Drowsy driving is one of the most common causes of truck accidents in the United States. Despite the opens in a new windowFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA)opens WORD file hours of service (HOS) regulations that limit the number of consecutive hours a truck driver is allowed to remain on duty, truckers who are under pressure to meet very tight delivery deadlines often exceed the maximum number of hours. This can have devastating consequences if a drowsy truck driver causes an accident with a passenger vehicle.
Due to the massive size and weight of the average commercial truck, the occupants of the passenger vehicle often suffer catastrophic injuries. If a motorist is injured in a truck accident that is caused by a drowsy driver, a skilled truck accident lawyer can fight on their behalf.
What is Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving occurs when a motorist gets behind the wheel of a car or truck when they feel very tired. While falling asleep at the wheel is the most extreme form of drowsy driving, even slight drowsiness can impact the motorist’s ability to stay focused, make quick decisions, and maintain control of the vehicle. The opens in a new windowNational Safety Council (NSC) reports that drowsy drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than motorists who are well-rested, and truck drivers are particularly prone to driving while fatigued.
The long hours behind the wheel, prolonged stress associated with the pressure to meet the tight delivery deadlines, and the unhealthy lifestyle that many truck drivers have increases the risk of drowsy driving. Depending on the degree of drowsiness that the driver is experiencing, they may experience the following symptoms:
- Frequent yawning or blinking
- Drifting in and out of lanes
- Hitting rumble strips
- Missing exits
What are the Most Common Causes of Drowsy Driving?
All motorists can be at risk of drowsy driving if they get behind the wheel after not getting enough sleep. However, truck drivers are particularly prone to drowsy driving for the following reasons:
- Long hours behind the wheel
- Significant amount of nighttime driving
- Shift work
- Inability to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night on a consistent basis
- Extreme weather conditions, including heat and humidity
- Health conditions, including sleep apnea
What are FMCSA Regulations?
In an effort to prevent devastating drowsy driving truck accidents, the FMCSA developed the opens in a new windowHours of Service (HOS) regulationsopens WORD file that limit the number of consecutive hours that a trucker can drive without taking a break. Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving for up to eight hours. Too often, truck drivers violate HOS regulations and exceed the number of hours behind the wheel. Other times, the truck companies or distributors put significant pressure on drivers to deliver the cargo within very tight deadlines.
How Do I Prove That a Truck Driver was Drowsy Driving?
If a motorist is seriously injured in a truck accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, they must be able to prove that the trucker was drowsy at the time of the collision in order to file a personal injury claim. The following pieces of evidence can help prove truck driver fatigue:
- Police report: Police officers are able to recognize the common signs of drowsiness, including bloodshot eyes, yawning, and a statement from the truck driver admitting that they were tired. This information will be included in the police report and can be used as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. The police officer may also be called to testify on behalf of the injured motorist.
- Time of day: Truck drivers often drive through the night without taking a break to rest. In fact, truck drivers who are on the road between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. are more likely to have been driving through the night without taking the required breaks to rest or sleep. If the accident occurred during these hours, this information may help prove drowsy driving.
- Electronic logging device (ELD): Most commercial trucks that were manufactured in 2000 or later are equipped with ELDs, which allow commercial truck drivers to track their HOS. If the truck is not equipped with an ELD, the truck driver is required to keep a handwritten logbook and update it regularly. If the number of hours logged exceeds the FMCSA regulations, the injured party can likely prove legal fatigue.
- Number of hours billed: Another way to confirm that a truck driver was on duty for too long is to check the number of hours that they billed.
- Lack of accident avoidance: An obvious sign of drowsy driving is if the truck driver did not attempt to avoid hitting the other vehicle. If other motorists on the road witnessed the truck accident and can provide a statement confirming that the truck driver appeared to be asleep at the wheel, the other motorist can provide a statement about what they saw.
What are the Common Injuries Caused by Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents?
All truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities due to the size and weight of the average truck compared to the average passenger vehicle. The following are examples of injuries that are caused by drowsy driving truck accidents:
- Amputation injuries
- Facial injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Neck and back injuries
Who is Liable for a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident?
Oftentimes, if a truck accident is caused by a drowsy driver, the truck driver is considered responsible, particularly if they exceeded the HOS regulations. However, other parties may share liability if their actions contributed to the truck driver’s behavior. For example, if it can be proven that the truck company set unreasonable deadlines for their drivers, the company may be held partially liable for the victim’s injuries. An experienced truck accident lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the case.
What are Possible Damages in a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident Case?
Injuries caused by a truck accident are often severe and will require extensive medical care, physical therapy, and even long-term care if the injury causes permanent impairments. The costs associated with these injuries can accumulate very quickly.
If the injured victim is able to prove that the truck driver was drowsy at the time of the accident, they may be eligible for financial compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. They may be entitled to the following damages:
- Economic damages: These include current and future medical bills, prescription medication, physical and occupational therapy, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity.
- Non-economic damages: These include pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, anxiety and grief, and loss of enjoyment of life.
How can Truck Drivers Prevent Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving truck accidents are largely preventable if truckers get enough sleep, recognize the signs of fatigue, and stop driving when they start to feel drowsy. The following are examples of steps that truckers can take to prevent devastating drowsy driving collisions:
- Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Schedule regular stops to rest, get some fresh air, stretch, or take a nap if necessary.
- Take a driving break every 100 miles or every two hours.
- Truck drivers should avoid situations where they fall behind and need to drive extra hours to be back on schedule.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- If taking medication, ask a physician if it causes drowsiness.
- Avoid heavy, unhealthy foods.
- If a truck driver is experiencing sleep issues, they should see a doctor who can diagnose conditions, like sleep apnea.
Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Represent Victims of Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a drowsy driving truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at ACTS Law. Drowsy driving is a leading cause of truck accidents, and these cases are complicated because different parties may be involved. We can help you determine the at-fault party. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAWopens phone dialer or contact us online. Located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.