Fatigued Truck Driving Accidents in Columbia, SC
Commercial truck drivers often work long hours and cover great distances behind the wheel. Unfortunately, that has made driver fatigue one of the most common causes of truck accidents in the United States. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drowsy driving is a contributing factor in 1 out of every 10 truck accidents.
Everyone needs sleep, and the human body has biological, unavoidable patterns of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. When truckers drive on little sleep or regularly attempt to power through natural sleep cycles, they inevitably become drowsy and are at an increased risk of a collision.
Drowsiness can lead to impaired reaction time, decreased attention, and slowed information processing. The trucking industry is aware of the dangers of drowsy truck driving and is subject to strict laws regarding rest breaks. Yet employers continue to make unreasonable demands of their drivers, who in turn may choose to drive on inadequate rest. Thousands of truck accidents occur throughout Columbia and South Carolina each year, resulting in catastrophic or fatal injuries.
If you or someone close to you was hurt in a collision caused by a fatigued truck driver in Columbia, you have the right to seek fair compensation from whoever is responsible for the wreck. Schedule a free consultation with a truck accident attorney at Stewart Law Offices today to discuss your legal options.
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Truck Driver Hour Regulations
The U.S. trucking industry is regulated by FMCSA. To help reduce truck accidents caused by fatigued driving, FMCSA imposes hours-of-service (HOS) regulations on all carriers and drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the U.S, with the exception of certain short-haul truckers who operate within a 150-mile radius.
HOS regulations outline the maximum number of hours CMV drivers are legally allowed to drive on duty, as well as the minimum number and length of rest breaks. These requirements include:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: Limits on-duty driving to a maximum of 11 hours following 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
- The 14-Hour Limit: Prohibits drivers from driving after the 14th consecutive hour on-duty, including rest breaks, no matter how much time has been spent off-duty.
- 10-Hour Rest Periods: CMV drivers must take rest periods lasting a minimum of 10 hours after 11 hours of driving or 14 hours of on-duty time. If drivers operate trucks with sleeper berths, they are allowed to split this 10-hour period as long as one segment is at least 2 hours long and another segment includes at least 7 consecutive hours spent in their sleeper berth.
- 30-Minute Driving Breaks: Drivers are also required to take 30-minute breaks after driving for 8 cumulative hours without at least 30 consecutive minutes of rest time.
- 60/70-Hour Rule: Prohibits CMV operators from driving on-duty for more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. A driver’s 7-or-8 consecutive day period is effectively “reset” after at least 34 consecutive hours spent off-duty.
- Adverse Conditions Exception: Permits drivers who encounter adverse driving conditions, such as extreme weather, to extend their 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour driving window by an additional 2 hours.
Investigating a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident in Columbia, SC
When two passenger cars collide, liability and compensation are usually settled between the drivers, their insurance companies, and their lawyers. In an accident involving a large commercial truck, it’s not so simple.
When a commercial vehicle driver gets behind the wheel, they’re at work, and there are usually several other parties with an interest in their performance. This means there’s a possibility that any or all of those entities could bear some liability in the event of a drowsy truck driving accident.
For example, if a truck driver’s employer demands unreasonable delivery deadlines, it could be held responsible if its drivers feel pressured to violate hours-of-service regulations, even though they are too tired to drive safely.
It’s not always easy to prove that a truck driver was drowsy or asleep at the wheel, let alone establish that someone else could be partly responsible for their fatigue. An experienced truck accident attorney will know how to investigate the case and defend your right to maximum compensation.
Potential types of evidence for a drowsy truck driving accident case include:
- Skid marks, debris, and physical evidence from the accident scene indicating a lack of evasive maneuvers, which are often indicative of fatigued or distracted driving.
- Driver’s written or electronic logbook data, work schedule, and billed hours.
- Statements from the driver, his/her employer, or other affiliated parties.
- Driver cellphone records, GPS data, security camera footage, or electronic transaction receipts, which can be used to track location and movement.
- Black box data, which shows speed, braking, and steering trajectory. A lack of braking, slowing, or swerving before a collision could indicate fatigue.
- Police reports, driver’s blood tests, and other toxicology test results to see if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of the crash.
- Historical safety and compliance data for truck drivers and their employers.
- Statements from medical professionals and accident reconstruction experts.
- Witness statements.
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Why Do Fatigued Truck Driving Accidents Happen?
The average CMV operator drives tens of thousands of miles every year and faces substantial pressure to make timely deliveries. While hours-of-service regulations do a great deal to curb unsafe driving practices, even longtime drivers who consistently follow the rules are still susceptible to fatigue simply because of the nature of the job.
Some of the most common causes of fatigued truck driving accidents in the U.S. include:
- Employer demands, which can make drivers fearful of losing their jobs or pay if they don’t comply.
- A national shortage of drivers in the trucking industry, which puts more pressure on existing drivers, increases burnout, and discourages new potential truckers.
- Unnatural sleep patterns among drivers from lengthy overnight shifts and interrupted sleep/wake cycles.
- Caffeine and other stimulants, which are only temporarily effective and may make drivers less sensitive to their natural symptoms of drowsiness.
- Medications, alcohol, and other intoxicating substances, which can increase drowsiness and the risk of an accident behind the wheel.
- Undiagnosed sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea, which affect an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans.
- Congested areas or inclement weather, which drivers may try to avoid by staying on the road too long when they should be resting.
When to Contact a Lawyer in Columbia After a Drowsy Truck Driving Accident
If you were involved in a collision with a fatigued truck driver, chances are your accident was both serious and complicated. Because truck accident claims often involve severe, catastrophic, or fatal injuries and multiple liable parties, victims need to build rock-solid cases with strong supporting evidence for the best possible chance of obtaining a fair settlement or verdict.
The assistance of a seasoned fatigued truck accident lawyer in Columbia can often mean the difference between frustration and success in these types of cases. If any of the following elements apply to your situation, speak to an attorney right away:
- You or another passenger sustained serious injuries.
- Someone was killed.
- You or another passenger was forced to miss work due to the crash.
- It is unclear who may be at fault for your accident.
- The collision involved another vehicle operator or pedestrian.
- The accident occurred in a school zone, construction area, or work zone.
- Your crash involved an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
- You disagree with any elements of the police accident report.
- You are given confusing information or trouble by insurance providers.
- You have problems managing any resulting medical bills or car repairs.
How Can Stewart Law Offices Help Me?
At Stewart Law Offices, our award-winning team of Columbia drowsy driving truck accident lawyers is committed to providing top-quality legal representation to those in need. We have seen first-hand the catastrophic effects of fatigued truck driver collisions in the Carolinas, and it is our mission to help injured victims like you fight for a fair and full recovery by:
- Providing information and clear advice about legal aspects of your case
- Identifying and collecting evidence to support your claim
- Requesting hard-to-reach evidence like driver cell phone and GPS records
- Interviewing eyewitnesses and expert witnesses
- Managing and filing important claims and legal documents for you
- Communicating with other parties on your behalf
- Demanding the maximum compensation in settlement negotiations
- Representing you in court, if an insurance settlement cannot be reached
No matter how simple or complex your claim, the legal team at Stewart Law Offices is here to help. Over the years, we have recovered millions of dollars in rightful compensation for individuals and families who have been devastated by the negligence of others.
It’s time to take action in your case. Call or contact Stewart Law Offices now for a free consultation.