Driver fatigue is a leading cause of commercial truck accidents. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatigue played a role in about 11% of all crashes. For an industry that is so closely regulated as commercial trucking, any accident caused by fatigue is one too many. Drivers who willingly get behind the wheel of a big rig when they are tired are taking other people’s lives in their hands, and they often do so with encouragement from their employer.
However, injured victims sometimes have problems proving that the fatigue was a cause of their accident. To obtain compensation, you need to show that the driver breached their duty of care, which you can do if you have proof they were too tired to drive.
Observing the Driver at the Scene
After an accident, you might be so injured that all you can do is wait for emergency services to arrive to take you to the hospital. However, if you are able to exit your vehicle, you should talk to the truck driver. If he or she is fatigued, then the signs should be apparent. Look for bloodshot eyes, bags under the eyes, and excessive yawning. The driver also might admit to being tired, which is a statement you can use later to prove he was fatigued.
Analyze the Log Book
Every driver must keep a log of hours spent driving their trucks. Of course, many drivers do not accurately record the number of hours they spent driving. In fact, some trucking companies have been caught instructing their employees to keep two log books—one for the company and the second, falsified copy for federal regulators. Nevertheless, looking at the log book is a start to building a case.
Federal regulations (called “hours of service” regulations) set the maximum amount of driving in a day and in a week. For a trucker hauling commercial goods (and not people), the rules are as follows:
- Cannot drive more than 11 hours in a day after 10 consecutive hours off
- Cannot work more than 14 hours in a day following 10 consecutive hours off
- Cannot drive more than 8 straight hours without a half-hour break
- Cannot drive more than 60/70 hours in a consecutive period of 7/8 days after 34 consecutive hours off
If a driver is behind the wheel for more than these limits, there is a good chance he or she was tired when they drove. As part of a lawsuit, your lawyer might request a copy of the driver’s log book and scrutinize it to see if there are any false entries.
Check the Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
At the end of 2015, the FMCSA passed a rule requiring buses and commercial trucks to use electronic logging devices in their vehicles. Companies were given up to four years to install the devices, so some vehicles might not have them yet.
If the truck that hit you did have this device, then you can use it to find out the following information:
- The amount of time the engine was running
- The number of miles the truck traveled
- The truck’s speed
- The date and time
- The location of the vehicle
The ELD will replace paper logs, which should dramatically increase the reliability of information. It will be extremely difficult for a trucker to falsify the information in an ELD, so your lawyer will not need to worry about spotting falsified entries in a paper log book. By pulling data from the ELD, you can find out whether the driver exceeded the hours of service requirements and by how much.
Asking the Truck Driver Questions
In a lawsuit, there is a fact-finding period called “discovery,” during which you can ask the driver questions, in writing and in person. When you propound questions in writing, they are interrogatories, and the driver must answer them under oath. For example, you can ask a driver how many hours they had driven the day they struck you.
Your lawyer can also ask questions orally in a deposition, which the driver must also answer under oath. Deposition questions also allow for quick follow up, so a lawyer can try to catch a witness in an inconsistency.
Admittedly, few drivers will outright admit they were tired (though some might). Instead, a lawyer can draw out a range of facts that show how tired the driver was. Consider the following:
- How much sleep did you get the night before?
- Were you taking amphetamines or another stimulant to stay awake?
- Have you ever taken amphetamines before to stay awake?
These types of questions can draw out circumstantial evidence that the driver was fatigued when they struck you. For example, a truck driver who abuses stimulants probably is aware that they have a problem staying awake. If the police found stimulants in the truck on the day you were struck, then this is some evidence the driver was struggling not to fall asleep the day of your accident.
Contact a Clearwater Truck Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Truck accidents can cause devastating injuries—often much more severe than the injuries caused by passenger vehicles. Victims are left with large medical bills and frequently cannot return to their jobs. As a result, victims and their families live under constant stress, which reduces their quality of life and can sometimes tear families apart.
Fortunately, help is available. If the truck driver was responsible for the collision, then you can hold him and his employer legally accountable for your injuries. By bringing a lawsuit for negligence, you can receive financial compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, which will take a huge load off of your shoulders.
At Dolman Law Group, our lawyers have handled dozens of truck accidents and understand how to construct a case from the ground up. We are ready to fight to obtain full compensation for your injuries, and all you need to do is reach out. Our firm offers a free consultation and case evaluation to potential clients. Call 727-451-6900 or fill out our contact form.