Drowsy driving is not just something that happens with truck drivers. Regular motor vehicle operators can also experience moments of drowsiness that lead to devastating accidents. If a driver does different shift work or graveyard shifts, he or she is more likely to experience drowsy driving, as well. Falling asleep while operating a vehicle is all too common in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year there are more than 100,000 reported car accidents that involve drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel. These have led to more than 1,600 fatalities and over 72,000 serious injuries.
According to Farmers Insurance, men are three times more likely than women to fall asleep at the wheel – and those aged between 55 and 64 have the highest percentage of incidence.
Why Do Drivers Fall Asleep?
Stress, overwork, personal issues, longer drives, alcohol, medications, and schedules all lead to drivers falling asleep behind the wheel. Many of those who do fall asleep quickly wake and catch themselves before they actually cause an accident. Still, there are thousands who are not as fortunate. It is usually a matter of seconds between waking and falling asleep that prevents an accident from occurring.
Assessing the Liability and Legal Duty of Care
In an accident, a drowsiness-caused motor vehicle collision would start with what the court refers to as the driver’s legal duty of care. All drivers have a legal obligation under the law to drive safely while looking out for the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycle riders, and other vehicles on the road with them. All drivers are liable when they fail to perform their legal duty of care, and cause an accident as a result. If a driver falls asleep, this is a breach of duty.
The courts equate breaching legal duty to negligence. Unfortunately, when it comes to falling asleep behind the wheel, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof and must show the courts that the driver actually fell asleep. This is not as easy to prove as drunken driving, speeding, or other reckless forms of driving. Police reports, witness statements, and traffic citations can help establish the case, but only if they state that the driver fell asleep behind the wheel.
Evidence to Prove Your Case
In order to succeed with your personal injury claim against the driver, you will need to convince the insurance claims adjuster or the jury that the driver was negligent. In an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you may not have a police officer who issued a citation, or a DUI arrest record to help prove that there was a crime. Instead, you will rely on circumstantial, but compelling, evidence. The more evidence that you present, the stronger your claim will become.
Sometimes, proving that the driver was driving for a long period can make it more plausible that he or she was drowsy driving. Items in his or her car, such as prescription bottles, blankets and pillows, maps, food wrappers, etc. show that the individual was driving or on his or her way somewhere far – demonstrating this helps increase the likelihood that he or she could have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Your Best Case is Made by a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident and you suspect that the at-fault driver was asleep at the wheel, contact a personal injury attorney right away to have your case assessed. The Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with your case. Call us to schedule a free consultation, or request your appointment online.