Truck drivers are often put under immense pressure by employers to drive for long hours over great distances to deliver products. Under current regulations, a driver may drive up to 11 consecutive hours after 10 hours off duty. Big rigs weigh upwards of 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, but most cars only weigh 2,000 to 4,000 pounds. The size difference is incredibly dangerous, especially at speeds since it takes the average car going at 65 mph about 160 feet to stop, but a tractor-trailer travelling at the same speed will take 420 feet to stop (over double the distance!).
With long hours, it’s no wonder 13% of all tractor-trailer accidents are caused by driver fatigue - with The National Transportation Safety Board suggesting that the figure may be closer to 30-40%. Causing slower reaction times, the effects of sleep deprivation are likened to the effects of alcohol, so driving when tired is almost like driving under the influence of alcohol. For those who have had the misfortune of being in such an accident, what compensation is available for a fatigued truck driver accident?
Document Your Case
Time limits apply in accident cases, so it’s important that you document and gather evidence for your case. Make sure to write everything down - or record a voice memo - so that nothing is forgotten. Keep any paperwork you need, and document anything said to your insurance company. For any accident situation, dash cams are available that can help document accidents from an unbiased perspective, so it may be a good idea to install one.
What if I’m Hit by A Fatigued Truck Driver?
Those injured in truck accidents may be eligible to file a Negligence Lawsuit if the driver violated the legal requirement for driven hours (11 consecutive hours), and the employer is sometimes liable too.
To win your case, you (the plaintiff) will need to prove that the truck driver, his employer, or both owed a duty to you; that the defendant(s) breached the duty; and the breach caused the sustained injuries. All drivers are responsible for ensuring safe practices and keeping accurate logbooks of their driving times. Any failure in responsibility on the part of the driver or company opens them up to liability and accountability. Most new log books are electronic, and the company lawyers are notified immediately when they are in breach of requirements, so it’s vital that this evidence isn’t lost or deleted - and the only way to ensure that is by contacting an experienced attorney for yourself right away.
Financial recovery is based on individual cases, and there’s no set figure as to what you may receive in compensation; however, many plaintiffs will get compensation for any costs incurred as a result of the accident which can include any medical bills, the cost of the hospital stay, emergency room visits, and ambulance rides; personal property damage costs; costs of any future treatment or rehabilitation needed such as chiropractic visits, physiotherapy, and so forth; compensation for any lost income where you were unable to work; and the costs of any physical and emotional suffering sometimes including the cost of therapy.
Defendants who acted with a conscious disregard for the consequences of his or her actions may be subject to punitive damages.
How to Avoid Driving When Drowsy
If you’re on the road and sleepy, pull over for a quick nap or rest - even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Suggested remedies range from drinking coffee, consuming caffeine pills, doing some exercise (jumping jacks or a brisk walk), or splashing your face with cold water, and many more, but those methods are only a bandaid on a larger issue. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep when you know you’ll be driving distances. There are many different sleep apps as well as wristwatch-like devices that can monitor heart rate and quality, REM sleep to ensure you’re sleeping through the night - or at least waking in the correct REM cycle. Exercise and a good diet can also encourage good sleep habits.
If you’re a truck driver, talk with your company about enforcing safe limits on driving. Do not drive when tired. Delivery pressure should be lifted from drivers, especially when pushed to deliver at times when it’s unsafe to meet demands. Try and enact a system of encouraging good sleep habits amongst yourselves, and ask for mandatory consecutive days off, which will enable truck drivers to be alert when it matters. These changes will enable the safety of all those on the road.
How Car Drivers Can Spot a Fatigued Truck Driver (And Avoid Them)Avoid any big rig that appears to be swerving or driving erratically as they may be driving when fatigued. It's advisable either to pass them in the outside lane to avoid close contact, or to stay well behind. The safest move may be to get off at the next exit, and return to the road once that driver has passed. To make sure you do not endanger the lives of other, mark down the driver's license plate, and contact the local authorities.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Make sure if you have been in an accident you contact an experienced attorney immediately. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, we have over 35 years of experience in dealing with personal injury cases, and have defended cases specifically to do with fatigued truck driver accidents. We aren’t just a general law firm; we are experts in our area of law, and your case will be in safe hands with us.
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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.