Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents: Legal Options for Victims

truck driver struggling to stay awake
truck driver struggling to stay awake

There are numerous reasons why commercial trucking crashes occur. Often, the driver is the one at fault, and sometimes the driver is at fault because he or she is fatigued or even fell asleep at the wheel.

While any commercial truck accident creates a high risk for severe injuries, truck driver fatigue crashes may be even more dangerous. Below, the experienced lawyers at Friedman, Domiano and Smith discuss truck driver fatigue, including the reasons truck drivers are so tired, the dangers of fatigue, and taking legal action after a truck driver fatigue crash.

If you were injured by the negligence of a commercial truck driver in Cleveland or elsewhere in northeast Ohio, we are here to help you take on the insurance companies and pursue full compensation.

No upfront legal costs. Free initial legal consultation. Call us at: 216-621-0070.

Why Are Truck Drivers So Tired?

Driving a commercial truck is a physically and mentally demanding job. Drivers have tight deadlines, so they spend much of their workday on the road, sometimes driving for up to 14 hours.

Another problem is that drivers often do not have regular schedules, which makes it difficult to establish a regular sleep routine. That means drivers frequently do not get enough rest before they get behind the wheel.

Drivers are often out on the road at night when most of us are asleep. Many truck drivers try to compensate for this by drinking caffeine. However, other truck drivers may use amphetamines to help them stay awake and alert.

Unfortunately, these drugs cannot make up for a consistent lack of sleep. Drugs can also impair reflexes, judgment and response time. As the effects of these drugs wear off, drivers may experience extreme fatigue and drowsiness and struggle to stay awake.

Despite the dangers of drowsy/fatigued driving, trucking companies pressure drivers to meet deadlines. This often results in drivers exceeding hours of service limitations, in violation of federal law.

Why Truck Driver Fatigue Is Dangerous

Fatigue makes it much harder to stay alert and safely operate any motor vehicle, including a commercial truck. Semi-trucks and other big rigs take longer to stop, and they are more difficult to maneuver away from danger. If drivers are not as alert, they could rear-end a smaller car or drive through a red light.

Fatigue can result in many other reckless behaviors like speeding, drifting out of a lane or taking a turn too fast. Driving while fatigued also makes it harder to make safe decisions behind the wheel. Drivers could forget where they are and may not notice how fast they are going. They might even drive right past a “Wrong Way” sign without seeing it.

What many drivers may not realize is that driving with extreme fatigue is almost as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Fatigue has some of the same effects as alcohol, such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Poor judgment
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficult concentrating on the task of driving

Drowsy truck drivers may also experience highway hypnosis, which occurs when you zone out and lose focus of what is going on around you. Drivers may not even remember the last few miles they have driven. They may forget exactly where they are or what road they are on. This is particularly likely for truck drivers because they are often on interstate highways at night for many hours and the scenery tends to look the same.

What To Do After a Truck Driver Fatigue Accident

If you think your truck crash was caused by driver fatigue, Friedman, Domiano and Smith may be able to help you seek compensation for your damages. There is limited time to seek compensation and evidence can quickly get lost or destroyed, which is why it is important not to delay seeking legal help.

However, before calling a Cleveland truck accident attorney, it can be helpful to gather evidence from the scene. For example, when the police arrive at the scene, tell them about anything you saw that could indicate the driver was fatigued. For example, did you see the driver yawning or struggling to keep his or her eyes open?

You should also report things like this to the police officer who talks to you after the collision. The officer can note it in the police report.

Evidence of a Truck Driver Fatigue Crash

While it can be helpful for crash victims to gather evidence at the scene, you are going to need an experienced attorney to gather additional evidence to build a strong case.

While it may be more difficult to prove drowsy driving in a car accident case, there may be a lot of evidence that could indicate a commercial truck driver was too fatigued to be behind the wheel. For example, newer commercial trucks have systems to record the number of hours a driver was behind the wheel. Your lawyer can take steps to obtain these records. Evidence of hours of service violations can help prove fatigued driving.

Your lawyer may also be able to obtain:

  • Bills of lading – These documents show when cargo was loaded onto the truck, which can help your lawyer determine how many miles the truck driver logged before the crash.
  • Receipts – Hotel receipts, gas receipts, tolls receipts and more can all help lawyers determine when drivers stopped and how long they were on the road in between stops.
  • Surveillance camera footage – Hotels, gas stations and parking lots often have surveillance cameras. Some of this footage may show the driver exhibiting signs of fatigue.

It is important to mention that trucking companies are only required to hold onto these records for a certain period. Fortunately, your lawyer can take steps to preserve this evidence. However, you need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to preserve evidence that may help your case.

Call To Discuss Legal Options After a Cleveland Truck Crash

Have you been injured because of commercial truck driver negligence?

You are going to need significant compensation to cover medical bills and other damages. However, you cannot rely on liable insurance companies to pay the compensation you need, especially if you have long-term or permanent injuries.

That is why you need an experienced lawyer advocating for your interests. At FDS, we help level the legal playing field against powerful trucking and insurance companies.

Call Friedman, Domiano and Smith today. Phone: 216-621-0070.  



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