Large commercial trucks like 18-wheelers and semi trucks are capable of causing a tremendous amount of destruction if they get in an accident. Accordingly, there is a certain amount of responsibility expected of those who are behind the wheel of these vehicles. Truckers are expected to keep themselves healthy and fit for trips over long distances to deliver packages and cargo. This includes not driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and making sure that they do not drive to the point that they are tired and fatigued. Drugs, alcohol, and fatigue can all contribute to motor vehicle accidents. For example, a drunk driver may make a reckless decision that leads to an accident, or a trucker who is sleepy and fatigued from a long trip may not notice an important detail on the road and crash into oncoming traffic.
Truck accident cases where the driver is tired or fatigued are handled in much the same way as any other truck accident case. What will be different is the investigative process into what caused the accident. Building a case for a truck accident revolving around an impaired driver will be different than preparing a case where a problem with the truck caused the accident. That being said, the legal process will be similar for many truck accident lawsuits, regardless of their cause.
To get a free case review with our Maryland truck accident lawyers, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.
Are Truck Driver Fatigue/Impairment Cases Handled Differently in Maryland?
A truck accident lawsuit that alleges the accident happened because the driver was fatigued or otherwise impaired will not necessarily be handled any differently than any other kind of truck accident lawsuit. You will still need to show that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence caused your injuries. Moreover, the way the legal process plays out before and during the trial will not change. Lawyers still gather evidence and present their arguments to the jury in the same way.
What may be different, however, is the content of the lawsuit. If you are trying to prove that driver fatigue caused your injuries, our Maryland personal injury lawyers will be arguing different points and potentially presenting different evidence than if you were arguing that a defect in the truck caused the accident.
Truck Driver Impairment Explained
Driving a truck while “impaired” can mean several things. However, the two main meanings of “driving while impaired” are drunk driving and driving while tired or fatigued. Both are very dangerous to other drivers on the road because they limit a driver’s ability to drive safely and make good decisions.
Drunk driving is extremely dangerous and criminalized in every state. The Maryland statute criminalizing drunk driving is Md. Code, Transp. Art. § 21-902. Drunk driving is dangerous because intoxication limits an individual’s ability to make careful, considered decisions and limits the ability to react as quickly as a sober person would. This is dangerous behind the wheel of any motor vehicle. However, when a truck driver is drunk, the danger is exponentially greater because trucks are so much larger and heavier than other vehicles.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Just like drunk driving, driving while under the effects of various drugs is considered driving under the influence. Controlled substances like marijuana, cocaine, fentanyl, and others can impair driving to potentially a much greater degree than alcohol can. Accordingly, a truck driver whose driving ability is impaired by drugs can cause destructive and tragic accidents.
While most people will immediately think of drunk driving or driving while impaired by drugs, tired driving can be just as dangerous. Fatigue can have the same effects on a driver as alcohol or drugs. In fact, a person who has not slept for 20 hours is impaired to about the same degree as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% – the legal limit in most states. A tired, fatigued driver cannot react as quickly and cannot make as good decisions as a well-rested one.
Hours of Service Rules for Truck Driver Fatigue and Impairment in Maryland
Because driving a truck while impaired or fatigued is very dangerous, there are rules that truck drivers have to follow in order to minimize the risk of tired driving and prevent it from happening in the first place. Many of these rules revolved around limiting how long truckers are allowed to be on the road so that the risk of a tired driver causing an accident is diminished.
Regulations for truck drivers are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. One of the most important regulations that the FMCSA sets is the hours of service regulations for truck drivers. These regulations exist to protect other motorists and make sure that truckers do not overwork themselves to an unhealthy degree. There is a great incentive for truckers to make deliveries and get to their destinations quickly. More trips can equal more pay, and faster trips mean that truckers will have more time to spend with their family and friends and do things they enjoy.
There are several hours of service regulations that are particularly important for truckers. First, truckers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight consecutive hours. Second, truckers can only drive up to 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty. Finally, truck drivers cannot drive more than 14 hours after returning to duty, and the prior off-duty period must have been at least 10 hours.
Call Our Maryland Truck Accident Lawyers
Our Baltimore truck accident lawyers from Rice, Murtha & Psoras can help you with your case when you call (410) 694-7291.