In July, 29 2019 people were injured after a truck vs. bus accident in Weld County, when the driver of the truck fell asleep behind the wheel. The crash occurred just northeast of Hudson, near County Roads 49 and 24. The school bus was bringing students back to Greeley-Evans School District after a field trip at Elitch Gardens in Denver. While none of the injuries were life-threatening, numerous students were injured in the collision and were treated at a trio of hospitals, including Children’s Hospital Colorado, Platte Valley Medical Center, and North Colorado Medical Center. One patient was airlifted and said to be in serious condition.
The Colorado State Patrol and witnesses said that the accident occurred when the truck driver drifted off to sleep and then into oncoming traffic. The truck sideswiped the bus, which then caused it to roll over.
The trucking company, whose truck driver hit the school bus, had a conditional safety rating with the FMCSA. This is the equivalent of being on probation because they are above the national average for incidences. Roadsafe Traffic LP has been operating in Colorado since 2003, but declined to discuss the crash or their safety rating when approached by news teams.
According to federal records, however, RoadSafe has been the subject of 124 inspections over the last 2 years alone and they were consistently above the national average for incidences in every category including: vehicle inspections, driver examinations and hazardous materials. In addition, their vehicles were involved in 15 crashes in the last 2 years.
Legal Liability and Duty of Care
In order to prove liability in a denver truck accident lawyer case, we must first establish a duty of care. Duty of care in regards to auto accidents in Colorado means that all drivers have a legal obligation to drive safely while looking out for the safety of others on the road. If you drive recklessly in any way and cause an accident, the law says that you are responsible, as you failed to uphold your duty to other drivers. Some ways that drivers commonly breach their duty include:
- Reckless driving;
- Texting and driving;
- Driving while drunk or otherwise impaired; and
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals.
Falling asleep at the wheel is another way that drivers commonly breach their duty of care. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 100,000 accidents are the result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel each year, and are the cause of 1,600 traffic fatalities and 72,000 injuries. Unfortunately, trying to prove that a driver fell asleep at the wheel before crashing is tough without an outright confession.
Ways to Prove Trucker Liability
In general cases it can be difficult to prove that a driver fell asleep at the wheel; however, truckers are required to follow strict protocol regarding their drive time, down time, and sleep time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that all commercial drivers are required to record their status for each 24-hour period that they are on duty, and that they must be able to provide logs for up to seven consecutive days. Drivers are not permitted to drive more than 11 hours following a 10-hour off-duty period; they may not drive after the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty; and they may not drive after being on duty for 70 hours in any period of eight consecutive days. If we believe that the accident was caused by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel, we will examine those logs thoroughly and make note of their on-duty not-driving time.
Unfortunately, truck drivers do falsify their logs, so it is important to examine other business documents as well, including any motel receipts, gas receipts, records of their on-board recording device, and any satellite communication records.
Even if the driver did everything right, they can still be held liable for falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident. Truck drivers are required to stop and rest when they begin to feel too drowsy to drive (as all drowsy drivers should).