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Distracted Truck Driving Accidents in Kentucky

Motor vehicle accidents can easily turn catastrophic when one of the drivers is not paying attention. If the distracted driver is operating a commercial motor vehicle, then the outcome of a collision can be even more severe.

This is due to its sheer size— A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is defined as a vehicle with a registered weight of 10,000 pounds or more.

Commercial motor vehicles are also referred to as:

  • Commercial trucks (used throughout this page)
  • Semi-trucks
  • 18-wheelers
  • “Big rigs”

Commercial trucks weigh at least 4,000 pounds more than passenger cars, which indicates just how dangerous a wreck caused by these vehicles can be.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) identified driver error as being 10 times more likely to cause injury or death in a commercial truck accident.

Out of the 141,000 commercial truck accidents covered in their study, FMCSA narrowed down the four categories of “driver critical reasons” for collisions:

  • Non-Performance: The truck driver fell asleep, had an emergency medical condition, or some other reason that caused physical impairment.
  • Recognition: The truck driver was inattentive and distracted by something, either inside or outside the truck.
  • Decision: The truck driver was speeding or driving too close to other vehicles.
  • Performance: The truck driver exercised poor control or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While there are many things that can cause a motor vehicle accident, this page will specifically cover how distracted driving by commercial truck drivers in Kentucky lead to collisions that result in physical injury or death. If you have recently experienced a truck accident that resulted in the death or injury of another person, we will provide you with helpful tips for filing a personal injury claim with Morrin Law.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is considered any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from operating their motor vehicle. This can include using a phone, talking to other passengers, or being under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. In other words — it is anything that takes the truck driver’s attention away from their task of safe driving.

Common Causes of Distracted Driving Accidents

Distractions can come in many forms. To safely operate a vehicle—especially of the weight and size of a commercial truck—it is important for drivers to remain alert the entire time on the road. When truck drivers lose attention, whether due to fatigue or other causes, it highly increases the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident.

The CDC identifies three main types of driving distractions:

1: Visual – Taking your eyes off the road.

This can include checking a text message, looking at another passenger, falling asleep, or watching videos on the phone while driving.

Why is this dangerous? If a truck driver’s sight becomes distracted, they may not be able to avoid sudden objects, make sharp turns when necessary, or avoid any oncoming traffic.

2: Manual – Taking your hands off the wheel.

This can include using a phone for any reason, eating while driving, adjusting the radio, or searching for something in the truck while driving.

Why is this dangerous? If a truck driver’s hands are not on the wheel while driving, it prevents quick reaction time if there is a sudden stop in traffic, or if the driver needs to swerve out of the way from objects in their path.

3) Cognitive – Taking your mind off driving.

This can include daydreaming, talking to other passengers, reading while driving, letting strong emotions like anger take over while driving, or abusing drugs or alcohol while driving.
Why is this dangerous? If a truck driver is not actively paying attention to what is happening on the road, it can cause them to zone out, preventing them from reacting in real-time to any changes in the road or traffic.

Here are some more examples of distracted driving that can lead to truck accidents:

  • Using GPS devices while driving;
  • Playing games on the phone while driving;
  • Scrolling through an electronic device to look for music;
  • Adjusting the radio, temperature, or other controls in the truck;
  • Drinking while driving;
  • Taking photos or videos while driving;
  • Watching movies or tv shows while driving;
  • Grabbing for something that fell between the seats while driving;
  • Checking the weather on an electronic device;
  • Adjusting the windows or side mirrors while driving;
  • Sexting or sending explicit messages while driving;
  • Using an eBook while driving;
  • Changing clothes or self-grooming while driving; or
  • Falling asleep while driving.

Phone Distractions While Driving

In 2021, Pew Research Center estimated that around 97% of Americans either owned or used a cell phone of some kind. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) stated that although lawmakers at local, state, and federal levels have examined a wide variety of issues related to driver distraction, the most common concern is the potential distraction caused by cell phones and other technology in the car. Out of the 220 million Americans subscribed to wireless phone services, NCSL estimated as many as 80% of cell phone subscribers admitted to using their phones while driving.

Texting is the most alarming distraction. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) predicted that increased volumes in texting while driving contributed to more than 16,000 crash fatalities between 2001-2007. Additionally, the study suggests that sending or reading text messages is much more dangerous than talking on the phone, due to the driver’s sight being taken off the road.

Despite FMCSA banning commercial truck drivers from texting while driving in 2010, this remains the main cause of collisions. NHTSA explained that when a person reads or sends a text message while driving, it takes their eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed!

Sexting is a form of texting that is defined as the sending of sexually explicit material to another person by cell phone. The messages can include text, images, or videos. A study conducted by Drexel University indicated that out of 870 respondents, 88% admitted to sexting at least once in their life, and that 82% had done so within the last year. Further, 96% of respondents claimed to have endorsed the practice.

An article published on the Psychology of Sexting highlights research suggesting that, “positive expectations about the outcome of sexting may drive the behavior, prompting the individual to overlook possible consequences in favor of the potential rush of exhilaration that may accompany doing something with a bit of social danger attached to it.” This statement can be applied to commercial truck drivers who become distracted by the means of sexting or texting.

The following provides additional key insight and statistics on texting while driving from a recent post by The Zebra:

  • NHTSA estimated that around 660,000 drivers attempt to use their phones while driving;
  • When a driver checks their cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, it reduces their attention by as much as 37%;
  • Using a phone while driving causes 1.6 million collisions each year;
  • Drivers who text while operating a motor vehicle are 23 times more likely to become involved in a car wreck;
  • The chance of being involved in a motor vehicle collision increases by 400% once a driver’s eyes are taken off the road; and
  • Around 14% of fatal motor vehicle accidents involve the use of cell phones.

Checking mobile apps or social media is another grave concern that causes distracted driving. The National Institute of Health (NIH) stated that “the use of mobile phones for texting, surfing the web, responding to a call, and checking notifications from social media apps is confirmed to distract the drivers, reduce their attentions, and increase the risk of a crash.”

NIH pointed to a 2017 study, where 114 individuals between 17-25 years old were monitored for their phone use while driving. The results showed that 80.7% of drivers used their phones for texting, 73.7% used their device to talk to another person on the phone, 53.5% used their phones to check Facebook, 41.2% used their phones to interact with others via Snapchat, and 30.7% used their phones to check their email.

Some common phone applications and social media platforms that can distract a commercial truck driver and result in injuries include:

  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Spotify
  • Apple Music
  • Messages
  • Maps or GPS app
  • BeReal
  • WhatsApp
  • Kik

Now imagine a commercial truck driver, who is operating a vehicle 20 to 30 times heavier than a standard passenger vehicle and who becomes distracted by something on their phone or electronic device.

According to FMCSA, the mass of a commercial truck increases the risk of severe crash damage, injuries, and fatalities. We’ll talk more about injuries and damages further below. First, another important aspect to cover is when a truck driver causes an accident while impaired.   

Distracted Driving on Drugs

Driving a vehicle under the influence of controlled substances is both dangerous and illegal.

During their shift, commercial truck drivers average around 11 hours of driving a day. In the LTCCS, 13% of commercial truck drivers involved in accidents indicated they were fatigued when it occurred. To combat the long driving hours, truck drivers may turn to substances to either stay alert, or to zone out from their drive. If the driver is operating a commercial truck after abusing substances, the likelihood of an accident occurring is even more prominent.

FMCSA’s 2020 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts sheet stated that out of 4,778 large trucks involved in fatal crashes, 299 drivers tested positive for at least one drug. The following lists each type of controlled substance identified through the study’s testing:

  • Narcotics – 49 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Depressant – 42 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Stimulant – 134 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Hallucinogen – 3 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Cannabinoid – 116 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Other drugs – 140 truck drivers tested positive.
  • Type unknown – 26 truck drivers tested positive.

Taking controlled substances while operating a vehicle will likely affect the driver’s normal faculties. The following lists the side effects for each type of substance and how it would likely affect a truck driver:

  • Narcotics (Morphine, Oxycontin) – Drowsiness, confusion, nausea, slowed breathing.
  • Depressant (Alcohol, Benzodiazepines) – Slowed brain function, poor concentration, confusion, fatigue.
  • Stimulant (Amphetamines, cocaine) – Overstimulation, anxiety, panic, aggression, paranoia.
  • Hallucinogen (Psilocybin, LSD) – Fear, confusion, panic, impaired thought process and perception that causes a person to behave in unusual or dangerous ways.
  • Cannabinoid (Marijuana) – Impaired coordination, distorted perception, memory loss and difficulty in problem-solving.

Whether a truck driver has the visual distraction of texting, the manual distraction of eating, or the cognitive distraction of abusing drugs while driving, any activity that removes their full attention away from the road is a step towards causing an accident. Given the massive size and weight of commercial trucks, truck accidents can result in serious injuries.

Possible Injuries Caused by Distracted Truck Driving

A distracted truck driver is not paying attention to what’s going on in front of them.  That means if there is a sudden stop in traffic, upcoming construction zone, or a forced lane change, the truck driver will have less time to react. When a truck crashes into another vehicle due to distraction, the victims often sustain severe or life-altering injuries.

The following lists common injuries caused by distracted driving accidents:

In the worst-case scenario, truck accidents can end with the death of another person.

During 2019, there were 3,142 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. In 2021, distracted driving claimed 3,522 lives. Keep in mind that motor vehicle accidents resulting in the death of a loved one may hold grounds for a wrongful death suit. The personal injury attorneys at Morrin Law can review your case details and help you through the process of filing in Kentucky.

What are the Most Common Reasons for Truck Accidents in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Department of Transportation publishes annual reports on motor vehicle accidents and the consequences they have on the community. In 2020, there were 169,133 commercial trucks registered in the state of Kentucky.  

Out of the 178,214 reported accidents in Kentucky that year, 8,667 of them involved commercial trucks. Truck accidents accounted for 5% of vehicles in all collisions, and 9% of vehicles in fatal accidents. There were 106 commercial trucks involved in fatal accidents, and 1,315 involved in non-fatal injury collisions.

The following provides data from the 2020 report on collisions involving commercial trucks:

  • Total truck collisions: 7,999
  • Fatal truck collisions: 99
  • Injury collisions: 1,218
  • Total killed: 111
  • Total injured: 1,738

The following provides the contributing factors for Kentucky commercial truck collisions in 2020:

Alcohol involvement – 103 all collisions, 6 in fatal collisions.

Cell phone – 37 all collisions, 1 in fatal collisions.

Disregard Traffic Control – 194 all collisions, 8 in fatal collisions.

Distraction – 255 all collisions, 5 in fatal collisions.

Drug involvement – 70 in all collisions, 10 in fatal collisions.

Fatigue – 60 in all collisions, 10 in fatal collisions.

Fell asleep – 100 in all collisions, 2 in fatal collisions.

Inattention – 2,749 in all collisions, 27 in fatal collisions.

Distracted Driving Example Cases

The following two cases represent examples of collisions caused by a commercial truck driver being distracted by watching videos on their phone:

  • Kentucky, May 2015 – Law enforcement in Louisville responded to a fatal truck collision caused by distracted driving. The local report indicated that 23-year-old Miroslav Kuzmanovic was scrolling through his phone in search of a movie to watch when Kuzmanovic’s commercial truck crashed into 71-year-old Doris Wise’s vehicle, along with causing a chain reaction of three other vehicles getting hit. Wise was killed in the impact, and the report stated that flames could be seen coming from I-64 west. Kuzmanovic was charged with reckless homicide and four counts of wanton endangerment. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in 2019 and was sentenced to six months of imprisonment.
  • Kentucky, September 2019 – The Kentucky State Police responded to a multiple vehicle collision crash on I-64 WB, in Franklin County near exit 58. The report indicated that Jerry Elder Jr., 45, struck the rear end of a Jeep Liberty in the semi-truck he was operating. The Jeep Liberty and the semi-truck then both hit a third vehicle, a 2013 Ford Explorer. The Franklin County Coroner that responded to the accident scene pronounced the driver of the Jeep Liberty as dead. Both Elder Jr. and the driver of the Ford Explorer were transported to a nearby hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The responding Kentucky police officers determined the cause of the collision was due to distracted driving, caused by watching a video that prevented him from seeing a slow in traffic near a work zone. Elder Jr. was arrested and charged with manslaughter due to causing the fatal accident. In 2021, Elder Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The following cases represent examples of collisions caused by a commercial truck driver being distracted by looking at explicit content (sexting, pornography) on their phone and being impaired while driving:

  • Arizona, May 2013 – A safety officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety was killed on May 6 after a commercial truck driver crashed his empty fuel tank into three police cars and two fire trucks that were pulled over on Interstate 8 responding to a roadside accident. According to the ABC News report, Juan Espinoza, 33, was driving a commercial truck that was operating on cruise control at 65-mph when the crash occurred. A video from the day of the collision shows Espinoza at the wheel of the 18-wheeler at 5pm; however, Espinoza’s wallet had been placed over the dash camera pointing towards the driver seat. Documents from the investigation claim that Espinoza purposely placed the item there to block the camera while he “[was] looking at or manipulating his phone.” During the moment of impact, Espinoza’s cell phone is shown on video flying through the air. One of the firemen that responded to the initial accident had just finished placing injured parties into the ambulance when the second accident occurred. Jaron Millner described the collision as, “the loudest, craziest banging commotion I’ve ever heard.” The crash resulted in the death of Tim Huffman, the Department of Public Safety Captain who was writing a crash incident report in his patrol car when the accident occurred. The wreck also caused damage to three police cars and two fire trucks. After receiving evidence from his cell phone, investigators discovered that Espinoza was distracted by his phone at the time of the accident, viewing content on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, female escort sites, and pornography. Espinoza was arrested and charged with manslaughter, 13 counts of endangerment, and six counts of criminal damage.
  • Kentucky, December 2018 – A commercial truck driver with the Metropolitan Sewer District caused a fatal accident by crashing into the back of a Louisville Metro Police vehicle. The accident occurred on Christmas Eve 2018, when Roger Burdette crashed into Detective Diedre Mengedoht’s police vehicle, resulting in her death. Following the wreck, Burdette failed a sobriety test and told police he had taken non-narcotic prescription drugs. Upon further inspection, police found traces of hydrocodone and clonazepam in his system at the time of the accident, that they believe to have been obtained “through illicit means.” Police also discovered that Burdette’s phone had started playing a pornographic video at 2:12pm, and then crashed into Menegedoht’s vehicle at 2:17pm on I-64. “Analysis further showed that the defendant accessed other similar videos on that date and during the hours which he was working,” the filing stated. The truck driver was charged with DUI and murder and was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

The following case represents an example of a collision caused by a commercial truck driver being distracted by checking social media on their phone:

  • Arizona, June 2023 – The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced the arrest of commercial truck driver Danny G. Tiner, 36, after his distracted driving caused a freeway collision killing five people. According to the local report, Tiner was driving a tractor-trailer 68-mph in a 55-mph zone, where he collided with the stationary traffic. The force of Tiner’s commercial truck crashing into two passenger vehicles caused it them to become wedged into the back of another commercial truck. The report stated that the crash lasted about two hours, due to the two passenger trucks becoming ignited in flames. In total, the collision caused the death of five victims: Gilberto Franco, Ryan Gooding, Andrew Standifird, Willis Thompson, and Jerardo Vazquez. The commercial truck crash resulted in the freeway being shut down for 11 hours.

Initially, Tiner told police that he had received a message notification from his work tablet and had to acknowledge it. Tiner claimed that after reviewing the work message, he looked up to see that traffic had stopped, but was unable to stop the semi in time to avoid a collision. Troopers on the case said they “long suspected driver distraction as a possible factor in the deadly collision.” Upon request from the FBI, Tiner turned in his cell phone to law enforcement for them to conduct a forensic examination. The investigation revealed that Tiner had been using the social media platform TikTok while driving, which ultimately caused the crash. Police arrested Tiner from his home, where he is facing multiple charges including five counts of manslaughter.

Damages Caused by Truck Collisions

A person involved in a truck collision can face extreme difficulties following the aftermath of the wreck. Even if they survive the crushing impact of a commercial truck, they could be left with severe injuries that require extensive time, care, and let’s face it: money.

By filing a personal injury claim, you can work towards feeling “whole” again by receiving compensation to help cover any of the resulting damages. When you hire Morrin Law, we can help you receive compensation for the following damages:

  • Hospital bills
  • Ongoing and future medical expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life

Our attorneys understand how important it is for you to receive fair compensation after being seriously hurt in an accident. Contact Morrin Law Firm today for a free case evaluation to learn more about how we can help.

Who is Held Liable After a Distracted Truck Driving Accident?

When an accident occurs involving a commercial truck, determining fault can be complex. This is because unlike accidents involving two passenger vehicles, where each driver will run through their insurance companies, commercial motor vehicles have an extra complication. Is the truck driver held liable for a distracted driving accident? Or is the employer of the commercial truck driver held liable for their driver’s negligence?

Typically, an accident occurring where the truck driver was in the scope of their employment would result in liability falling on the employer. For example, if the truck driver was fatigued after driving extended hours without a break, blame could fall on the employer. If the commercial truck driver tested positive for controlled substances that the employer did not catch during routine testing, then the fault could also fall on the employer.

On the other hand, fault could fall on the truck driver simply due to the element of distraction. Was the truck driver texting while operating their licensed vehicle? If so, this would be a direct violation of the company code and would likely result in the driver taking liability for any accident they called.

Since each case will vary in its details, contacting an experienced commercial truck accident attorney can help answer any liability questions you may have about your Kentucky personal injury claim.

How to Determine if the Truck Driver was Under the Influence

If you were in an accident with a commercial truck that you believe was caused by driving under the influence (DUI), proving that element is imperative for determining fault.

Along with Kentucky laws prohibiting driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there are federal laws in place to prevent commercial truck drivers from drinking or taking drugs on the job.

Since the early 1990s, the FMCSA has defined drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL):

  • 49 CFR §382.205 states that no driver shall use alcohol while performing their safety-sensitive functions, and that no employer shall permit a driver to perform or continue to perform their duties while having actual knowledge that they are under the influence.
  • 49 CFR §382.213 states that no driver shall report for duty or remain on duty that requires the performance of safety-sensitive functions when the driver uses any drug or substance, unless it has been prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner who advised the driver that the substance will not adversely affect their ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle (truck).

If a collision occurs involving a commercial truck, federal law requires the employer of the truck driver to test for traces of alcohol from its driver when:

  • The accident resulted in the loss of human life while the driver was performing safety-sensitive functions; or
  • Within 8 hours of the driver receiving a traffic violation from the accident if it involved bodily injury to any person where they had to receive medical attention, or where it caused damage to the other motor vehicle, resulting in it being towed away.

Subsequently under 49 CFR §382.303, the employer of the truck driver is required to test for controlled substances from its driver when:

  • The accident resulted in the loss of human life while the driver was performing safety-sensitive functions; or
  • Within 32 hours of the occurrence under State or local law for a moving traffic violation if it involved bodily injury to any person where they had to receive medical attention, or where it caused damage to the other motor vehicle, resulting in it being towed away.

The truck driver’s employer is responsible for testing for any possible influence of drugs or alcohol following a truck accident, but what does that mean for you: the injured party?

By hiring a Kentucky personal injury attorney, you can receive assistance in proving the accident was caused by the truck driver’s negligence. Morrin Law Firm can help by:

  • Obtaining the results of the truck driver’s drug or alcohol test;
  • Access medical records;
  • View the results of any blood test;
  • Collect footage from cameras near the accident scene;
  • Review the truck driver’s logbook;
  • Gather witness statements;
  • Analyze the statements from each party and the witnesses to look for gaps in the story;
  • Secure an expert witness if necessary to testify about the driver’s use of drugs or alcohol and it being the main cause of the collision.

How to File a Personal Injury Claim for a Kentucky Truck Accident

When you’re ready to take back your life after feeling the weight of a commercial truck accident, you should consider filing a personal injury claim. Before you file a claim in Kentucky, it is important that you:

  1. Evaluate and understand the extent of your injuries;
  2. Obtain all medical records documenting your injuries and recovery;
  3. Gather evidence from the accident scene including images of your injuries, property damage, and any other important details;
  4. Speak to any witnesses at the accident scene in case they saw signs of the truck driver’s distracted driving; and
  5. Contact a personal injury attorney prepared to represent your case, fighting for the full compensation you deserve.

Morrin Law Firm provides clients with a free case evaluation, where we can help determine whether we can add value to your case.

File Within Statute of Limitations

After you’ve chosen to file a personal injury claim, it is important that you familiarize yourself with Kentucky’s Statute of Limitations (allotted time limit for filing). Pursuant to Kentucky Statutes §304.39-230(6), a person has two years from the date of the car accident or last personal injury protection (PIP) to sue for damages after being involved in a motor vehicle accident.  

However, Morrin Law continuously reminds our clients that the worst thing you can do for a personal injury case is delay the filing time. Especially in a case involving a commercial truck, it is imperative that you find a team of professionals who can fight in your corner as soon as possible. This is because the commercial truck’s insurance company will likely begin working on building their own case immediately to deter any fault or liability.

Collecting evidence such as skid marks on the interstate, or indentions in the grass from a commercial truck rolling over can be extremely valuable to prove fault in a personal injury case. By waiting to file or consult with an attorney, precious evidence can be lost due to delay. It is important that you act quickly and get the right accident professionals on your side as soon as possible.

If you have any questions regarding your case or Kentucky’s Statute of Limitations, contact the office of Morrin Law.

Contact Morrin Law Firm

Any type of motor vehicle accident can result in serious injuries or death. When the accident is caused by the other driver being distracted, it can be reasonably frustrating for the victim. In the case where the distracted driver is operating a commercial truck when the accident occurs, that victim may have sustained life-altering injuries. The injured party should not have to carry the burden of their injuries and the financial struggles they caused. Luckily, a Kentucky personal injury attorney can help injured individuals fight to win back the compensation they deserve.

Contact the office of Morrin Law Firm today to discuss the details of your commercial truck accident during a free case evaluation. Our attorneys can provide you with insight on whether we can add significant value to your case when you call (859) 358-0300 or leave us a message.