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Anyone who has driven during a road trip knows that keeping your focus sharp as driving safely requires can become difficult after hours on end of staring at the freeway. This can create dangerous situations when drivers fail to follow the rules of the road or even begin to doze off. For truck drivers, these dangers are increased given the length of time that they spend on the road and the size of the vehicles that they drive. After an accident that may have been caused by truck driver fatigue, one of the best moves that you can make may be to call the right truck accident lawyer.
DANGERS OF DRIVER FATIGUE
Before dealing specifically with the ins and outs of truck accidents, it is important to remember that driving while fatigued is dangerous no matter the vehicle. It is alarming, then, how prevalent this issue is in America. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about half of US drivers admit to consistently getting behind the wheel while drowsy. About 20% had admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in the past year, and more than 40% admitted that this had happened at least once in their driving career. Driving while drowsy is similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol and can have some of the following devastating effects:
- Drivers’ ability to maintain attention, recognize hazards, and reaction times all decrease the drowsier they become.
- Driving after going for more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a BAC of .08%, which is the legal US limit.
- Drivers who are driving while fatigued are three times more likely to crash than those who are driving on a good night’s sleep.
It is critical for all drivers to make sure that they get enough sleep and to quit driving when they recognize that they are becoming too drowsy to pay sufficient attention.
TRUCK DRIVER REGULATIONS
Because of the nature of their job, truck drivers might be at an especially high risk of driving while drowsy. Long periods of staring at the road combined with incentives to drive more and more miles mean that truck driver fatigue can be a common occurrence. Because of this, truck drivers are tightly regulated by federal agencies in order to create a safer road system for all who use it. Some of these regulations include:
Hourly Driving Limits
Property-carrying drivers, as opposed to passenger-carrying drivers, are limited in the amount of time that they can spend behind the wheel on a daily and weekly basis. For instance, truck drivers may drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They also may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. These maximum limits may be extended, however, when the truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
Drivers are required to take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 hours without an interruption of at least 30 minutes. This break can be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes.
When many think of truck drivers, they picture long-haul truck drivers driving from one end of the country to the other. However, drivers may be exempt from certain of these regulations if they are short-haul drivers, meaning they do not leave an area outside of a 150-mile radius from the location at which they report to work. Drivers using these exceptions must begin at and report back to the same reporting location within a 14-hour period.
WHO IS LIABLE?
Many truck driving accidents are based on the legal theory of negligence. Before diving into the specifics of how this applies specifically to truck accidents, it is useful to have an understanding of how negligence operates generally.
In order to establish negligence, you must first establish that the other party had a duty of care to act in a certain way. One important way to do this might be through the existence of a law or regulation. Next, once you have established the duty, you must prove that the other breached this duty, i.e., they did not act how they were supposed to. Next, you must prove that this breach of duty is what caused your damages. There must be a link between your injuries and the accident that you were in. Finally, you must be able to prove that you did, in fact, suffer damages. You will not receive anything in compensation for damages that you did not incur.
Truck accidents can be more complicated than a typical accident involving passenger vehicles because there are potentially more parties who could share in the liability. An important step of filing a truck accident claim is determining who, exactly, is responsible for the accident.
The Truck Driver
The natural first step when determining who might be liable for your accident is to analyze the driver of the truck. A truck driver could be liable for an accident for several reasons. First, just like any other driver, if their failure to follow the established rules of the road causes an accident, they could be liable for any injuries that ensue. Given that trucking is a tightly regulated industry, a truck driver might also be liable if they fail to follow the more specific regulations that apply to them, such as driving for more than 11 hours in a day.
The Trucking Company
The presence of trucking companies introduces a new layer of complexity to truck accidents that typically does not exist in a passenger vehicle accident. Many truck drivers are actually employees of trucking companies and are fulfilling the main duty of their employment when they are driving on the road. This means that trucking companies could potentially be liable for the accidents that their employees cause. For example, if they failed to conduct the proper investigation into the background of a driver who causes an accident, then they could be liable for this oversight.
The Loading Company
There are many different types of trucking routes and trucks might be loaded and unloaded by several different people over the course of a trip. It is very important that trucks are loaded properly because insecure loads can create extremely dangerous situations for the drivers behind the truck driver. If someone along a truck’s journey fails to properly secure the cargo, then it is possible that they could be held liable if their failure ends up causing an accident.
TRUCK ACCIDENT INJURIES
Unfortunately, given the size discrepancies between tractor-trailers and a standard passenger vehicle, the driver of the latter will typically bear the brunt of any accident. This can manifest in any number of different injuries, but a few of the more common include:
Head injuries are common in truck accidents because the sudden impact from a collision will tend to shake or jar the skull. Concussions can be one example of head injury that might occur, and in serious cases, traumatic brain injuries might result. Traumatic brain injuries can result in lifelong problems and the need for continued medical care.
The force generated during a truck accident can cause a lot of damage to the internal organs of a victim, particularly in the abdomen. Organs that often suffer damage in a crash include the pancreas, liver, and the lungs. Damage to these organs can be difficult to detect immediately after an accident, which means that it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon after your accident as possible.
Commercial trucks have much larger fuel tanks than a typical car, and in some cases actually have multiple fuel tanks. This increases the risk that an explosion or fire might result from a crash. If this occurs, a victim could suffer from any number of different burn injuries.
LEGAL TIME LIMITS
For every type of personal injury case, including truck accidents, there will be an associated statute of limitations, which is the legal term for how much time you have to file a claim based on a given accident. For example, if the statute of limitations applicable to truck accidents in your state is 3 years, then you will have three years from the date of your accident within which to file a claim. Any claim that is brought outside of this window will likely be dismissed for lack of timeliness. Each state sets its own statute of limitations, so it is critical that you speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible after your accident.
There are certain exceptions that might apply to the statute of limitations. For example, if the accident victim is a minor, then they may be given until their age of majority before the statute begins to run. This also might be true if an accident victim doesn’t discover an injury they suffered until well after their accident. The best move, however, is to contact a truck accident lawyer as quickly as possible to avoid running into any sort of problem with time limits.
CALL ZINDA LAW GROUP TODAY
Dealing with the fallout of truck driver fatigue can be a heavy burden, especially if it has left you unable to work or pay for medical bills. Zinda Law Group is standing by to guide you and your family through the legal process and to ease the load on your shoulders. We also believe that accident victims shouldn’t be forced to worry about their ability to afford legal representation, which is why we offer a no-win, no-fee guarantee—you won’t pay us anything until we win your case for you.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.