for the damages, but also to hold the City accountable. Faced with a payout of over $17 million and a report from the City Comptroller's Office, the City is more likely to improve training and remediation programs and to remove poor drivers, thus saving the City government money in the future and making the City safer.

What to Do If a NYC Sanitation Truck Has Caused You Damage

If a NYC Sanitation Truck has injured you or caused you property damage, you may be entitled to compensation. To receive that compensation, you need to file a claim against the City and you may need to take the City government to court. For minor property damage, you may want to handle this matter by yourself; for a more serious matter, I advise that you consult a personal injury attorney with experience bringing cases against the New York City government. Here are some questions and answers (FAQ) that may help you in a case against New York City:

A sanitation truck hit my parked car and caused some damages. Do I need an attorney to recover damages?

No, you can file a claim against the City and try to collect the damages yourself. You need to file a claim with the New York City Comptroller's office. You can click here to learn how to file a claim. Once you file your claim, a representative from the City government will contact you and work to resolve the matter.

What if the City does not contact me or work with me to resolve my claim for property damage?

If you file a claim for property damage and the City fails to resolve the mater to your liking, you can bring the City to Small Claims Court to collect your compensation. Small Claims Court hears cases involving damages up to $5,000. You do not need a lawyer to represent you in Small Claims Court. You can learn more about Small Claims Court by clicking here.

I was hurt in an accident with a NYC sanitation truck, do I need a lawyer to seek damages?

Technically, you do not need to retain a lawyer to pursue damages for an injury. You can file a claim with the Comptroller's Office and try to resolve the matter yourself. I can tell you from my experience defending the City against such claims, the attorneys for the City tend to assume that persons representing themselves either do not have a real injury or could not get an attorney to take their case. Even with a real injury, the person representing himself or herself runs the risk of not receiving the maximum value for his or her case. Here's how I think about this issue: you do not need to hire a dentist to remove a damaged tooth, but you are far better off with the trained and experienced dentist than yanking it out yourself.

What advantages will I gain if I hire an attorney to represent me in a case against the City?

A lawyer will help you assess your case to make sure that you understand the value of the case. The attorney will file the claim against the City and make sure that you meet all the legal requirements for filing a suit. (Many cases handled by individuals are lost when they miss a filing deadline or serve papers incorrectly.) The attorney will work to settle the case and if an appropriate settlement is not offered, an attorney will file a lawsuit and prosecute the case so that you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

With a good personal injury attorney, the lawyer does the work for you and makes sure you get the most money possible. That's far better than doing the work yourself, not knowing if you are doing it right and not knowing if you got the money you should have received.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a sanitation truck or other motor vehicle and believe that you have a case, I will be glad to assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466.

This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.


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About the Author

Carol L. Schlitt has practiced law in New York for 23 years. She has operated her solo practice since 1997. Previously she worked as the Assistant Corporation Counsel - Senior Trial Specialist for the City of New York and as an associate for the Manhattan firm of Acito and Klein. She is a past winner of the New York City Municipal Attorney of the Year and has her case listed among the Top Ten Civil Verdicts in New York.

A testament to Carol's legal prowess can be seen in the fact that attorneys throughout the New York metropolitan area retain Carol as their personal injury lawyer to try cases for their clients and to assist them in other legal matters. When they want the best personal injury lawyer, they turn to Carol L. Schlitt.

If you have suffered a personal injury, you may be entitled to compensation. If you think you have a case or if you have questions, please call me and I will be glad to discuss your rights, answer your questions and help you with a potential case. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or send me an e-mail at or visit the website The consultation is free and I will be glad to help you.

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21 Apr 2011

By Carol L. Schlitt