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How Attorneys Prove Truck Driver Fatigue

By: Fred Moore | Feb 5, 2020

Although most truck drivers make an effort to stay safe on the road, driver fatigue is often one of the leading factors in commercial vehicle crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). At Moore Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys understand the vital elements that go into proving truck driver fatigue cases. We’re dedicated to helping injured victims get the maximum compensation they deserve.

What is Truck Driver Fatigue?

Sometimes known as drowsy driving, driver fatigue causes thousands of accidents each year. Simply put, driver fatigue means that a driver is operating a vehicle while tired or sleepy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), truck drivers are more likely than other motorists to drive while fatigued.

FMCSA Regulations

Because driver fatigue is a major factor in many truck crashes, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations limit the number of hours truckers can drive without a break. FMCSA regulations state that a driver is permitted a period of 14 consecutive hours, in which they may drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 hours or more. Drivers are not permitted to drive for more than eight hours without a 30-minute break. In addition, drivers are not allowed to drive more than 60 hours every seven days or 70 hours every eight days, depending on the specifics of their schedules.

Unfortunately, drivers are often pushed by trucking companies and distributors to drive more than the maximum hours as required by the FMCSA. Drivers and companies who violate these rules may be liable for any injuries, death, or other damages caused by an accident involving a fatigued truck driver.

Proving Truck Driver Fatigue

There are many pieces of valuable evidence that can help personal injury attorneys prove driver fatigue cases, including:

Police reports: Police officers are trained to recognize when someone is fatigued or sleep-deprived. A police report documenting bloodshot eyes, obvious exhaustion, and/or a statement from the driver admitting they were tired can help form a solid foundation for a truck driver fatigue case. Police officers may also be interviewed or called to testify, so a firsthand account of what they witnessed can be documented as well.

Time of day: The time of day an accident occurs can be another sign that driver fatigue played a part in an accident. Drivers who operate trucks from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. are more likely to have been driving throughout the night, possibly without required breaks.

Lack of accident avoidance: One of the most obvious signs of drowsy driving is whether a driver tried to avoid an accident. Typically, when any driver loses control or thinks there’s potential for an accident, they’ll try to regain control of their vehicle or veer away from danger. However, if a truck driver has fallen asleep or is fatigued, they may not notice the danger at all. Witness statements and detailed analysis of a crash can often show whether a driver tried to stop or avoid an accident. Failing to try to avoid an accident is often a clear sign that a driver was too exhausted to operate their truck safely.

Logbooks and billed hours: In 2000 and later model year trucks, most commercial truckers and trucking companies are required by law to have Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). If a truck doesn’t have an ELD, drivers are required to keep handwritten logbooks. Another way to see whether a driver has been on the road longer than they should is to review the hours they have billed. If logged or billed hours go beyond what FMCSA regulations allow, legal fatigue may be proven.

Analyzing a truck’s GPS history and reviewing a driver’s receipts and tolls can also give lawyers a timeline of where and when a trucker was on the road. In addition, trucks have “black boxes” (much like airplanes) with data that can be analyzed, which may produce evidence of driver fatigue and other poor driving behaviors. Health issues and evidence of drugs or alcohol in their system can also be factors in proving liability in a fatigued truck driving case. Your attorney will collect all relevant evidence and may employ accident reconstructionists, sleep specialists, and other experts to help them analyze data.

Contact A Truck Accident Attorney

Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to prove that driver fatigue caused an accident requires the experience, knowledge, and resources of seasoned personal injury attorneys. Our team at Moore Law Firm can assess your driver fatigue case and advise you on all sources of compensation that may be available. Call us today at 251-445-7602 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.