People receive mail and packages through all kinds of delivery services these days, but that doesn’t mean the USPS isn’t as busy as ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the state of Texas has the second-highest number of United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carriers out on the streets delivering mail to homes and businesses, both on foot and in those instantly recognizable boxy, right-hand drive trucks.
While being a mail truck driver is a respected position, accidents do happen. And sometimes, those accidents might have been preventable if not for driver or mechanical error. Just like with any other crash, victims of car accidents with mail trucks should reach out immediately to an injury lawyer, who can walk them through the immediate aftermath, help them understand their rights, and educate them about their options.
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What Kinds of Accidents Tend to Happen with Mail Trucks, and Why?
The USPS already recognizes the importance of on-the-road safety and their role in causing crashes. In fact, according to 2019 accident data from the USPS Delivery Management System, the USPS determined that:
- USPS trucks were involved in 29,000 accidents
- Almost 50 percent of the accidents in 2019 involved newer drivers
- Over 13,000 USPS motor vehicle accidents happened when the vehicle was driving in a straight line
The USPS also determined that more accidents occurred in December than any other month because of winter weather, newly hired (temporary) employees, and increased workload. After reviewing the data from December and the rest of the year, the USPS determined that it needed to address several areas in order to reduce danger to the public and to their own drivers.
- Distracted driving. The fact that so many drivers were involved in collisions while driving in a straight line is a telling sign that they are simply distracted. In 2019, distracted driving was responsible for over 3,000 fatalities across the United States. While this is not just a USPS issue, it’s crucial that mail trucks not contribute to these devastating numbers.
- Inclement weather. The unofficial motto of the USPS is that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” can prevent the mail from reaching its destination. Still, drivers who are trying too hard to get where they need to be, especially in bad weather, are more likely to cause harm to themselves and other drivers.
- Aggressive driving. All drivers can benefit from defensive driving training. Mail trucks are also in the unique position of starting and stopping at brief intervals, darting around cars, and generally just blending in as part of the American landscape. Being aware at all times of all cars that are expected to uphold the “regular” rules of the road is a good idea.
Mail trucks’ overall purpose and role on the road are not likely to change very much any time soon. While the USPS can continue to take steps to improve safety, training, and preparedness for drivers, the fact is that accidents are going to continue to happen. When it’s already happened to you, you need to know how a car accident with a mail truck is different from other accidents and what to do about it.
How Can FVF Help When You’ve Been in an Accident with a Mail Truck?
- Initial consultation. When you have the first conversation with one of our accident attorneys, you will be educated about your rights and options after being injured and learn what you need to do to protect your case — should you end up having one — and your health. You may be pointed in the direction of community resources you can access, if needed.
- Accessing care. Many people think that accident attorneys only file claims to get money from people who did something reckless. While that’s definitely something we do, your attorney should also be invested in making sure you know what resources are available to you when it comes to protecting your health and the health of your finances, such as what protections are available to you when it comes to harmful medical billing.
- Pursuing insurance options. Even in accidents that are not your fault, your insurance might be able to help you out. You may have personal injury protection through your carrier, which can be one way to access immediate funds when you’ve been injured. This can be a lifesaver when you are unable to work or need to hire extra help around the house because of your injuries. Still, don’t assume that your insurance company is always on your side. You should never make a formal statement about your accident to an insurance company representative without speaking to a lawyer first.
- Building your case. Even though they will be doing so many other things to help you stabilize after your accident, your lawyer will be there, after all, to represent your interests in your claim against USPS. They will do this by gathering evidence, documentation, and statements in support of your claim in order to fight for fair compensation and maximize your recovery.
If FVF determines that you do in fact have a case in your accident with a USPS driver, the process will look a little different than that of going up against an individual or even a commercial driver. Because USPS is a federal entity and its carriers are federal employees, most injury claims fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act and must follow a certain set of rules.
What’s the Process of Filing a Federal Tort Claim Against USPS?
You cannot just file a lawsuit immediately against the federal government. You must first contact the agency responsible and give them a chance to settle the claim administratively. When filing a claim against the federal government, your lawyer will need to:
- Determine the validity of your claim
- File an administrative claim with USPS
- Wait out the response period
- Accept the USPS’s claim payment -OR-
- File a lawsuit in federal court
The first determination your lawyer will need to make is whether or not you were actually in an accident with a federal employee. USPS does, in fact, use contractors to keep the mail system going efficiently, but because more than 95 percent of all routes are served by actual employees of the federal government, it is more than likely that you were not hit by a contract carrier.
In addition, federal tort claims must be able to demonstrate that you, as the injured party, were injured by a federal employee who:
- Was acting in the official service of the federal government at the time they injured you
- Was acting negligently or otherwise wrongfully when they injured you
Finally, you must be able to show that the actions of the negligent federal employee caused you to experience injury or damage to your personal property — in these cases, you would have likely experienced both injury and damage to your property. It’s important here to note that some rural mail carriers do use personal vehicles to deliver mail, so even if the truck you were hit by doesn’t look like a mail truck, that does not automatically mean the driver who hit you is a contractor.
After your lawyer determines that you meet the qualifications for a tort claim against the USPS, they will file the Standard Form 95 claim form with the USPS, along with the evidence they have gathered in support of your claim. The statute of limitations for a federal tort claim is two years, which may seem like a long time — but considering that injuries can take time to appear and assess, it’s important to make sure your attorney knows the best timeline for your case.
The USPS then will have six months to respond to your claim. In 2017, USPS paid out almost $80 million in tort claim payments. If they deny your claim, your lawyer will then be able to file a lawsuit in federal court and pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.
When you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, even a federal employee, we suggest always exercising your right to talk to an attorney, even if you’re not sure you want to file a lawsuit or that you even have a case. FVF’s priority is to advocate for and educate people who have been injured, regardless of whether they hire us to represent them. Contact us for a no-cost case consultation and information about resources available to you.