When a New Jersey commercial truck driver causes an accident due to a medical emergency, determining responsibility becomes a complex matter. The driver or the employer may be responsible if their negligence contributed to the cause of the accident.
When do courts consider drivers or employers negligent for accidents that medical emergencies cause?
Driver’s health and responsibility
All drivers must operate their vehicles safely, but the large size and weight of commercial trucks make it particularly important for commercial truck drivers to drive safely. In 2020, there were just under 5,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses.
When a medical emergency, such as a sudden heart attack or loss of consciousness, happens, drivers may lose control of their vehicles. However, they may still have some legal responsibility.
Before taking the wheel, drivers must ensure they are fit for duty by taking steps such as getting regular medical checkups. Ignoring symptoms or neglecting medical advice may put them at fault if they cause an accident.
Employer’s role in oversight
Commercial trucking companies must ensure the safety of their drivers and the public. Employers should conduct thorough medical evaluations before hiring, ensuring that drivers are physically capable of handling the demands of the job. Additionally, companies should have policies in place for routine health checks and reporting of any new medical conditions that could affect a driver’s performance.
Regulations and compliance
Federal and state regulations outline the standards for driver qualifications and safety. Commercial truck operators must get regular medical examinations to assess their fitness for duty. Employers who fail to enforce these standards could be legally responsible for their negligence in ensuring driver fitness.
Not all medical emergencies are predictable. Sometimes, even a driver with a clean bill of health can experience a sudden, unforeseen medical issue.
This can make responsibility more challenging to determine. However, drivers are still expected to take steps to minimize the risk of accidents. Employers should provide training in emergency procedures and maintain open communication with drivers to reduce the risks.
It is natural to feel empathy for a driver who causes an accident because of a medical emergency. However, drivers or employers who fail to take appropriate actions to prevent an accident or reduce its severity may be liable for injuries and other damages.