The Rick Hall Law Firm continues to file lawsuits against large trucking companies and their drivers for substance abuse and the illegal use of prescription medications which result in tractor-trailer collisions. Often, trucking companies turn a blind eye to the use of such medications by drivers of commercial vehicles, and doctors are failing to investigate the driver’s medical history. The real story is drivers are often fatigued and in trying to stay awake, drivers may take prescription medications, such as amphetamines, to keep driving or even take medications to help them sleep when they have sleep disorders.
The improper use of these types of medications may violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that exist to help reduce accidents caused by commercial vehicles. As a result, drivers are required to undergo comprehensive medical examinations and drug testing for an array of health conditions that could affect a driver such as cardiovascular health, respiratory function, vision, and hearing. Additionally, the trucking companies themselves are responsible under Federal law to ensure that only medically qualified drivers who are not in violation of the DOT’s drug and alcohol regulations operate their vehicles. Failure to follow these rules can lead to catastrophic injuries on our nation’s highways.
As a recent example of the sad truth behind many tractor-trailer crashes, The Rick Hall Law Firm served a client who was rear-ended by a truck driver and suffered critical and substantial injuries to the neck, back, knee and other areas for which his medical treatment was extremely expensive and the client would have significant on-going medical expenses and cost of living expenses related to his injuries for life. In this case, the defendant was driving too fast for conditions and was driving in violation of the FMCSRs because he was not medically qualified to be operating a commercial motor vehicle or tractor-trailer due to medications and suffering from the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome at the time of operating a vehicle. Furthermore, not only was the defendant medically unqualified but the defendant’s employer knew of the safety issues and nonetheless allowed the defendant to drive creating a dangerous condition on our highways. While this case resulted in a substantial settlement on behalf of the client, this was an accident that should never have occurred absent the negligent failure of the trucking company and its driver to adhere to the law when operating a tractor-trailer.
As lawyers, our role is to “look behind the curtain” and get to the truth. A knowledgeable lawyer may investigate by going to the scene, obtaining collision reports, the driver’s drug test results, driver logs and, when necessary, obtaining reports required by law when there is a fatality. An attorney may also use discovery tools called subpoenas directed to the DOT physicians, the driver’s own family or internal medicine providers to determine whether a driver was medically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. While drivers are sometimes not honest with the DOT doctors at their physical examinations or their employers, a skilled lawyer will be able to find the truth.
Injuries and loss resulting from tractor-trailer collisions are increasingly common in today’s economy. “Looking behind the curtain” to learn the truth about the cause of some trucking accidents is a reminder to use extra caution and keep a safe distance when driving near tractor-trailers.