By GNGF on October 13th, 2023 in
Protecting Your Rights After a Trucking Accident: Proving a Truck Driver is Lying About his Rest Hours in Illinois
Motor vehicle accidents involving large commercial vehicles such as 18-wheelers, semi-tractor trailers, and other types of big rigs are often catastrophic. Victims in smaller, passenger vehicles are often significantly injured and suffer life-long personal injuries. Although there are many possible causes of a trucking accident, one of the most common causes is due to truck driver fatigue. According to one government study, truck driver fatigue may contribute to up to 56% of all trucking accidents in the United States each year. This is because that same study indicated that the average truck driver reported about 4.78 hours of sleep per night, whereas the recommended sleep for an adult is almost double that at 7.1 hours per night. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that fatigued driving can actually be just as dangerous as drunk driving. That is why the law requires minimum rest hours for truck drivers. Unfortunately, the trucking accident lawyers in Springfield at the Noll Law Office know that, after a devastating crash, sometimes a truck driver is lying about his rest hours in Illinois.
If you or a loved one were injured in any type of trucking accident involving a trucker who may have been lying about his or her hours, contact the Noll Law Office at (217) 414-8889. Their experienced trucking accident lawyers in Springfield know how to use state law and federal regulations to prove your case against a negligent truck driver and trucking company. They are the fifth generation of lawyers, serving their community with the pride and dedication that victims and their families deserve. To learn more about your rights to compensation, contact their bodily injury law firm to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation today.
Rest Hours and the Law
Under Illinois common law or judge-made law, all motorists must exercise reasonable care in the use or operation of their motor vehicle. This includes operating a motor vehicle with full attention and ability, as well as operating a vehicle as a reasonably prudent person. That standard is a flexible one and requires motorists to not drive carelessly or recklessly.
As noted above, the CDC has found that fatigued driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. That is because driving while fatigued can slow a person’s reaction time, impair reasoning and judgment, cause a person to fall asleep, or otherwise impede a driver’s ability to maneuver a vehicle successfully. A driver who has any of these impairments caused by a lack of sleep or fatigue could be violating the common law’s requirements to act as a reasonably prudent driver. That is, a reasonably prudent driver who is not careless and who is not reckless, will not be driving while fatigued. Nor will a reasonably prudent driver fall asleep at the wheel.
Relating to truck drivers, truckers have to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules and regulations. These rules and regulations keep roadway safety at the forefront. This includes what is known as “hours of service” rules. All commercial vehicle drivers, whether from Illinois or not, must comply with the FMCSA hours of service rules.
What are the Hours of Service Rules?
Also known as HOS rules, these rules provide that all property-carrying vehicles (such as large commercial trucks) must comply with certain operation and rest requirements. It does not matter where the truck is from, going to, or licensed in – these rules apply to every commercial driver and carrier. The main purpose of the hours of service rules is safety for all persons on or around the road.
The specific FMCSA rules provide that a driver of a commercial vehicle:
- Can be on duty for 14 consecutive hours (measured from the start of the drive)
- Must be off duty for a minimum of 10 consecutive hours
- Drive for 8 cumulative hours before having at least 30 minutes of rest
- Drive for a maximum of 60 hours in a 7-day period
- Drive for a maximum of 70 hours in an 8-day period
In addition to these rules, there are other specific hours of service obligations that truckers must comply with that only apply in certain situations. Except for limited emergencies or rare exceptions with short hauls, there are no other ways that a driver can circumvent these rules without being in violation of the FMCSA.
Why do Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies Lie About Their Hours?
It may seem like a simple first question – why lie about rest hours in the first place? The answer is because of the inherent nature of trucking. Indeed, truck drivers and trucking companies lie about rest hours so that they can continue to work longer hours. By working these longer hours, they can generate more money by making additional deliveries in a shorter time. For trucking companies, that means they can also hire fewer drivers, have fewer employees to insure, and purchase fewer trucks, all to make more deliveries.
But for drivers, as the studies about and the CDC have highlighted, the lack of sleep increases the risk of harm to the general population of those on or around the roadways. Although these businesses can make more money, it puts everyone else at risk of serious personal injury or death. Thus, a truck driver lying about his rest hours in Illinois is really risking everyone else on or around the road.
What do I do if I think the Truck Driver Was Lying About his Rest Hours in Illinois?
If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a trucking accident involving a truck driver who you believe may have been fatigued, fallen asleep at the wheel, or who caused the accident for unknown reasons, contact an experienced trucking accident lawyer in Springfield like those at the Noll Law Office. Do not try to handle the claim yourself and do not expect the police or investigators to do the work for you to prove that the driver was fatigued.
That is because, although law enforcement does a fantastic job, proving an hours of service violation can be difficult without expert testimony and a legal education, background, and experience handling these types of cases. This is particularly true because truck drivers and trucking companies may go to great lengths to protect themselves from liability, especially when there are serious or fatal injuries.
However, that does not mean that you can’t help your case. You can still help by doing the following (if you are able to due to your injuries):
- Take photographs of the scene
- Take a video of the scene, including of the other driver who may be showing signs of impairment, fatigue, or other dangerous behaviors (NOTE: if the other driver gets irate or aggressive at you taking photos or videos of him or her, put your phone away to avoid a confrontation until police arrive. You may keep your device still on and listening in your pocket, but do not do anything that could result in an attack by the other driver).
- Collect witness names and contact information
- Note any video cameras on buildings (like doorbells or flood lights) that may have captured the accident
- Write down any statements by the other driver
- Take note of any first responders, including their ambulance unit/name, police department, badge numbers, names, and other personally identifying information (do not anticipate that all this information will be in a report)
- Do not contact an insurance adjuster until you speak with your lawyer
- Do not sign any papers with the truck driver, trucking company, or insurance adjuster for either them or you, and
- Collect other information that you believe may be even remotely material and relevant to the accident.
How a Trucking Accident Lawyer Can Prove a Truck Driver Was Lying About His Rest Hours
In addition to the information that you gather, a trucking accident lawyer in Springfield can help prove that a trucker was lying about his rest hours by doing the following:
- Preserving a truck’s ECM or “black box” data that usually records travel time and rest time
- Collecting information about the truck driver’s deliveries, both on this delivery run and other deliveries in the hours or days earlier from the accident
- Preserve any logbook or tracker that the truck driver is using
- Calculate the starting and end location, as well as the time it takes to get there, from all deliveries that the truck driver had
- Analyze data with an expert as to the amount of time that a truck driver has operated a vehicle
- Investigate the trucking companies’ delivery schedule to determine if it was unrealistic (and required a truck driver to violate hours of service rules)
- Depose a truck driver to ask difficult questions to obtain whether a truck driver was violating hours of service rules
- Question witnesses and the police to determine the causes of the accident
- Use accident reconstruction experts to test the explanations given by defendants and the witnesses (i.e., the trucker says he was away but was not braking before a rear-end collision possibly indicates that he was lying and fell asleep, or that he was distracted)
- Use other litigation tools and techniques to estimate fault against a defendant.
Injured in an Unexplained Trucking Accident? Was a Truck Driver Lying About his Rest Hours in Illinois? Call the Noll Law Office in Springfield
Anyone who has been injured in a trucking accident in Illinois should call the experienced trucking accident lawyers in Springfield at the Noll Law Office. Their team of legal professionals and skilled lawyers can help prove liability against a defendant, including a truck driver lying about his rest hours in Illinois. This is a violation of FMCSA regulations and can be devastating or deadly for victims. To learn more about how the Noll Law Office can help you and your family, contact them today.