Semi-truck drivers are especially prone to being overly-tired on the road, even with federal hours-of-service restrictions intended to diminish the danger. A 33-month Federal Motor Carrier Administration study revealed 13 percent of semi-truck accidents are caused by fatigue.
Atlanta truck accident attorneys know that while some folks pride themselves on their ability to get by on very little sleep, when semi-truck accidents are caused by fatigue, the drowsy driver can be held liable to cover the damages they caused.
The effects of sleep-deprivation have been well-documented, and include sluggish response times, impaired attention and stunted decision-making functions – collectively mimicking symptoms of drunkenness. When a driver is drowsy, odds of a crash soar – and that’s not a coincidence.
Unfortunately, proving it in a civil injury case can be challenging, as there is no real roadside sleep deprivation test akin to an alcohol breathalyzer or a check of vehicle maintenance. (Though as Science American recently reported, scientists are working on it, possibly in the form of a sensor-studded brain cap.)
Until then, your best bet to establishing truck driver fatigue as a factor in a semi-truck crash is working with an experienced trucking accident attorney. The stronger case you can make, the more likely you are to recover full damages.
How Verifying Semi-Truck Driver Fatigue Helps Your Georgia Injury Case
No matter how badly you are hurt in a truck crash, the truth is you may not be able to collect much at all if you can’t prove the truck driver was at least half or more at-fault. Even if you are less than 50 percent at-fault, Georgia’s comparative negligence law, O.C.G.A. 51-12-33 will reduce your damages proportionate to your own fault.
Sometimes fault is clear-cut, but sometimes the determination is more subjective. Because all crashes – semi-truck or not – are complex events with a myriad of influencing factors, including time of day, weather conditions, driver training/experience, design and maintenance of the vehicle, condition of the highway, and more, rarely do crash reconstruction experts nail down a single cause, and assigning “percentages” isn’t an exact science. The more evidence you have showing the truck driver bore the greatest responsibility, the more likely you are to win and the higher your damage award is likely to be.
Any reasonable commercial truck driver who gets behind the wheel of a big rig without enough sleep knows he or she is taking a big risk. That is failure to exercise reasonable care, which is the basis for asserting negligence.
Proof of truck driver fatigue might be used as evidence the employer or motor carrier imposed unreasonable delivery demands, possibly even encouraging the driver to skirt FMCSA hours-of-service rules. That could mean the employer or carrier is not only vicariously liable but directly liable.
How Many Truck Crashes Are Attributed to Fatigue?
The FMCSA’s most recent annual tally of national fatal large truck accidents was 4,657– a 10 percent increase. Even when taking into consideration there are more trucks on the road than even just a few years ago (by factoring deadly crashes per 100 million miles traveled by those trucks, it still rose six percent. Injury crashes involving big rigs is up five percent to 107,000, about a quarter of the total reported to police.
Assuming fatigue is still responsible for 13 percent of these, that’s 605 fatal crashes and 14,000 injury crashes caused by truckers simply too tired to drive.
But there is some good news:
First, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandated by the FMCSA went into effect last year, which means truckers/carriers have less control over hours-of-service paperwork (which often used to be fudged anyway).
Secondly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the FMCSA’s rule on mandated sleep apnea testing for truck drivers. In Owner-Operated Indep. Drivers Ass’n, Inc. v. FMCSA, the truckers insisted the tests were onerous and led to unnecessary delays in certification.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.