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Evidence in Tour Bus Driver Fatigue Claims

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for civil law.jpegNow that summer has finally ended, you may see more tour busses than usual in Fort Worth. Many times, these buses are on the road early in the morning or late at night. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times, especially if they recently changed work shifts. As a result, drowsy driver tour bus crashes are all too common this time of year.

In Texas, tour bus drivers and other common carriers have a high duty of care. These individuals are practically insurers of passenger safe conduct. So, it is easier for a Weatherford personal injury attorney to establish liability for damages in collision cases. This duty also extended to onboard passenger safety. The tour bus company has a legal duty to break up fights before they become violent, clean spills in the aisle, and so on.

Damages in a fatigued driver claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases. Since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof, an attorney needs evidence to obtain this compensation.

Medical Records

Since they sit for long periods, many large vehicle operators struggle with sleep apnea. Overweight individuals are at a higher risk for this condition. People with sleep apnea are often drowsy during awake hours, no matter what time they went to bed. This condition deprives people of deep, restorative sleep. Instead, they essentially nap all night.

If the driver had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or a doctor noted a risk of this condition, the record may be relevant in court.

On a related note, circumstantial evidence of drowsiness is also admissible in most cases. Such evidence includes the time of day or night, erratic driving prior to the crash, and the tortfeasor's (negligent driver's) inability to recall the last few miles driven.

Electronic Logging Device

Prior to the spring of 2018, Weatherford personal injury attorneys normally had to use circumstantial evidence to establish HOS (Hours of Service) noncompliance as well. But then the federal government's ELD mandate finally went into effect, and everything changed.

ELDs are connected to the drivertrian. When the bus is in motion, the HOS clock is ticking. So, the ELD may contain vital information. These gadgets are hack-resistant, but they are not hack-proof. Therefore, an attorney must be able to tell if someone has tampered with the device.

Furthermore, Texas has very restrictive vehicle data privacy laws. Generally, attorneys must obtain court orders before they can inspect and download ELD data.

Both the Lone Star State and the federal government have HOS laws which require mandatory rest periods. Drivers who violates these laws may be responsible for crashes as a matter of law.

Safety Maintenance System

ELDs are not the only source of evidence regarding operator fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's SMS database serves a similar purpose. In addition to HOS compliance, this information clearinghouse also keeps track of:

  • Substance use,

  • Traffic citation history,

  • Prior collisions, and

  • Vehicle maintenance history.

Significantly, the SMS tracks drivers as opposed to vehicles. So, if the driver operated another tour bus, as is commonly the case, the SMS report records those violations as well.

Drowsy tour bus drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

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