Young & McCarthy LLP

Many commercial truckers might have sleep apnea

The Department of Transportation requires truck drivers to pass a medical examination to hold a commercial driver's license. The specifics of the medical exam are left, in part, to the discretion of the examining doctor, and many choose not to check for sleep apnea, which can be a particularly dangerous condition for truck drivers on Ohio roads. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 17% and 28% of commercial drivers are thought to have at least mild sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person's breathing pauses during sleep for a period of time. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the pauses last for 10 seconds or longer. It can contribute to several health problems, including heart disease, mood swings, memory lapses and high blood pressure. It can also make a driver drowsy while he or she is on the road.

There are sleep masks and other treatments that have proven effective in combating sleep apnea, but not all trucking companies can afford to treat or test their drivers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has said mandatory screening for sleep apnea is unnecessary as its research has not found a link between commercial truck crashes and drivers with the condition. Estimates of what it might cost to test and treat truck drivers for sleep apnea range between $740 million and $12.8 billion.

An individual who has been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle may have a monetary claim for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or other damages. An attorney could assist the victim by identifying who has liability or negotiating a settlement with the trucking company. In cases that cannot be settled, an attorney might draft and file a civil complaint or argue on the client's behalf during official proceedings.

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