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Drug Use Often a Factor in Trucking Accidents

Drug use, both prescription and over the counter, are a factor in a high percentage of trucking accidents.  The Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council (which is jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine) conducted an in-depth look at the trucking industry including safety issues in the industry.  Among those safety issues considered was the role of drug use in trucking accidents.

According to the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) 2010 Report, “Trucking 101,” prescription drug use is a factor in over 26% of all truck accidents and over the counter drugs are involved in another 17+%.

Trucking Industry Regulations Regarding Drug Use

Alcohol and drugs strictly prohibited but immediate testing required only after fatal accident.
Federal law requires that trucking companies regularly test their drivers for alcohol and drug use.  This means pre-employment testing as well as random testing.  It also requires testing following any accident involving a fatality.  Unfortunately, no such testing is required following non-fatal accidents no matter how serious the injuries.

It goes almost without saying that alcohol and illegal drug use on the job is strictly prohibited.  Alcohol and illegal drug use on the job would almost certainly result in revocation of the driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL).  Fortunately, according to the TRB, illegal drugs and alcohol contribute to only 2.3% and .8% of trucking accidents respectively.

Much more prominent as one may see from the numbers is the use of prescription and over the counter drugs among truck drivers. Many controlled substances may be used by truck drivers by the nature of the work they do and the stresses it causes to the body.  For instance, many drivers have back and knee pain issues, which may suggest the use of prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants.  Likewise, drugs to help them sleep and drugs to help them stay awake are not uncommon.

Any one of these or a combination thereof can contribute to accidents.

Investigation of Drug Use in a Trucking Accident

Due to shortcomings in testing following an accident, evidence of drug use may be a bit of a challenge to obtain. Obstruction may be expected.
As noted, federal law requires immediate drug and alcohol testing only following fatal accidents.  No such testing is required for the great majority of crashes that do not involve fatalities.  This is a huge deficiency in the law.

As a result, obtaining evidence of drug use can be somewhat more challenging than it should have to be.  The discovery of drug use in non-fatal accidents may be discovered during an investigation if there are witnesses to the drug use or behavior suggesting drug use.  In the absence of witnesses, the investigation of drug use will come largely through the litigation process.

The discovery process during litigation may be the best bet for obtaining any evidence of drug use, which would have contributed to the accident.  This would include a request of all records and documentation regarding drug testing by the employer, prescription drug records from the truck driver, past incidences of drug use, past accident history, and so on.

As one might imagine, each such request will likely be met with resistance.  It may be expected that obtaining this evidence will be a bit of a struggle and may require court hearings on motions to compel to obtain the evidence.

Important to Have an Experienced Attorney at Your Side

Trucking companies are generally anything but cooperative. It is advisable to seek the guidance of an attorney.
Trucking companies are notoriously difficult to deal with following an accident.  One might best assume that the trucking company is going to do everything possible to obstruct an investigation, conceal evidence and just generally behave poorly during the personal injury claims process.  In addition, one should expect and prepare for the necessity of filing a lawsuit due to the impossibility of pre-litigation settlement.

In these types of personal injury cases, perhaps more than most, it is highly advisable to seek the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney.  The Albuquerque attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. have significant experience in trucking accident cases.  We can be reached at (505) 242-5958.