A trial date has been set for the driver who fell asleep at the wheel while operating a commercial truck, which killed a 31-year-old man. John Ray Carpenter is facing charges of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of anywhere between 3 and 15 years in prison. Carpenter did not deny that he “dozed off” or “blacked out” while driving his multi-ton septic tanker shortly before colliding head-on with Johnson, according to authorities.
The criminal complaint also alleges that the trucker voluntarily admitted to authorities that he is aware that he goes through spells periodically where he believes his eyes are open when they really are not. Further investigation discovered that prior to this wreck, the defendant had a long history of traffic collisions but continued to drive trucks commercially for a living. In fact, he was involved in 13 accidents between the years of 2000 and 2015. Additionally, records show that the driver was involved in a traffic collision just one week prior to the incident at issue in this case, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation declared the driver unfit to operate commercial trucks and has restricted him from doing so.
A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the truck driver in connection with this fatal truck accident. The lawsuit alleges that the driver operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and that he should not have been allowed to operate a commercial truck due to a serious medical condition, sleep apnea.
Medical records discovered in this case revealed that the truck driver had been suffering from chronic sleep apnea since 2001. Sleep apnea is condition that seems to be appearing more and more frequently in truck accidents, as driver fatigue is linked with inattentiveness. Sleep apnea is a medical condition that affects an individual’s breathing during sleep. The disorder causes people to stop breathing for extended periods of time and results in the sufferer awakening throughout the night to catch their breath. As a result, it is difficult to obtain sufficient rest for those with sleep apnea.
Truck driver fatigue is an issue, as tired drivers can suffer from similar side effects as those who are under the influence of alcohol. Those include inattentiveness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment. In recent memory, sleep apnea has been involved in other wrecks across the country. For instance, it was the leading cause of two horrific train crashes that injured dozens of people. The operators of the trains fell asleep at the wheel, due to their condition, and caused many people to suffer serious injuries. As a result, the Federal Railroad Administration introduced rules whereby train conductors would be required to disclose diagnoses of sleep apnea before being cleared to operate trains. Essentially, the Administration recognized there was a problem and took steps to remedy that problem.
Federal trucking regulators recognize the significant correlation between sleep apnea and truck crashes. This makes it critical for employers to conduct due diligence in the hiring process and make sure employees are trained to operate their vehicles in a safe manner. Failure to act reasonably under the circumstances is usually proof of negligence, which is what the plaintiff will need to prove in a trucking accident case in order to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, permanent disability, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering. If you have been hurt in a wreck with a commercial truck or 18-wheeler, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation. Our Tennessee truck accident attorneys are ready to take your call.