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How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?

Were You Injured in a Truck Accident Caused by a Fatigued Driver?

We all know the risks of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while drunk. It’s not only dangerous to the driver but to any other people on the road. However, driving under the influence isn’t the only unsafe driving behavior. Less frequently discussed is drowsy driving or driver fatigue–an all too common reality for some truck drivers.

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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), property-carrying drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours a day after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Further, drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for eight cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. However, there are exceptions.

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Though legally truck drivers must take rest breaks and abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations, that doesn’t always mean drivers are at peak performance, making trucking accidents more likely due to fatigued driving. Commercial truck drivers are more likely to experience drowsy driving than other drivers.

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Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

There are various causes of truck driver fatigue. Inadequate sleep is the most common, but there are other reasons why a truck driver may experience fatigue.

  • Illness. In a traditional job setting, if an employee were to fall ill, they would simply call in sick and stay home. But when you are hundreds or even thousands of miles away, truck drivers may feel no choice but to power through sickness. Further, some drivers may take cold and flu medicine to get through a day’s run, leading to medically induced drowsiness. When the body’s immune system is down, there is a natural need to rest. But when you are on the road for hours at a time with no place to stop, this can lead to trucking accidents.
  • Work Schedules. There is no such thing as a 9-to-5 job for truck drivers, making these unusual work schedules more difficult to adjust to a normal sleeping schedule. In a sleep study published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, truck drivers averaged 5.18 hours in bed per day and 4.78 hours of actual sleep. Not nearly enough for someone to function in an 11-hour day. Further, some drivers feel pressure from the trucking company to perform at a certain level, despite their lack of sleep, to maintain schedules.
  • Alcohol Use. Under the FMCSA, drivers are forbidden to consume or be under the influence of alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial motor vehicle. Yet, many truck drivers admit to drinking in their off time.
  • Untreated Sleep Disorders. If a driver has an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, he or she may be at a higher risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.
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Impacts of Truck Driver Fatigue

No matter the reason a truck driver experiences fatigue, when it hits and the driver continues to operate the vehicle, they are placing themselves and other drivers at risk. Driving while fatigued is dangerous for anyone, but given the size and skill needed to operate a commercial vehicle, it is no wonder that fatigued truck drivers are the most common causes of truck accidents in the United States.

Consequences of truck driver fatigue may include:

Decreased reflexes leading to rollovers, jackknifes and avoiding collision with other vehicles or fixed objects
Inability to make proper decisions behind the wheel

Unfortunately, the effects of truck driver fatigue are more common than we may think. The 2007 Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered fatigued at the time of their accident.

Steps You Should Take Following a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident

If you have suffered injuries at the hands of a fatigued truck driver, you must take the proper steps following the truck accident.

  • Report the accident. If you are safe and able to, call the authorities right away to report the accident. The police will gather a report with all of the information you will later need for a claim. Then, you’ll be able to get the medical attention you need without loss of evidence.
  • Seek medical attention. Even if you think you’re fine, you should always be checked out by a medical professional. Not all injuries are obvious and even if you walk away relatively unscathed, serious conditions can emerge in the hours and days following a fatigue truck driver accident. Starting with the first exam, you’ll also want to keep track of all medical bills as this will be needed for your claim.
  • Contact the insurance companies. At this point, you will need to put together a claim with your insurance or the fatigued truck driver’s/trucking company. But do not accept a settlement right away. Instead, be sure to negotiate and get the compensation you need.
  • Contact a truck accident attorney. You don’t have to handle a fatigued truck driver case alone.
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Who Is Liable for My Losses When Driver Fatigue Causes Truck Accidents?

Knowing how truck driver fatigue causes truck accidents is important, but being able to prove that the driver’s status is solely responsible for your injuries is another. To determine who is liable for your losses when driver fatigue causes truck accidents, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider.

Was the accident a result of a scheduling issue?

In today’s world, everyone is being overworked and truck driver’s are no exception. However, when a trucking company keeps placing a driver on a tight schedule, they run the risk of the driver not being rested enough, leading to fatigue and unfortunately accidents.

If this is the case for your accident, the trucking company could potentially be liable.
Was the truck driver asleep at the wheel, or under the influence?

From dashboard cameras to a blood test, it’s easy to find out if a truck driver was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when the accident occured, or if he or she had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

So long as you act quickly and the necessary steps are taken to secure that footage or those blood tests, you’ll be able to prove the driver was liable.

Was there a mechanical failure on the truck?

Being fatigued while driving can cause its own issues, but when you throw in a mechanical failure on the truck, it can be catastrophic. If the driver was in charge of his own vehicle maintenance, he or she will still be liable for the accident. But, if the truck’s upkeep was up to the trucking company or a specific mechanic, those parties may be found liable.

Was the vehicle loaded improperly?

Even the most awake and alert driver won’t have much luck behind the wheel when their trailer isn’t loaded properly. In the event the truck was not loaded properly causing the driver to lose control of the truck and thus causing the accident, the cargo loaders could be held accountable.

Meet With an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer in Washington, DC Today

The Washington DC personal injury lawyers of Regan Zambri Long have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients involved in negligent accidents. Backed by more than 100 years of combined experience, our firm has an established reputation for pursuing legal excellence. Working with our firm means you have peace of mind that your rights are protected and you will secure the maximum compensation for your losses.

If you live in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia, and have been involved in an accident with a fatigued truck driver, a respected truck accident attorney at Regan Zambri Long will work diligently to get the best results possible for your case. Find out how we can help you with your truck accident case in a free, no-obligation consultation.

Schedule your free consultation by calling (202) 960-4746 or sending us a message today.

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Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

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