How Fault Is Determined After a Truck Accident Caused by A Fatigued Truck Driver?

Tormey & McConnell May 12, 2022

Were You Hit by A Fatigued Driver? Our Amarillo Truck Accident Attorneys May Be Able to Help

Texas is no stranger to long-haul truckers. According to RTS Financial, the trucking business is growing and is particularly prevalent in Texas. However, these massive vehicles can pose a great threat to our roadways, especially when truck drivers operate their vehicles while drowsy.

Fatigued driving is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to a serious or even fatal accident. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident due to a drowsy driver, it can be incredibly difficult to know how to proceed. These accidents are complex and determining who’s at fault is not easy. 

If you need help, call our Amarillo truck accident attorneys at Tormey and McConnell. We know how severe these accidents can be and will do whatever we can to help!

The Dangers of Fatigued Driving

When a truck driver pushes him/herself to drive without adequate rest, they put not only themselves at risk but everyone else on the road. Unfortunately, fatigued driving in the trucking industry is all too common due to the difficult nature of the job. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13 percent of commercial vehicle drivers have reported being fatigued at the time of their crash. 

Fatigued drivers are more likely to make grave driving errors like crossing the median, swerving, and nodding off. This is because lack of sleep results in slower reaction times, lack of concentration, reduced vigilance, and more. 

These symptoms make drowsy drivers very dangerous to those sharing the road with them. In fact, a 2005 study showed that three out of every four truck drivers reported making at least one type of driving error as a result of fatigue. It is for this reason that the FMCSA enforces hours of service rules for commercial drivers. 

Hours of Service Rules

In 2011, the FMCSA put into place ‘hours of service rules (HOS)’ that restrict commercial vehicle drivers from driving long periods of time without rest or sleep. These rules were drafted in order to protect the commercial drivers as well as the thousands of passenger vehicles that come into contact with them. 

According to these rules:

  • Truckers have an 11-hour driving limit. A driver may travel a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. 

  • A driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. 

  • A driver must take rest breaks. They may drive only if eight hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. 

  • No driver may drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. He/she must take 34 or more consecutive hours off duty in order to restart a 7/8 consecutive day period. 

These rules apply to anyone operating trucks within interstate commerce. In other words, anyone driving a commercial vehicle over state lines must abide by these restrictions. If you were involved in an accident caused by a truck driver who failed to follow the HOS regulations, they may be held liable for your damages, depending on the circumstances of your accident.

The FMCSA’s rules are taken very seriously. When drivers ignore these laws, it can result in thousands of dollars in fines. To enforce these rules, most truck drivers are required to have an electronic logging device to document their time.

Electronic Logging Devices

An electronic logging device (ELD) records a driver’s time on and off duty by synchronizing with a vehicle’s engine. It records the driver’s engine hours, miles driven, duty status, and more. That record is then shared with a safety official who reviews the report and cites the driver for violations of the rules when necessary. 

Most drivers with trucks manufactured after 2000, and who drive long distances, are required by the FMCSA to use the ELD system. These devices are necessary for fatigue management and adhering to safety practices on the roads. 

However, some drivers have found a way around this device by simply logging their time as “off duty.” This setting within the ELD is meant for drivers who take their trucks home after completing a shipment. However, some drivers use it to trick the device and the safety officials into believing they’re following the HOS rules. 

When truck drivers break the HOS rules and/or trucking companies enforce unsafe timelines for their drivers, the chances of an accident due to fatigued driving greatly increase. In the event that you’re injured in a truck accident, our Amarillo truck accident attorneys may be able to use the information from the ELD and other evidence to help support your case and prove fault for your injuries.

Truck Drivers and Dangerous Delivery Deadlines

After being involved in an accident with a fatigued truck driver, you might automatically assume that it’s the driver’s fault. While drivers should never operate a large truck while fatigued, truck drivers are sometimes forced to make the decision between following safety rules and regulations or meeting the demands of their job. 

For example, truck drivers travel long hours and many miles under tight delivery schedules. Instead of taking the required rest breaks, some choose to continue driving in order to meet their deadlines set forth by their employer.  

If a trucking company enforces unsafe working conditions, they may be held liable for any accident that happens as a result of one of their fatigued truck drivers.

Who Is Liable for Your Accident?

Laws have been put in place to prevent commercial vehicle drivers from driving drowsy, yet many trucking accidents still happen as a result of fatigued drivers. 

After a truck accident, there are several parties that can potentially be held liable, depending on the circumstances of your accident, including:

  • The truck driver 

  • The trucking company 

  • A parts manufacturer

  • The cargo loader

Determining who is liable for your injuries can be difficult. What’s more, truck accidents are particularly complex because they often involve more serious injuries and property damage due to the massive size and weight of the vehicles.

With this in mind, truck drivers typically carry high insurance policies to account for the extreme damage their vehicles can cause. However, insurance companies are known to low-ball injured victims, paying much less than they deserve for their damages. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to call an experienced attorney who is familiar with these types of cases and can help fight against the insurance companies. 

Call Us Today for Help

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, you may be entitled to receive compensation. At Tormey and McConnell, our Amarillo truck accident attorneys have many years of experience in recovering damages for our clients who have fallen victim to the perils of the trucking industry. 

Call us today or fill out our free online consultation form to find out how we can help you!