What role does driver fatigue play in truck accidents and liability in California?

trucker asleep behind the wheel

When drivers are tired, they have reduced abilities needed to operate a vehicle safely. Drowsiness significantly affects a driver’s judgment, coordination, reaction time, decision-making, attention, and vigilance. Unfortunately, fatigue can cause drivers to weave and lose control, leading to catastrophic collisions. Research shows drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash if they are excessively drowsy behind the wheel. If you have been injured in a truck accident due to driver fatigue, contact a determined Santa Clara County Truck Accident Attorney who can help you fight for the full and fair compensation you deserve. Please continue reading to learn how truck driver fatigue can impact an accident claim.

What are hours of service regulations?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces state and federal trucking regulations that aim to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial vehicles. Fatigued driving is prevalent in the trucking industry as truckers are often pressured to meet strict deadlines, causing them to push themselves beyond their limits. Consequently, hours of service regulations were implemented to limit the number of hours truckers can drive on the road to mitigate the risks of drowsy driving.

According to the National Safety Council, driving after more than 20 consecutive hours without sleep is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% (the legal limit). As such, truckers must adhere to their hours of service regulations to prevent devastating collisions. Governmental regulations stipulate that truckers may drive a maximum of eleven hours after ten consecutive hours off duty. Truckers must take a minimum 30-minute break when they have driven for eight consecutive hours. Furthermore, truckers must record their hours in logbooks, but sometimes, they will falsify their hours of operation to conceal violations.

How can truck driver fatigue impact an accident claim in California?

If fatigue played a role in the collision, the driver and the trucking company can be held accountable for your injuries. If the trucking company pushed their driver to violate hours of service regulations, commanded they meet unreasonable deadlines, or looked the other way when their employee falsified their logbooks, the trucking company may be liable. However, in a personal injury case, you will be burdened with proving the other party’s negligence caused your injuries. You must prove they failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances.

When a trucker or company violates a governmental trucking regulation designed to combat fatigued driving, you may be able to use a negligence per se theory as a shortcut to proving negligence. With this doctrine, instead of proving the other party did not act reasonably, you can demonstrate that they violated a statute or regulation designed to protect people like you and that you suffered the type of harm the regulation was meant to prevent. By demonstrating they violated a trucking regulation, you are proving that they did not act reasonably, as a reasonable driver would not break the law. Ultimately, this doctrine can help you establish the collision would not have occurred if the trucker had not been driving while fatigued.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident and suspect fatigue played a role, contact a skilled attorney from the Law Offices of Brian J. O’Grady is in your best interest. Our firm is prepared to help you hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence. It can be challenging to prove that driver fatigue was the cause of a collision. Allow our firm to help you investigate the circumstances of the accident and gather evidence that enables you to prove your case.