Operating a commercial truck requires complete focus. Accordingly, federal and state regulators limit the number of hours truck drivers can spend behind the wheel without taking a break. Truck drivers who do not comply with these limits pose a serious risk to themselves and other road users. When they cause accidents, injured victims deserve justice and accountability.
If you were injured by a fatigued truck driver in North Carolina, you are likely entitled to legal compensation from the at-fault driver. The legal team at Kreger Brodish, LLP, is ready to help you secure the full and fair compensation you deserve. While you focus on recovering from your injuries, we will thoroughly investigate your accident and build the strongest possible claim on your behalf.
Contact Kreger Brodish, LLP, to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer today. One of our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys is standing by to listen to your story and help you along the path toward maximum compensation.
FMCSA Hours of Service Rules and Regulations
Hundreds of people are killed in accidents caused by drowsy driving each year. To reduce these numbers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adopted hours-of-service regulations limiting how much time truck drivers may spend behind the wheel without taking breaks. These rules apply to truck drivers operating vehicles weighing at least 10,001 pounds or carrying hazardous materials. According to the FMCSA, drivers carrying goods:
- May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes.
- May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
These are just a few of the rules established by the FMCSA. Importantly, they only apply to drivers operating across state lines. Notwithstanding, North Carolina has established its own regulations for truck drivers operating within the state.
Penalties for Truck Drivers Who Violate Hours-of-Service Regulations
Law enforcement officers and federal regulators who find a truck driver violating hours-of-service regulations can impose various penalties on the driver and/or their trucking company. For example, the FMCSA can fine noncompliant truck drivers and/or their companies. Fines for hours-of-service violations can be upwards of several thousand dollars, depending on the seriousness of the violation. They can be much higher for hours-of-service violations involving truck drivers hauling hazardous materials.
Repeated violations may also result in the FMCSA downgrading a trucking company’s safety rating and the truck driver’s compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score. If either falls too low, the FMCSA may turn to more severe enforcement actions, including license suspensions.
How Do I Prove That an Accident Was Caused by Driver Fatigue?
Federal regulations require truck drivers to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed in their vehicles. ELDs allow truck drivers to automatically log their time spent driving, on break, and sleeping. These logs can serve as a primary source of evidence of hours-of-service violations, which in turn can be used to prove that an accident was caused by driver fatigue.
There are many other sources of evidence that can also help establish liability in a truck accident case. Among other things, this may include:
- Footage from nearby surveillance and traffic cameras
- Witness testimony regarding things like unusual driving patterns (e.g., drifting between lanes, delayed braking, unusually slow speed, and failing to keep up with surrounding traffic) and other signs of exhaustion (e.g., yawning and slow reflexes)
- Testimony from experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists and traffic signal engineers
- Evidence of road and weather conditions
Liability in Truck Accidents Caused by Drowsy Driving
Depending on the circumstances, both the truck driver and/or their trucking company may be held liable for a truck accident caused by drowsy driving. For example, a truck driver who fails to comply with federal hours-of-service regulations and thereby causes an accident may be held directly liable for negligence.
Similarly, a trucking company may also be held vicariously liable for a driver’s negligence if they were considered an employee of the company. Further, even if the company retained the driver as an independent contractor, it may still shoulder some liability if it knew or should have known that the driver had a history of violating hours-of-service regulations or encouraged the driver to violate the rules in order to make speedier deliveries. Finally, a company may also struggle to wash its hands of liability if a contracted driver causes an accident while performing an “inherently dangerous activity” (e.g., transporting highly dangerous materials).
What Compensation Can I Receive Through a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the at-fault party caused the accident, they may owe you significant compensation for your injuries. Among other things, our legal team can help you seek compensation for things like:
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses
- Costs of long-term care if you were left with a permanent disability
- Lost wages and lowered earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
- Wrongful death
- Property damage repair or replacement costs
Reach Out to a Knowledgeable Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Lawyer in Durham, NC
If you were injured in an auto accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You deserve excellent, individualized representation from a legal team that cares. The truck accident attorneys at Kreger Brodish, LLP, are ready to evaluate your case in a free, no-obligation consultation. Schedule yours today by calling (888) 820-5885 or contacting us online.