Commercial trucks are a staple for our economy, carrying essential goods across the country. Unfortunately, these trucks are not without their risks. Typically, these vehicles can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds and often lead to devastating and catastrophic injuries if they are involved in an accident. As a result, both the state and federal governments have created hours of service (HOS) regulations to prevent some of these horrific crashes by ensuring that truck drivers drive safely on the road by staying awake and alert.
Yet, even though these regulations are in place. It does not mean that all truck drivers or trucking companies follow them, and sadly when these rules are ignored, dangerous and deadly accidents result. However, as a victim of this traumatizing accident, you should not have to deal with the life-changing repercussions on your own. You and your family deserve compensation and justice for the harm you endured. But before you can recover this money, you must prove that the truck driver was responsible for this accident because of their wrongful actions, such as violating the hours of service regulations.
That is why we have created the following blog post. In it, we will walk you through everything you need to know about these regulations and show you how an experienced personal injury attorney can help you prove that a trucker violated these rules.
Understanding Hours of Service Regulations for Truck Drivers
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the hours of service regulations refer to the maximum amount of time that a truck driver can be on duty. These rules specifically detail driving time and the number of rest periods that a driver must take so that they can remain awake and alert as they drive:
- The truck driver is only allowed 11 hours of driving time within a 14-hour driving period. This 14-hour time span includes breaks to use the restroom and food breaks. In addition, this period begins after a truck driver has been off-duty for ten consecutive hours.
- The truck driver must take a 30 consecutive minute break every eight straight hours of driving time.
- The truck driver has an additional two-hour driving window during adverse driving conditions.
- There is a 60/70 hour limit in place for on-duty driving time over seven to eight consecutive days. However, a driver can restart this period by taking 34 or more successive hours off-duty.
The Importance of Hours of Service Regulations in Truck Accident Cases
These regulations were created in hopes of allowing truck drivers time off where they can obtain sufficient rest, and as a result, reduce the amount of fatigue-related truck crashes. This is extremely important as these types of crashes often result in a slew of catastrophic injuries. In fact, it is not uncommon for motorists and passengers that are involved in a fatigue-related truck accident to suffer the following:
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Deep lacerations
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
Proving an Hours of Service Violation: Tips and Strategies
Proving that a truck driver violated hours of service regulations following a trucking accident can be extremely challenging. However, one of the most effective ways to prove that a crash resulted from truck driver fatigue is to show that a driver was on the road for longer than was allowed. As a result, some of the records and evidence that can be useful in proving these violations include:
- Driver Logbooks: Typically, a truck driver must keep entries tracking the number of hours they are on the road. Getting ahold of these logs can provide you with vital information indicating if the truck driver violated the hours of service. Unfortunately, you must keep in mind that these logbooks can be falsified or doctored by the driver or a trucking company. Consequently, there needs to be a full investigation into the accident.
- Vehicle Black Box: Most trucks today will have an electronic logging device installed in their vehicles. These devices will automatically record the truck’s hours of service.
- Social Media Posts: Checking the driver’s online presence can help establish the truck driver’s journey and how long they were on the road.
- Data From a Cell Phone: These phones can provide you with several critical details, including GPS details, which can allow you to pinpoint the vehicle’s speeds and locations throughout their journey, text messages, call logs, emails, and other information that can help show exactly what the driver was doing during their hours of service.
- Driver Receipts: Certain receipts can provide you with essential information regarding a truck driver’s timeline. For instance, tollbooth tickets, gas station receipts, weight station receipts, timestamped bills of lading, and timestamped food receipts can show you what the driver was doing and when.
- Maintenance Records: Pre-trip and post-trip inspection records are required under FMCSA rules and can help prove a truck driver’s hours of service and whether any violations occurred.
Recoverable Damages in Trucking Accident Cases: What You Need to Know
If you have been injured in a trucking crash because of another person’s wrongful actions, you may be entitled to certain types of damages. In Louisiana, these damages often include both economic and non-economic damages, such as
- Medical bills including past, present, and future medical expenses (doctor visits, surgeries, hospital stay, and prescription medications)
- Personal property repairs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Replacement services such as child care, transportation, or other household services
- Rehabilitative therapy such as physical and occupational therapy
- At-home nursing care
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of reputation
- Scarring and disfigurement
How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Get You the Justice You Deserve?
Compiling all of these records and evidence can take quite a bit of time, especially since, many times, this evidence will be withheld by the truck drivers or the trucking companies. However, when you have an experienced personal injury attorney working on your side, they can perform a thorough investigation into your trucking accident and secure the valuable evidence needed to prove fault and damages.
Once retained, these lawyers can provide you with the following assistance:
- Go over any questions you have and determine the best legal options you can pursue
- Figure out which parties are liable for your crash and make sure to hold all of them accountable
- Interview relevant witnesses who saw what happened and take down their testimony
- Bring in the experts such as accident reconstructions, engineers, and doctors to substantiate your claims
- Figure out your damages and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf
- Handle all the negotiations and discussions with the other side, making sure to go after a just settlement offer
- Take your case to trial, if necessary, and fight for the money you are entitled to
Do not wait any longer if a trucking accident has impacted your life. Contact Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC today or call our office at (504) 294-5094 and let our legal team show you how we can fight for the justice and damages you deserve.