Drunken Truck Driver Accidents in Massachusetts
Laws against drunk driving have become much harsher through the years and increased public education about the dangers of impaired driving has led to a significant decrease in alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Unfortunately, notwithstanding these measures, driving while under the influence remains a huge factor in causing serious bodily injuries and fatalities.
Drinking among truck drivers is also a factor in causing a truck accident, which often results in significant injuries to passenger car motorists and their passengers. Trucks weighing as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded are difficult enough to control under normal circumstances, but when the driver is intoxicated, it can lead to:
- Errors in judgment
- Excessive speed
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Slower perception-reaction time
- Lack of focus on driving
Because of the disparity in size between a truck and a passenger vehicle, which often weigh only a fraction of that of a fully loaded truck, a collision or any contact with a truck can lead to a collision resulting in serious injuries.
In some truck accidents, an airbag may fail to deploy in the passenger vehicle. This may be a product defect issue, or it may be as a result of how the impact occurred.
Duties of a Commercial Carrier
Truck drivers and their companies are common or commercial carriers who are subject to numerous safety, reporting and operational regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other federal and state agencies. The law also imposes a higher standard of care on truck drivers and trucking companies than that on ordinary motorists.
Part of the duties of a trucking company is to have drug and alcohol testing protocols in place and to report the results. Drivers are expected to be screened before hiring for past DUI convictions, even if it only involved noncommercial driver’s licenses. It is not uncommon for a zealous truck accident lawyer to discover that a carrier has no drug testing program or failed to properly administer or implement a drug-testing program.
Regarding intoxicated driving, most people know that you cannot operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. If you are a driver with a commercial driver’s license, such as a truck driver, you cannot drive with a BAC of .04% or higher.
In Massachusetts, all passenger and commercial drivers are required to submit to a chemical or breath test if the arresting officer has reasonable cause or they are deemed to be under the influence. If there is a fatal accident, testing is mandatory, regardless of any suspicion of drunk driving. We always request those test results when we represent the victims.
A DUI conviction for truck drivers will result in suspension of their commercial driver’s license for one year. If the truck driver was driving a commercial vehicle placarded for hazardous materials, the suspension is for 3 years.
In any case, a second DUI or OUI will result in a commercial driver losing his or her commercial driver’s license for life.
Damages in a Trucking Accident
In a truck accident case, you are entitled to compensatory damages once you prove the truck driver or trucking company was responsible for the accident and your injuries. These include:
- Loss of past and future wages
- Loss of employment benefits
- Loss of past and future medical expenses
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive or exemplary damages in a fatal accident case
Your attorney has to prove your damages and can do so by introducing medical testimony and records and by having, medical experts testify that it is reasonable for you to require future medical treatment and care and its probable cost. Financial experts may be needed to prove future loss of earnings and benefits if you do require future care or if you are permanently disabled and unable to return to your usual occupation.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the culpable party but Massachusetts law strictly limits when these may be awarded. First, your loved one must have suffered fatal injuries. Second, you must show gross negligence or willful or wanton conduct or an indifference to legal obligations. This is a question for the jury, or trier-of-fact, who must consider the character of the defendant’s act and the nature and extent of the harm done.
Retain Neil Burns, a Massachusetts Trucking Accident Lawyer
Trucking accidents are complicated cases involving many issues regarding proof of liability and of damages. When drunk driving is involved, you may be entitled to additional damages if a loved one suffered fatal injuries. Neil Burns has been helping truck accident victims recover the compensation to which they are entitled for years. Contact him today for a free consultation if you have a truck accident injury or wrongful death claim.