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Accidents Caused by Truck Drivers Falling Asleep

By: Anapol Weiss

When a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel the damage to property and lives can be catastrophic. Commercial vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 lbs., and once that amount of weight is moving, it’s hard to stop its momentum.

Losing control of a semi-truck in a falling-asleep-while-driving accident often ends in a tragedy that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, they are an all-too-common occurrence.

The Danger Of Driving Fatigue

Driving fatigue can happen anytime to any driver, but the size of a commercial vehicle increases the destructive potential in the case of an accident where the truck driver falls asleep. Even if they don’t fall asleep, but end up dozing, have trouble keeping their eyes open, or can’t focus on the road in front of them, an accident can occur.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows there were 91,000 crashes involving drowsy driving in 2017, with almost 800 fatalities, a number that is tragic but fails to capture the property damages and serious injuries that can ruin the lives of survivors.

Due to the nature of truck driving, especially for long-haul or over-the-road (OTR) drivers, they may be more prone to falling asleep while driving accidents. As they get drowsy, they may experience road daze, become confused, or start to drift off behind the wheel.

To avoid situations where the truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel, the Federal Motor Carrie Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created guidelines for commercial drivers:

  • 14-Hour On-Duty Limit – A driver can’t drive after they’ve been on-duty for 14 consecutive hours after an off-duty period of at least 10 hours.
  • 11-Hour Driving Limit – In the 14-hours after a 10-hour off-duty period, the driver can only drive 11 hours total.
  • 30-Minute Mandatory Breaks – A driver is not allowed to drive if it’s been 8-hours or more since their last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit – In a 7-day period, a driver may only drive a total of 60 hours and no more than 70 hours in an 8-day period. These cycles can be restarted after an off-duty period of at least 34 hours.

These rules are meant to prevent truck drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. When followed properly they allow plenty of time for rest breaks, time to eat and refresh for the driver, and an adequate amount of sleep for maximum alertness the next day. In practice, this isn’t always the case.

The Reality Of OTR Driving

While regulations may be in place to reduce the risk of drowsy driving, in practice, they don’t always work. These are reasons behind truck driver fatigue:

  • Driver Malfeasance – Drivers get paid by the mile. Unfortunately, some drivers choose to push the limits of FMCSA regulations or even break them in the pursuit of larger paychecks.
  • Company Pressure – While it’s in the best interest of companies to support driver safety, some companies adopt practices that pressure drivers to operate outside the bounds of safety to maximize their profits.
  • Simple Fatigue – Even when all the rules are followed, fatigue can set in, whether it’s due to illness, an inability to get to sleep the night before, or simply being worn out after a long day of driving.

What To Do When A Truck Driver Falls Asleep

If you find you or a loved one has been in an accident with a semi-truck, there are steps you should take to preserve your rights to compensation for property damage and any injury received.

  • Seek Medical Care – Don’t be afraid to get the help you need to save your life or begin the healing process. This also starts the process of creating medical records that provide an objective account of any injuries you’ve endured.
  • Preserve Evidence Of The Accident – While not always possible or safe at the time of the accidents, pictures of the accident site can be important pieces of evidence showing the conditions and area an accident occurred. Video can also be helpful as it may record important audio that’s pertinent to your case.
  • Contact A Personal Injury Lawyer – An experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney will talk to you about your case and your options to get the compensation you deserve as you work to put your life back together. Some providers may want you to agree to pay for services before treatment. Your attorney may be able to work with them to accept a guarantee to pay from your claim proceeds.
  • Avoid Signing When Possible – Be careful what you say or sign. The trucking company or their insurance may try to get you to sign a statement or agree to a settlement that lets them off the hook for the damages that have been done to you.
  • Keep Records Of Your Healing – As you work on recovery, make sure to keep copies of your medical bills and records. It can also help to keep extemporaneous personal records that show not just your efforts at recovery, but how your injury has affected your lifestyle. Journals, videos, social media posts, and even testimony from your friends and family may be needed to show a judge or jury the full impact of your injury.
  • Work With Your Attorney – The claims process when a truck driver falls asleep and causes an accident can be a lengthy one. It’s not uncommon for the driver, carrier, or insurance company to offer settlements to end the claim as quickly and cheaply as possible. Your attorney will help you understand the process of filing a claim, negotiating with the defendants, and going to trial if necessary to get the compensation you need to put your life back together.

An experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney from Anapol Weiss is ready to help protect your rights to fair compensation for your injury and the damages caused when a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel.

During your free initial consultation, they’ll talk to you about your case specifics and what you can expect from the claims process. You don’t have to struggle with the financial hardship of a serious injury alone. Let Anapol Weiss make your case our cause today.