New Orleans Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents Come with These Legal Implications

Truck driver fatigue is a common cause of accidents. Fatigue causes drivers to have slower response times and make poor decisions. It also causes attention failures.

Digital logbooks show how long a trucker drove before taking a break and whether the driver broke the speed limit. They, and federal hours-of-service regulations, prevent driver fatigue. However, companies cannot dictate what drivers do in their off-time.

If a driver takes the required time off from being behind the wheel but does not get enough sleep, he or she could still nod off while driving.

Common Causes of Driver Fatigue

A truck driver can become fatigued for several reasons. Even with the rules and regulations in place, drivers can still become fatigued.

#1. Driving and Not Sleeping

While the hours-of-service regulations mandate breaks after 11 hours of driving, that doesn’t mean the driver will actually get some sleep. Even so, driving for 11 hours without more than a 15-minute break is usually tiring for anyone, especially someone who drives for a living.

Additionally, just because the federal rules prevent driving after a certain number of hours, that does not mean that a driver slept during his or her off time. Without sleep, a driver could be more fatigued than if they were to drive 15 hours in a row.

#2. Irregular Schedules

Because of rule enforcement, drivers often have irregular schedules-which means that they do not always get a good night’s sleep. This can catch up with them over time and cause fatigue. The problem is that even though the hours-of-service regulations say a driver must take a certain number of hours off, they might not use that time to sleep.

#3. Substance Use

If a driver feels tired but has to drive, she might take different substances, including amphetamines, to try to stay awake while behind the wheel. The substances make a driver feel more alert, but could also cause driver impairment.

#4. Pressure by a Trucking Company

Since trucking companies make money by delivering loads on time, a driver might feel pressured to drive even if they are tired. Additionally, a company could force a driver to drive or lose his job. Loads almost always have deadlines.

Traffic jams and other delays often complicate deadlines, which cause truckers to drive more hours than they should, even breaking the hours-of-service regulations if they think they can get away with it. If a company sets an unreasonable deadline, it further complicates the matter.

#5. Pay Structure

Many companies pay truckers by the mile. That means the more miles a trucker can cram into her driving time, the more she gets paid. If a trucker has to stop to rest, gets caught in a traffic jam, or has other delays, she could feel pressured to make up the miles by speeding or ignoring the hours-of-service regulations.

#6. Local Drivers

Finally, local drivers who go home every night do not have to abide by the federal hours-of-service regulations. They follow state regulations, which are often laxer than the federal regulations. However, even if the state regulations are as strict, that does not mean a driver gets enough sleep when he goes home every day.

Hours-of-Service Regulations

The federal hours-of-service regulations are as follows:

  • A trucker can drive at most 11 hours once he or she has had 10 consecutive hours off.
  • A trucker cannot drive past the 14th consecutive hour of work, which includes downtime, loading and off-loading, and other times the driver is not behind the wheel.
  • Once a truck driver drives for eight consecutive hours, she must take a 30-minute break. The minutes must be consecutive and include being on duty but not driving, spending time in the sleeper berth, or going off-duty.
  • A driver cannot drive more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. Between the seventh or eighth day and the next workday, the driver must take 34 consecutive hours off.
  • If a trucker has a sleeper berth, he can split the 10-hour mandatory break into two periods, but one must consist of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. This time does not count against the 14 hours of on-duty time.
  • If a driver encounters adverse driving conditions, she can extend the 11-hour driving limit by two hours. She can also extend the 14-hour work limit by two hours.

What to Do After a New Orleans Truck Driver Fatigue Accident

If you can move without causing additional damage to yourself:

  • Look for signs of driver fatigue. You might have noticed the truck speeding or weaving before the wreck. A fatigued driver also has a hard time maintaining a constant speed and distance between the truck and the vehicle in front of the truck. You might also notice other signs, such as hesitant speech when speaking with the driver to exchange information, stumbling, appearing disoriented, bleariness, and red eyes (as if the driver was rubbing his eyes).
  • Contact first responders and check on others involved in the accident.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. Include damage to roads, such as skid marks, and damage to nearby property. Be sure to take pictures from all angles.
  • Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you believe your injuries are minor.
  • Give a statement to the police. Read the statement before signing the document to ensure that it is correct. If you noticed that the driver might have been fatigued, always mention that to the police officer.
  • When the officer releases you from the accident scene, seek medical attention as soon as possible. The emergency medical technicians cannot check you for everything, and they are just the beginning of the paper trail you need to recover the compensation you deserve.
  • Contact a New Orleans truck accident attorney as soon as possible, even if you are still recovering from injuries in the hospital. Accident attorneys will arrange for a phone conference, video conference and will even visit you in the hospital when possible.

While the attorney should contact the insurance companies on your behalf, you can notify them that you were in an accident. However, you should never provide any information about the wreck to an insurance company. Give it your name, the location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. Insurance companies tend to twist what you say to try to deny your claim, plus they have other “tricks” to try to place the blame on you.

How a New Orleans Truck Accident Attorney Can Help Me

A truck accident attorney has a team that helps prove negligence in a truck accident.

The investigators could:

  • Check the truck’s logbooks for hours-of-service violations, speeding, and other errors. Most trucks now have digital logbooks, which makes it difficult for the driver to manipulate times and speeds.
  • Check other records can create a timeline, including toll receipts, gas receipts, bills of lading, and hotel receipts.
  • Review surveillance cameras from highways and nearby businesses and homes.
  • Obtain and review police reports.
  • Take depositions of witnesses and review witness statements given to the police.
  • Depose the truck driver and others that might have caused the accident, including the trucking company, a truck repair technician, cargo loaders, parts manufacturers, and truck manufacturers.

Is a Truck Driver the Only One Responsible for a New Orleans Truck Driver Fatigue Accident?

While the truck driver bears a lot of responsibility for driving while tired, others could also share the liability for the accident. If a driver can prove that the trucking company or a dispatcher pressured the driver into driving too many hours, speeding, or otherwise being negligent, they are also responsible for the accident.

Even if a truck driver drives fatigued, others could share in the responsibility for the accident, including vehicles that cut off a truck driver when merging or pulling out, sideswiping a truck, or ignoring a truck’s blind spots. Depending on the circumstances, the truck driver and the other driver could share in the liability for your injuries.

Additionally, others could share in accident liability, whether a truck driver is tired or not. Maintenance techs that incorrectly install parts, manufacturers who sell defective parts, and loaders who incorrectly load trucks can all share responsibility.

Finally, poorly maintained roads and inclement weather could contribute to truck accidents, even when a driver is not fatigued.

Why Truck Accidents Cause Catastrophic Injuries

As with any accident, truck accidents could cause anything from minor cuts, scratches, bumps, and bruises to death. However, getting into a wreck with a truck is more likely to cause catastrophic injuries and death.

Just because of the truck’s size, you could sustain catastrophic injuries. A fully loaded tractor-trailer with a van trailer could weigh up to 80,000 pounds. If the truck is overloaded, it could weigh much more. When something that heavy hits even something as large as a full-size pickup truck, the damage is often devastating.

Additionally, large trucks have large blind spots. If you pull into a driver’s blind spot and he or she does not see you, the trailer could run right over your vehicle if it’s small enough or if it is a motorcycle. While a truck driver must check his blind spots, you must ensure the truck driver sees you.

Catastrophic injuries are those that cause long-term or permanent disabilities and include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Back and spinal cord injuries
  • Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
  • Crushed bones
  • Internal injuries
  • Injuries that cause excessive scarring and/or disfigurement

What Damages Can I Recover After a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident?

The damages you could recover after a truck accident depends on the extent of your injuries. You could recover compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages.

#1. Economic Damages

Sometimes called special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. The court orders the defendant to pay economic damages in an attempt to make you whole again.

They include:

  • Medical expenses: Surgeries, doctors’ appointments, follow-up appointments, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, cognitive therapy, prescriptions, hand controls for vehicles, ambulatory aids, and upgrades to your home, including wheelchair ramps, grab bars, and widened doorways.
  • Lost wages for the time you could not work from the date of the wreck until you receive a settlement or trial award.
  • Loss of future earning capacity if you cannot work for the same salary as before the accident or if you cannot work at all.
  • Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
  • After-death expenses, including funeral, burial, and cremation expenses, and in some cases, other expenses such as probate court filing fees.

#2. Non-Economic Damages

Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a specific monetary value. As with economic damages, the court orders the defendant to pay non-economic damages in an attempt to make you whole again.

They include:

  • Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of use of a body part
  • Loss of use of a bodily function
  • Inconvenience
  • Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement
  • Amputation
  • Paralysis
  • Death

#3. Punitive Damages

The court only orders punitive damages if the plaintiff can prove the defendant was grossly negligent or his or her actions or inactions were intentional. Instead of making you whole again, punitive damages serve as a punishment for the defendant’s behavior. While you do need to take an extra step to obtain punitive damages, the money is often worth the hassle.

An experienced truck accident attorney can tell you what damages you can pursue after investigating your case.

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