Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Lawyer

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Driving a commercial truck for a living can be tedious with long hours and strict regulations. Unfortunately, drivers sometimes get behind the wheel when they should be resting, and a fatigued truck driver is a danger to everyone on the road. Semi-trucks can be up to 14 feet long, eight feet wide, and average up to four tons when loaded with cargo. Operating that kind of heavy equipment on the road with other drivers requires astuteness and deep regard for the well-being of others. If you suffered an injury in a truck accident involving a negligent driver, you could seek compensation for your financial and non-economic losses.

FMCSA Laws for Truck Drivers in Michigan

Michigan abides by the rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The laws created by the FMCSA and adopted by the state mandate several standards for truck drivers and companies, including:

  • Mandatory inspections, maintenance, and repairs
  • Restrictions on cargo weight
  • Licensing requirements for drivers
  • Mandatory alcohol and drug testing for drivers

To address fatigue issues among truck drivers, the FMCSA created a law called “hours of service” that regulates the maximum hours a driver can spend on the road and monitors how fatigue can cause trucking accidents. Additionally, hours of service differ between drivers with cargo and driving carrying passengers.

Hours of Service for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers With Cargo

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation and in conjunction with the rules put forth by the FMSCA, the hours of service for truck drivers carrying cargo are:

  • Use of the sleeper berth. Long-distance truck drivers have a sleeper in the truck to give them a place to stop and rest. They must use it for a minimum of eight hours consecutively with two separate hours off duty, in the sleeper, or both.
  • Driving time limit. Drivers can only be on the road for 11 consecutive hours before they have to take at least 10 hours off. Those using the sleeper berth must use at least eight off-duty hours resting in the berth.
  • Weekly limits. Drivers cannot exceed 60 hours on duty within a standard week or 70 hours within eight days. Once they reach the limit, they must take a minimum of 24 hours off before starting the work week.
  • Limit after off-duty time. Drivers cannot exceed 14 consecutive hours of driving within 24 hours, even after taking 10 consecutive hours off.

Trucking companies keep track of drivers using a log of hours on the road. Most outfit their trucks with a monitor that registers hours in operation, but they cannot force drivers to spend their off-duty time getting much-needed rest. In reality, there is no way to regulate that aspect of the hours of service laws.

Hours of Service for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers With Passengers

For commercial truck drivers carrying passengers, the hours differ slightly. Michigan DOT requires them to abide by the following hours of service:

  • They must use the sleeper berth for at least eight hours, but they can split that time in half. The only stipulation on splitting the time is that neither segment can be less than two hours.
  • They have a 10-hour limit for driving after eight uninterrupted hours off duty.
  • They must follow the same rules regarding the work week.
  • They cannot exceed 15 consecutive hours on duty within 24 hours.

Time spent on duty is not explicitly limited to driving time. Truck drivers have other responsibilities within the scope of their job descriptions. For example, they have to conduct regular truck inspections to check for low tires and other mechanical issues. In addition, some help load and unload cargo. Sometimes they even have to count the time spent waiting for maintenance or repairs to the truck and traveling to and from the location where they receive drug and alcohol testing. On-duty time ends when the driver’s trucking company relieves them of their duties.

Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

Truck drivers may face fatigue for several reasons. Some common examples include:

  • Not using their time off to get adequate rest
  • Overextending themselves to meet deadlines
  • Consistently meeting the maximum allotted weekly hours of service
  • Eating a poor diet
  • Ignoring the regulations from the FMSCA and driving longer than allowed

Trucking companies often offer drivers incentives to get to their destinations early. As a result, drivers often push themselves too far. The laws for hours of service are extensive. Eleven consecutive hours of driving is still a long drive. Some drivers skip stops to gain more miles in the timeframe, and they often eat fast food with little nutritional value. After weeks of this behavior, they can become increasingly more fatigued.

Liability in a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Lawsuit

If you suffer an injury in an accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, your best course of action may be to file a lawsuit seeking damages. Determining liability in a truck accident can be more challenging than most other accidents involving motor vehicles. In addition, truck drivers are not the only possibly liable party when the truck is at fault. For example, if fatigue is the cause of the accident, you may have a case against any of the following parties:

  • The truck driver’s employer. Company records may expose policies that force drivers to overextend themselves to meet ridiculous standards.
  • The truck driver. If the driver violated federal regulations, you could file a case using time log information to support your claim.
  • A third-party company. Some companies source transportation from a trucking company. If they do not adequately vet the drivers, they could be responsible for an accident. 

You would likely benefit from speaking to a personal injury attorney specializing in truck accidents to go over the details of your case and figure out whom you should include in your claim. You may have more than one lawsuit or defendant.

Proving a Fatigued Truck Driver Caused Your Accident

Your attorney will use a variety of evidence to support your claim that the responsible party chose to drive while fatigued. For example, they may address the following points:

  • Logbooks show the driver logging more than the federally regulated hours of service allotted in a day or week.
  • Police mention in their accident report that the truck driver seemed or admitted to being fatigued
  • The accident occurred during late-night hours when the driver should have been off the road. 
  • Statements from witnesses and car accident reconstruction experts show that the driver did not attempt to avoid the crash.

This list is not exclusive. The details of your case determine how you make your claim and what evidence you use to back it up.

Advantages of Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in an accident involving a fatigued truck driver, you deserve compensation for the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering that followed. The good news is you do not have to go through this difficult time alone. At Mike Morse Law Firm, our team of experienced fatigued truck driver accident attorneys prepares to go the distance for our clients to ensure you have the best chance for a fast and fair settlement. We are available to take your call any time of day or night. Contact Mike Morse Law Firm and schedule your free consultation with a lawyer today.

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