Every year, trucking accidents injure and kill thousands of victims. Truck driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents in West Virginia. With long hours alone on the road and grueling work schedules, truck driver fatigue is a common problem among long-haul truckers. If you are a victim of truck driver fatigue, find out who may be liable for your car accident damages with assistance from a truck accident lawyer.

Common Causes of Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue is deadly. It is impossible for a truck driver to fully focus on safely operating a large truck when he or she is fighting to stay awake. A drowsy truck driver will have slower reflexes that can make it impossible to hit the brakes or react to changing roadway situations on time. Drowsiness can also cause issues such as blurred vision and disorientation. If a truck driver falls asleep while driving, it can lead to catastrophic truck accidents. Drowsy driving in commercial trucking has three main causes. 

  1. Sleep apnea. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that about 28% of truck drivers have sleep apnea. Risk factors include odd sleeping schedules, obesity and smoking. Sleep apnea can interrupt a truck driver’s sleep and lead to fatigue while awake. A truck driver should be aware of the risk of sleep apnea and seek medical attention to determine his or her fitness to operate a commercial vehicle.
  2. Broken hours-of-service regulations. The FMCSA has rules in place to help prevent truck driver fatigue. Hours-of-service regulations limit how many hours a truck driver can be on the road, as well as total hours per shift and per workweek. Violating the hours-of-service regulations to save time on a trip is a common cause of truck driver fatigue.
  3. Driving under the influence. Some truck drivers turn to substances to help them stay awake on long drives. They may use stimulants and illegal narcotics, such as speed or cocaine. Drivers may also rely on legal alternatives, such as coffee and energy drinks. These substances can lead to sugar crashes, drowsiness, fatigue and confusion. 

In some cases, a truck driver is negligent and operates a commercial truck despite recognizing that he or she is too tired to safely drive the vehicle. In others, a truck driver may not notice the signs of drowsiness until it is too late. Signs of tired driving include drifting in and out of a lane, slamming on the brakes, blinking rapidly, yawning frequently, and daydreaming. It is a truck driver’s responsibility to obey federal laws and only drive if he or she has gotten enough sleep. Driving while fatigued is an act of negligence that can lead to liability for an accident. 

What to Do If Fatigue Is the Suspected Cause of a Truck Accident

If you suspect driver fatigue caused your recent truck accident in West Virginia, gather as much information about the crash as you can. Once you have received medical care for your serious injuries, ask for a copy of your police report from the precinct in the county where the crash occurred. Request copies of all relevant medical documents, records and bills. Take these documents to an accident attorney in West Virginia for a review. A lawyer can collect further evidence of driver fatigue, such as driving records, the truck’s black box and electronic logging devices. These sources could prove that the driver breached the hours-of-service regulations or committed another act of negligence that caused the drowsy driving accident. 

Who Is Responsible If a Truck Driver Is Driving While Fatigued?

An accident that results from truck driver fatigue will typically come down to the commercial trucking company’s liability. Trucking companies are vicariously liable for the misbehaviors of their drivers, in most cases. Even if the driver is technically an independent contractor, the trucking company that hired the driver will be vicariously liable for damages. 

The trucking company could be directly liable, as well, if it contributed to the crash, such as an employer encouraging drivers to break the rules to save time. If the courts believe the trucking company is liable for a drowsy driving accident, the company will owe compensation for past and future medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. 

Discuss your truck accident case with an attorney near you for more information about a fatigued driver accident. 

Attorney Timothy Manchin established the Manchin Injury Law Group in 2011 after his law partner of more than 25 years became a West Virginia circuit court judge. His focus is on helping individual clients and entire families victimized by negligent acts.

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