When we take to the road, we expect that the other drivers we encounter will be qualified to operate their vehicles. After all, the Department of Motor Vehicles exists to make sure that drivers pass written and on-road tests ensuring that they understand the rules of the road and how to operate a vehicle safely.
Unfortunately, not all drivers meet that expected level of training and competence. Unqualified drivers caused multiple traffic accidents in Virginia in one recent year. Any unqualified driver you meet on the road can put you and your family in harm’s way.
Let’s explore the dangers of drivers who lack appropriate qualifications.
Underaged or Undertrained Drivers
Virginians can get a learner’s permit starting at the age of 15 years and six months, and, after taking the required tests, qualify for a driver’s license when they turn 16 and three months.
Unfortunately, however, laws alone cannot prevent people who are either underage or who have not obtained appropriate permits and licenses from getting behind a wheel of a car or truck. Of course, they face stiff penalties if law enforcement catches them driving, but the risk of punishment alone does not always stop underage or unlicensed Virginians from trying to operate a vehicle.
Unqualified Truck Drivers
Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in Virginia must undergo rigorous training to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The training is far more extensive than for a regular driver’s license, to account for the size, weight, complexity, and performance characteristics of commercial trucks.
Truckers must learn, for example, how the ways trucks brake, and the distance they need to turn and come to a full stop. Truckers must also obtain special endorsements to their CDL, through additional training, to operate specialized types of CMVs, such as school buses or tankers that transport hazardous materials.
CMV drivers who lack the specialized training and expertise necessary to operate a particular truck safely risk causing serious and deadly accidents.
Trucking companies or human resources contractors are responsible for checking and ensuring that their drivers have the appropriate CDL and endorsements. However, a current, nationwide shortage of CMV drivers has caused some companies and independent operators to cut corners and hire unqualified drivers.
In addition, truck drivers can face suspension of their licenses for multiple reasons, including causing an accident and changes in their health condition that makes them unsuited to operate a large, heavy vehicle. Background checks and investigations of accidents can reveal these factors, but only if trucking companies conduct them routinely.
Disqualification for Driving While Intoxicated
Cars and Other Private Vehicles
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) by alcohol or other substances is a serious safety problem on America’s roads. Intoxication affects perception, reaction times, judgment, and other factors that greatly influence the ability to drive safely and sensibly. Drivers whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or above are considered intoxicated as a matter of law, but even drivers with lower BAC can experience the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption.
Drivers charged and convicted of a DWI in Virginia face license suspension or revocation. A driver without a license is, as a legal matter, unqualified to get behind the wheel.
Truck drivers can lose their licenses after a DWI conviction. By law, trucking companies must perform random testing of their drivers for alcohol and other intoxicating substances, including legal and illegal drugs. Truck drivers know better than to try to operate a big-rig while intoxicated, but violations do occur, and can cause an otherwise licensed driver to become unqualified.
The natural effects of aging can affect driving ability by impairing a driver’s vision, hearing, muscle reflexes, and judgment. To ensure the safety of older drivers and their fellow Virginians, Virginia law requires those who are 75 years old and above to renew their driver’s license every five years, in person. Older citizens who have not done this are no longer qualified to drive.
Family members and others close to aging drivers may also request that the DMV conduct an unsafe driver evaluation, if reason exists to fear that the driver has become unqualified through a decline in their capabilities.
Why Unqualified Drivers Matter
Unqualified drivers matter to the health and safety of the community because they are much more likely than other drivers to cause accidents, injuries, and even deaths on the road.
Virginia operates under an “at-fault” insurance system. If you suffer injuries because of another driver’s negligence, or if a family member tragically perishes in an accident caused by a negligent driver, then you generally have the right to take legal action seeking compensation for your injuries and losses, such as by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, by bringing a truck accident lawsuit in civil court, or (oftentimes) both.
The law defines negligence as a violation of a duty of care that results in harm to others. Unqualified drivers, almost by definition, have violated the duty of care to the public by operating a vehicle without appropriate licensing, training, or capabilities.
Obtaining Compensation From Unqualified Drivers
Generally speaking, if an unqualified driver harms you or your loved one, then you may have the ability to obtain financial compensation from that driver and anyone else answerable for the driver’s conduct.
The categories of compensation you may recover often include:
- Medical expenses related to your injuries, such as diagnostic tests, emergency room treatment, ambulance transport, doctor’s visits, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medication, assistive devices, and future medical costs;
- Other expenses related to the accident or your injuries, such as the cost of hiring help with daily activities while you heal;
- Current and future lost wages if an injury keeps you out of work or prevents you from returning to work in the future; and
- Pain and suffering, which seeks to compensate you for the physical and emotional difficulty inflicted by the unqualified driver on your life.
If a loved one tragically perishes in an accident caused by an unqualified driver, then certain family members may pursue financial compensation from the driver and other parties through a wrongful death action.
Wrongful death compensation can include:
- Medical expenses before the victim’s death;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of income, protection, care, and assistance that family members could otherwise have reasonably expected; and
- Mental anguish, including loss of companionship, guidance, comfort, and society.
For further information about your case, contact an experienced truck accident attorney today.