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Sleep apnea may cause serious truck accidents

Truckers are held to a high standard, and for good reason. These individuals operate massive vehicles that, when driven or maintained improperly, can turn into missiles of destruction and death. Due to this risk, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a number of federal regulations aimed to increasing trucking safety. For many who are injured in truck accidents, turning to these regulations may uncover a violation that can help them with a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Yet, acts that don't amount to a breach of these regulations may also provide a foundation for such a lawsuit.

One major issue that has gained some issue lately is sleep apnea and how it affects truckers. Sleep apnea is a disorder where an individual suffers short interruptions in his or her sleep due to a breathing disorder. Although it may sound minor, these disruptions can occur as often as 400 times a night, thereby affecting a trucker's alertness behind the wheel. Studies have shown that these individuals are at an increased risk of causing a fatigue-related accident.

Yet, the FMCSA allows sleep-apnea diagnosed truckers to operate their vehicles. In order to drive, though, these truckers must be successfully treated, and their licenses must be demarcated as "medically-qualified-to-drive." Additional state regulations may apply, too.

Sleep apnea can turn an otherwise safe trucker into a dangerous one. When a fatigued trucker causes an injurious or deadly accident, legal action may be justified. Victims who succeed on their claims may be able to recover compensation for their damages, which will likely include medical expenses and lost wages. Truckers and the truck companies for which they work oftentimes fight these claims, though, so victims need to be prepared with strong evidence and legal arguments to support their positions.

Source: FMCSA, "Driving When You Have Sleep Apnea," accessed on Jan. 1, 2017

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