Sleep Apnea Truck Wreck Lawyers in Kentucky
Commercial trucking is a staple of American industry.
The big rigs that move goods from point A to point B are everywhere, and we’ve all had close calls with these transportation behemoths. Unfortunately, far too many travelers have more than that. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 2014 annual report, 411,000 large trucks were involved in collisions that resulted in 3,424 deaths and 82,000 were involved in collisions that injured 111,000 people. Causes include truck drivers that operate their semis while impaired by alcohol or drugs, while distracted by mobile devices, or while tired. Being fatigued can stem from a number of behaviors, some of which have been dealt with by FMCSA hours-of-service regulations. But one of the biggest reasons for truck drivers’ daytime drowsiness has yet to be adequately addressed – sleep apnea.
How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Truck Drivers
The most common of the three types of this sleep disorder is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and affects as many as 25 million adults in the U.S., which translates to more than a quarter of those between 30 and 70 years old. This chronic affliction increases the risk of other ailments, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, chronic acid reflux, and depression. OSA causes a person who is asleep to temporarily stop breathing. In fact, “apnea” is Greek for “without breath.” It occurs when the throat muscles relax too much during sleep, narrowing the airway and limiting the amount of oxygen that gets to the lungs. As the levels of carbon dioxide build up in the body, the brain wakes the person up to force the return of normal breathing. This pattern of paused breathing and brief awakenings disturb the sleep cycle and can happen hundreds of times every night.
When Truck Drivers with Sleep Apnea Are a Threat to Others
Such non-restorative sleep can have a major effect on the brain, commonly resulting in sleepiness during routine activities, poor concentration, increased reaction time, and excessive daytime fatigue. Studies have shown that OSA can severely influence driving performance, with one finding that more than 800,000 drivers in the United States were involved in OSA-related motor vehicle collisions and that 25 percent of persons with untreated OSA report frequently falling asleep while driving. Another determined that people with OSA were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident than those without. The possibility of tractor-trailer wrecks due to OSA is high, with approximately 26 percent of the 3.4 million licensed commercial drivers likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
Who Can Get Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can develop OSA, and there was a 442 percent increase in doctor visits for which an OSA diagnosis was made between 1999 (1.1 million patients) and 2010 (5.8 million patients). Typical risk factors include being male, being overweight, having a neck circumference of over 17 inches, being a smoker, and being over the age of 40. Truck drivers are not exactly known for their healthy lifestyle, made worse by the realities of life on the road. Long hours of stressful driving leave little chance for physical activity and healthy eating. Compared to the national working population, they are twice as likely to be obese and more than twice as likely to smoke. People who are obese have four times the risk of sleep apnea than people who are not, and smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than nonsmokers.
What Are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
There are few outward signs of OSA, making it likely that that 80 percent to 90 percent of cases are undiagnosed. This makes it a challenge to know which truck drivers may have the disorder. In addition to the risk factors, people who feel unrefreshed after sleep, or often wake up in the morning with headaches, or wake up any time choking or gasping for breath, should consult a doctor. In many instances, loud snoring or fighting for breath is noticed by a family member, which makes truckers who spend many hours alone less likely to be told of these troubling symptoms. If OSA is suspected, the person undergoes a polysomnogram. More commonly known as a “sleep study,” it measures certain body functions to determine if and how much the person’s sleep is fragmented. Once diagnosed, OSA treatment options involve continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilation therapy, oral appliance therapy, substantial weight loss, or minor surgery.
How Would I Know if a Truck Driver Has Sleep Apnea?
Turn to an Attorney Who Understand Truck Driver Sleep Apnea Cases
Based in Pikeville, KY, the OSA truck accident attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm believe that those who cause harm to others should be held accountable for their actions. Since 1998, we have successfully represented victims throughout Eastern Kentucky who have been injured in truck crashes as well as the families of those who have been killed by sleep-deprived truck drivers. Founding attorney Billy Johnson has been named a Super Lawyer by U.S. News & World Report as well as an American Trial Lawyers Association Top 100 trial lawyer. You can rely on his experience with the legal system and his commitment to his clients to help you get the best result possible given the circumstances of your case. For advice on how to proceed next, please call 606-433-0682 or fill out this form to schedule your free initial consultation.