On Monday, October 23rd, a tractor-trailer driver hauling plywood on I-75 lost control of his vehicle, hitting another car as he entered the median. The plywood came loose form the bed of the truck and flew across the lanes of traffic. Several cars were involved in the incident, according to the report on Kentucky.com, but the driver of the truck died at the hospital.
The loose cargo contributed to the swerving, and collisions, of the other vehicles at the scene, but it was a medical emergency that started the cascade effect. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) “requires that interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers maintain a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876 to drive. As part of the physical, drivers are required to fill out the medical history portion of the Medical Examination Report (MER) Form, MCSA-5875.” On their site, they have packages related to hearing, vision, seizures and diabetes, all of which require separate guidelines and actions from their drivers.
The FMCSA requires drivers to be truthful in their medical history. In fact, “Deliberate omission or falsification of information may invalidate the examination and any certificate issued based on it. A civil penalty may also be levied against the driver under 49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(b), either for making a false statement of for concealing a disqualifying condition.”
However, a medical condition will not necessarily disqualify a driver from being issued an MEC; some conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure and stable angina have exemption clauses. Prescribed medications, including controlled substances, are also allowed, provided the driver’s doctor says that the driver is safe to work as long as he or she takes the medication.
Assessing liability in a medical emergency that leads to a truck accident
Let us say, for example, that a driver with a perfectly healthy medical record suffers a heart attack while behind the wheel of the truck. If there is no previous medical history to indicate a potential heart attack, and if he or she tests clean for all drug use – if it really was, by all accounts, an unavoidable emergency – then the driver and his company may not be liable for the damages.
In some cases, however, multiple parties may be liable for the truck crash, including the driver, the trucking company, the medical examiner, the doctor or even the drug manufacturer. Those cases might include:
- The driver deliberately lying about his or her history
- The driver using medication or controlled substances while not under the supervision or prescription of the doctor
- The trucking company failing to disqualify a driver whose health indicates he or she is unsafe to drive
- Deliberate omission or falsifications by the doctor or medical examiner, leading to a driver being certified when he or she should not have been
- A defective medical device, such as a pacemaker, failing to function while the driver is on the road
- A dangerous reaction to a prescription drug that was not previously disclosed to the driver
One of the first things our Kentucky truck accident lawyers do, when looking into a collision, is request a copy of the black box data. Commercial trucks have devices which can record what happened before the crash. While the device will not specifically say “The driver had a heart attack,” the information it provides can help fill in any gaps about what happened.
At Crandall & Pera Law, we fight on behalf of people who have sustained serious, life-threatening injuries because of a collision with a commercial vehicle. If you were hurt in a truck crash, our Kentucky team is ready to help. Please call 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form to learn more. You can also reach us in Ohio by calling 877-686-8879.