What to Do if You’re in a Crash with a Post Office Truck
Last month, a mail truck driver was lucky to survive a serious jackknifing accident in Weston, Massachusetts. While traveling across a 50 foot bridge along the Charles River, a semi-truck jackknifed and crashed into the river. Thankfully, the driver survived the crash, and endured no injuries.
Even better, there were fire rescue workers who were removing snow from fire hydrants that were able to help the driver escape. Although most of the letters and packages were unsalvageable, a U.S. postal worker was assigned to retrieve the damaged items from the river and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash.
The video is pretty wild; you can watch it here.
How common are accidents that involve mail trucks?
Statistics show that mail truck accidents happen more often than most people believe. The United States Postal Service reported that nearly 29,000 motor vehicle accidents involved a U.S. Postal Service vehicle in 2019. Out of the 29,000 motor vehicle accidents, 13,000 accidents happened when the Post Office truck was driving straight ahead on the road.
Common causes of mail truck accidents
According to the Post Office, the three leading causes of fatal mail truck accidents were:
- Driving in inclement weather
- Collisions caused by distraction or inattention
- Seatbelts not being used
They also report that about half of all accidents are caused by “newer employees,” meaning inexperience – and potentially poor supervision – also plays a role. In short, the same things that affect other truckers affect Postal workers, too.
- Distracted driving. Mail truck drivers can be distracted by their cell phones or GPS, too – especially if they are trying to locate a stop on a new route. They may also be distracted by other vehicles, especially if the cars are double-parked. This can be very dangerous in residential areas where children may dart into the road.
- Poor weather. Poor weather creates poor visibility for all drivers, especially those trying to weave around traffic or cars pulling out of driveways. A mail truck that slides on a patch of black ice or hydroplanes puts the driver and others at risk.
- Lack of restraints. Many Postal workers drive through developments and in shopping plazas with their doors open, so they can hop in and hop out to make deliveries. As such, they may be less likely to wear a seatbelt while doing so. But if they forget to put that seatbelt back on while driving on highways, they can be critically injured.
There are, however, some dangers that are unique to mail delivery.
A combination of frequent stops and slow speed
Another common reason for mail truck accidents involves the mail truck driver’s need to frequently stop and slow down. Mail truck drivers have to constantly stop from house to house and reduce their speed on roadways where the highest speed limit is 55 miles per hour. Some of these roads do not allow other cars to pass through, meaning that mail trucks are at risk of blocking traffic when they stop at a specific location – and other drivers can get pretty impatient. This pattern of starting and stopping can contribute to accidents.
Driving on the wrong side of the road
Some mail truck drivers may attempt to cut down on time by driving on the opposite side of the road, or weaving between the properties on opposite sides. However, this is a dangerous action that can contribute to a vehicle accident, especially if a car traveling on the same side appears out of nowhere.
Driving on the “wrong” side of the vehicle
Some mail trucks have the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. This actually makes the truck safer for the mail carrier, because he or she doesn’t need to step into traffic to get out of the truck, or to drop mail in a mailbox. This can take time to get used to, however, and newer employees may struggle to accurately gauge the space they need to make turns, to pass other vehicles, or while merging.
Who can be held liable in a car accident involving a mail truck?
In a regular motor vehicle accident, you usually hold the driver liable, and deal with his or her insurance company after an accident. However, mail trucks are owned and operated by the United States government. There are different requirements for filing a claim against a government agency. Injured victims will have to file a claim and follow the necessary requirements under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA is a piece of federal legislation that allows injured victims to file claims against a government agency that acted negligently and caused the victim’s injuries.
Under the FTCA, the injured victim’s counsel must prove that the victim’s injuries were a result of the government agency’s negligence, that a government employee was acting within the scope or his or her work duties during the time of the accident, and that the government employee’s negligent actions were directly responsible for the victim’s injuries.
To start a claim, you must file a Standard Form 95 Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death. Your claim must list the full extent of your damages, which can be challenging if you are still undergoing treatment when you file your claim. You have two years to do this. Then, the Post Office gets six months to respond. If your claim is denied, then you can file a lawsuit in federal court to recover damages for economic damages and property losses.
This is assuming, of course, that the mail truck which hit you is owned and operated by the U.S. Postal Service. In the dramatic accident we first described, the 18-wheeler wasn’t a USPS truck, which means it was likely a private company which contracts with the federal government to bring mail across the country, to be dropped off and sorted at various Offices. Claims made against contractors or private delivery services may be denied under the FTCA. This is why, if you sustain injuries in a collision with a mail truck of any kind, you should contact one of our Phoenix truck accident attorneys right away. We can determine who is truly liable, and can pursue a claim under the FTCA on your behalf.
At Plattner Verderame, P.C., we handle truck accident cases on a contingency-fee basis, which means that you won’t owe us anything unless we obtain a verdict or settlement on your behalf. If you have been injured in a mail truck accident, call our Phoenix office at 602-266-2002 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We maintain an additional office in Tempe.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
Read more about Nick Verderame