Drunken driving accidents take place all across the state of Maryland and affect the lives of hundreds of people every year. The typical DWI-DUI accident victim is usually someone just like any of us -- a person with a loving family and a career, an individual with life goals and long-term expectations. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that the careless actions of another driver ruin the lives of those innocent victims with whom they cross paths.
Mothers and fathers, grandparents and children; the victims of drunk driving have no specific demographic, except that they did not deserve the injuries they suffered because of another person’s negligence. As skilled personal injury attorneys, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands that a percentage of the most serious automobile and commercial trucking accidents may have been easily prevented. It’s not surprising that alcohol-related roadway crashes can be filed under this category.
As trucking injury lawyers, we know that the penalties for a commercial trucker who causes a fatal crash or injury-related accident are a big reason why most commercial truck drivers would think twice before drinking and driving. However, the existence of laws, rules and regulations doesn’t prevent tragedies from occurring. For those instances where a commercial truck driver consumes alcohol prior to or while driving a big rig tractor-trailer, we can think of no reasonable excuse for such deadly behavior.
In fact, anyone who decides to operate a motor vehicle of any size while impaired by liquor or drugs, is simply looking for trouble. And for those truckers who decide to carry on with such behavior, the odds of very serious consequences to them and the innocent people nearby may be quite real. As Maryland commercial trucking accident lawyers, we know that the tragic results of most any serious drunken driving wreck makes it imperative to hold the responsible party accountable for his or her actions. Especially in cases where a licensed commercial truck driver is found to have violated state and federal law by operating a commercial vehicle while impaired, the victims should feel within their rights to file a personal injury or wrongful death claims.
Being long-term Baltimore personal injury lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen sympathizes with those victims of drunken drivers. While it is common to call nearly every Maryland traffic wreck “an accident,” there is not much sense in using that term to describe car, truck and motorcycle crashes caused by intoxicated driving. In fact, we truly hesitate to categorize most any DWI-DUI wreck, especially one involving fatalities, as a simple accident. And, if a commercial trucker causes a serious traffic collision while impaired by alcohol, prescription medication or illegal drugs, that individual should be held responsible for his or her serious error in judgment.
Keeping in mind that the majority of commercial trucking crashes are the result of mistakes or poor judgment on the part of the trucker himself, it can be said that drinking and driving would come under this heading. In fact, drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs can raise the statistical odds that a commercial truck driver may end up causing a traffic accident. This does not necessarily mean that an impaired driver will actively cause an accident, but his or her inaction -- because of a misread traffic control sign or failure to recognize stopped traffic -- may still result in a serious collision.
Federal law (FMCSA Part 392.5) prohibits commercial trucker from driving while intoxicated by liquor, as well as from using a controlled substance (FMCSA Part 392.4) unless it is prescribed by a doctor who is also familiar with the trucker's medical history and his occupation. Federal law also requires trucking companies to test their drivers for alcohol and drugs (FMCSA Part 382) as a condition of their employment. Yet, even with these rules and regulations in place, human nature can often conspire to cause a tragic trucking-related wreck.
Some commercial truckers who cause a Maryland trucking accident may have attempted to undermine existing alcohol and drug monitoring procedures. This is possible, if only because some truckers have been known to defeat the accuracy of certain U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) drug testing methods using commercially-available products, such as synthetic urine. We also know that because testing isn’t always a deterrent, the federal government has also provided for severe legal penalties (such as possible loss of one’s commercial driver’s license, or CDL) to help keep drivers sober when operating their rigs.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, our experienced personal injury lawyers understand that determining fault requires in-depth investigation into the potential causes of a serious automobile-truck collision. A qualified commercial trucking accident lawyer will know that drug testing involves not only regular urine samples, but also the testing of a driver’s hair to determine if he or she has taken any drugs in the recent past. Hair testing is also recommended by the American Trucking Association (ATA), which has advocated this method over urine testing in order to detect drugs in a person’s system.
Aside from civil lawsuits, such as personal injury and wrongful death claims, truck drivers who cause a serious traffic accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs face immediate removal from any “safety-sensitive” job functions, which includes operating a tractor trailer on public roadways. By law, any driver who has been found to have misused alcohol will not be allowed to return to a safety-sensitive job until after he or she has been evaluated by a substance abuse professional. As well, a driver in such a situation must also comply with any and all alcohol treatment recommendations.
When it comes to violations of federal and state laws pertaining to drug use, a driver who tests positive for a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) will, again, be removed from any safety-sensitive duties. The decision to suspend a driver’s safety-sensitive functions will usually require the trucker to be evaluation by a Medical Review Officer (MRO). In such cases, the MRO must make a determination of whether a positive drug test was the result of unauthorized use of a CDS or the taking of doctor-prescribed medication. Under federal and state law, no driver is allowed to resume safety-sensitive duties until there is an evaluation showing that he or she has complied with any recommended rehabilitation; and, that the individual’s most recent drug test (also known as a “return-to-duty” test) indicates a negative result for any prohibited substances.
As Baltimore commercial trucking injury attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen is prepared to help individuals who have been victims of commercial trucking-related accident. With years of experience handling personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims, our legal staff knows how automobile and trucking insurance companies will attempt numerous legal maneuvers to avoid paying out the full amount of a trucking accident claim to victims of negligence-related traffic accidents.
There is no doubt in our minds that drunk drivers put the motoring public at risk of injury or death every day. There is also no reason why professional truck drivers should be treated any less harshly than the average drunk driver, especially in light of the fact that the vehicles these individuals control are more than a dozen times as massive as the average passenger car. As Maryland personal injury attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen has the skills and training to represent victims of automobile, commercial truck and motorcycle collisions throughout the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The beltways and interstates of our state are already fraught with unpredictable dangers; there is no acceptable reason why an impaired commercial trucker should even be considered an ordinary hazard. Since most any roadway crash has the potential to impart serious or permanent injury, and sometimes even death, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen take their jobs very seriously when assisting victims of DWI- or DUI-related commercial trucking accidents.
If you have been severely hurt in a collision with an 18-wheeler, tank truck, city bus or other commercial motor vehicle that may have been caused by the negligent actions of an impaired truck driver, we recommend that, as a victim, you contact an experienced legal professional to discuss your rights under Maryland and federal law. We are also ready to assist families of victims who have been killed by an alcohol- or drug-impaired trucker. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call us toll free at (800) 654-1949; or email Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to schedule a face-to-face meeting.