When determining liability in Charleston truck driving fatigue accidents, attorneys look at not only the drivers, but the roads, the companies, and everyone who might have contributed. If you were seriously harmed, you need to connect with an attorney who could help today.
How Driver Fatigue Influences Liability
Driver fatigue influences assigning liability. It is significant, because if the plaintiff, the person who has been injured in a tractor-trailer wreck is able to show that the driver and the company have violated the federal rules with regard to the number of hours driven or worked versus the number of hours of rest required, they have come a long way in proving negligence in the case.
It is almost negligence per se, because a violation of those standards and those rules would be excellent evidence that the tractor-trailer driver and the company had violated the rules, which likely created a situation where fatigue had a part or played into the accident. Any time there is an accident or a wreck there is always an investigation to figure out what caused the wreck or the accident.
Many times, a tractor-trailer driver goes to great lengths to try to avoid responsibility for what they have done. Many times, they try to make accusations about what the driver and injured party or parties have done. That could be combatted to some extent in some cases with eye-witness testimony to refute what the tractor-trailer drivers say. In a lot of those cases, they look at physical evidence and at eye-witness testimony. There are a lot of different ways to try to show that the tractor-trailer told the truth or was misleading.
When working up in a case, the driver’s log may indicate it has been altered or tampered with, which sometimes happens, or that the data in the black box, similar to an analogy of a plane when it crashes, shows the driver has been operating outside of the rules. It may show on its face that the driver likely suffers from fatigue. Those rules are in place for a reason, and it is to prevent fatigue. If able to show that, it is a strong tool in proving liability and that the tractor-trailer was responsible for the injuries that occurred in the wreck.
Shared Responsibility Between a Trucking Company and Trucker
If the trucking company is found to be responsible, some responsibility is also placed upon the driver. Typically, in cases, there are a couple of different scenarios. One would just be the classic master-servant where the trucking company hires the trucker and they are responsible for the acts of their driver. In modern times, there are lease back agreements that are signed by the tractor-trailer driver to try to pretend like they are an owner-operator and not tied to the company. In those cases, the investigation would include looking to see who has control over that tractor-trailer driver.
In many cases, the tractor-trailer driver only drives for one company, they have only driven for that one company for a number of years, and that one company told the driver when to go, where to go, and how to pick up. If they are able to demonstrate that level of control, even when there is some sham agreement that alleges that the tractor-trailer driver is an owner-operator and not an employee of the trucking company, it could be proven that it is not true.
Also, it could be proven that same master-servant doctrine for which the truck driver is a servant to the master, the trucking company, and whatever acts the driver does are imputed or placed upon the trucking company. In addition, the trucking company could have another layer of liability of being negligent by either hiring a tractor-trailer driver or retaining that tractor-trailer driver.
A classic example of negligent hiring would be the tractor-trailer company failing to do any type of investigation to determine what type of driver they are hiring and failing to look at the Department of Transportation file on the driver that would hopefully indicate any prior moving violations, accidents, or prior conduct. Many times, when the economy is very good, these trucking companies are looking for more drivers. As the economy gets better and better, worse and worse tractor-trailers end up on the road. In a good economy, tractor-trailer companies are typically able to employ better drivers with fewer violations. They have a need for more drivers, because more freight is being transported around the country. These companies many times lower their standards or turn a blind eye to what they should be using as standards. They should be looking at past criminal records. They should be looking at the driving record of the truck driver when they are not in a tractor-trailer and in their personal vehicle.
All these things in the basic investigations are very easy to figure out with just a few keystrokes on a keyboard these days. Basic requests to the government agencies would give the tractor-trailer company a good understanding of what type of driver they are hiring. If somebody has five speeding violations, two accidents, and one that ended in a fatality for which they were found at fault for all of it, maybe that tractor-trailer company is negligent in even hiring that driver. Maybe when they hired the driver, the driver did not have a lot of moving violations, infractions, or problems. Maybe when the driver is working for them, they become aware that they have a drug or alcohol dependency and have DUIs while working for the company. Essentially, anything that would indicate to the company that this is an unsafe driver or one that they should not have working for them but they turned a blind eye and keep them employed anyway would be a negligent retention theory of liability in addition to the master-servant scenario.
There are many ways to look at trying to attach liability to both the truck driver and the tractor-trailer company. They want to try to employ as many of those theories with the facts of the case as possible to try to show liability and make a proper recovery for the injured parties in the case.
Circumstances that Absolve Truckers of Responsibility
Circumstances in which a truck driver might be absolved of responsibility are just like any type of accident. Whether it is regular civilian drivers, people just driving cars, or a tractor-trailer, there always needs to be an investigation to have an understanding of who is at fault. Just because somebody is driving a tractor-trailer does not mean they are at fault for an accident. They could have done everything right and another driver could have done everything wrong.
They look at the physical evidence from the accident. They look at the eye-witness testimony of the drivers and other people that witnessed the accident through investigation and through interviewing. There are many times that the wreck that occurs is not the tractor-trailer driver’s fault. If it is not their fault, no responsibility should be linked to them.
The problem with most of the cases is even when the physical evidence and eye-witness testimony points to the tractor-trailer driver, many of these professional drivers are in the business of trying to blame anyone and everyone they could for what happened and not taking responsibility for their action.
The real work in these cases is reviewing policy, finding all the evidence, and demonstrating that that tractor-trailer driver was not being truthful when they tried to avoid responsibility for causing the accident.
Speak with an Attorney for Help
Liability in Charleston truck driving fatigue accidents is sometimes not straightforward. In instances where you or a loved one was seriously injured by a negligent trucker, an attorney could help you find responsible parties and hold them accountable. Reach out to an attorney for a confidential consultation today.