Proving Fatigue in a Truck Accident

October 2, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

One of the most common causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue. However, it can be difficult to prove that a truck driver was fatigued at the time of the crash. That’s because there’s no roadside test for driver fatigue like there is for drinking and driving.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident and you suspect that the trucker was fatigued, how do you prove it? The truck accident lawyers at Tomeny | Best Injury Law have spent more than three decades fighting for the victims of semi-truck accidents. That experience has given us insight into how to prove that a driver was fatigued when they ran into you.

Here are five potential methods for proving that a semi-truck driver was fatigued at the time of an accident:

1 – Truck Driver’s Hours

Most people are aware of how dangerous it is for truck drivers to be handling large vehicles while overly tired. That’s why the federal government places strict limits on how many hours truckers can be behind the wheel before taking a break.

These rules — known as Hours of Service guidelines — are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). All truck drivers are required to follow these guidelines, and their employers are responsible for making sure drivers follow the rules.

The key Hours of Service rules are:

  • The 14-hour window — Truck drivers can work for up to 14 consecutive hours as long as they’ve been off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. This 14-hour time period begins once the driver begins any type of work, regardless of whether they’re actually driving. Once the driver reaches the end of this window, they are not allowed to drive again until they’ve taken at least 10 consecutive hours off. Lastly, a driver may be behind the wheel for only 11 hours of the 14-hour work window.
  • Mandatory breaks — If it’s been more than eight hours since a driver took a break of at least 30 minutes, they’re required to take another 30-minute break.
  • The 60/70-hour weekly work limit — A truck driver can work for only 60 or 70 hours in any seven- or eight-day period, depending on how their schedule is set up. This schedule is not based on any fixed week (for example, Monday to Sunday or Sunday to Saturday), but rather is a floating period of time ending with the driver’s most recent workday. If a driver hits their maximum allotment of work hours, they are not allowed to drive again until enough time has passed that they fall under the 60/70-hour limit again.

These limits are for the safety of truck drivers and others on the road. Truckers are required to keep strict logs of their driving hours. If these logs show that the driver was not following the required guidelines or the logs appear falsified, it’s a strong indication that the driver was fatigued when the accident occurred.

2 – Semi Driver’s Medical History

Many fatigued-driving accidents are caused because the driver was taking prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs that made them drowsy. Checking the driver’s medical history may show that they’ve been prescribed sleep medications, or that they have another underlying condition that made them susceptible to fatigue.

3 – Bills of Lading

A bill of lading is created anytime cargo is loaded onto a truck, along with a timestamp indicating when the cargo was loaded. Comparing this information to the time and location of an accident shows how far the truck traveled and how much time had passed since the cargo was loaded. Together, these two data points can indicate if a driver had been driving without stopping for required breaks.

4 – Tolls and Receipts for Fuel, Food, and Other Purchases

Like bills of lading, tolls have timestamps indicating when a truck passed through the area. Taken together with information about a driver’s route, toll receipts can show how long the driver had been behind the wheel when the accident occurred.

Similarly, some truck drivers save their receipts for fuel and other purchases for later reimbursement. If the driver saved their fuel receipts, the timestamp on the receipt can offer more evidence about how long they had been driving before the accident. A tired driver may also try to offset the effects of their fatigue by buying coffee, soda, energy drinks, or other snacks. These purchases may also show up on a driver’s receipts and offer another indication that they weren’t adequately rested when the accident happened.

5 – Black-Box Tracking Technology

Many commercial trucking companies have installed in-vehicle tracking technology on their trucks. These devices can provide extremely detailed data on a driver’s route if they were speeding, driving habits, and more. If a truck driver is fatigued, it will likely show up in the data from their in-vehicle tracking systems.

The data may show that the driver was drifting in their lane prior to an accident, or that they had gone too long without taking a break. This data is extremely valuable in a truck accident claim, but trucking companies may try to hide or destroy the data to avoid any liability for the accident.

An experienced truck accident lawyer can contact the trucking company and demand data from any in-vehicle tracking systems (black box) before the information is lost, overwritten, or destroyed.

Get Legal Help After an Accident Involving a Fatigued Truck Driver

You can see how difficult it can be to prove a driver was fatigued when an accident occurred. That’s why you need to hire the Baton Rouge truck accident attorneys at Tomeny | Best Injury Law. We’re ready to help you gather the evidence you need to prove your claim, and aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve.

Our truck accident lawyers work on a contingency-fee-basis for personal injury claims, so you don’t have to pay us anything upfront. In fact, you don’t pay us anything unless and until we secure compensation for you.

Let’s get started. For a free case evaluation, call us now or visit our contact page.

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