The large commercial trucks you see on a regular basis provide an essential function in our economy, hauling untold tons of good and materials from place to place each day. Unfortunately, they also pose a substantial risk of serious injury to anyone around them, especially when the people driving them have health conditions that could cause them to lose control of their vehicle without warning. These vehicles can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds an often travel at speeds of 80 miles per hour or more, making them capable of causing severe injuries and damage if they are involved in a crash.
Because of these risks, the federal government requires commercial truck drivers to undergo a medical screening before they can drive and completely disqualifies people with certain conditions from driving a truck at all. Despite these regulations, truck drivers with serious medical conditions still get behind the wheel of commercial vehicles every day, sometimes with disastrous results. Fortunately, victims of accidents caused by unhealthy truck drivers are very often entitled to compensation for their losses. To determine whether you can file a claim, call The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky today to schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Philadelphia.
Which Medical Conditions Can Make It Unsafe to Drive?
There are many health conditions that can make it dangerous for a person to get behind the wheel of a large commercial truck. Here are some of the most dangerous:
- Epilepsy – Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can cause people to have sudden seizures, loss of consciousness, or convulsions. Current federal regulations prohibit anyone who has been diagnosed with epilepsy from operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce unless they have been seizure free and off of medication for at least ten years.
- Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is a relatively common medical condition in which a person’s breath stops and starts while they are asleep. Truck drivers who have sleep apnea may suffer from fatigue even if they think they’re getting enough sleep and are in compliance with the federal hours of service regulations. Because sleep apnea can affect a driver’s quality of sleep, it can also affect their daytime performance and alertness.
- Cardiovascular Disease and high blood pressure – People with cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure are often at an increased risk of heart attack. As a result, these can be disqualifying conditions for a commercial driver’s license.
- Diabetes – People who have uncontrolled diabetes can be at risk of losing consciousness or having a seizure. For this reason, people with diabetes are disqualifying from driving commercial vehicles unless they qualify for an exemption under federal regulations.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Case Caused by a Medical Emergency
In order to recover compensation, accident victims must prove that the crash in which they were involved was caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional act. Clearly, if a truck driver has a medical emergency that causes them to get into an accident, it was not an intentional act. The question that needs to be answered, then, is whether it was negligent for the truck driver to be driving in the first place.
Under Pennsylvania law, negligence occurs when a person fails to use the degree of care that a reasonable person would have used in the same or similar circumstances. Would a reasonable person who had a condition that could result in a medical emergency at any time get behind the wheel of a large commercial truck? Probably not. As a result, a truck driver who knew (or should have known) that he or she had a medical condition that could make it dangerous for them to drive and subsequently was involved in an accident because of that condition could likely be held liable for any injuries he or she caused.
Trucking Companies Are Typically Liable for the Negligent Acts of their Employees
While the section above discusses truck driver liability, it is important to understand that it is usually the trucking company for whom a truck driver works that is liable for an accident. This is because of a legal doctrine known as “vicarious liability,” which holds employers responsible for the wrongful acts of their employees that occur during the course of employment. Furthermore, federal regulations impose liability on trucking companies even when the truck driver is technically an independent contractor, making it very difficult for trucking companies to avoid liability after an accident.
In addition, trucking companies have a duty to hire only qualified drivers. If a company fails to check to see whether a driver has all of the necessary qualifications (including a valid Department of Transportation Health Certificate clearing them to drive), the trucking company could potentially be held liable for negligence for hiring an unqualified driver.
Protecting Your Rights after a Commercial Truck Accident
There are certain steps you should take to protect your rights after an accident involving a commercial truck. These include the following:
- If you can, write down the truck’s DOT number, its license plate number, and make note of any marking that identifies the company responsible for operating the truck. Try and get contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the wreck.
- See your physician and undergo a complete medical evaluation. It is critical that you attend all follow-up appointments and actively engage in your treatment. If you do not seek or participate in care, the insurance company can use these facts as evidence that you are not as injured as you are claiming to be.
- Call a truck accident lawyer in Philadelphia as soon as you can. Waiting can jeopardize your ability to recover compensation.
Call The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck caused by a medical emergency, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your losses, including your medical bills, lost income, lost quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. With over 60 years of combined experience, the Philadelphia truck accident attorneys of the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky have the experience, skill, and knowledge required to bring your case to a successful resolution. To schedule your free consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 215-735-4800 or send us an email through our online contact form.