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When A Drunk Or Drugged Commercial Driver Was Responsible For A South Dakota Truck Crash

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2023 | 18-Wheeler Accidents

When A Drunk Or Drugged Commercial Driver Was Responsible For A South Dakota Truck Crash

Commercial truck drivers are held to a higher standard of safety and care than the average motorist. Whereas other drivers are considered legally under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set .04% as the limit for a commercial vehicle operator.

The FMCSA has also mandated that:

  • Commercial vehicle drivers should be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing by employers. Commercial drivers are screened not only for alcohol use but also for the ingestion of marijuana, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and cocaine/amphetamines.
  • A driver may not operate a commercial vehicle within four hours after ingesting alcohol.
  • A commercial trucker should be tested by the employer for alcohol/drug use as soon as possible after an accident to establish whether the ingestion of substances played a part in the crash.
  • Drug and alcohol testing of drivers may be done not only after an accident but also:
    • As a prerequisite for employment
    • When a driver returns to duty after a drug/alcohol infraction
    • Whenever there is suspicion of substance abuse

Some drivers, however, still use substances on the job and change jobs frequently to avoid testing. When such a driver causes an accident with a regular passenger car, the resulting injuries can be catastrophic, especially if the trucker is hauling dangerous cargo like gasoline or driving a bus full of passengers.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is negligence per se for a commercial trucker, so the results of a sobriety test or drug/alcohol screening that proves liability are very important evidence for your insurance claim if you’re injured by an impaired trucker. A commercial driver who is pulled over or involved in an accident and refuses to take a blood alcohol test can be automatically charged with DUI.

Multiple Defendants Could Be Responsible For Your Damages

FMCSA drug and alcohol regulations apply not only to commercial truck drivers but also to:

  • Private and for-hire motor carriers
  • Trucking companies or owners of commercial vehicles
  • Dispatchers
  • Civic or religious organizations that provide transit for members (churches, Girl/Boy Scouts, schools, sports teams, etc.)
  • Cargo handlers who load commercial vehicles
  • Mechanics and repair services that maintain commercial vehicles

If you’re the victim of an accident caused by an at-fault trucker, one or more of the entities above could be partially or fully responsible for your damages.

What To Do After An Accident

Due to the differences in size and weight between an 18-wheeler (up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded) and a passenger car (approximately 4,000 pounds), a high-speed underride/override wreck or any other collision involving the two can result in catastrophic injuries to the occupants of the smaller vehicle.

Claims for serious injuries from a wreck with an impaired trucker are thus very expensive ones for the trucker’s insurance company, which has an obligation to stay profitable and earn money for its shareholders. It does so by collecting as much as it can in premiums and paying out as little as possible.

You may be contacted after your accident by an insurance adjuster claiming to be concerned about your condition and asking for information about the accident and your injuries. The adjuster might request access to your medical records or ask you to give a recorded statement about your crash. You should refuse all such requests. The adjuster is really just trying to:

  • Get you to say something that can be used to dispute your claim or show you’re partially responsible for the crash
  • Search your medical history to blame your injuries on a pre-existing condition
  • Offer you a quick, low settlement that will not adequately compensate you for your damages

You should say no to all such requests, give the adjuster only your basic information, and refer all communication to your attorney.

Have You Been Injured By An Impaired Trucker In South Dakota?

An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you get fair compensation for damages by:

  • Obtaining results of sobriety tests/screening to show the defendant’s negligence per se
  • Filing claims against and negotiating with multiple defendants who share responsibility for your wreck
  • Utilizing dram shop liability laws to seek further compensation from anyone who provided alcohol to the trucker before the crash
  • Seeking punitive damages beyond your compensatory damages

Get in touch with us online or call us at 605-644-5003 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until our lawyers win your case.