The unfortunate reality is that people get injured in truck accidents every day. If you suffered an accident because of a trucker’s fatigued driving, who do you blame?
Is the fatigued truck driver liable? Anyone else?
If you suffered an injury in a fatigue-related truck crash, you may have grounds to bring a trucking accident lawsuit against one or more of the following parties:
- the drowsy driver,
- the trucking company,
- a governmental entity,
- the manufacturer of any faulty equipment, and
- a negligent motorist.
Note that there are numerous causes of fatigue when it comes to the trucking industry. One example is a driver’s failure to adhere to federal and state laws that limit a trucker’s hours of service.
1. Is a fatigued truck driver liable for causing a car accident?
Possibly, yes. Truck drivers generally have a duty to operate their trucks in a safe and responsible manner. This duty includes taking efforts to ensure they are not guilty of drowsy driving.
If they fail to do so and cause a car accident because of this failure, they can be held liable for the motor vehicle accident.1
Note, though, that in order to hold a driver liable because of fatigued driving, you will usually have to show that the driver was in fact driving without enough sleep.
You can often do this by showing the trucker’s:
- driver logs, or
- trucking records.
Note that some trucks have a built-in computer that keeps track of the number of hours that a trucker drives. If there is no computer, truckers usually have to keep a logbook of their:
- consecutive hours of service, and/or
- total hours of driving.
You can rely on these computers or logs to show that a truck driver was fatigued when driving.
You can also try and show driver fatigue by presenting:
- receipts (such as toll receipts, hotel receipts, and gas receipts), and
- surveillance videos.
2. Can you blame the trucking company?
Maybe, yes. You might be able to hold a trucking company liable for a commercial truck accident, if the company somehow pressured a driver to drive:
- without proper rest breaks, or
- during periods of sleep deprivation.
A trucking company may also be liable for an accident if the company:
- failed to properly maintain a truck, or
- loaded the truck in an improper manner.
3. What about a governmental entity?
Governmental entities could be partly or wholly to blame for truck crashes.
Note that governmental entities usually have a duty to provide:
- safe road conditions, and
- safe and adequate traffic signs and road signals.
If an entity somehow fails in its duty, and this failure is a contributing factor in a fatigued-related accident, you can try and hold the entity liable for the crash.
4. Is the manufacturer of trucking equipment ever liable?
Sometimes, yes. There are times when a piece of equipment in a truck contributes to a fatigued-related trucking accident.
In these situations, you can try and file a claim or lawsuit against the company that manufactured or designed the equipment.
5. Are motor vehicle drivers ever responsible for commercial vehicle accidents?
Yes, they can be. Sometimes a commercial truck driver may have only a few hours of sleep, but another motorist (and not fatigue) may be the direct cause of an accident.
For example, a passenger vehicle may cut off a large truck, or cause a big rig driver to swerve into another lane.
In these situations, you could likely file a claim or suit against the negligent driver.
You could also place blame on the truck driver if fatigue contributed to the accident in any way.
6. Are there limits on the number of hours a trucker can drive?
Yes. There are state and federal laws that place limits on the total number of hours and total number of consecutive hours that a trucker can drive.
For example, federal regulations state that a truck driver has to take a break after driving 11 consecutive hours after 10 straight hours of not driving.2 Further, a semi-truck driver must take a 30-minute break after driving eight consecutive hours.3
But also note that truck drivers and long-haul drivers may not adhere to these rules and laws.
For example, a trucking company may pressure a truck driver to drive over the legal limits. Here, fatigue may set in, and the driver could cause a motor vehicle accident.
Note, too, that a truck driver can still adhere to state and federal laws and drive while fatigued. An accident may occur in this scenario as well.
Other reasons for a fatigue related truck accident include a trucker’s:
- improper training,
- difficulty in finding a rest area, and
- diminished reaction time.
- Please see the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Drowsy Driving,” to learn of the particular dangers of drowsy driving. According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving contributed to 633 fatalities in 2020. See also “Overcoming the Dangers of Drowsy Driving,” National Transportation Safety Board publication.
- See, for example, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website, “Summary of Hours of Service Regulations.”
- See same.