When Truck Drivers Under the Influence Cause Accidents

When Truck Drivers Under the Influence Cause Accidents

When truck drivers under the influence cause accidents, they and their employers should pay for accident-related damages. The most harmful outcomes of these accidents are injuries and deaths. If you or a loved one suffered either of these outcomes, an attorney will fight for the compensation you deserve.

Truck drivers are responsible for operating the vehicle cautiously at all times. Driving under the influence violates this responsibility. You have every right to seek justice for the harm an intoxicated motorist has caused you.

When Truck Drivers Under the Influence Cause Accidents Guide

What Does It Mean to Be Under the Influence as a Truck Driver?

Being under the influence can mean:

  • Consuming alcohol beyond the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
  • Ingesting any prescription or illicit drug that impairs the driver

Truck drivers must always be alert, as any kind of impairment puts the driver and others at risk of severe and even fatal injuries.

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The Bar for Drunk Driving Is Lower with Truck Drivers

When Truck Drivers Under the Influence Cause Accidents

For most motorists, a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater means that they are under the influence of alcohol. This is the typical standard for drunk driving.

Truck drivers are legally intoxicated when their BAC is 0.04 percent or greater, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Suppose a truck driver causes a collision while their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher. In that case, they may face criminal charges and also expose themselves to civil liability for victims’ accident-related damages.

Drug Use Is a Concern in the Trucking Industry

Drug use may be just as dangerous as drunk driving, even if the truck driver has a prescription to take a drug. The FMCSA has a drug and alcohol testing program for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but this program is not foolproof.

A truck driver may be impaired if they ingest:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Any other illicit drug
  • A prescription drug that makes the driver drowsy, inattentive, or impaired in any other way

Depending on the drug in question, a motorist may become aggressive, impulsive, tired, slow to respond to hazards, or otherwise impaired when they take a legal or illicit drug.

Because truck drivers work long hours, they may use drugs to stay awake, work through pain, or simply because they have a substance abuse problem. An impaired truck driver can kill those on or near the road.

How Does Impairment Affect Truck Drivers?

The substance a truck driver takes may determine how they are impaired.

The effects of impairing substances on truck drivers may include:

  • Alcohol: Drunk drivers may lose control of their coordination, respond slowly to road conditions, lose judgment, and fail to process information quickly.
  • Stimulants: Stimulating drugs may make a truck driver more aggressive, which may cause behaviors like speeding, tailgating, dangerous lane changes, and running red lights.  
  • Depressants: Drugs with a depressing effect on the user's nervous system may cause drowsiness. This may lead truck drivers to close their eyes longer than they should or even fall asleep behind the wheel.

A truck driver is not free of responsibility if they have a valid prescription for a drug. Every motorist is responsible for what they ingest and must be aware of the potential side effects of prescription drugs. If a motorist's legal medications can impair their ability to drive safely, they must refrain from driving.

How Does Someone Determine That a Truck Driver Is Impaired?

Some symptoms of drug or alcohol use may be fairly obvious, including:

  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • The odor of alcohol on the breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Dilated pupils

Drug recognition experts (DREs) have ways of detecting drug use in motorists, including truck drivers. A DRE may have arrived at your accident scene, conducted behavioral tests, and documented any signs of impairment they observed.

Breath and blood tests may also help identify drug or alcohol impairment in a truck driver.  

Why Impairment Is Even More Dangerous When the Impaired Person Drives a Truck

Any motorist who drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs poses a danger to themselves and others.

However, impaired truck drivers generally pose a greater threat than other motorists because:

  • Trucks weigh more than other vehicles: The maximum weight limit for large trucks is 80,000 pounds. This is far heavier than the typical passenger vehicle, which weighs less than 10,000 pounds. When such a heavier vehicle strikes a lighter one, the force of the impact may cause serious injuries.
  • Trucks can carry hazardous materials: Trucks carrying hazardous materials may be especially dangerous. If hazardous cargo spills onto other vehicles or the roadway, it can cause a fire, cause motorists to lose control, or result in other hazards.
  • Truck accidents can affect multiple vehicles: The size and weight of a truck mean that when a truck is involved in a collision, it may affect multiple vehicles (and, therefore, multiple victims). Chain-reaction collisions, rollover accidents, and collisions that cause debris to fall into the roadway may become multi-vehicle accidents.

Truck drivers learn about these risks when they're in trucking school and obtaining their CDL. Therefore, truckers must always exercise the utmost caution knowing the danger their vehicles can cause.

What to Do After an Accident With an Intoxicated Truck Driver

You may have already left your accident scene, received medical attention, and begun the recovery process. If this is the case, some priorities ahead may include:

Hiring an Attorney

Your rights may be a risk right now. You may also have a limited time to file a truck accident case, and essential evidence may not be available much longer.

When you hire a lawyer, you:

  • Allow the attorney to immediately take over your case, which allows you to focus your attention on recovery
  • Afford yourself protection from insurers, as your lawyer will deal with them for you
  • Receive guidance in every aspect of your case

Your law firm of choice will also cover the financial cost of your case. This will spare you from further financial stress, as you may already be facing medical bills and other sources of financial hardship.

Having a Doctor Monitor Your Recovery

While you may have already received medical attention post-accident, it is essential to receive regular medical attention.

By receiving appropriate medical care for accident-related injuries, you will:

  • Create a detailed record of your injuries and symptoms
  • Ensure that your recovery process progresses as it should
  • Protect yourself from adverse health events
  • Provide your lawyer with important documentation for their case

Your health is paramount after a truck accident. Your case for compensation is also important. You will look out for these priorities by going to the doctor.

Keeping a Record of Your Injury Symptoms

You can also keep a record of your injury symptoms.

This may include observations about:

  • The physical pain and limitations your injuries have caused
  • The emotional and psychological pain you’re experiencing
  • The ways your life has changed because of the accident and injuries

You can speak with your lawyer about any other observations that may be relevant to your case. Once you have a trusted attorney, they will guide you through the claims or legal process.

How an Attorney Will Seek Fair Compensation for Your Damages After a Truck Accident

Personal injury lawyers have a singular mission when representing truck accident victims. The attorney strives to get a fair settlement or judgment covering the client’s damages.

As they work towards this mission, a truck accident lawyer will:

Obtain Evidence as Quickly as Possible

Your attorney will seek accident-related evidence, including:

  • Any blood or breath tests proving that the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident
  • The police report documenting the accident, which may indicate that the truck driver showed signs of intoxication
  • Video footage of the collision
  • Photographs of damage to vehicles involved in the accident
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Data from the truck’s black box
  • An expert’s reconstruction of the accident

Your attorney may file a letter of spoliation to protect evidence that the trucking company has. Once it receives the letter, the law prohibits the trucking company from destroying or discarding any evidence that can be useful in your case. 

Identify Liable Parties

In a truck accident cases involving a driver under the influence, liable parties may include:

  • The truck driver
  • The truck driver’s employer
  • Any institution that overserved the truck driver

Attorneys assess liability on a case-by-case basis. Your lawyer will investigate your accident and, as they do, determine who is liable for your damages.

Document Damages

Your lawyer will document your accident-related damages in the greatest possible detail.

Useful documentation may include:

  • Medical images and photographs of your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Proof of lost income
  • Invoices for vehicle repairs, temporary transportation, and any other accident-related property expenses
  • Expert testimony about pain and suffering, injury symptoms, and other damages

The more documentation your lawyer can secure, the stronger their case for compensation.

Calculate a Fair Settlement Value

When calculating a fair settlement value, your attorney will consider your economic and non-economic damages. They must also account for any damages you'll suffer in the future, which may be relevant if your injuries have yet to heal or you’ve suffered a disabling injury.

Fight for a Settlement

Once your attorney has prepared their case and calculated a fair settlement value, they can initiate settlement negotiations with liable parties. Whether they are negotiating with insurers, a civil defense attorney, or anyone else, your lawyer should demand the entire financial recovery you are entitled to.

Complete a Trial if Necessary

Though most civil cases settle, the trial is one way to resolve a truck accident case. Your lawyer should use the threat of trial as a negotiating tactic, as liable parties may be wary of a jury awarding you a large judgment.

If liable parties do not offer your lawyer a fair settlement, the law firm should be willing to take your case to court.

Truck Accident Cases Are Unusually Complicated

In some motor vehicle accident cases, the accident victim can handle their claim without a hitch. When you’re in a truck accident, you should anticipate a more complicated process.

Challenges specific to truck accident cases may include:

  • Getting evidence from a trucking company, which may require legal action
  • Determining the cause of the truck accident, as a truck driver’s intoxication may not be the only contributing factor
  • Valuing your damages, as truck accidents can cause injuries with long-term symptoms
  • Getting compensation from a liable trucking company, which may have a team of attorneys ready to fight your claim

Lawsuits and insurance claims can be immensely stressful. Truck accident cases can be more complicated than the average claim. For this reason, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer to resolve your case.

Recoverable Damages for the Victim of an Impaired Truck Driver

Your lawyer will speak with you, work with your doctors, and consult experts to identify your damages, which may include:

  • Medical bills: Perhaps the most expensive damage from a truck accident, your medical bills should be the liable parties' responsibility to pay.
  • Professional damages: Injuries from a truck accident may cause lost income, diminished earning power, lost chances for bonuses and promotions, and other professional damages.
  • Property damage: If your vehicle is repairable, liable parties should cover repairs. If your vehicle suffered total damage, liable parties should pay to replace it. You may also receive compensation for temporary transportation and any other accident-related property costs.
  • Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering can include non-economic damages like emotional anguish, psychological distress, physical pain, and diagnosed conditions resulting from your accident.

If you lost a loved one from injuries they suffered in a truck accident, your personal injury lawyer will identify your damages and seek justice for your loss.

Don’t Wait to Find and Hire a Truck Accident Attorney

Attorneys usually face a deadline for filing truck accident cases. Find the right attorney for your case as soon as possible, then let them go to work for you.