Distracted Driving Accidents: Trucker Negligence
While it’s never easy to navigate through a roadway filled with distracted drivers, it’s also very dangerous—especially when the distracted drivers are behind the wheel of a big-rig. Truck accidents in New York have skyrocketed in recent years, and the numbers are still climbing.
Recent high-profile cases, such as the accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan, have brought truck driver negligence to light. Whether the driver is tired, talking on a cell phone or simply “zoned out” and not paying attention, some truckers put everyone on the road at risk.
Distracted Driving Laws for Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration restricts truck drivers from texting and driving, but that doesn’t mean they always follow the rules. In fact, there are several rules in place for truck drivers that don’t apply to the rest of us, and each has been enacted (and even legislated) to keep other motorists safe. For example:
- Truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours and must have 10 consecutive hours off-duty before driving those 11 hours when they’re carrying property.
- Truck drivers can’t work more than 70 hours per week, and that number of hours is permitted only after 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 3,000 to 4,000 people die in truck and bus crashes each year in the U.S., and they attribute 13 percent of those deaths to fatigued drivers. That’s a significant data set—and according to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel.
It’s not just about drowsy driving, though. The ordinary rules of the road apply to truck drivers, as well. Truckers can’t talk on the phone while driving, and they have to obey the speed limits outlined for trucks, which are often 5 to 10 miles-per-hour slower than they are for non-commercial vehicles.
More than 400,000 people are involved in distracted driving crashes annually, according to Distraction.gov, the U.S. government’s hub for distracted driving facts.
But what if it happens to you?
What to Do if You’re Hit by a Distracted Truck Driver
We can’t control what other drivers do. Although there are several laws in place to prevent truck drivers from being negligent or driving while distracted, many truckers don’t follow them—and that puts you, your family and your friends at risk.
After any accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical care. Even if you think you aren’t hurt, you need to know that many injuries don’t show up right away. It can take hours, days or even weeks for an injury to show up. Among the most notorious truck accident injuries that postpone their appearance are:
- Neck and spinal injuries. Whiplash is incredibly common after truck accidents, because the sheer force of the impact can force your head to move forward and then back. The muscles, nerves and tendons in your neck can become irreparably damaged in an accident, and if you’re in shock or if you’re full of adrenaline just after a crash, it can be difficult to tell that something’s wrong.
- Concussions and brain injuries. When your brain hits the inside of your skull, it can take time for swelling or other trauma to manifest. You might even notice it weeks later, but some of the key symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include fatigue, changes in your sleeping patterns, and an inability to concentrate. You may also be dizzy, feel nauseous or have headaches that you didn’t have before the accident.
It can’t hurt to let paramedics treat you at the scene, and it may be an even better idea to let them transport you to a hospital where a physician can fully evaluate your condition. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.
As you’re waiting to be treated, pay attention to your surroundings as best you can. If there are witnesses, you may want to get their names and contact information. If you talk to police, make sure you get their contact information as well; you may need copies of their reports later.
Can You Sue a Truck Driver for Causing an Accident?
In many cases, particularly those that are caused by a negligent and distracted truck driver, you can sue. Although you may be reluctant to take legal action after an accident, suing can force the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay for your hospital bills, your lost wages and the other expenses you’ve accrued as a result of the accident. Healthcare isn’t cheap, and when you’re missing work to recover from your injuries, your creditors don’t put the bills on hold.
Every case is different, so if you have been injured in an accident because a truck driver was distracted behind the wheel, it’s important that you talk to an attorney who can give you a complimentary case evaluation. The sooner you get help, the better off you’ll be.
To speak with Greenstein & Milbauer about your situation call 1-800-842-8462 (1-800-