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Fatigue-Related Truck Accidents and Legal Recourse

Published May 10, 2024 by Harker Injury Law

Fatigue-Related Truck Accidents and Legal Recourse.

Accidents involving commercial trucks or tractor-trailers can be devastating, even catastrophic. Such incidents can leave you battling physical pain and emotional scars for years to come.

Sadly, terrible accidents are all too often caused by exhausted or overworked truckers. As the victim of a truck accident caused by driver fatigue, you may feel overwhelmed and angry by the entire situation.

This is no time to go it alone. An experienced San Diego truck accident attorney can explain your legal options and help you navigate the claim system — so that you can focus on your healing and recovery.

Below we will discuss various factors that contribute to fatigue-related trucking accidents and who may be liable in crashes of this kind. Then, we will consider how a personal injury lawyer can help you successfully resolve a commercial truck accident claim.

Frequent Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

Commercial truck drivers tend to face tremendous on-the-job pressure. The demands of the trucking industry often result in irregular schedules and poor sleeping habits.

A number of factors can contribute to truck driver fatigue, such as:

  • Company deadlines: Truckers often face strict deadlines for picking up or delivering their loads. In an effort to meet tight delivery schedules, a driver may unwisely push on despite needing to stop and rest.
  • Shift scheduling and rotation: Inconsistent or rotating schedules can wreak havoc on a truck driver’s ability to get enough rest. Lack of sleep can lead to slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and unnecessary accidents.
  • Long working hours: Truck driver shifts can be long and monotonous. Lengthy shifts, coupled with the lack of physical activity, are physically tiring.
  • Elevated stress levels: Driving a commercial truck or big-rig through traffic is no easy feat. Navigating the road, making turns, and anticipating the behavior of other drivers for long periods can be physically and mentally exhausting.
  • Medications or sleep disorders: Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness, so a truck driver should consider side effects before deciding to take a medication. Additionally, truckers who suffer from sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may experience difficulties staying awake and alert while on the road.

Such factors demonstrate why drowsiness and fatigue are significant concerns in the commercial trucking industry. Driving under these circumstances may increase the danger of truck accidents.

Common Signs of Commercial Truck Driver Fatigue

As discussed, truck drivers often drive for long hours over extended periods. Consequently, it can be difficult to find time for adequate rest. Because of this, driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents.

Some indications that a driver is too fatigued to operate his or her truck safely include:

  • Struggling to focus: Fatigued truck drivers may have trouble keeping their eyes open and focused on the road. This can cause the trucker to drift in and out of lanes or fail to see other cars, pedestrians, or traffic signs until it’s too late.
  • Missing exits or turns: Driver fatigue can make it difficult to pay attention to the route, navigation, and road conditions. Drowsy driving can lead to a driver missing his or her exit or turn or getting lost. The trucker may even drive past his or her final destination.
  • Aggressive or reckless driving: Not getting adequate rest can negatively impact a truck driver’s mood and temperament. This can lead to aggressive behavior such as speeding, tailgating, running red lights, or weaving in and out of lanes. This reckless disregard for road safety can easily result in a truck accident.
  • Difficulty remembering the last few miles driven: When a driver is so worn out that he or she cannot remember the last few miles of road, there can be devastating consequences. Extreme exhaustion can cause the brain to effectively shut off. In such cases, the truck driver becomes a hazard on the road.

Drivers who fail to get adequate sleep and rest breaks face a higher risk of fatigue-related accidents. To prevent catastrophic accidents, it’s critical to recognize the signs of drowsy driving in yourself and others.

Industry Regulations to Prevent Trucking Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes extensive safety regulations on the trucking industry. Trucking companies are required to enforce these rules and any state laws that may apply. The hours of service regulations are specially designed to prevent truck accidents caused by driver fatigue.

The regulatory authorities have implemented the following rules to ensure that commercial truck drivers get adequate rest breaks during and between shifts:

  • 11-hour driving limit: A truck driver cannot drive more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-hour driving limit: A trucker is not allowed to drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. This rule applies regardless of how long he or she had been off-duty before the shift started.
  • 30-minute rest break: A driver must take a 30-minute rest break within the first 8 hours of starting his or her shift.
  • 60/70-hour limit: A trucker may not continue driving after 60/70 hours on duty within 7/8 consecutive days. If this hour limit is reached, the driver must have a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off-duty before getting back behind the wheel.
  • Sleeper berth provision: Drivers are required to have a period of 10 hours off duty. This may be split into 2 periods, as long as one off-duty period is at least 2 hours long and the other involves a minimum of 7 hours in the sleeper berth.

Trucking companies must closely monitor each trucker’s driving schedule and ensure that their drivers get sufficient rest to operate the vehicle safely. A trucking firm that fails in this respect could be held liable for an accident.

Potential Liability in a Fatigue-Related Truck Accident

When establishing fault in any kind of truck accident, the drivers are the first to be considered. It may be determined that the accident was due to the truck driver falling asleep at the wheel or was otherwise fatigued. In such accidents, the trucker could be liable for the accident.

Further, a trucking company may be liable for your accident if they failed to prioritize safety and adhere to industry regulations. In some cases, trucking companies pressure drivers to continue for extended hours without rest breaks.

Violations of trucking regulations may be proven through:

  • Driver log books or electronic logging devices
  • Onboard GPS systems
  • Mobile phone data
  • Time-stamped pick-up and delivery receipts

It is critical to hold trucking companies accountable when they ignore safety regulations and encourage drivers to work excessive hours. Such policies all too often lead to serious accidents, emotional trauma, and life-long pain and suffering.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You After a Truck Accident

Pursuing fair compensation after a car accident involving truck driver fatigue can be complicated. A personal injury lawyer can go to bat for you. Having legal representation experienced in truck accident cases can make it possible for you to attain substantial restitution for what you have gone through.

A personal injury attorney can assist you in several key ways:

  • Explaining your rights: A truck accident lawyer knows the industry regulations and how these pertain to your particular situation. He or she can gather evidence to determine who was at fault and whether the driver’s or company’s negligence led to your accident. After establishing such facts, your attorney can clarify what kind of compensation you are entitled to by law.
  • Offering guidance: Your lawyer can give you knowledgeable and objective advice on how to best proceed with your injury claim. The process of resolving a truck accident claim is complex and often involves many parties, including lawyers, medical providers, and insurance adjusters. An adept attorney knows how to interact with all involved parties and can negotiate with them on your behalf.
  • Navigating the legal system: Truck accident claims routinely involve filing a significant amount of paperwork. Your lawyer will help you accomplish this step in a coordinated and timely manner, ensuring that no important deadlines are missed. Furthermore, your injury attorney will prepare you for any mediation or arbitration hearings that may be necessary in the process of resolving your case.
  • Calculating damages: Your attorney can help determine your past and current damages as well as evaluate what your long-term expenses may be. This is essential in pursuing rightful and fair compensation for truck accident victims.
  • Representing you in court if necessary: Oftentimes, truck injury cases are settled out of court. However, having a personal injury lawyer already familiar with your case is invaluable in the event your case goes to trial.

Hiring a truck accident attorney after sustaining significant losses is in your best interest. A well-practiced personal injury lawyer will hold all negligent parties accountable. He or she will fight tirelessly for you to get maximum compensation for what you have endured.

Potential Compensation in Fatigue-Related Accidents

Commercial trucking accidents can result in severe losses. Passenger vehicles are at a significant disadvantage when they are in a collision with a large truck. When a fatigued truck driver causes an accident, your losses may involve a totaled vehicle, debilitating physical conditions, and emotional pain and suffering.

Depending on the circumstances of your truck accident, you may qualify to attain restitution for:

  • Cost of current and future medical expenses
  • Past, present, and future lost wages
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Cost to repair or replace property
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident
  • Emotional pain and anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of companionship or consortium

The severity of your injuries and losses will impact the type of legal recourse you may have against the negligent driver or trucking company. A personal injury lawyer can help you fully identify all the damages you have suffered. From there, he or she can outline what type of compensation you may be eligible to pursue.

Contact a Sympathetic Truck Accident Lawyer for Support

Truck accident victims often face a difficult physical and emotional recovery period. It may seem like an impossible uphill battle, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. When a fatigued truck driver causes an accident, you can find legal recourse.

The San Diego-based legal team at Harker Injury Law is here to support you during this challenging time. Our compassionate truck accident lawyers are truly invested in each and every case we take on. We will handle every aspect of the legal process so that you can focus on your recovery.

If you, or someone close to you, has been in an accident involving a fatigued truck driver — get the help you need today. Click here to fill out our online contact form, or call 760-INJURED to schedule a free case review. We want to hear your story.

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