Driver Fatigue Accidents in Washington, DC
Commercial truck accidents typically result in serious injuries and often, deadly crashes. The weight and size of a tractor trailer vehicle create extreme momentum that is difficult to control even at a minimal speed. While truck drivers are required to undergo specific training in order to operate these massive vehicles, their negligent or careless conduct may result in a collision. Of the various causes of truck collisions, driving while fatigued remains a common contributing factor. Federal regulations limit the hours that a driver may operate their commercial truck, and also mandate break periods. However, not all drivers abide by these rules. Truck drivers often feel pressure to meet unrealistic delivery schedules imposed by a trucking company. When truck driver fatigue is the cause of a collision, injured victims have the right to pursue a claim for compensation from the driver, and potentially, their trucking company employer. Washinton, D.C. truck accident lawyer Roger Gelb and the team at Gelb & Gelb are prepared to investigate and advocate for those hurt in truck collisions. Mr. Gelb’s legal focus is vehicle collisions, and he understands how to navigate claims involving trucking company insurance companies. His skill has earned him recognition as a top personal injury attorney in the Washington, D.C. area, and at all times, Mr. Gelb prioritizes the needs of his clients by maintaining direct communication with them. The dedicated team at Gelb & Gelb is prepared to fight for your right to recovery following the devastating effects of a truck accident caused by negligence.
Truck Driver Fatigue as a Common Cause of Truck Collisions
Truck driver fatigue can lead to accidents in many different ways, including falling asleep behind the wheel, operating a vehicle for too many consecutive hours, and failing to take adequate breaks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains regulations that seek to combat the dangerous effects of driver fatigue as a major contributor to truck accidents. Legally mandated rest breaks are intended to ensure that drivers do not fall asleep at the wheel or drive while drowsy, thereby reducing the danger posed by fatigued drivers.
Hours of Service regulations set by the FMCSA specify the number of hours a truck driver may operate their vehicle each week, with designated rest hours. Drivers are not to exceed 11 hours behind the wheel after 10 hours of rest. Additionally, drivers are required to rest for 30 minutes after 8 hours of continuous driving. These standards are enacted to keep drivers and others on the road safe.
Investigating the cause of a truck accident requires careful analysis from the scene of the accident. Often, a crucial piece of evidence in a trucking accident caused by driver fatigue is the log book. Drivers are required to record their hours in a log book, as well as their rest periods. This log book must be maintained for the entire day, or 24 hours. If the log book indicates that cargo was delivered in a different manner than it was actually delivered, this may be a strong indication that the driver falsified their log.
Recovering Compensation from Negligent Truck Drivers
Truck accident victims pursuing a legal claim against a truck driver that caused a collision often rely on a negligence theory of law to support their case. The legal elements of negligence are duty, breach, causation, and damages. A fatigued truck driver may be deemed negligent, and held accountable for resulting harm, if the victim can show that they breached their duty of care and that breach directly led to an accident and injuries.
Negligent truck drivers are those that fail to meet their duty of care and cause an accident and damages. All truck drivers are expected to avoid causing foreseeable harm, which includes abiding by the rules and regulations set forth by the FMCSA. Drivers that operate their vehicles in violation of hours of service regulations may be found to have breached their duty of care because they are failing to act as a reasonable driver would under similar circumstances. Hours of service regulations exist to secure the safety of others on the road, and driving beyond the specified hours or failing to take rest breaks subjects others to potential danger.
The element of causation in a truck collision case arising from fatigued driving is often supported by evidence from the scene of the crime. Lack of skid marks and extensive property damage can indicate that the driver did not have time to slow their speed before crashing. If there were no intervening causes, and the trucker’s conduct directly led to the crash, this element of negligence is met.
Because injuries suffered in a truck accident tend to be catastrophic, an injured victim may recover maximum compensation when they assert their claims for recovery against the trucking company and not just the driver. Typical injuries suffered by truck accident victims include broken bones, paralysis, head and neck injuries, and even amputation. While the truck driver may be insured, that coverage is unlikely to sufficiently cover the extent of costs associated with injuries. This is particularly true when there are multiple accident victims or fatalities.
Truck Companies May be Liable for the Actions of their Employees
Trucking companies may be liable for the negligent actions of their drivers when those drivers are acting in the course and scope of their employment. While not all truck drivers are in an employment relationship with the companies they work for, respondeat superior, or vicarious liability, is a legal theory that can be used to hold the trucking company accountable when an employment relationship does exist. Under this theory, when an injured victim asserts this claim, they need not prove that the truck company was negligent. If an employee caused injuries to others while in the course and scope of employment, the employer may be liable.
Negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent entrustment are other legal theories that may expose the trucking company as an employer to direct liability for their truck driver’s actions. As employers, truck companies owe the public the duty to train and supervise their drivers in a safe and effective manner. When a driver engages in conduct that the truck company knew or should have known poses risks, they may be responsible for any resulting harm. For example, if the truck company failed to conduct a diligent background check, or was in some way aware of potential reckless behavior on the part of their driver and failed to address it, they may be at fault for an accident caused by their driver.
Consult a Truck Accident Lawyer in Washington, D.C.
The devastation that accompanies a truck accident typically leaves victims with extreme physical and emotional suffering. At Gelb & Gelb, we are here to assist in your pursuit of compensation for your harm from all legally responsible parties. Whether a truck driver falsified their log book or fell asleep behind the wheel, truck collision attorney Roger Gelb is prepared to fully advance your right to monetary damages. For decades, Mr. Gelb has successfully advocated for the rights of accident victims, and recovered millions of dollars on behalf of clients throughout Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Commercial truck accidents require aggressive legal work, and Attorney Gelb is prepared to fight on your behalf. To learn more, call our office at (202) 331-7227 or complete our online form for a free consultation.