Truck drivers have some of the most difficult—and dangerous—jobs in Missouri. In a great many ways, they help keep our economy in motion. However, the demands of life on the road can take a toll. While most truck drivers try their best to keep others safe, some take (or are pressured into taking) unnecessary risks. Among the most prevalent problems within the industry is that of drowsy driving.
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Getting behind the wheel after a bad night’s sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. The federal government’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has estimated that tired drivers are responsible for up to 100,000 accidents each and every year, including thousands of physical injuries and hundreds of deaths.
Truck drivers, for a great many reasons, are especially at risk for drowsy driving. Even though commercial drivers have hours-of-service requirements which limit how long they can spend on the road and mandate rest and break times, these rules are often ignored or overlooked. Since most semi-truck drivers are paid per mile rather than per hour or per annum, they are often incentivized by their employer to spend as much time behind the wheel as possible.
Unfortunately, this means that some drivers will still hit the road even if they were unable to sleep. Truck drivers typically face strict deadlines—if they are asked to deliver freight at 9:00 in the morning and arrive even an hour late, they may have to wait until the next day to get offloaded. And, because truck drivers are paid per mile, that means they may earn scarce compensation for the wasted day.
Some particularly negligent drivers may attempt to forge their hourly logbooks so they can travel illegal distances, whether to reach a destination on time or simply secure a larger paycheck. Although this is harder to do now that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires companies to use electronic log books, it does still occur with alarming regularity. In many cases, companies turn a blind eye to such behaviors—in fact, they may even encourage it.
Liability in Drowsy Driving Cases
Since a truck driver’s negligence can be facilitated by a trucking company’s negligence, you may be able to hold both the driver and their employer liable for your injuries. In other cases, you may be able to initiate separate or concurrent claims against:
- The truck’s owner, if the owner is neither the company nor driver
- The truck’s lessor
- The loader or shipper of the cargo
- The manufacturer of any defective parts which contributed to the accident or exacerbated injuries
Many truck-accident-related lawsuits involve multiple defendants. This can be beneficial to injured people, who may stand to recover more money in damages if they pursue several claims.
Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
Missouri does not have a set cap for recovery in most personal injury lawsuits, including truck accident lawsuits. This means that an insurance company or a trial court will determine your award based on the extent of your damages.
Damages may be economic and provide recompense for:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Prescription medication costs
- Lost wages
- Lost future income
- Physical rehabilitation or therapy
Damages may also be non-economic, providing compensation for:
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of limb
- Loss of life
- Loss of companionship
- Inability to perform or continue work
The court will award a reasonable amount based on the sum of your economic and non-economic damages. In cases involving exceptional negligence, you may also request punitive damages—money that is intended to punish the negligent party rather than compensate for losses.
Preserving Damages After a Car Crash
You cannot, of course, simply expect to receive damages without first putting together a compelling case. Even if you can present a medical bill showing that you paid $10,000 for an ambulance or $100,000 for life-saving surgery, the trucking company and their insurer will probably debate the necessity of paying the full amount—if they are willing to pay anything at all, that is.
To ensure that you are not burdened with expenses for an accident that was not your fault, you must act quickly to begin preserving evidence, interviewing eyewitnesses, and poring over the driver and trucking company’s records.
By carefully considering the totality of an accident—from the flow of traffic to the driver’s decision to their employer’s safety records and internal policy—you can begin crafting a compelling argument to get the justice you deserve.
However, you can be sure that the trucking company has the time, money, and lawyers needed to fight back against even the simplest-seeming cases. If you were seriously injured in a truck accident, you should hire an attorney who knows how to respond to the company’s bully tactics.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident in Missouri?
If you've been injured in a car accident, you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Cape Girardeau office directly at 573.335.3359 to schedule your initial consultation.