How To Prove that Truck Driver Fatigue was the Cause of Your Accident
This past June, a semi-truck / tractor-trailer carrying a shipment of tomatoes crashed and caught fire on I-66 in Gainesville, Florida. The truck hit the guardrail, but then kept going for approximately one-tenth of a mile before stopping and catching fire. The cause of the crash appeared to have been driver fatigue. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured; the driver Jose E. Martinez, however, was charged with reckless driving.
On July 15th, at approximately 2:40 a.m., a big-rig headed south on Interstate 85 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, ran off the road, hit a ditch, and flipped. The driver – the sole occupant of the vehicle and the sole victim of the crash – was pronounced dead at the scene. It is believed that the cause of the crash was driver fatigue.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 4,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks each year; fatigue is believed to be a leading factor.
Truck driver fatigue is a very real syndrome, and it accounts for numerous trucking accidents nationwide. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident caused by a tired truck driver, you may have a personal injury suit on your hands. Furthermore, if a loved one was killed as the result of truck driver fatigue, you may have a wrongful death suit on your hands. To learn more about your legal rights regarding injuries sustained in a truck-related accident, contact the Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at the Pendas Law Firm.
Measures to Reduce Truck Driver Fatigue
In order to combat truck driver fatigue, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has standard hours of service that all truck drivers and trucking companies must adhere to. They are as follows:
- Truck drivers are only permitted to drive 70 hours per week, a major decrease from the maximum of 82 pre-FMCSA’s new guidelines;
- Drivers are permitted to resume driving past the maximum of 70 hours a week IF they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights of sleep between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 a.m., hours during which our bodies crave sleep the most;
- Truckers must take a 30-minute break during their first eight hours of a shift; and
- Drivers may work no more than 14 hours in a day, and drive no more than 11 hours in a day.
Should a trucking company allow or request a driver to break any of the above rules, they may be fined up to $11,000 per offense; the drivers themselves are subject to a fine of up to $2,750 for each offense.
Proving Driver Fatigue
It may be difficult to prove that driver fatigue was the cause of the accident, but it is not impossible. Typically, the time at which the truck accident occurred is a huge indicator of fatigue, as it allows a comparison to what is known about circadian rhythms of the human body, which regulate our periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.
Past determining the time of the accident, an experienced Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer will be able to determine the driver’s state of mind by considering the manner in which the accident occurred. If the driver failed to make a simple avoidance maneuver, for instance, a skilled personal injury lawyer may be able to prove that the individual’s actions (or lack thereof) were a direct result of impaired reaction time indicative of overtiredness and/or microsleep.
If the accident resulted in death or serious injury, a review of the driver’s hours may be in order. If it is clear that the driver exceeded the allowable number of weekly or daily hours, we may be able to prove that negligence was the cause. There are several ways to check the number of hours a driver put in during any given period, including the driver’s own records, which require them to record when they went off and on duty, which mile marker they were at when they went off duty, and how many total miles they drove during their on-duty time.
Furthermore, a driver’s bill of lading (a document that must be prepared before any freight is loaded), gas receipts, toll receipts, and meal receipts can all be used to help us reconstruct the driver’s trip and determine the approximate number of hours they worked.
Consult a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one were injured or killed as the direct result of truck driver fatigue, you have rights to just compensation and other damages. At The Pendas Law Firm, our truck accident lawyers possess the knowledge to prove truck driver fatigue, and the skill to use that knowledge to help you win the damages you deserve. To speak with one of our experienced lawyers today, give our Fort Lauderdale law firm a call at 1-888-LPENDAS, or schedule a private consultation online.
We also serve clients in Orlando, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Tampa & Miami.