Since Lexington is a regional distribution hub, fully-loaded large trucks are a staple on area streets and highways. These massive vehicles, which weigh up to 80,000 pounds, are very difficult to control, even if the operator is very experienced. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing truck driver shortage, experienced operators are in short supply.
Tuck accidents usually cause serious injuries. Usually, the medical bills alone are more than $50,000. Other economic losses, such as property damage and lost wages, might be almost as high. The noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering or lost future emotional support in a wrongful death claim, are almost incalculable.
A Lexington personal injury attorney can obtain fair compensation for these and other losses. In many cases, additional punitive damages are also available in these claims. Commercial operators have a very high duty of care in Kentucky. Therefore, it’s easier to prove that the driver intentionally disregarded a known risk. That finding could support a punitive damages award.
As mentioned, fully-loaded large trucks are very difficult to control. Because of this weight, and also because of their higher duty of care, truckers have a responsibility to travel extra slow, even if that means missing a delivery or other deadline.
Following distance is a good example of the different duty of care between commercial and noncommercial operators. Most noncommercial operators should maintain a two-second distance between their vehicles and the vehicles in front of them. At a minimum, truckers should maintain about an eight second following distance. The recommended distance grows to sixteen seconds in bad weather conditions.
For both commercial and noncommercial operators, speed increases the risk of a collision as well as the force in a collision.
Most truckers put over a half-million miles a year on their vehicles. Although trucks are designed to take excessive wear and tear, any machine can only take so much abuse before it breaks down.
Preserving the physical evidence is usually critical in these situations. Many insurance companies destroy wrecked trucks within a matter of days. So, lawyers usually send spoliation letters to vehicle owners and insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve any possible physical evidence for later inspection.
Additionally, it’s sometimes hard to establish a history of mechanical defects. Usually, when authorities issue fix-it tickets for items like defective brakes, if the owner quickly remedies the problem, the court dismisses the citation. As a result, it doesn’t appear in most judicial records searches.
Recently, however, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began the Safety Maintenance System database. A driver’s SMS report includes information like vehicle maintenance history. The SMS database usually draws on law enforcement records, as opposed to judicial records. So, any dismissed fix-it tickets usually come up in an SMS report.
Drowsiness is one of the leading causes of large truck crashes. That’s especially true since the federal government has waived a number of HOS (Hours of Service) restrictions, citing the coronavirus pandemic and its effects. As a result, truckers are able to stay behind the wheel longer than ever before.
Alcohol and fatigue have roughly the same effect on the brain and body. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the commercial operator legal limit in Kentucky and most other states.
Circadian rhythm fatigue also plagues many truck drivers, especially since they change work shifts frequently. Most truckers are at home for a few days, then they are on the road for a few days. Such schedule changes aggravate this kind of fatigue. Most people are naturally drowsy during certain times of the night or day, no matter how much sleep they had the night before.
Speaking of sleep, many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea, since they usually sit for long periods of time. This breathing disorder robs people of deep, restorative sleep. Therefore, they are fatigued even after a full night’s rest.
Most truckers must stay on the road as long as possible in order to make money. A missed delivery or other deadline could mean the difference between making money and losing money on a particular run.
To help them keep driving, many truckers take amphetamines and other stimulants. These drugs adversely affect driving skills. Some effects include increased risk-taking, erratic operation, and excessive speed.
Legal drugs could impair drivers as well. Many over-the-counter sleep aids have lingering effects which last for a number of hours. Additionally, many prescription pain pills, such as Fentanyl and Oxycontin, are stronger than morphine or even heroin.
Truck drivers are not immune to device distraction and other distracted driving issues. In fact, since they are behind the wheel so long, they may be even more prone to such issues.
Contrary to popular myth, mounting a cell phone on a hands-free mount does not alleviate the distracted driving problem. In fact, it might make it worse. Such behavior causes drivers to take their eyes off the road and take their minds off driving. Additionally, hands-free mounts give many commercial operators a false sense of security.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers