Truck drivers, insurance companies and trucking companies can be held liable if you were injured due to truck driver fatigue
The 2014 deaths of comedians Tracy Morgan and Jimmy Mack McNair, in an 18-wheeler truck accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, brought some publicity to accidents caused by drowsy truckers. Despite federal regulations designed to minimize this danger, the financial realities of the trucking industry provide truckers with every temptation to routinely violate these regulations. At Lomurro Law, our New Jersey accident attorneys hold them accountable.
Commercial truck drivers are generally paid by the mile, not by the hour, which gives them the incentive to travel as many miles per day as possible, even if that means missing sleep. This perverse incentive system is a danger to every driver on the road. Weaving and swerving are two signs that you may be sharing the road with a drowsy truck driver.
Following are some tips that can help you drive defensively while sharing the road with trucks, particularly 18-wheelers:
- Stay out of the trucker’s blind spot. If you can’t see his mirrors, he can’t see you.
- Yield the right of way to the trucker, even if he is driving like a bully
- Don’t make any sudden moves, such as abruptly changing lanes, around trucks
- Pull into another lane if a truck is tailgating you.
- Avoid driving alongside a truck and especially between two trucks.
Will I win my claim if the trucker was violating a trucking safety regulation at the time of the accident?
Not necessarily, but it is never bad news if you can prove such a violation. Following are some examples of trucking safety regulations that are designed to prevent drowsy driving:
- Daily driving limits – Truckers may not drive more than 11 hours in a single day, and they must take at least one half-hour break during the first eight hours of their shift.
- Weekly maximums – Truckers may not drive more than 70 hours in any 7 day-period.
- Enforced days off – After completing a 70-hour workweek, a trucker must rest for at least 34 hours. This 24-hour period must include at least two nights of sleep between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
The most straightforward way of checking whether a trucker complied with these regulations is by checking his mandatory driving log. This written record might even include GPS tracking of the truck. You may need a lawyer, of course, to get this information out of a trucking company that will be reluctant to provide evidence that its driver violated trucking safety regulations.
Can I file a claim against the trucking company?
Normally, the injured party in an accident caused by a negligent trucker must sue the trucker himself (and, by subrogation, his insurance company) rather than the trucking company. The reason for this is that truckers are generally considered independent contractors rather than employees, and this means that the trucking company might be held liable for the accident only if the trucking company itself was negligent.
A trucking company might be negligent, however, if it scheduled a driver in a manner that forced him to violate trucking safety regulations to keep pace with the trucking company’s demands, or if it hired a driver with a poor safety record.
If you have been injured by a drowsy trucker in New Jersey, talk to us
Trucking accidents are frequently catastrophic – physically, emotionally and financially. There is no good reason why you should need to worry about how you will pay your medical bills in the midst of such devastation. Let us handle your legal problems while you concentrate on recovery. Contact the skilled New Jersey truck accident attorneys at Lomurro Law today at 732-482-9285 or fill out our online contact form for a free initial consultation. Although we maintain offices in Freehold and East Brunswick, we can meet you at home or in the hospital if you prefer.