Driving an 18-wheeler truck or tractor-trailer is not an easy job. Often, drivers are expected to drive hundreds of miles a day and deal with stresses like traffic congestion, detours, and other slowdowns which make their days even longer. Unfortunately, this leads to many drivers being chronically exhausted and sleep deprived. Some truck drivers end up taking stimulants just to stay awake and drive. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an accident involving a fatigued or otherwise impaired truck driver, you may be able to get financial compensation for your losses.
Studies Show Truck Driver Fatigue is a Major Factor in Truck Accidents
In a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was found that approximately 13 percent of serious crashes involving large trucks are caused by driver fatigue. Other factors which contributed to serious truck accidents include driver drug use, including both legal and illegal drugs, inattention to the road, and driver illness. Truck drivers are often operating vehicles that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. A vehicle of this size can cause colossal damage during a crash.
Truck Drivers Must Follow Certain Rules Regarding Sleep and Rest
Because sleepy truck drivers are such a threat to motorists’ safety, there are certain state and federal regulations which dictate how many hours truck drivers can drive in a given time period. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to take regular breaks to rest. A driver who is not following these federal guidelines may be considered negligent and liable for damages caused by an accident. Truck drivers must record the hours that they drove and when they rested in a logbook. These logbooks are often crucial pieces of evidence in a personal injury lawsuit against a truck driver or trucking company.
Drug Use Among Truck Drivers Continues to Be a Problem
The FMCSA study also reported that both over-the-counter and illegal drug use is a major factor in many truck accident cases. About 20 percent of serious truck accidents involved a driver who took medication, drugs, or was under the influence of alcohol. Often, truck drivers must work long hours and sleep at odd times in order to meet deadlines. They may use sleeping pills to help fall asleep during their rest periods—medications that might not be out of their system by the time they drive. Drivers may also use stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine to stay awake. These substances impair a driver’s ability to drive and also mask the driver’s ability to realize how sleepy he or she really is.
A Qualified Attorney Can Help You Take Action
Transportation companies, such as those that own and operate many large trucks, often have entire teams of attorneys working hard to help such companies protect their best interests. This means that when a crash occurs, these lawyers go right to work in finding ways to shield the company from liability. With this in mind, it is important for you as an injured driver or passenger to have a strong legal advocate as well.
Your attorney can help you gain access to a wide range of potential evidence that could be helpful in building a successful claim or lawsuit against the truck driver and the transportation company in question. Such evidence may include driver logbooks and personnel files that could contain documentation of previous issues with fatigue, as well as drug or alcohol concerns. Your lawyer can also help find proof that the company encouraged or tolerated violations of the FMCSA hours of service and rest rules in order to meet deadlines.
We Are Here to Help You Seek Justice
Speak with the Virginia truck accident lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to learn more about how you can receive compensation for your truck accident-related damages. We will work hard to get you the damages to which the law says you are entitled, just as we did when we secured a $3.5 million wrongful death settlement for the family of a man who was killed as the result of a fiery crash in Norfolk.