Catastrophic accidents are often the result of truckers violating federal rules and regulations concerning the number of hours they are allowed to drive. Truck driving fatigue is a leading cause of serious truck accidents on America’s roadways. Fatigued drivers tend to be more likely to make errors when driving including running off the road, drifting across lanes, or failing to take evasive action when dangerous situations arise.
Nearly nine out of every 10 commercial truck accidents involve driver error, while the remainders are due to environmental factors and vehicle malfunctions. Fatigue is an enormous problem even when truckers maintain compliance by driving within legal limits.
Implementing Amended Rest Requirements
In July 2013, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) issued amended regulations. These implemented regulations are designed to improve road safety, and minimize driver fatigue. The administration is providing trucking companies 18 months to fully implement the amended regulations. By law, truckers can drive no more than 70 hours a week, a significant decrease from the previous 82-hour limit each week.
Truckers are also required to incorporate a 34-hour rest break after completing 70 hours of driving every week. This significant rest break also involves allowing specific rest periods to provide body/mind rejuvenation. New regulations set forth by the federal administration require a minimum of a 30-minute break during each eight-hour shift. The break is intended to allow truckers to regain focus, strength, and energy to ensure safe driving on America’s roadways.
Failure to Abide Penalties
Any trucking company or driver failing to abide the newly amended regulations can suffer the consequences of severe penalties. The FMCSA’s handbook “Hours of Service Log Book” clearly lays out each specific penalty. Severe penalties are incurred for any regulation violation longer than three hours include a $2750 fine imposed on the driver for every offense. Additionally, an $11,000 fine for every offense can be imposed on the driver’s trucking company.
Additional penalties resulting from accidents involving driver fatigue are often the consequence when a victim files a claim or lawsuit against the driver and all responsible parties. In serious truck accidents where driver fatigue was the cause, victims have legal rights to pursue financial compensation to cover a variety of expenses including:
- Extensive ongoing medical bills
- The cost of rehabilitation and physical therapy
- The expenses involved in future surgeries to regain health
- Recovery of lost earnings due to missed work caused by the accident
- Property damages
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Pain and suffering
Signs of Fatigue
Truckers are usually paid for every mile they drive. This method of payment often incentivizes the driver to keep the vehicle moving instead of stopping to take a break, fall asleep, or rest when feeling tired. Often times, drivers fail to take notice of obvious signs of their fatigue. Feeling drowsy, yawning, and rubbing tired eyes are often disregarded, as the driver pushes forward to meet an unrealistic deadline and deliver the loaded cargo on time.
Personal injury attorneys that specialize in driver fatigue trucking accidents represent the victims when filing a claim or lawsuit. The victim’s lawyer will build a solid case to ensure adequate financial recompense. Attorneys can develop compelling evidence that often involves:
- Speaking to witnesses
- Gathering evidence
- Interviewing the driver
- Reviewing trucker’s driving records
- Obtaining law enforcement reports
- Evaluating the truck’s black box information to reconstruct the accident
- Photographing and inspecting the accident scene
- Obtaining medical records
- Taking depositions and starting pretrial discovery procedures
- Developing a strategy to determine liability to recoup damages
- Developing a clear presentation of all available evidence
- Hiring outside experts
- Presenting clear and concise answers to combat false defense arguments
Determining the value of the claim is often dependent on reviewing the extent of the victim’s injuries along with consultation with medical experts and economists. The total cost of the accident usually involves financial recompense for all past injuries and damage, along with any future expenses to regain the victim’s health.