Articles Posted in Rules and Regulations

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One of the main causes of big rig truck and 18-wheeler crashes is driver fatigue. Unfortunately, Tennessee is no stranger to driver fatigue trucking accidents. In June 2019, a man pumping gas in Rutherford County was killed when a semi-truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. The trucker crashed into a pickup truck, hit a diesel tank at a convenient store and flipped over, causing it to catch fire before then hitting two more cars and the victim, who was fueling his vehicle. Tragic accidents like this Murfreesboro truck wreck illustrate the dangers of driving while tired or fatigued.

The National Transportation Safety Board is a federal agency charged with the task of investigating accidents, determining their causes, and making recommendation to improve safety within the transportation industry. The NTSB has estimated that driver fatigue plays a role in nearly 30-40% of commercial truck crashes. Science concludes that tired individuals are more prone to making mistakes. A recent AAA study found that drivers who get even 1 hour less sleep than normal have an increased crash risk. Drivers who only get 4-5 hours of sleep exhibit some of the same risks as one driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of intoxication.

What constitutes driver fatigue, you may ask? A number of conditions can lead to driver fatigue. Common examples include the lack of sleep or driving too long of a shift, which could lead to lower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Since commercial trucks can weigh nearly 80,000 pounds and transport dangerous chemicals, getting proper rest should be of utmost importance. However, some trucking carriers put pressure on their drivers to make as many deliveries as quickly as possible, and the only way to comply with such strict deadlines could mean foregoing sleep and rest breaks.

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If someone else causes you to get hurt or suffer losses, all states, Tennessee included, have laws that allow you to get reimbursed, or “made whole.” These are known as compensatory damages, and they are designed to put you in a place as if the accident never happened in the first place. While most people would prefer to turn back time and never have to be involved in a wreck in the first place, we know that is not possible. That is why financial damages are the recourse, under Tennessee personal injury laws.

In some situations, lawmakers have determined that compensatory damages are not enough. Instead, a plaintiff can obtain a different class of damages that serve a different purpose. These are known as punitive damages, and they are designed to punish the at-fault party for his/her conduct. Punitive damages are important to consider in truck accident cases, especially when injuries are severe and permanent.

Punitive Damages Law in Tennessee

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