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Big Rigs and Drowsy Truck Drivers: A Potentially Fatal Combination in Illinois and Elsewhere

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) showed that, in 2015, some 13% of all large truck accidents were the result of driver fatigue, a percentage greater than alcohol and illegal drugs combined (11%). Drowsy truck drivers represent an extreme danger risk on Illinois’s highways, as an accident involving a sleepy (or sleeping) truck driver often also involves a big rig traveling at high speeds. If you or a loved one have been hurt by a trucker who drove while drowsy or otherwise fatigued, you may be able to recover substantial compensation in court, so you should act quickly to contact a knowledgeable Chicago truck accident attorney.

A tragic January accident is an example of just damaging semi accidents can be. The driver of a FedEx semi, traveling eastbound on I-90 near Rockford at roughly 1:00 a.m. one morning, crashed into the rear of a disabled vehicle that was positioned along the right-hand shoulder of the highway. The disabled vehicle’s driver, a young mother who had run out of gas and was standing alongside her vehicle, died at the scene. Her 4-year-old child, who was still in the vehicle, suffered minor injuries, according to a WIFR report. The report indicated that the truck driver was cited by police for “failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.” Police indicated drugs and alcohol were not believed to be factors in the crash.

The information reported by the news media offers us some facts, but not everything, about this crash. We know that the accident happened in the wee hours of the morning. We know that the deceased driver pulled off the highway after her vehicle stopped running. We know semi driver was believed by police to be completely sober. The information from the news reports did not rule out driver fatigue as a factor in the crash.

According to the CDC, truckers are one of the groups of people most likely to driver while drowsy. There are lots of reason why so many truck drivers are driving while exhausted. For one thing, a study sponsored by the FMCSA revealed that nearly 30% of all truckers suffer from some degree of sleep apnea. A driver who is driving while sleep deprived may experience several effects, including slower reaction times and decreased visual perceptiveness. Additionally, many truckers are under heavy pressure from clients, supervisors or “higher ups” to meet extremely demanding deadlines.

What the legal concept of negligence ‘per se’ is and how it can help you succeed

If the trucker who hurt you (or killed your loved one) was driving despite being too tired, there are several ways you can go to court and succeed in receiving an award of damages. One way is using the legal concept of “negligence per se.” In an “ordinary” negligence case, you have to prove the driver was negligent by demonstrating he failed to live up to a legally established duty of safely operating his vehicle.

In a negligence per se case, by contrast, you simply have to prove that the driver violated a statute or regulation and that the violation played a substantial role in causing the crash. For example, in the fatal Rockford crash, the family of deceased woman potentially might use the citation police gave the truck driver for “failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident” as the basis of a negligence per se case.

Also, obtaining a trucker’s driving logs can also be extremely helpful in your truck accident case. Semi-truck drivers have “Hours of Service” rules that are mandated by the federal regulations. If the driver who hit you exceeded his Hours of Services maximums, then that is a violation of a federal regulation and possibly the basis of a successful negligence per se case.

Large truck accidents have the potential to create massive and even fatal damage at low speeds. That harm becomes even more damaging and more fatal when the truck is traveling at high speeds. When you or your loved are hurt by a semi-truck, you are entitled to seek compensation in court. Rely on the experienced Chicago truck accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the legal representation you need. Our attorneys have been helping injured people for many years to take on trucking companies and insurance companies… and get results. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

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