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Truck Driver Fatigue Is Dangerous. Are Their Employers to Blame?

truck driver

There’s nothing scarier than an 18-wheeler careening out of control, and threatening vehicles, bridges, or even pedestrians in its path.  Driver fatigue is the main factor in around 12% of crashes involving large trucks and may be a contributing factor in many others. 

Federal law requires that drivers spend a minimum of 10 hours off duty every day; they may only drive for 11 hours of every 24.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also recommends staying off the road between midnight and 6 a.m., and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. when most people tend to feel drowsy.

These are great safety guidelines for all of us to follow…but some truck drivers find themselves at the mercy of impossible schedules or demanding employers who push them to violate these rules.  If a trucker’s assignments or work hours are so demanding as to cause drowsiness, their employer may share the fault in an accident, and may end up owing you for damages.

You May Recover More by Suing a Company

Wrecks that involve fatigued drivers can cause a lot of damage, and truck insurance minimums may not pay enough to cover victims’ costs.  A trucking company, however, likely carries much more insurance—which means you have a better chance of recovering full damages.  Many victims end up suing both the company and the individual driver if they can establish cause.

Aside from being able to prove that a trucking company overworked a driver and incentivized unsafe driving practices, there are other methods for proving employer liability.  For instance, if a company hires someone who is unfit to drive or fails to fire someone after a ticket or accident, their negligence can be invoked in court.  Drivers are not ineligible to hold a CDL after their first accident or traffic violation, but companies who hire them may come under scrutiny for any further offenses committed by the trucker during their employ.

Determining Company Liability in Trucking Accidents

The circumstances of a driver’s employment and action may affect whether their employer is liable in the case of an accident.  Even if a driver is a full-time employee, their employer may not be liable if the accident takes place outside of the scope of employment—that is, if the driver was not using their truck to transport goods at the time.  Companies may also be released from liability if the driver misrepresented their schedule to claim they were following rules.

Independent Contractors

Some truckers own their rigs and are paid per route rather than working for a steady salary for one company.  These drivers face much less company oversight—and therefore hold much more liability in an accident.  If a contract assigns all responsibility for negligence to the driver, you may find it difficult to file suit against the company.

Misclassified Workers

To save money, more companies are hiring truck drivers as contractors who pay their own taxes and do not receive benefits.  But, if they have control over how a driver works, they may be liable anyway.  To find cases of misclassification look for companies that:

  • Lease trucks to their “contractors”
  • Provide drivers with steady work/are their primary employer
  • Control their drivers’ schedules

These situations may invalidate the claim that an employee is an independent contractor, opening up the trucking company to liability.

Get Started with Your Fatigued Driver Claim

Politis & Matovina, P.A. has a team of experienced lawyers ready to help with your truck accident case.  We fight to get all our clients the help they need and deserve in the fallout of an accident.  Reach out today to see if you have a case for driver fatigue and negligence.

Contact us online or call (386) 333-6613 for a free case evaluation.