What if the Drunk Driver Was Driving a Commercial Vehicle?

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A person's hand pushing a white, toy semi truck along a flat, teal surface, and with a plain, teal background.Commercial vehicles take more concentration and skill to operate than regular vehicles. Commercial vehicle operators require special licensing and are held to a higher standard than other motor vehicles.

Among these higher standards is a lower legal limit for blood alcohol levels. A blood alcohol content of 0.04 constitutes a driving while intoxicated violation, which is half of what motor vehicle drivers are allowed.

If a commercial driver is found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or higher, they immediately face license suspension for 30 days and lose the ability to operate a commercial vehicle for one year.

A second offense will result in the permanent loss of their commercial driver’s license.

Who Do I Sue if I Was Hit by a Drunk Truck Driver?

If you were hit by a drunk truck driver, your options on who to sue are a little different when compared to a car accident.

Truck drivers usually work for a trucking company that takes responsibility for their employees. So, you can sue the commercial truck driver, the trucking company that employs the driver, and still others depending on the circumstances of your accident.

For example, whoever served the driver alcohol could also take some blame for the collision. A personal injury lawyer will investigate all possible avenues for compensation.

Truck drivers are held to high standards because of the monumental damage they can cause in a collision. Accidents caused by drunk driving are completely preventable, so when someone chooses to drink and drive, they are intentionally placing everyone else in danger.

Accidents involving large trucks have an extremely high probability of causing serious injuries and death.

Are Truck Drivers Responsible for Damages?

The drivers themselves may be held responsible for damages if they are found to be at fault for the accident.

Trucking companies have insurance to cover their drivers, but they might try to place blame solely on the driver if they were going against company policy, such as driving while intoxicated.

Many accident victims are able to seek compensation from both the company and the driver.

The truck driver is at fault for the accident if they:

  • Drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Text or use a handheld phone while driving
  • Overload their trailer with freight
  • Drive with unbalanced cargo or an uneven distribution of weight
  • Speed
  • Drive too closely to the car ahead of them
  • Fail to perform their pre-trip inspection
  • Disregard posted warnings for hills, curves, or intersections
  • Drive recklessly during adverse weather conditions
  • Fail to adhere to sleep requirements

Proving any of these actions will mean the driver is guilty of negligence, and they will be responsible for paying reparations to the victim or their family.

Can the Trucking Company Be at Fault?

Employers are legally responsible for the actions of their employees under the legal theory known as respondeat superior, Latin for “let the superior answer.” In other words, the employer is vicariously liable.

The trucking company can also be held accountable for the accident if they are found negligent in any of the following:

  • Failure to conduct background checks
  • Failure to require drug testing
  • Do not enforce safety policies
  • Inadequate training
  • Poor maintenance of company trucks

A claim for damages is usually filed with the trucking company’s insurance company, but sometimes a lawsuit is necessary. Your drunk driving accident lawyer will work with you to make this decision.

Additional Consequences for Commercial Drivers Caught Drunk Driving

Commercial drivers also face losing their employment and being unable to find a new job following a driving while intoxicated conviction. They could also:

  • Pay a large fine
  • Receive probation
  • Perform community service
  • Receive jail time
  • Have the DWI show up on background checks
  • Have a permanent criminal record

Hazardous Materials Cargo

The transport of hazardous materials requires an additional endorsement on top of a commercial driver’s license.

Drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated will have their CDL suspended for three years. A second offense will cause the driver to permanently lose their privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Insurance Company Consequences

Insurance companies consider drivers with a DUI to be high risk and, therefore, charge higher premiums or drop the driver as a client.

Drivers with a history of drunk driving have a difficult time finding motor vehicle insurance, which is a major part of why they have trouble finding employment as commercial drivers.

Trucking companies already pay higher rates for their drivers, so they do not want the added expense of a high-risk driver.

Driver’s License Points

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles keeps track of points against every driver’s license. Once a driver reaches twelve points, their commercial driver’s license is suspended.

After having their license reinstated after a suspension, for the next three years, it only takes eight points to have it suspended again. A commercial driver must wait ten years before applying for another commercial driver’s license after having it suspended twice.

What Should I Do After an Accident With a Drunk Commercial Driver?

The best way for someone to become sober is time. While becoming sober is a good thing, it could negatively impact your case if the drunk driver does not get tested for alcohol immediately after your accident.

Admitting to being drunk while operating a commercial vehicle could take away the driver’s livelihood, so they are going to want to become sober as quickly as possible. Drivers will often argue that they were not drinking because they know the seriousness of a DWI conviction.

A personal injury lawyer with experience in commercial vehicle accidents involving alcohol knows what to investigate to make sure you get your full compensation.

  • The police report has the results of a blood alcohol content test, typically from a breathalyzer. The police report should also include a description of the driver and any visual evidence of impairment. The smell of alcohol on the driver, results of a field sobriety test, and any open containers of alcohol in the trunk will also be noted.
  • Footage from the police officer’s dashboard or body camera will be investigated.
  • Surveillance video will be obtained from nearby businesses and homes.
  • Statements from witnesses will be documented. Witnesses also include all drivers and passengers involved in the accident.
  • Accident reconstruction specialists may be involved.

Experienced Injury Lawyers Are Ready to Fight for You

If you or your loved one have been injured by a drunk commercial driver, contact Tatum & Atkinson at (800) LAW-0804 today for a free consultation about your accident. We will discuss what we can do for you.

Going up against large trucking companies and their teams of lawyers is daunting. We will determine who was at fault and fight aggressively to ensure you are treated fairly.

We will always do what is best for your unique circumstances. You can rest assured that you have the best team working for you, and we will identify all the potential defendants for your case.

Your peace of mind while you focus on your recovery is important to us, and we will remain accessible to answer all your questions honestly and with integrity.