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Kobal Law

Evidence In Drowsy Truck Driver Crash Claims


Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has repeatedly watered down key HOS (hours of service) requirements. These rules usually include daily driving limits, usually 11 hours, and weekly driving limits, usually 70 hours. These rules also include mandatory break periods.

Because of these dilutions, more drowsy truck drivers are on the road than ever before. Many drivers have even asked the FMCSA for permanent HOS exemptions. So far, bureaucrats have denied all these petitions. But the fact that drivers are bold enough to file them speaks volumes about weak HOS enforcement.

When bureaucrats bow to industry pressure and refuse to protect motorists, a Tampa personal injury lawyer steps into the ring. Attorneys do more than ensure that truck drivers adhere to their legal responsibilities, as outlined below. An attorney, and only an attorney, also obtains the financial compensation these victims need and deserve.

Legal Issues

Before we get to evidence issues, we should briefly touch on the legal issues involved in a drowsy truck driver claim. These legal issues affect the amount and types of evidence that a Tampa personal injury lawyer must collect in order to obtain maximum compensation in these cases.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible. Truck drivers in Florida usually have a duty of utmost care. They must take affirmative steps to avoid accidents. The higher duty of care makes it easier to prove negligence, or a lack of care.

Evidence Issues

Attorneys normally use direct and circumstantial evidence to prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

A large truck’s Electronic Logging Device is often the key piece of direct evidence in these claims. These onboard computers accurately track the driver’s hours of service. The trucking industry fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. Their lawyers understand how powerful this evidence could be in a negligence case.

This critical evidence sometimes isn’t available, unless a lawyer acts quickly. Following a catastrophic wreck, many insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles, including their ELDs. Attorneys must send spoliation letters to these insurance companies to keep them from “accidentally” destroying vital evidence.

Circumstantial evidence usually includes the time of day or night as well as the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) medical records.

Most people are naturally drowsy at certain times of day, like early in the morning or late at night, regardless of how much sleep they had the night before. Circadian rhythm fatigue is especially severe if the tortfeasor recently changed work shifts.

Medical records often establish that the tortfeasor had sleep apnea. This condition is very common among truck drivers, mostly because they sit so much. Even mild sleep apnea (snoring) means the person doesn’t get deep, restorative sleep. So, s/he wakes up fatigued, again regardless of the amount of sleep.

Sleep apnea is especially severe if the tortfeasor spent the night in a sleeper berth instead of a regular bed. 

Reach Out to a Hard-Working Hillsborough County Attorney

Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.


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