Long Beach Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Attorney
Whether truck drivers are traveling across counties or across states, they are always in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. Long-haul semi-truck drivers are expected to work long hours, drive hundreds of miles in a day, and cross long stretches of empty highways. But this is no excuse for causing an accident.
Federal regulations require commercial truckers to take regular breaks while on the job and to rest before getting back on the road. Whether a drowsy driver violated these laws or not, if he crashed and hurt you, he can be held liable for this reckless behavior.
If you or a loved one was injured by a big rig, you should not hesitate to contact The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV. Our founder is a nationally recognized trial lawyer who has extensive experience holding negligent truck drivers accountable when they cause serious accidents. By working with a skilled California fatigued truck accident attorney, you can trust your case will receive the attention it deserves so that you can receive the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free (888) 454-5569.
Numerous research organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Safety Council (NSC), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and AAA Foundation, have studied the impact of drowsiness on drivers and have determined that drowsiness can result in the same impairment as drunk driving. When drivers are fatigued, they are more likely to make poor decisions, less likely to notice adverse driving conditions or traffic signals, and more likely to drift into other lanes, speed, fail to stop at red lights, and perform other dangerous maneuvers.
In a single recent year, over 4,000 individuals were killed in fatigued driving accidents and more than 90,000 police-reported crashes involved fatigued driving, according to research from the NHTSA. The CDC has determined that commercial drivers are a high-risk group for fatigued driving. This puts everyone on the road in danger. Semi-truck drivers need to be in control of their vehicles at all times given the sheer weight, size, and power of their rigs. Drifting off for even a few seconds can allow a truck to veer into another lane and crush other vehicles. The crashes we often see include:
- Rollover accidents
- Rear-end collisions
- Cargo spills
- Tanker truck explosions
- Underride accidents
The dangers of fatigued truck drivers are well-known among accident investigators and federal officials, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed the hours of service regulations (HOS). The HOS regulations outline strict work hours and mandatory break periods for truckers between shifts. These laws are specifically designed to keep truck drivers from overextending themselves by forcing them to rest and recharge before getting back on the road. A driver’s failure to abide by these regulations can result in fines, loss of licenses, and other punishments, as well as penalties for trucking companies that fail to enforce these rules.
The main regulations of the HOS include:
- 30-Minute Rest Break: Drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break when they have driven for eight hours without a break. Rest breaks can include non-driving tasks, such as maintenance, lunch breaks, sleeping, or paperwork.
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: Drivers may only drive a maximum of 11 hours if they have rested for 10 hours off-duty. Drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours.
- 14-Hour On-Duty Limit: Drivers are only allowed to be on-duty for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours and must take a minimum rest break of 10 hours. On-duty hours can include the 11-hour driving limit, securing cargo, vehicle maintenance, and other duties.
- 60/70-Hour Limit: Drivers can only spend 60 hours on-duty in a 7-day period and can only spend 70 hours on-duty in an 8-day period. This driving period can only be reset by spending 34 hours off-duty.
It is important to note that as of September 1, 2020, the FMCSA issued a final rule regarding HOS that creates certain exceptions, including:
- Short-Haul Drivers: If drivers only operate within 150 air-miles of their home, then they are considered short-haul truckers and may be able to extend their on-duty limit to 16 hours once every 7 days.
- Adverse Driving Conditions: If a driver is traveling through adverse weather conditions, such as a storm, then the driving limit can be increased by two hours.
- Sleeper-Berth Provision: If a truck has a sleeper berth, then the driver may satisfy the 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time by resting for 7 hours in the sleeper berth.
Rules or no rules, truck drivers passing through California still violate the HOS every day, resulting in catastrophic and often fatal accidents. But these laws are the not deciding factor in a personal injury claim. If a trucker was within the HOS limits and still caused a fatigued accident, then anyone who was injured in the accident can pursue a personal injury claim against the trucker for compensation.
Driving while fatigued is considered a form of negligence, so a driver would be liable if their actions led to a collision. But liability can be shared between multiple parties, especially when commercial vehicles are involved. While some truckers in California are independent contractors, others operate as employees of major trucking companies. Under California law, employers can be found liable for the actions of their employees, allowing victims to pursue a claim against the company’s commercial auto insurance policy. In addition, even if the at-fault driver was an independent contractor, the trucking company that hired him can be found liable if they contributed to the driver’s negligence.
Typically, when a fatigued trucking accident occurs, the following parties can be found liable:
- Truck Drivers: Drivers are responsible for abiding by all federal HOS regulations and ensuring that they are fit to drive. If drivers get behind the wheel while fatigued, then they can be found liable if they cause a collision.
- Trucking Companies: Trucking companies must hold their drivers to HOS regulations. However, these companies are driven by profit and often push drivers to rush through orders to complete a delivery early or on time. If a trucking company encouraged a driver to break the HOS, then they can be found liable for causing a collision, even if the driver is an independent contractor.
Fatigued driving accidents are difficult to spot if you don’t have a background in truck accident causes. There is no test for fatigued driving, and most data we have on these collisions come from police and hospital reports after the fact. Only in rare cases do drivers admit to being tired at the time of an accident. Thus, it is generally believed that current statistics underreport the full scale of this problem.
All of this is to say that it may not be obvious that a truck driver was fatigued when they hit you. But, with an experienced attorney by your side, you may still be able to receive compensation for your injuries and trauma. Our Long Beach truck accident lawyer at The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV can launch an in-depth investigation into your accident and work with expert investigators to determine how your injuries occurred. Once we have determined liability, we can hold the truck driver and trucking company liable and pursue proper compensation on your behalf. To discuss your case in more detail, call our office at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free (888) 454-5569 and schedule a free consultation.