A tanker truck driver who apparently lost control of his vehicle on I-91 in Whately, Massachusetts, in late June was killed when the vehicle rolled on its side. Because of its flammable contents, fire department crews sprayed foam on the vehicle and diverted traffic away from the scene and evacuating a nearby elementary school.
Although no one else was injured and a gasoline-fueled fire was averted, the incident underlines the importance of truck safety and regulation. Residents of Whately were fortunate that the crash did not lead to a devastating conflagration. While truck accidents are not as common as those involving passenger vehicles, the results are more likely to be serious and deadly.
Factors in Truck Accidents
About 4,000 people are killed in truck-related accidents each year or about 1 in 8 fatal accidents, a high percentage given that there are millions of more passenger cars on our nation’s highways and that drivers and trucking companies are much more heavily regulated. Still, human error is the major factor in these accidents. This and other factors include:
- Impairment from alcohol or drugs
- Distraction from texting or other use of cell phone or vehicle radio
- Lack of training or experience
- Excessive loads
- Unsecured loads
- Poor maintenance leading to steering and braking problems
- Tire blowouts
- Aggressive and reckless driving
- Road defects
- Poor driving conditions
Fatigue may account for nearly 30% of fatal truck accidents. Most occur between midnight and 6:00 am when many truck drivers can avoid traffic congestion and deliver their loads on time. Unfortunately, many of these drivers are driving without having proper rest.
Truck drivers have strict rules promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, governing how long they are permitted to drive and the rest periods between shifts. These include:
- 30-minute rest break for each 8 hours of a shift
- 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off-duty
- No driving following 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off-duty
- No driving after 60-hours on-duty in one week or more than 70 hours on-duty over 8 days
- May restart a consecutive 7/8 day period after taking 3- hours or more consecutive hours off-duty
It is difficult to say what caused the truck driver who was killed in the rollover in Whately to lose control since it occurred around noon. The driver could have fallen asleep after driving for many hours. However, fatigue in itself can cause a driver to not focus on driving. Sleep studies show that your perception/reaction time to a road hazard is significantly affected if you fail to get adequate sleep. The tanker driver could have momentarily fallen asleep or tried to over-correct the vehicle that was drifting due to inattention and caused the truck to rollover.
Liability in Truck Accidents
Truck accident injury claims can be complex since it is not always apparent as to the cause of the accident. In many trucks, there are on-board monitors, similar to the black boxes required on aircraft, that provides data on speed, braking, and other operations of the vehicle that can provide clues to what the driver and vehicle were doing in the moments before the crash as well as how long the truck had been traveling and its stops. Trucks are also being outfitted with cameras that may have videotaped the driver’s actions or what was within his or her line of vision at the time of the accident.
Truck company policies and drug testing protocol can be reviewed if the driver was given a blood test that indicated the presence of illegal substances such as cocaine or methamphetamine, or a legally prescribed opioid such as Hydrocodone, Morphine, Oxycontin or others. Further, commercial drivers are considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.04%, or half the legal limit for passenger vehicle drivers of 0.08%.
If the company had a lax record of hiring drivers with poor driving records, did not implement drug testing, or failed to adequately train the driver, then this can be a basis for finding the company liable in a truck accident injury case. It is not uncommon for trucking companies to take shortcuts in their practices or to hide or alter records on their drivers and other practices.
Experts in trucking regulations and in accident reconstruction are often retained in serous and fatal truck accidents. A careful and thorough investigation of the accident scene, the truck, video surveillance, logs, on-board monitor, company practices, drug tests, and others are often undertaken in these cases.
Damages in a Truck Accident Case
Damages in a truck accident can be substantial. Typically, these may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Lost earning capacity
- Permanent disfigurement
- Diminished enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
In a fatal accident, the administrator for the decedent’s estate has 3-years from the accident date to file a claim in court. Damages in these actions are what the decedent might have recovered if he or she had survived. These are:
- Medical expenses, if any, incurred before death
- Value of the income the decedent could have reasonably expected to earn over his or her lifetime
- Reasonable burial and funeral expenses
- The care, companionship, love, guidance and support the decedent would have given family members
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have visibly and consciously suffered before succumbing
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was malicious, willful, wanton and reckless
Retain the Law Firm of Burns and Jain
If you or a loved one suffered a truck accident injury or fatality, you will need competent, aggressive, and resourceful legal representation if you want the compensation your case deserves. Complex cases demand skilled legal assistance and you can be assured that the attorneys at Burns and Jain will provide you the counsel, advice, and dedicated handling of your claim to get you the compensation your case demands.
Call a truck accident injury lawyer at Burns and Jain at (617) 227-7423 today and schedule a consultation.