Truck drivers are required by federal law to pass health tests before they drive, but many of these drivers keep certain medical conditions and problems a secret which could mean that they should not be on the road because it could be dangerous and lead to accidents. In one recent case, Ruthie Allen was one of thirty-five passengers that was injured when a Greyhound bus drove off an interstate. The driver allegedly blacked out. Allen stated that, “I started yelling at the driver but I didn’t get a response. The bus started to tumble. I looked down and I saw the bone in my thigh protruding through my clothing.”
The bus accident is still under investigation, however, according to the accident report the driver, Dwayne Garrett – told police he was drinking coffee, started coughing and lost consciousness. However, no coughing is heard on the dash camera video. A few weeks before the accident occurred, a Department of Transportation medical examiner suspected Garrett might have sleep apnea , a breathing condition that disrupts sleep and leads to fatigue. If untreated, it disqualifies a driver from operating a commercial vehicle like a bus. Garrett got a ninety day waiver and was told to get tested. When Garrett was questioned about what the doctor said, Garrett said that, “He claimed that I had one of the markers for sleep apnea, which was he could not see the back of my throat.”
According to reports, Garrett saw his his personal physician, Dr. Robert Kunkel, also a Department of Transportation examiner. He acknowledged the Department of Transportation’s suspicion about sleep apnea, but Kunkel claims Garret failed to disclose some key symptoms and a referral to get a sleep test, which he says prevented further evaluation. A court-ordered sleep test ultimately diagnosed Garrett with sleep apnea. He is now disqualified from driving commercially.
The investigation is discovering other cases where drivers left out dangerous medical conditions on their Department of Transportation medical form. Federal regulators do not keep track of accidents that are caused by commercial drivers with medical conditions and states do not either. When reports were reviewed, it was discovered that there were almost four hundred commercial vehicle accidents involving medical conditions in 2013 and 2014.
Two years after the accident Ruthie Allen is still dealing with devastating injuries. She stated that, “You are allowing this person who could possibly kill people, drive a weapon on the highway. It is just not right.”
The Department of Transportation stated that safety is its top priority and fraudulently obtaining a medical certificate is illegal. The American Trucking Association has called aspects of the Department of Transportation’s program troubling and in need of further reform.
If you or someone you care about has been involved an accident when a commercial driver was at the wheel and were injured, then you need to talk to one of our experienced Tennessee Truck Accident Lawyers at the Higgins Firm. We care about our clients and will work with you to see to it that you receive the compensation you may be entitled to for what you have been through.
Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.