In California, as in other states throughout the country, the danger posed by large commercial trucks is significant. According to a report posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2017, accidents involving large trucks resulted in the deaths of 4,067 people and caused 116,000 people to suffer injuries. The substantial mass of commercial trucks, their broad profile, and their predisposition towards tipping and rollover accidents make them quite dangerous when piloted by a truck driver who isn’t operating at peak capacity.
Though it’s easy to blame the commercial truck driver in an accident, there are other parties who may be liable, too. In fact, the employer of a commercial trucker — depending on the circumstances — could be held independently liable for engaging in negligent acts of their own that contributed to the accident. This is especially relevant in the context of trucker fatigue and employer schedules.
Negligent Scheduling Could Lead to Fatigue
The employers of commercial truckers have a responsibility to those who are the foreseeable victims of their negligence (i.e., other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians). Employers must act reasonably to prevent exposure to a heightened risk of danger. These risks include trucker fatigue and drug use, both of which can negatively affect the ability of a commercial trucker to safely navigate roadways.
Some employers, in a bid to eke out further profits (or perhaps, as a matter of basic incompetence) stuff their truck driver employees’ schedules. These employees become so overburdened that they will almost certainly become fatigued and thus represent a serious hazard to others on the road. In fact, several studies have concluded that the primary cause of trucking accidents is fatigue.
Truckers are routinely overburdened on the scheduling front, and they often take unhealthy steps to correct this fatigue — many truckers take stimulants to stay awake, without considering the consequences of such drug use on their ability to drive safely.
In the commercial trucking industry, employers are not necessarily innocent of what’s going on at the ground level. Many employers are aware that tough schedules have forced their drivers to take stimulants in order to stay awake and complete their delivery assignments. If employers know about this dangerous behavior, they can be held liable.
The Battle Over Rest Breaks
In recent years, federal legislators have been looking to diminish requirements placed on employers to provide their trucker employees rest breaks. Currently, California — along with several other states — requires that truck drivers take minimum 30-minute meal breaks every five hours, along with 10-minute rest breaks every four hours. Proposed federal law, on the other hand, requires that drivers only take a single 30-minute break for the first eight hours of their shift. If the loosened federal law were to apply to truckers driving through California, this could expose drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in California to further injury risks.
If you have suffered injuries in a trucking accident involving a commercial truck driver, California law may entitle you to compensation for your injuries. Commercial truck accident lawsuits can be quite difficult, however, and may involve multiple defendants, employer vicarious liability issues, and other complicated issues — for the best possible results, you’ll want to work with an attorney who has a long track record of success in litigating truck accident cases. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 888-9285 today.
We look forward to helping you with your claims!