Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Attorney in Austin
From the produce on shelves at the local grocery store to the countless items we purchase online, we depend on truck drivers to deliver goods on time and without damage throughout Austin. Truck drivers are, without exaggeration, the lifeblood of American commerce. We could not live the lives we’re accustomed to without them.
Truckers do not have easy jobs. Driving long distance on demanding timetables causes stress and health problems. Regulations impose strict limits on the amount of time truckers can stay behind the wheel before taking mandatory breaks. But, even so, drivers often keep erratic schedules, including driving through the night. They binge on caffeine and sometimes take drugs to keep them awake. All of these factors lead to an epidemic of truck driver fatigue on American roads. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that driver fatigue is the root cause of about one-third of all truck accidents.
In Texas motor vehicle accidents, fatigue contributed to 4,800 accidents, including 28 deaths and 174 serious injuries.
If you have sustained an injury in an Austin truck accident because of a fatigued driver, contact an experienced trucking accident lawyer at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004. We may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued driving mostly occurs between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., or late in the afternoon. Lack of sleep most often contributes to truck driver fatigue, but other factors may also play a role, such as:
- Sleep disorders. Truck drivers struggle with healthy eating and weight control more than any other profession, making them prone to develop sleep apnea and other sleep problems that lead to fatigue;
- Medical conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure can cause truck driver fatigue when left untreated;
- Medication including over-the-counter and prescriptions can cause drowsiness;
- Shift work, especially when working long hours and driving overnight; and
- Shortage of truck parking that forces truckers to continue to drive to find a place to rest when they are fatigued.
Safety Mandates to Prevent Trucker Fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) develops and enforces safety rules and regulations for the trucking industry. Hours of Service (HOS) safety guidelines remain the agency’s most powerful way to reduce the number of fatigued truck drivers on the nation’s roads, highways, and interstates. HOS regulations impose strict limits on how many hours a driver can drive and how long drivers must rest. Violating these guidelines is illegal and puts other motorists at risk:
- A truck driver can operate 11 hours in a day if they have had 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
- Drivers may not be on duty more than 14 hours straight, whether driving or stopped making a delivery or pick-up.
- After eight hours of continuous driving, a driver must take at least a 30-minute break.
- Maximum weekly limits on driving are 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.
- Drivers may restart their weekly clock after 34 hours off duty.
Drivers are required to keep accurate logs of their driving activity. These logs used to be handwritten, but drivers with demanding schedules often manipulated them. Today, electronic logging devices (ELDs) automatically record hours of service, making it difficult for drivers to violate regulations. The FMSCA mandated ELDs in all trucks as of December 2017.
Recovering Damages After an Austin Truck Accident
If you have sustained serious injuries in a truck accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, Texas law entitles you to recover damages, which may include:
- Medical expenses including an ambulance ride, emergency department visit, hospitalization, X-rays, prescription medications, surgery, and aftercare;
- Future medical expenses when an injury leads to a permanent disability requiring long-term care or when a victim requires extensive recovery or multiple surgeries;
- Lost wages from the days, weeks, or months that an injury prevents a victim from working;
- Lost earning capacity in the event an injury results in permanent disability that prevents a victim from returning to work or forces the victim to obtain different employment;
- Pain and suffering for the physical and mental aspects of an injury;
- Loss of consortium with a spouse; and
- Diminished quality of life from catastrophic injuries that permanently affect a victim’s functions.
In rare cases involving intentional misconduct or gross negligence, victims may also have the right to seek punitive damages.
In the event a victim dies because of a trucking accident, the victim’s surviving family members may be able to seek the categories of compensation above, as well as burial and funeral costs.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Texas Fatigued Truck Driver Accidents
Parties named as defendants in a fatigued truck driver accident will often go the extra mile to avoid liability. One common strategy relies on Texas’s comparative fault rule in personal injury lawsuits. Comparative fault, sometimes referred to as comparative negligence, is the notion of shared liability. A Texas court might find that a victim is partially at fault for the accident and resulting injuries. When this is the case, the total damages available to the victim will be reduced by the percentage of the victim’s fault. This means that even if a truck driver falls asleep and causes an accident, the court might hold the victim partially responsible if he or she contributed to the accident in some way such as by drinking and driving, speeding, or violating some other traffic regulation.
Texas law also bars the plaintiff from collecting damages if he or she is 51 or more percent at fault for the accident and injuries. This motivates the defense to shift fault to the victim to avoid paying damages. A qualified truck accident lawyer understands comparative negligence and can protect victims from these defense tactics.
Contact an Austin Trucking Accident Lawyer Today
Trucking is an exacting profession, but negligent truck drivers and trucking companies who put other motorists at risk must nevertheless be held accountable when they cause injury. Trucking accidents often result in severe or catastrophic injuries that devastate victims and their families. Let a skilled truck accident attorney handle the details of your case, while you focus on healing and recovery. Contact The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 to discuss your accident and learn about how we may be able to help you recover damages after an accident caused by a fatigued truck driver.
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