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Truck Driver Fatigue

Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyers in Syracuse

When a truck driver is fatigued, he or she is bound to react more slowly than a well-rested truck driver. It takes time to bring an enormous, heavy commercial truck to a complete stop, and even seconds of delay based on fatigue can have a huge impact. Many truck accidents occur because a truck driver didn’t take the rest break required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If you were injured in a collision with an 18-wheeler and suspect that the reason was truck driver fatigue, you may be able to obtain monetary damages if you can establish that your harm resulted from another party’s careless conduct. You can consult an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney to determine your legal rights and options, as well as your next steps.

Truck Driver Fatigue

In order to preserve the safety of all road users, truck drivers are supposed to take breaks to rest while working. In particular, truck drivers who travel interstate are supposed to follow hours of service regulations promulgated by the FMCSA to reduce accidents caused by fatigue. These are intricate rules. For example, truck drivers carrying property have an 11-hour driving limit; they can drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours. Truck drivers carrying property can’t drive past the 14th consecutive hour after going on duty after 10 consecutive off-duty hours. Truck drivers can only drive if 8 hours or fewer have elapsed since the termination of their last sleeper berth or off-duty period of a half hour or more.

Additionally, truck drivers must keep logbooks that show they actually followed the hours of service rules and rested. Unfortunately, not all truck drivers properly follow these regulations, and to get around the logbook rule, they may falsify their logbooks or not keep them. Complicating matters, some trucking companies do not make sure that their truck drivers follow this rule, putting profits to be gleaned from making deliveries above the welfare of others with whom the truck driver shares the road.

Proving Truck Driver Fatigue and Trucking Company Negligence

In order to establish a truck driver’s liability after a crash you believe was caused by driver fatigue, you will need to prove: (1) the truck driver owed you a duty of care, (2) the truck driver breached the duty of care by driving while fatigued, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Often truck accidents involve multiple defendants, along with their insurers. An experienced truck accident attorney can assist you in identifying all possible sources of compensation following your accident.

Sometimes, a trucking company should be held accountable for an accident caused by truck driver fatigue. This will only be an option in cases where an employment relationship exists between the truck driver and the trucking company; if the driver is an independent contractor then this argument will not apply. A trucking company may be held vicariously liable for an accident caused by a truck driver whom they employ, and whose fatigue in the course and scope of employment resulted in a truck accident that produced injuries. A trucking company can also be held directly liable for its own negligent hiring, negligent training, or negligent supervision of its employees. For example, it may be possible to hold a trucking company liable for negligent supervision if a truck driver’s logbooks are clearly falsified and the trucking company either didn’t check them, or actively encouraged the truck driver to falsify the logbook so that he could drive more and make more deliveries.

Determining whether a truck driver’s fatigue caused injuries can be a challenge in many cases, and often requires experienced counsel to investigate the factors that led to the collision. Usually, truck driver and trucking company insurers make aggressive efforts to evade liability because the damages arising out of a truck accident can be so high, and many involve multiple claims against insurance policies. Our attorneys are seasoned and work with accident reconstruction experts when necessary. We will also compare logbooks with other evidence like fuel receipts, the truck’s black box, toll receipts, and food receipts in order to gauge whether a truck driver truly took the requisite rest breaks.

Destruction or Spoliation of Evidence

As stated above, the FMCSA mandates that trucking companies collect and maintain specific information and data about their vehicles and drivers. A driver’s daily logs and any supporting information, dispatching records, phone records, pay records, and more are examples of evidence that may be relevant to an injured plaintiff’s claim for damages if they are alleging that their accident was caused by truck driver fatigue. However, not all trucking companies keep adequate records of this nature, or may even take steps to destroy evidence in the event of a collision involving injuries or death if they are concerned about potential litigation. Legal counsel with experience handling cases arising from tractor trailer accidents can act swiftly on your behalf in an effort to prevent spoliation of evidence, and seek to ensure that critical records and data are properly preserved and available to be used in support of your claims.

Consult a Knowledgeable Syracuse Attorney After a Truck Accident

Due to the weight and size of commercial trucks, accidents involving them can be devastating and may result in numerous injuries. If you are the primary earner in your family and become disabled, or if you have lost a loved one in a sudden crash, you may be facing a mountain of bills and expenses with no way to cover them. Under these circumstances you may be overwhelmed, and feel as though you have nowhere to turn. You can talk to an accident lawyer about whether you have a viable claim for damages following a complex collision arising from negligent conduct such as operating an 18-wheeler in a fatigued state. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represents clients in Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout Upstate New York, including in Ithaca, Binghamton, Cooperstown, Auburn, Canandaigua, Lyons, Elmira, Wampsville, Utica, Herkimer, Oneida, Lowville, Oswego, and Watertown. Call our firm at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form.

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