Issues in Drowsy Driver Truck Crash Claims
Truck driver fatigue has long been an issue in this area. Recent evidence makes these claims easier to establish in court. There is a direct relationship between hours worked and possibility of fatigue. This finding makes it easier to establish liability for damages in these cases, especially in light of the enhanced truck driver duty in Florida.
These damages usually include financial compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Due to the serious nature of the injuries, additional punitive damages may be available as well.
Truck Driver Legal Responsibility
Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road.
Since they are professional operators, truck drivers and other commercial operators have a higher duty of care.
For example, noncommercial drivers arguably have a duty to slow down in the rain, because visibility and road conditions are poor. But truck drivers may have a duty to pull over and wait for the rain to stop, or at least slack off. However, many truck drivers do not do so.
Since most shipping companies pay by the load, drivers are under intense pressure to stay on the road as long as possible. As a result, they are often fatigued, especially in light of the aforementioned new evidence.
Evidence in Drowsy Driver Truck Crash Claims
A few trucks have dash cams which provide almost conclusive evidence regarding fatigue. Other physical evidence in these cases includes:
- Electronic Logging Device: The trucking industry fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. These executives know that such evidence could be a game-changer in drowsy driving claims. ELDs provide almost bulletproof evidence of HOS (Hours of Service) compliance.
- Safety Maintenance System: The SMS database predates the ELD mandate, so SMS reports may have even more information about HOS compliance. This database also keeps track of things like driver substance use, crash history, and citation history.
- Medical Records: Since they sit for long periods of time, many truck drivers have sleep apnea. People with this condition do not fall into a deep sleep at night. They only doze on and off.
Especially with regard to the ELD, a lawyer must act quickly to preserve possible physical evidence in a claim. Otherwise, the people in charge of the records or other evidence may “accidentally” delete them.
Third Party Liability
The respondeat superior rule generally applies in commercial driver crashes. This rule is one of the most widely-used third party liability rules in Florida.
Employers are liable for the damages their employees negligently cause if those damages occurred within the course and scope of employment. Florida law defines these key terms in broad, victim-friendly ways. For example, an “employee” is not just a person who receives a regular paycheck. In this context, independent contractors and owner-operators are usually employees as well.
Other employer liability theories, which usually apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
Connect with Aggressive Lawyers
Large truck collisions involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa trucking accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.