Two people died in fiery tractor-trailer crash in Henrico County, Virginia (VA), during the early morning hours of February 8, 2017. The single-vehicle wreck happened on I-295 around Richmond at 1:15 am.



Investigators from the Virginia State Police believe the semi operator fell asleep behind the wheel before running off the right side of the interstate and slamming into an overpass support. The truck driver and a passenger in the cab died at the scene. Damage to the concrete-and-steel pillar was superficial.

Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of commercial truck crashes that result in injuries and deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics summarized by the CDC, “drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.”

Those statistics include wrecks involving privately owned cars as well as big rigs, but the problem of commercial drivers nodding off while on the job is widely recognized. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces hours of service rules for truckers who cross state lines, and Virginia follows that agency’s lead. Under law, a truck driver transporting products cannot spend more than 11 hours on the road in a 24-hour period. Each shift must also be separated by a minimum of 10 hours of rest. For commercial drivers who carry passengers, the limits are 10 hours on followed by 15 hours of uninterrupted rest.

Truck drivers and the companies that employ them are required to keep detailed logs of time on the road. If reviews of those records show that the truck operator who ran off I-295 in Henrico County spent too long on shift or too little time sleeping and recharging, the family of the passenger who died in the wreck would have strong grounds for filing a negligence-based wrongful death insurance claim. Violating a federal or state law can automatically constitute negligence of the kind that makes the violator liable for paying compensation and damages to victims.

Multiple insurance policies usually cover a tractor-trailer driver and the rig itself. Several of those may apply in a deadly accident like this one near Richmond. Consulting with an empathetic Virginia wrongful death attorney who has experience helping families shattered by drowsy and negligent truck operators will help the deceased passenger’s loved ones understand exercise all their legal rights.