Many people use the word fatigued interchangeably with tired, though the two words don’t have the same meaning. When you feel tired, a good night’s sleep will make you feel refreshed. When you feel fatigued, on the other hand, you may not feel fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep.
If you work a lot of overtime, constantly drive without taking a break, or get very little sleep, it catches up to you after a while. Thus, truck drivers have hours-of-service regulations to ensure that they have enough time off to catch up on sleep. The hours-of-service regulations also dictate that truck drivers have to take breaks during a driving shift and not drive more than a certain number of hours.
However, day drivers—those that go home every night—do not have to abide by the same hours-of-service regulations because they are not on the road for more than a day without going home. That does not mean that they do not suffer from fatigue. A daily driver might not sleep at night and could suffer from fatigue and cause an accident. Over-the-road drivers who do not get enough rest between drives may feel fatigued.
While a fatigued person can fall asleep at any time during the day, he or she will have a higher risk of falling asleep at the wheel between midnight and 6:00 a.m., or in the late afternoon. A body’s circadian rhythm dictates what feels like a normal sleep time for humans—even truck drivers. Even with eight hours of sleep, a driver driving at night to miss traffic has a higher chance of falling asleep—and a fatigued driver has an even higher chance of falling asleep.
Not Just Truckers Drive While Fatigued
While fatigued drivers certainly pose a risk when out on the road, so do drivers of passenger vehicles who drive while fatigued. If you feel fatigued, you might not notice signs of a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel until it’s too late. In a recent year, 2.4 percent of fatal crashes resulted from fatigued drivers.
Everyone on the road can benefit from drivers only hitting the road when they feel well-rested.
Before you take a long trip, make sure you:
- Get enough sleep during the week before the trip. Truck drivers should get enough sleep whether they plan to sleep at home or in their truck’s sleeper. If you work as an over-the-road driver and do not have a sleeper, spring for a motel room to ensure that you get restful sleep.
- Eat healthily. Do not skip meals before going on a long trip, and make sure you eat healthy food before taking that long trip. It can prove difficult for truck drivers because when they have to stop, they may only have fast-food options. Truck drivers can combat this by bringing home-cooked meals that they can heat in the truck’s microwave.
- Pull over and take a nap if you start to feel tired while driving. You should get at least 10 minutes and give yourself 15 minutes to wake up, but if you don’t have a strict schedule, you should take a 45-minute nap.
- Do not try to stay awake by turning up the radio, opening the window, or blasting cold air into your face with the air conditioning. These tricks do not work, and you could end up causing an accident because you fell asleep.
- Do not take medications that cause drowsiness, including cold pills and allergy medications.
Stay alert and watch the traffic around you. If you notice a truck weaving near the centerline and the breakdown lane or cannot keep its speed consistent with other cars in front of it, stay behind the truck. You can get off at the next exit to take a break. By the time you get back on the road, the truck should have gotten far enough ahead of you that you do not catch up to it.
If you must pass a truck driver who appears fatigued, do so with extreme caution. If you hope to prevent an accident, you only have a split second to react, if you have any time at all. Always remember that a truck driver cannot slow down as quickly as you can, nor can he or she correct the truck’s path as easily as you can in a car.
What To Do After a Fatigued Truck Driver Hit You
If you can move without causing additional damage to yourself after a truck accident, you should:
- Check on others involved in the accident, and call first responders.
- Take pictures of the accident. Be sure to take photos from all angles. Include damage to the road, including skid marks. You should also include photos of any damage to nearby property, including real estate, mailboxes, fences, and utility poles.
- Obtain contact information, registration information, insurance information, and CDL information from the driver.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses, including passengers in the vehicles involved in the wreck.
- Give the police officer your version of what happened.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over.
Under no circumstances should you admit guilt or indicate that you haven’t sustained any injuries. Injuries sometimes do not manifest for hours or even a couple of days after the accident.
After the police release you from the accident scene, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Let medical professionals know that you were in a truck accident and that you need a full check-up to determine whether you have injuries that you cannot see or feel.
Finally, contact a truck accident attorney to help you with your claim against the truck driver and others who might share responsibility for the accident.
Fatigued Truck Driver Injuries
Truck accident injuries have a higher risk of causing severe or catastrophic injuries or death because of the size of the truck. If you notice a truck driver driving erratically, he or she may feel fatigued. If possible, stay away from the truck. You can even get off an exit and wait for the truck to get far enough ahead of you. You can also see if the truck has a number on the back to call the office or dispatcher to warn the company that a driver has a hard time keeping in his lane.
Injuries a fatigued truck driver could cause include:
- Bumps, bruises, scrapes, scratches, and cuts.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and/or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Eye and face injuries.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and/or thermal burns.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Crushed bones.
- Simple and/or compound fractures.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Internal injuries.
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections in open wounds, whether you suffered the wound in the accident or during surgery to repair damage from the accident. You may even require amputation, caused by infection or because doctors cannot save a digit or limb that was crushed in the accident.
Furthermore, accident injuries could exacerbate existing injuries or diseases for which you already receive treatment. If your current accident injuries exacerbate pre-existing issues, the defendant should pay for the extra medical expenses and pain and suffering because you would not have to go through this but for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
How a Fort Lauderdale Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Even if you continue to receive in-patient treatment in the hospital, a Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer can help you file your claim with the appropriate insurance companies. You won’t have to worry about going back and forth with the insurance company while trying to recover from your injuries.
Additionally, because insurance companies want to make money at all costs, they will do anything to deny your claim or convince you that you’ve overvalued your claim. Attorneys know these tricks and insurance companies know it; thus, they won’t try the same tactics on attorneys. Insurance companies also know that when you retain an attorney, you will litigate your case if they do not offer you a fair and reasonable settlement. Thus, insurance companies will more likely settle fairly when you use an attorney to help you with settlement negotiations.
Truck accident lawyers also help you through each step of the process, including hiring investigators, enlisting expert witnesses, and deposing defendants to find out whether the at-fault driver committed grossly negligent or intentional actions. Furthermore, an attorney will determine whom you should collect from or sue if more than one person or entity bears liability for the accident. Finally, your attorney will ensure that you pursue maximum compensation depending on your specific circumstances.
Can You Estimate My Claim’s Value?
The amount of compensation you can recover from the defendant depends on the severity of your injuries, whether you lost a loved one in the accident, and the defendant’s actions or inactions that led to the accident. You could collect compensatory damages and punitive damages, both of which we discuss in further detail below.
Pennsylvania allows plaintiffs to collect compensatory damages, which the statute divides into two categories: (1) economic damages and (2) non-economic damages.
Economic Damages. Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Medical Expenses. You can collect compensation to cover medical expenses, including surgery, follow-up appointments, other appointments with medical professionals, ambulatory aids, prescriptions, upgrades to your home, including wheelchair ramps and grab bars, and upgrades to your vehicle, such as hand controls. If doctors expect your injuries to result in long-term or permanent disabilities, you can also collect future medical expenses. Your Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer works with a team of professionals to determine an appropriate amount for future medical expenses.
- Wages. If your injuries prevent you from working, you can collect compensation for the wages you lost from the time of the accident until you settle or win a trial award. If doctors expect your injuries to turn into long-term or permanent disabilities, you can also collect your future earning capacity value.
- Personal Property. You can also recover compensation to pay for any personal property you lost in the accident, including your vehicle and any personal items in your vehicle, such as a laptop, clothing you just picked up from the dry cleaner, cell phones, and other personal property.
- End-of-Life Expenses. If you lost a loved one in a truck accident, you could recover burial, funeral, and/or cremation expenses. You might also recover certain probate expenses, such as probate court filing fees.
Non-Economic Damages. Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value since you cannot put a price on how you feel.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life changes because of accident injuries, including taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer take part in or enjoy time with your family.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or a leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your bladder or eyesight.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, home repair and maintenance, and house cleaning.
If you can show the court that the defendant committed grossly negligent or intentional actions, you could collect punitive damages. Courts use punitive damages as a punishment for a defendant’s behavior in an attempt to prevent future similar behavior.
Contact an experienced truck accident attorney for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a Fort Lauderdale truck driver fatigue accident.