Drinking and Driving Truck Drivers
Many things on the road are dangerous to motorists, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and all others who share the roadways. Among the most hazardous are semi-trucks and drunk drivers. When you combine the two, the results stand to be disastrous and often prove fatal.
Truck drivers and the companies that employ them have a duty to keep others safe, including adhering to federal and local laws and using common sense. When this doesn’t happen, and others suffer injuries, you can and should hold them liable for their negligence. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can ensure that injured parties receive maximum compensation for their damages.
Is Drinking and Driving a Problem Among Truckers?
One study revealed that truckers in the U.S. had the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests worldwide. What’s also startling is that in the past two years, over 72,000 truckers had to stop driving due to failing drug tests that the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse mandates. Furthermore, an alarming 91 percent of truck drivers registered in states across the country admitted in interviews that they consumed alcohol, and 82.5 percent used amphetamines while on the job.
Alcohol Use Statistics
In the first quarter of last year, there were 367 alcohol violations reported to the Clearinghouse compared to 1,185 alcohol violations in all of the previous year. By federal law, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .04 percent for CDL truckers.
Even a single beer can make a truck driver over the limit. Drivers also may not consume alcohol or be under the influence of alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a CMV (commercial motor vehicle). This is partly due to the size and weight of a truck, as any accident will prove devastating for those involved.
Drug Use Statistics
Drug use among CMV drivers is also rampant and concerning, especially if combined with alcohol use. In addition to the alarming alcohol use statistics, the Clearinghouse Monthly Report found marked increases in every top drug use category, with the most positive drug tests being for marijuana.
Here are the number of positive drug tests for the two most recent years available:
Marijuana: 21,438, grew from 18,252
Cocaine: 5,913, increased from 5,233
Methamphetamines: 3,526, grew from 3,379
All 14 drug panels: 39,785, increased from 35,252
How Alcohol Impairs Truck Drivers
When a truck driver has a few drinks and decides to drive, everyone is in danger. Simply being a trucker doesn’t make someone any less susceptible to the dangerous effects of alcohol consumption.
Consuming alcohol in any amount can:
Decrease reaction times
Impair judgment and decision-making
Impact motor control
Blur or otherwise alter vision
Decrease inhibitions against participating in risky behaviors
For drivers behind the wheel, the effects of alcohol impairment can cause:
Increased stopping distances
Failing to recognize and obey road signs and other traffic control devices
Weaving, swerving, and running off the highway or into other traffic or road-users
An inability to see other vehicles or pedestrians
Speeding, dangerous passing, and other aggressive driving behaviors
What are the Consequences for Truck Drivers who Drive Drunk?
If a truck driver receives a DUI conviction, they will lose their legal right to drive a commercial truck. They will have their CDL license suspended for one year. This is a mandatory penalty without any room for negotiation. These drivers also face criminal penalties for a DUI conviction, depending on the state’s laws where they were driving drunk. Additionally, these drivers will most likely have difficulty finding employment when they get their CDL license back. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Criminal Charges versus Civil Lawsuits
If you sustained injuries from a trucker who had recently consumed alcohol, it’s not your responsibility to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that they were drinking. This is what a prosecutor must do in a criminal case. Injured parties should know they must clear a lower standard of proof in a civil case than in a criminal one. Those injured must simply show by a preponderance of the evidence that the truck driver caused their damages. In other words, their side of the story must be more likely than not to have happened.
All the injured party needs to prove is that the truck driver was negligent or that they failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. Even if they can’t prove that the driver was intoxicated, the injured party just needs to establish that the trucker made an error behind the wheel that resulted in their injuries.
Even still, it helps the civil case if the injured party can show that the truck driver was drinking. A police report from the accident noting alcohol consumption as a contributing factor or if the truck driver pled guilty to a DUI can serve as evidence in a civil case.
If the injured victim wins a civil case, the offending party owes them monetary compensation for their damages. This differs from a criminal case where the at-fault party may face jail time, driver’s license suspension, fines, and community service. Even if the drunk truck driver who hit you is convicted of a DUI, you still have the right to pursue a civil lawsuit for your damages. A seasoned truck accident attorney can help you do this.
Types of Accidents Caused by Drunk Truck Drivers
A rear-end crash is one of the deadliest types of crashes anyone can be involved in. These types of crashes can occur when a semi-truck driver fails to slow or stop their vehicle in time to avoid a collision with a car in front of them—the truck hits the rear of that car, often with substantial force.
A car cannot take this large of an impact and will likely crumble. In these circumstances, all vehicle occupants are at risk for injuries or even death. Backseat passengers in these situations have an incredibly high risk of injury.
Jackknife accidents are one of the most common types of accidents for tractor-trailers because the trailer is not attached entirely to the rig. The platform of the trailer connects to the truck’s cabin with only a simple hitch, which allows for the free movement of the trailer. This design makes for much easier turning, but it can also lead to problems when truck drivers need to apply emergency brakes.
As a result, the truck’s cabin stops abruptly. At the same time, the trailer’s momentum pushes it forward until it swings to one side, resulting in a jackknife. Poor weather, steep inclines, slippery roads, poorly loaded cargo, and bad brakes increase the risk of trailer instability, which can result in a jackknife accident. However, drunk driving is also a significant contributor to these accidents.
Truck drivers must steer or swing left to make a right turn, also called a wide turn. If the driver isn’t aware of the rear traffic or their surroundings on the right side, they can accidentally trap other vehicles or even pedestrians when maneuvering a right turn.
All vehicles have blind spots that drivers must be aware of. However, trucks have much larger blind spots. If the truck driver can’t see other vehicles when they are changing lanes, those vehicles are in harm’s way, and the truck might force them off the road, hit, or crush them.
Head-on crashes with big rigs are devastating. Sadly, catastrophic and fatal injuries are common in these types of accidents. Drunk drivers who pass on two-lane highways at the wrong time or who mistake on and off ramps and go in the wrong direction are usually to blame for these deadly accidents.
T-bone accidents occur most frequently when a truck driver runs a red light and hits another vehicle perpendicularly. In these cases, it may even push that vehicle into other vehicles causing an even more significant accident.
Any vehicle can experience a tire blowout. But suppose the truck driver has been drinking and doesn’t know how to handle this sudden and unexpected situation or doesn’t have the reaction time they might if they were sober. In that case, it only takes moments to get out of hand. A tire blowout in a truck can be deadly to anyone in or near its path. Big rigs are more likely to experience tire blowouts as their tires experience much more wear and tear. Sometimes, truckers and trucking companies fail to inspect and replace them as they should.
Damages in Drunk Truck Driving Accidents
After an accident, the liable party must make the victim whole again. They can’t undo the physical, financial, or emotional damage they caused. However, they can provide the victim with monetary compensation to make up for their financial losses and help with their other damages.
Damages are what determine a truck accident victim’s compensation. Economic damages depend on the actual costs or financial losses incurred because of the accident.
They are also known as special damages and can include:
Past and future medical expenses
Live-in care or nursing home care
Rehabilitation and therapies
Lost wages and earnings
Damaged or destroyed property
Transportation and travel costs to medical appointments
Legal expenses and attorney’s fees
Remember that specific types of damages and the amounts injured parties receive for them will vary from one accident case to the next. For example, a more severe truck accident that causes catastrophic injuries will compensate the victim more. In contrast, a less severe crash won’t pay as much.
Non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are more difficult to value but no less critical. They usually include physical and psychological harm.
These damages can include:
When you meet with a truck accident lawyer, they will help you determine the damages specific to your case and their value. Their job is to stand up for your rights, advocating for you so that you can get full and fair compensation for your injuries. Sometimes this is done through a successfully negotiated settlement. Other times, it requires presenting your case to a judge or jury.
Liability in Drunk Truck Driver Accidents
While truck drivers are typically liable for drunk driving accidents, others may also share liability. Therefore, your truck accident attorney must identify and hold all liable parties accountable to maximize your compensation.
The truck driver’s employer might be partially liable. They may not have performed their due diligence when hiring the truck driver or have ignored past DUIs on their driving records. They might also fail to perform drug and alcohol testing as federal laws require.
In much the same way, a third party can be liable for the accident. Suppose the trucking company contracted with a third party to perform background checks on new drivers, and that company failed to perform an adequate check on the driver. In that case, the third-party company can also be liable.
Depending on the state where the DUI truck accident occurred, dram shop laws might apply. If an establishment serving alcohol overserved a truck driver, the establishment and its employee might be liable for some of your damages.
Did a Drunk Truck Driver Injure you? Seek Legal Help Today
If you know or suspect that the truck driver who caused your accident was drunk or had consumed alcohol, you must act immediately to hire an experienced truck accident attorney. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that valuable evidence will be lost or destroyed that is necessary to prove the truck driver’s actions and help you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Protect your rights by contacting a skilled personal injury lawyer today. You deserve full compensation for all of the losses an impaired truck driver caused you.