Multiple studies have shown that operating a motor vehicle of any size while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk. Even though federal law sets out strict rules for how long truck drivers can stay behind the wheel per day and per workweek, some trucking companies prioritize profits over safety by forcing or allowing their drivers to exceed these limits. This puts those drivers and others around them at risk of serious harm.
Our hardworking team could hold fatigued truck drivers in State College accidents legally liable for the resulting damages their negligence caused. If you were hurt in a collision with an 18-wheeler, do not hesitate to speak with one of our State College truck crash attorneys.
Under federal law, no commercial truck driver who transports property across state lines may be on duty for more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period, and he or she cannot be behind the wheel of his or her vehicle for more than 11 hours total in one day. Additionally, commercial truck drivers cannot be on duty for more than 60 hours in a period of seven days or 70 hours in a period of eight days, with a reset only occurring once a driver has been off-duty at least 34 consecutive hours. State laws establish similar restrictions on drivers operating solely within Pennsylvania’s borders.
If a trucking company forces its drivers to violate these regulations as a condition of continued employment, that company would be civilly liable for any truck accident that occurs in State College due to the fatigue of a truck driver. Alternatively, if a truck driver gets behind the wheel without ensuring he or she has received enough rest, he or she may be directly at fault for an ensuing crash, and his or her employer may bear vicarious liability for the negligence of the employee. A qualified local attorney could clarify whether a particular individual’s circumstances may justify litigation.
If someone hurt in a big rig accident in State College can prove that a fatigued truck driver or his or her employer is responsible for his or her injuries, he or she can seek financial restitution for every form of harm he or she can trace directly back to the accident. This may include both financial losses like medical bills and the costs of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle, as well as non-economic damages like physical pain, emotional suffering, and loss of future personal opportunities due to a permanent disability or disfigurement.
However, even if truck driver fatigue was the primary cause of an accident, a person injured as a result of that wreck may still miss out on compensation if he or she is found partially responsible for causing or contributing to his or her own damages. Under the modified comparative fault system codified in 42 P.S. §7102, courts may reduce a plaintiff’s final damage award by whatever percentage of fault they assign to that plaintiff, and plaintiffs found more than 50 percent to blame for an accident cannot recover anything at all.
Given the immense distances they travel and the long hours they spend on the road, fatigue can be especially dangerous when it impacts commercial truck drivers. In light of this, truck drivers and trucking companies who violate driving time regulations may bear civil liability for any harm they cause through their irresponsible actions.