The Role of Driver Fatigue in Truck Accident Lawsuits

Establishing Driver Fatigue in Trucking Accident Claims

It’s no secret truck drivers often experience fatigue as they travel long hours delivering goods across the country. According to recent statistics, truck drivers average less than five hours of sleep a night, which can significantly affect their physical and cognitive function, and increase their chances of falling asleep behind the wheel. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicated over 5,000 deadly truck accidents occurred in 2019, 13 percent of which involved a fatigued truck driver.

Determining Driver Fatigue

In any traffic collision, there will be apparent signs that a negligent driver did something to cause the crash. Some examples include:

  • When there is eyewitness testimony
  • When a car crosses into the lane of traffic of an oncoming vehicle
  • A vehicle is driven at an excessive speed for road or weather conditions

However, signs like a drowsy driver may not be readily apparent. Determining whether driver fatigue played a role in causing an accident is a multi-faceted investigation, which requires:

  • Knowledge of the causes and effects of fatigue
  • Familiarity with the evidence supporting fatigue
  • Use of the rules to fight fatigue’s role in causing the accident

Although grueling, this analysis can provide additional sources of recovery beyond the driver’s negligence, including claims of negligent retention, training, supervision, and independent claims against the truck company.

Identify Proof of Fatigue

A truck accident resulting in severe or fatal injuries will be investigated. The truck driver’s daily record will be examined as part of this investigation. If the driver has exceeded their hours of allowable on-duty time or driving hours, they will be issued a citation, which can be used as evidence of negligence. Your attorney will send an evidence preservation letter to the trucking company. However, time is of the essence, as drivers are only required by law to keep records for a limited period.

Electronic information is the ultimate check of a driver’s daily log, as it is less prone to alteration or destruction. Many trucking companies equip their trucks with communication devices. These devices allow drivers and trucking companies to communicate electronically through texting and email. If the device is enabled, the system also creates an electronic version of the driver’s written logs, including the exact location of the truck at the time the driver changes his duty status.

Hiring Experts to Prove Causative Fatigue

Establishing evidence that a truck driver was drowsy at the time of the accident is not enough, as the proof of fatigue will be irrelevant if it doesn’t play a role in the crash. Instead, the key is to establish that fatigue contributed to causing the accident. Your lawyer will likely need to hire several expert witnesses to prove causative fatigue. The different experts include:

  • An accident reconstruction expert whose opinions will show what the driver did or didn’t do while driving that caused the collision.
  • An expert in truck transportation to establish the driver’s regulatory background and motor carrier operations.
  • A medical expert with specialized knowledge in the field of sleep or fatigue.

Truck accident cases are more complex because several parties are often responsible for the resulting damages.

Watch the YouTube video below to understand how large truck accident cases differ from other car accident claims.

Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. It is essential to understand your rights if you have suffered serious injuries or a family member was killed in a large truck collision. Reach out to our experienced accident attorneys to discuss your legal options for financial compensation. We will handle all aspects of your injury claim so you can focus on recovering and getting your life back on track. Call our dedicated legal team at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

Our injury lawyers have served Sacramento and Northern California residents since 1982. See our history of successful case results on our Settlements and Verdicts page.

Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

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