The dangers of truck driver fatigue can include the driver’s losing control, failing to notice stop signs or stop lights, drifting out of a lane, or not reacting to a hazard ahead in time to stop or avoid it. Any of these issues could lead to a devastating crash with injuries.
Truck drivers who are too sleepy simply cannot react to what is happening around them as quickly as they can when driving while fully rested. The National Safety Council estimates that driving after going 20 hours without sleep causes the driver to behave in a manner similar to that of a drunk driver. This is a scary situation for other motorists on the roads, as the fatigued truck driver – just like a drunk driver – may behave in an unpredictable manner, making it nearly impossible to take defensive actions to avoid a crash.
Truck Accidents Cause Significant Injuries
Because of the size of semi-trucks, any problems – like drowsy driving – that increase the chances of an accident are especially frightening. A heavy truck brings a lot of force to an accident with other vehicles, doing significant physical damage to the car and causing potentially life-altering injuries to the passengers. When the truck driver is fatigued, the driver’s reaction times suffer, which increases the amount of speed and force involved in a crash. Any extra speed causes an even more dangerous situation for the people riding in the vehicle that the truck driver struck.
Bottom line: Truck driver fatigue can have tragic consequences for car drivers and occupants. Unfortunately, when a large and heavy vehicle such as a commercial truck or big rig collides with a passenger vehicle, fatalities may occur. Those who survive serious truck accidents could end up disabled for life. If you suffered significant injuries in a crash with a truck, you could be entitled to compensation. Trust an experienced semi-truck accident attorney to protect your rights to seek an award.
Understanding the Rules and Regulations Regarding the Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Long hours, endless nights, and driving through monotonous landscapes can all contribute to truck driver fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines driver fatigue as the “result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance.” According to the FMCSA, 13 percent of crashes with commercial trucks happen due to driver fatigue.
The states of Minnesota and Wisconsin limit the number of hours of service that truck drivers can have. These laws and regulations attempt to ensure that truck drivers are as freshly rested as possible as they are operating their semi-trucks.
- Minnesota: The Minnesota Trucking Regulations require certain truckers to limit themselves to no more than 11 hours of driving time after 10 hours off.
- Wisconsin: The Motor Carrier Safety regulations in Wisconsin limit some drivers to no more than 12 hours of driving following 10 hours off.
The regulations in both states are adjustable, depending on the type of driving that is occurring. Both states have regulations for weekly driving limits, too. If the driver who caused the crash was violating these hours-of-service regulations, this is a sign of negligence and potential driver fatigue. Such facts can help you win an award for your injuries in the accident.
Key Reasons for Truck Driver Fatigue
Even when truck drivers adhere to federal and state regulations regarding the number of hours they can operate, they could still end up fatigued and drowsy. Some of the reasons why fatigued truck drivers might be on the road can include:
- Unrealistic schedules created by the trucking company
- Stress from trying to meet delivery deadlines
- Skipping rest periods or failing to stop for meals
- Taking certain prescription medications
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Lacking adequate sleep before beginning to drive.
Truck driver fatigue can contribute to horrific accidents. In some cases, a truck driver may fall asleep at the wheel and simply run the truck off the road, which may only cause damage to the truck and injury to the driver. However, in other cases, a fatigued driver who falls asleep might be responsible for causing an accident involving other vehicles, with potentially devastating consequences.
Other Negligent Parties in Truck Accidents Involving Fatigued Driving
When a victim suffers injuries in a trucking accident involving truck driver fatigue, the first instinct could lead you to assume that only the truck driver is responsible and liable for the accident. While a driver can certainly be responsible, there could be other negligent parties also responsible for your injuries and losses. Establishing liability in a truck accident can be challenging. Some of the additional parties that may be held liable under the law for a trucking accident can include the following.
In some cases, the trucking company may be responsible for a truck driver’s fatigue and any resulting accidents. Trucking companies focused on their profits alone may pressure and encourage drivers to break the law by skipping mandatory rest periods or by falsifying logbook entries.
A trucking company is also typically in charge of hiring and training drivers. If the company negligently hired a truck driver with a poor driving record or failed to train truck drivers adequately, the trucking company could potentially be held liable for your injuries and losses.
Truck accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. If a truck has faulty brakes or improperly loaded cargo that suddenly shifts, for example, a fatigued driver may have a delayed reaction time when trying to compensate for such unexpected problems. If the company servicing and fixing the truck made a mistake, such as forgetting to inspect or repair a faulty trucking part or component, it may also bear legal responsibility for your injuries and losses.
If a third party has responsibility to load and secure the cargo in the trailer of the truck, and if it does so improperly or with faulty straps or equipment, it may also be held responsible and liable for any injuries or losses that result from a trucking accident.
If your trucking accident happened because of hazardous or dangerous road conditions or in a construction zone operated by a government agency, you could potentially hold local government entities to account. Filing a claim against a government entity can prove legally challenging and complex, though.
Determining which parties have responsibility for your injuries and losses from negligence can require a substantial amount of research and may include hiring expert witnesses. In many cases, a spoliation letter must go to all potential negligent parties in order to ensure that there is no destruction of critical evidence.
Compensation You Could Recover After a Crash with a Fatigued Truck Driver
The physical, mental, and financial consequences for victims of truck accidents can be overwhelming. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a truck accident due to truck driver fatigue and negligence, you could potentially receive compensation for the following, depending on the facts and circumstances:
- Medical costs
- Future medical costs
- Lost income
- Loss of future income
- Property damage
- Transportation costs
- Physical and emotional suffering
- Costs related to a permanent disability
- Costs related to scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of quality of life.
In extreme cases where a truck driver or trucking company acted with wanton disregard for human life in a reckless manner, a victim may potentially receive punitive damages in addition to other compensation awarded.
Contact an Experienced Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Attorney at Tyroler Leonard Injury Law
There are strict statutes of limitations, or deadlines, that victims must follow when filing a lawsuit regarding the injury situation. This doesn’t mean the case must settle within the statute of limitations. However, filing the lawsuit tells the defendant that you as a victim are protecting your right to seek damages. Failure to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations could cause you to lose your ability to seek damages in the states of Minnesota or Wisconsin.
At Tyroler Leonard Injury Law, our personal injury attorneys will make sure that your case is filed within the statute of limitations and remains on track for the best possible outcome. You simply have to choose to hire us in time to allow us to meet these deadlines. Contact our experienced trucking attorneys at Tyroler Leonard Injury Law at 651-259-1113 to visit with a member of our legal team and to learn how you can receive justice for your injuries and losses in the accident that resulted from truck driver fatigue. We offer a free consultation, and you are under no obligation to hire us after this meeting.