Truck drivers must travel long distances each day, often under adverse weather conditions and in heavy traffic. If they take their eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, the consequences can be devastating. Because accidents involving commercial motor vehicles are more likely to cause serious or fatal injuries to motorists, truck drivers face increased penalties for distracted driving in addition to the possibility of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Research conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently found that the odds of a commercial driver being involved in a collision, near collision, or other safety-critical event is 23.2 times greater when the driver is texting. Because of this drastic increase in safety risk, commercial drivers are not allowed to text and drive under any circumstances. Texting is defined as sending or reading text messages, emails, and instant messages. Drivers are also not allowed to access web pages from a smartphone or another electronic device.
FMCSA research has found that using a cell phone increases a commercial driver’s risk of being involved in a safety-critical event by six times. As a result, drivers are not allowed to reach for or hold a cell phone while driving or press more than a single button. To remain in compliance with the law, drivers must:
Truck drivers who are caught texting or otherwise violating FMCSA distracted driving laws face civil penalties of up to $2,750, with a potential disqualification of their commercial driver’s license for multiple offenses. Additionally, motor carriers can be held liable for fines of up to $11,000 when a driver violates FMCSA distracted driving rules. Any violations will negatively affect their Safety Measurement System (SMS) ratings.
Although states are free to make their own regulations regarding distracted driving, FMCSA rules apply to all commercial drivers regardless of their location.
Texting and using a cell phone receive the most attention, but they're not the only forms of distracted driving that are a concern. Other distracted driving offenses the FMCSA says pose a safety hazard include:
If you've been seriously injured in an accident caused by a distracted truck driver, you're eligible to file a personal injury claim. You may seek compensation for past and future accident-related medical expenses, past and future loss of income due to your accident-related injuries, and the pain and suffering you endured as the result of the driver's negligence.
In the event of a fatal accident, spouses, adult children, and certain other immediate family members are eligible to file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for medical expenses up to the time of death, funeral or burial costs, loss of the deceased's wages, and loss of the companionship of their loved one.
Depending on the circumstances, there might be several different parties liable for damages caused by a distracted truck driver accident. Often, the vehicle owner, the employer, and the driver are named as parties in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. However, this issue should be discussed in greater detail with a qualified attorney.
To learn more about protecting your rights call Gary Arsenault at the Arsenault Law Firm for a free consultation.