Fatigue and Truck Accidents
Overwork, in one form or another, often causes truck accidents. Fatigued truck drivers cause almost 20 percent of the large truck crashes in South Carolina. Fatigued driver impairment ranges from clouded judgment and slow motor skills to literally falling asleep at the wheel. Both ends of the spectrum are dangerous. Large trucks are so difficult to control that even a slight impairment could cause a serious crash.
The economy depends on large trucks timely delivering their cargo. Personal safety depends on these drivers fulfilling their duty of care. If a breach of duty causes injury, a Columbia personal injury attorney can obtain substantial compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Analog Evidence in Drowsy Truck Driver Cases
HOS violations, which are outlined below, cause many drowsy driver truck accidents. Circadian rhythm fatigue causes even more crashes.
No matter how much sleep they had the previous night, most people are naturally drowsy at certain times, such as late at night or early in the morning. Recent radical schedule changes exacerbate circadian rhythm fatigue. Unfortunately for victims, radical schedule changes are weekly events for most truck drivers. Truckers usually spend several days on the road followed by several days at home. Then, the disruptive cycle repeats.
The clock isn’t the only analog evidence of truck driver fatigue. A Columbia personal injury lawyer can also use medical records.
Many drivers sit most of the day. As a result, they often develop sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea, or snoring, is simply annoying, mostly for sleeping partners. Severe sleep apnea could be life threatening, because the patient’s primary airway closes.
Either form significantly interrupts sleep. Frequently, when one partner tells another one to “roll over,” that partner unintentionally deprives the other one of deep, restful sleep. In more severe cases, patients wake themselves up and deprive themselves of needed rest.
Substance abuse and fatigue are often related. Many truck drivers admit they use amphetamines to stay awake. These drugs don’t address the aforementioned effects of fatigue. They just help people feel more alert. Additionally, when these drugs wear off, users often crash fast and hard.
State and federal laws restrict the number of hours truckers can drive in a day or week. Until recently, truckers used paper log books to record their own hours of service (HOS). Now, an Electronic Logging Device, an onboard computer, automatically tracks these hours. An ELD is much stronger evidence of fatigue than a paper log book.
This critical evidence is unavailable unless an attorney acts quickly and decisively. Attorneys must send spoliation letters to ensure that the insurance company doesn’t “accidentally” destroy the ELD. Furthermore, South Carolina has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. Unless a lawyer convinces a judge to issue a court order, the ELD will probably be off limits, even if it physically exists.
Recently, federal authorities have watered down some HOS requirements. Therefore, staying behind the wheel longer than normal might be technically legal. However, such behavior still violates a truck driver’s duty of care. This duty is the foundation of a negligence case.
Drivers are individually responsible for the wrecks they cause. The shipping, transportation, or other company that owned the truck or cargo is financially responsible for damages, at least in most cases.
Count on a Tough-Minded Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.