Fatigued Driving Truck Crashes
Exhaustion and fatigue can be especially dangerous for drivers of commercial trucks. Truck drivers frequently put in long hours behind the wheel, and they are often incentivized to get their deliveries in on time or early. A fatigued truck driver operating a vehicle that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds presents a deadly hazard to everyone on the road. If the driver ignored Hours of Service rules, or if the driver’s employer required or pressured him or her to ignore these regulations, they could be held liable for any injuries or deaths that they cause.
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in crashes were considered to have been fatigued at the time of the accident. The federal government largely tries to prevent driver fatigue by enforcing Hours of Service (HOS) regulations that limit the number of hours a truck driver can work in a given day or week.
HOS regulations limit passenger-carrying drivers to 10 hours of driving after eight consecutive hours off duty, and property-carrying drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving after 10 hours off. A truck driver cannot drive more than 60 hours in seven days, or 70 hours in eight days.
Did you suffer serious injuries or was your loved one killed in a truck accident in Houston or a surrounding area of Texas?
You could be entitled to compensation for all of your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages if your crash was caused by truck driver fatigue.
The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian has a record of success with truck accident cases, including $700,000 awarded to a client who suffered injuries to the chest, spine, and knees. Call (713) 842-9492 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and review the details of your case.
Understanding Fatigued Driving Truck Accidents
It is not always obvious in the immediate aftermath that an accident was caused by driver fatigue. Drivers will not always admit to being drowsy behind the wheel and will often deny liability to avoid getting in trouble or to save their employer from a costly insurance claim.
Furthermore, fatigue is not always a direct cause of crashes. In some cases, fatigue may be an underlying factor that contributes to reckless driving and other driver errors, such as improper turns or other illegal maneuvers.
In February 2018, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined drowsy driving was a factor in almost eight times as many accidents as federal estimates suggested. The National Sleep Foundation states that lack of sleep can have effects on your body similar to those of alcohol consumption, and being awake for 18 hours straight is the equivalent of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05. Being awake for a full 24 hours is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10.
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who get only four to five hours of sleep are four times more likely to be involved in a crash compared to drivers who get at least seven hours of sleep. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported that 9,807 crashes were caused by drowsy driving in 2016, including 164 fatal crashes and 509 serious injury crashes.
Why Fatigued Driving Is a Common Cause of Semi-Truck Collisions
Truck drivers spend many long hours behind the wheel on roads and highways all over the United States. They are under constant pressure from employers to deliver their cargo to their destinations as quickly as possible, and it is not uncommon for HOS regulations to be violated in order to accomplish this.
Some drivers also rely on prescription or over-the-counter medications for various conditions, and their use of these drugs can impact their level of fatigue. Some drugs are taken specifically to counter the effects of fatigue.
Is Fatigued Driving Considered Negligent?
A truck driver who falls asleep behind the wheel may not have knowingly caused an accident, but the driver is still responsible for it. A truck driver has an obligation to make sure he or she is in as healthy and capable condition as possible when operating a commercial vehicle.
Fatigue certainly qualifies as negligence, but it can be very difficult to prove. Many fatigue conclusions are based on circumstantial evidence, but some rigs do contain video cameras that may have captured a driver who fell asleep.
Pursuing Compensation After a Fatigued Driving 18-Wheeler Accident
After a commercial truck accident, a victim will usually be contacted by an insurance company for the truck owner. Some people believe that they can handle their own claims and attempt to negotiate their own settlements, but this is almost always a bad idea.
You should always decline any offer to provide a recorded statement. While you may see no harm in explaining your view of the crash, your responses to certain questions are designed to make you seem as though you are admitting to negligence, and your words will be used against you.
In other cases, an insurance company may quickly offer you a lump-sum settlement. You should be extremely skeptical about the offer because it is very likely far less than what you are entitled to receive.
You can protect your right to full and fair compensation by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case. At The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian, we can help you demand full payment for past and future medical expenses, lost income, reduced future earning potential, property damage, pain and suffering, and all other losses related to the crash.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Under Texas law, you have two years after the date of your truck accident to bring a personal injury lawsuit. If a person is killed in a truck accident, family members also have two years to file a wrongful death claim, although it must be filed within two years of the date of the person’s death, rather than the date of the accident.
The statute of limitations can be tolled (or delayed) in some cases. For example, a victim who is a minor will not be legally able to file a lawsuit, so their limitations period is tolled such that they have two years to file from the date they turn 18 years of age.
A court can also toll the limitations period for a person who is mentally incapacitated, such as in a coma. In these cases, the victim will have two years to file from the date that they become mentally cognizant again.
Keep in mind that many trucking companies will act very quickly to cover up or even destroy any possibly incriminating evidence. Federal law allows trucking companies to destroy important evidence like log books after a certain amount of time has passed, usually six months but possibly as little as two weeks with regards to some electronic evidence. This is why it is crucial to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible after a wreck.
How Our Attorneys Can Help After a Truck Accident
The compassionate truck accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian understand the tremendous stress and financial strain that many people feel after truck accidents, and we will do everything in our power to help them make a full recovery. We will not only assist in filing the necessary legal paperwork but can also help you deal with creditors and other financial issues that arise after a serious injury accident.
Trucking companies will often try to deny that their drivers were exhausted, and they will work hard to minimize or deny your injury claim, which could include placing the blame on you, the victim. As soon as you hire our firm, we will commence an independent investigation of your crash. We will work to determine how the accident occurred. If the crash was caused by a fatigued driver, we will collect the necessary evidence and then identify all possible liable parties.
After our law firm prepares your case, we can negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance company in pursuit of a full and fair settlement. If the insurer refuses to provide a satisfactory amount, then The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian will not hesitate to file a lawsuit to try your case in court.
Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation
Driver fatigue is a well-understood cause of many truck accidents, and trucking companies can be held liable in some cases when they forced or coerced drivers into committing HOS violations. You want to be sure that your truck accident attorney is someone who has the necessary ability to investigate trucking company records and obtain the evidence required in these types of cases.
If you suffered severe injuries or your loved one was killed in a commercial truck crash in the Houston area, do not hesitate to retain legal counsel. The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our firm represents clients on a contingency-fee basis, so you will not have to worry about paying us anything unless you receive a monetary award. We will inform you of all of your legal options as soon as you call (713) 842-9492 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.