Mistakes made by truck drivers are the cause of a certain percentage of trucking accidents. These accidents, more the exception than the rule, are most often caused by truck drivers who are in one sense or another, impaired, whether by alcohol, prescription drugs, or the most frequent cause, driver fatigue.
Although truckers are under strict regulations to control their rest periods, they are sometimes influenced by economic factors to ignore the law, and drive well beyond their legal limits.
One problem stems from the fact that many truckers are paid by the mile rather than having a steady salary. This pressures them to rush, which can result in them ignoring safety in order to make a delivery.
All of these facors can result in an impaired driver, and unfortunately I have seen what happens when a tired driver stays behind the wheel of his big rig.
A 2006 crash on an Indiana highway killed five students from Taylor University. One of those who died was Laurel Erb, a 20-year-old St. Charles native who attended the school in Upland, Ind.
Laura rode in a van with others that night when a semi-trailer crossed over the center line, causing a head-on collision described by some emergency personnel as one of the worst crashes they had ever seen. It was soon learned that the semi driver, Robert Spencer, had fallen asleep at the wheel – in part because he had failed to take required rest breaks while on the road.
Spencer eventually received a four year prison sentence after pleading guilty to several counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness.
(The truck driver and his employer were insured by a policy that had liability limits of two million dollars. The van that was transporting Laurel and her fellow students was owned by Taylor University, and insured by Indiana Insurance Company.
I, along with Peter Flowers filed suit against Indiana Insurance to compel them to pay damages pursuant to the Underinsured Motorist Provision of its policy. The court agreed that Indiana's insurance did apply, and a global settlement of over 9 million dollars was reached on behalf of all five victims.)
Another case that comes to mind is that of an accident involving an 80-year old woman, a passenger in her adult daughter's car, who was seriously injured when a trucker abrubtly turned into their path. Full details of that case can be found on my firm profile http://www.foote-meyers.com/
(Peter Flowers and I secured a 1.32 million the day before jury selection)
If you are in an accident where you suspect that the driver fell asleep or failed to react properly, you should determine whether there was a violation of the hours of service rules. Because of the intracacies of the trucking industry, getting the proper information may require some industry knowledge. For instance, it is critical to make sure data contained on a truck's tech equipment is preserved, otherwise it could be erased as part of the normal routine of the trucking company. In any case, you may want to get advice or representation from an attorney.