In 2011, there were 10,033 traffic accidents in Illinois involving tractor-trailers, the Illinois Department of Transportation reports. Driver fatigue served as one of the many different causes of these crashes. Federal safety regulations limit the number of hours truckers can drive. Still, accidents related to fatigued truck drivers occur too frequently and cause devastating injuries.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an accident caused by truck driver fatigue, the experienced truck accident attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can explain your legal rights. We want to help you to obtain compensation from the driver and/or trucking company who caused you harm.
To schedule your free case evaluation, give us a call at our toll-free number or contact us online. We help clients throughout Chicago and Illinois.
Driver Fatigue – A Major Factor in Truck Accidents
According to Smart Motorist.com, truck driver fatigue is a major contributing factor in approximately 20 percent of crashes involving commercial vehicles.
This should come as no surprise. Sleepiness can seriously impact one’s reflexes and ability to drive safely. A study by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research revealed that driving without sleep for 17 hours is the same as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. Driving without sleep for 24 hours is similar to driving with a BAC of .10. The legal BAC limit in Illinois is .08, although commercial drivers are forbidden from driving with a BAC above .04.
Unfortunately, tired trucker accidents can be especially serious or deadly. Not only do trucks significantly outweigh passenger cars, but the sleeping or fatigued driver typically fails to brake, slow down or to swerve to avoid a head-on collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned of these dangers in a report compiled by an expert panel that studied driver fatigue.
Because accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers are so dangerous and devastating, victims of these truck accidents should consult with a truck accident attorney to learn about their legal options. Truck accident victims can pursue a personal injury claim. If the crash leads to a death, the victim’s family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving Fatigue & Truck Driver Negligence
The data on drivers in Illinois indicates that too many drivers fall asleep at the wheel. A recent CDC Survey, for example, revealed that 2.9 percent of drivers in the state had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past month. Those drivers could have included commercial drivers who had dozed off while driving a big rig.
While drowsy driving is dangerous, it can be hard to prove. There is no express law in Illinois banning someone from driving because he is tired.
To make a claim against a drowsy truck driver on your behalf, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., will need to show that the driver was at fault for the crash by demonstrating that the driver was either:
- Negligent – The driver may have breached a duty of care owed to you and others on the road by choosing to drive when he was too tired. The behavior of the driver will be compared to what a reasonable person would have done in his position. If the driver fell short, the driver could be liable. For instance, if a reasonably prudent driver would have stopped driving and taken a rest, and the tired trucker who caused your accident failed to do so, this would be negligence.
- Negligence per se – Another option for proving negligence in truck driver fatigue accidents may be to use a legal doctrine called negligence per se. Under this rule, someone who violates a safety rule and then causes an accident related to that violation can be automatically considered negligent. In the case of a tired trucker accident, this means a person can prove negligence by demonstrating that the driver violated the Hours of Service Rules.
Hours of Service Rules & Fatigued Truck Driving Accidents
The Hours of Service Rules are federal regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They apply to trucks that weigh 10,001 pounds or more and other trucks and passenger vehicles that classify as a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
The Hours of Service Rules changed in December of 2011. Compliance with the new regulations will be required by July 1, 2013. According to the new regulations:
- Truckers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours
- A driver’s 34-hour restarts must include two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM
- A driver may not drive after 60/70 hours in 7 or 8 consecutive days.
When a driver violates these and other Hours of Service rules, he is guilty of violating a safety rule. Thus, the driver may be considered negligent per se if he causes an accident.
Under these rules, a trucker who drives for three or more hours beyond the driving time limit is considered to be in “egregious” violation of the rules. This evidence could be used in a lawsuit to prove that the driver was grossly negligent. This could potentially result in punitive damages in a lawsuit arising from a fatigued driving accident.
Our Chicago Fatigued Truck Driving Accident Lawyers Can Help To Establish Liability
A fatigued truck driver who causes an accident is often the most obvious person to hold responsible and file a claim against. At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we can assist you in identifying other at-fault parties after a tractor-trailer crash, including the driver’s employer or trucking company.
In the eyes of the law, a truck driver acts as the employer’s agent. This means his actions are considered to effectively be the actions of the trucking company. The company can also be liable if it allows, encourages or looks the other way when a driver is violating the Hours of Service rules. The employer could be liable because of its own negligence and safety violations rather than simply being responsible for the acts of its employee.
Victims of fatigued truck driver accidents may be entitled to money damages for injuries arising from the accident. We are dedicated to assisting you in recovering this money to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. We may also pursue punitive damages.
To learn more, call the truck accident lawyers at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., at our toll-free number or contact us using our online form. Our initial consultations are always free.
- Driver Fatigue is an Important Cause of Road Crashes, Smart Motorist
- Drowsy Driving, Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research
- 2009 Large Truck Crash Overview, U.S. Department of Transportation
- Drowsy Driving — 19 States and the District of Columbia, 2009–2010, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention