A crash that involves a semi truck can happen in a matter of seconds. Recovery from severe injuries suffered by occupants of a passenger vehicle on the other hand can take months and years. Soon after an accident, it is common to question who is responsible.
The individual facts of each case will affect the answer to that question. If the negligence of another driver caused the crash, you may be entitled to monetary damages to pay for hospital bills, lost wages and pain suffered.
When discussing fault, it is often helpful to start with an example. Let’s look at an all-too-common scenario on highways across the country and in Kentucky. The driver of a big rig does not recognize in time that traffic has slowed or stopped due to weather, time of day, or construction, and cannot avoid a collision.
What caused the accident?
Figuring out what caused the trucking accident is an important first step. It is never easy to uncover negligence, because another driver will rarely admit to having a few drinks or being on the cellphone. A blood test, however, can detect if a prescription drug or alcohol impaired the driver. Records stored with a cell carrier may prove that texting distracted a driver. However, fatigue can be much more difficult to prove.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates how long commercial truck drivers can remain behind the wheel in a given week. The rules apply to vehicles over 10,001 pounds, as well as those that transport paying passengers.
In 2013, the agency updated its hours-of-service rule limiting the workweek to 70 hours for big rig drivers. Truck drivers can only be behind the wheel for 11 hours in one day and need to take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of their shifts. Another change required that drivers who hit 70 hours rest for 34 hours including two overnight (1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.) periods before starting a new workweek.
Logbooks and liability
In the past, drivers could fudge how long they were behind the wheel with paper logbooks. However, more companies have installed electronic logging devices on their vehicles.
The FMCSA is in the process of developing a rule that will establish minimum standards for electronic logging devices and mandatory use requirements. Electronic logs eliminate wiggle room for drivers. They also might show that a driver was in violation of the hours-of-service rule at the time of a crash.
A driver, along with his or her company, may receive fines for violating the HOS rule. A review of driving logs is a way to show fatigue. Even if the driver was technically not in violation of the rules, if the accident happened after 10 and a half hours behind the wheel, it might point to a sleepy driver. If a company pushed drivers to break rules to make deadlines, the company could also be vicariously liable.
Following a serious injury in a trucking accident, speak with a personal injury lawyer at Gladstein Law Firm to discuss available remedies. An investigation may uncover that the negligence of another driver caused the crash. Hiring an attorney allows you to focus on recovery and rest assured of a fair settlement. Call today or fill out our contact form and we will get in touch with you soon.