When it comes to commercial vehicles, it’s not uncommon for one to think that safer and more skilled drivers are operating them. While the drivers of commercial trucks and cars are supposed to go through the proper training to operate these vehicles on a regular basis, this doesn’t always happen. Unfortunately, accidents on the road can happen to anyone, including commercial drivers. When a commercial vehicle accident occurs, it’s important to understand the potential causes of how these incidents happen and where liability falls.
When an accident with a commercial vehicle occurs, it doesn’t just involve the driver; these situations typically involve many individuals and at least one business entity. A commercial truck driver may be hired through a company that transfers and ships equipment, food, or other items; however, they may also drive as independent contractors with no connection to a company. The potential parties who can be held liable and thus sued for causing damage in a commercial vehicle accident include:
The driver of a commercial truck or vehicle may be held liable for damages resulting from an accident if they broke the law, have an operational issue within the truck, become distracted, or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. In the event substances are involved, the truck driver may be held liable for the accident. Additional factors are often at play, which increase the chances of an accident, including longer driving hours, driving at night, drowsy driving, and health-related conditions can cause or contribute to a commercial vehicle accident.
The company that hires the commercial vehicle driver can also be held liable for a roadway collision; however, pinning liability on a company can be difficult. In order to prove the company was liable, an investigation will need to be conducted to look for evidence of negligence, such as an incomplete vehicle inspection, the company cut corners with regard to safety, or unrealistic expectations of drivers to make deadlines. Investigations into these concerns can demonstrate that – in addition to the trucking company – manufacturers share liability due to automotive product defects.
In the event neither the trucking company nor the truck driver own the vehicle, the owner may be held liable for car crash damages. The vehicle owner has a responsibility to perform regular inspections on the vehicle, such as checking the engine, tires, and internal workings of the truck or car. The vehicle owner must also maintain brakes, fluids, and the electronic system. Federal regulations govern these inspections and maintenance, and failing to follow these guidelines could result in the vehicle owner being liable for damages.
The automotive manufacturer of the vehicle’s parts may be held responsible for an accident if a defect is present that causes or contributes to a commercial vehicle accident. The parts could cause a malfunction that leads to a tire blowout, mechanical failure, or even faulty brakes. In these scenarios, the parts manufacturer could be sued for damages to the victim.
While many factors contribute to causing accidents involving commercial vehicles, the top concerns most often include the following:
Truck and commercial vehicle drivers and the companies that employ them make money when they are delivering the cargo to its destination. When a driver is still being trained, deliveries are not being made, which costs the company money. Additionally, giving drivers the training they need typically costs additional fees. Due to these financial hurdles, many drivers are not adequately trained to operate their business vehicles. Companies often resort to doing as little training as possible in order to keep costs down, rushing drivers onto the road in order to turn a profit, often resulting in accidents.
Unfortunately, accidents involving drunk or intoxicated drivers happen everyday across the nation. There is no excuse for any driver, including commercial vehicle drivers, to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Accidents involving commercial trucks can have catastrophic results – including severe injury or death – due to the massive size and weight of the vehicle. Driving these large vehicles is an incredible difficult job that requires stamina, attention to detail, and the ability to remain calm behind the wheel; however, when a driver operates a commercial vehicle under the influence, their skills become impaired, resulting in devastating commercial vehicle accidents.
The drivers of commercial trucks and vehicles are often under a high amount of stress due to the unrealistic expectations put upon them by the companies for which they drive. Drivers cannot control factors like traffic, time spent waiting for loads, and time spent on vehicle maintenance. This pressure can force a driver to push themselves well past the federally mandated maximum driving hours in order to meet delivery deadlines. Rushing while tired often causes motor vehicle accidents. The demand for speed leads to poor safety in many different areas. Drivers may speed at an unsafe rate and may skip mandatory rest periods leading them to drive while drowsy.
Sleep apnea is a major contributing factor to accidents involving commercial vehicles. Sleep apnea is one of 80 sleep disorders that are life threatening if left untreated. This disorder – which disrupts breathing patterns while asleep – has been found to affect 35% of commercial truck drivers. For these drivers, the most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which impacts the driver’s ability to obtain restorative sleep and remain alert behind the wheel. When breathing is constantly disrupted during sleep, the brain is starved of oxygen, leading to hypertension and heart disease.
Commercial truck drivers with OSA may be in bed for long hours, but actually get very little good quality sleep due to constant breathing interruption. The combination of disrupted sleep and interrupted breathing dramatically increases drowsiness, increasing the risk of roadway accidents by as much as 250% when compared to well-rested drivers.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles and trucks are incredibly dangerous. Due to the sheer mass of these vehicles, accidents involving them typically result in catastrophic injury and even death. When these accidents involve negligent drivers and/or poor training practices, the aftermath often requires the skill and knowledge of a seasoned commercial vehicle accident attorney. At Ramsey Law Group, we help you hold the responsible parties accountable for the harm they caused. If you or someone you know has been in an accident involving a commercial vehicle or truck, contact us today for a free consultation.