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Trucking Regulations & Personal Injury: Holding Truck Companies Responsible for Over-Worked Drivers

May 1, 2015 - Articles - by Dodson & Hooks, APLC

Fatigue can hit a driver at a moment’s notice. However, when that driver is hauling 10,000 pounds (or more) of sensitive freight at 60 miles per hour down the Louisiana highways, this problem can go from uncomfortable to deadly in the blink of an eye.

According to a Large Truck Crash Causation Study performed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which compiled data relating to the role of alertness or fatigue in vehicle crashes involving tractor trailers, as many as 15 percent of crashes were directly related to driver fatigue. What’s more, researchers actually acknowledged that the fatigue data was derived from an exceptionally small pool of testing material, and the problem may be even more widespread than originally thought.

If you were recently injured in a truck accident and believe driver fatigue may be a component of your case, we encourage you to contact the Baton Rouge truck accident attorneys at Dodson Hooks, ALPC right away.

Federal Driver Fatigue Regulations

Federal regulations, which apply to any trucking or freight company doing business in or traveling through Louisiana, limit the amount of hours and days a driver may be behind the wheel. The regulations are promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and include the following restrictions and guidelines for commercial drivers:

  • Drivers may operate a truck for a maximum of 11 straight hours following a rest period of 10 straight hours.
  • A driver may only operate a truck if eight hours or less have passed since the driver’s last off-duty period or since the driver’s last opportunity to sleep for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise, the driver must take a rest break.
  • A driver may not drive after 60 hours on duty within seven consecutive days. At this point, the driver must take 34 consecutive hours of rest time.

As you can see, the regulatory mandates imposed against truckers are highly-specific and ultimately designed to avoid the calamity awaiting a tired and overworked tractor trailer operator. But, what happens if these rules are not followed? More specifically, is the driver responsible for an accident caused by driver fatigue if he or she was directed to drive beyond the maximum number of hours?

Vicarious Liability Following a Truck Accident

As your truck accident attorneys will explain further, vicarious liability is a legal concept used to shift liability from one party to the other, and it is often invoked following a Baton Rouge truck accident involving a national commercial freight line. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, an injured victim can actually sue the driver’s employer if, at the time of the crash, the driver was operating the truck within the scope of his employment and at the direction of his supervisor.

In other words, if a truck driver is required to meet certain deadlines or mileage milestones regardless of the number of hours behind the wheel, his employer could be on the hook for the medical expenses and lost wages of any victims injured in an accident caused by fatigue. Vicarious liability is a highly fact-specific legal analysis, and your auto accident attorneys can best help you determine if you have a strong likelihood of being able to recover from the driver’s employer following your truck accident experience.

Contact Dodson Hooks, ALPC Today for More Information!

If you were recently injured in a truck accident, please contact Dodson Hooks, ALPC in Baton Rouge today. To set up an appointment, please call our office at (225) 372-1666.

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