Drowsy drivers put everyone on the road at risk of serious or fatal injury. According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving caused over 630 vehicular accident deaths in one year.
These senseless accidents have a very real effect on their victims and family members. Even non-fatal accidents leave people with severe injuries and life-changing disabilities. If a drowsy driver harmed you or a family member then contact a Personal injury lawyer, you could recover damages for medical bills, loss of income, and more.
What Makes Drowsy Driving Dangerous?
Getting behind the wheel without enough sleep can prove dangerous for everyone on the road. Drowsy drivers may fall asleep at the wheel, but even overtired drivers can commit risky or careless acts due to a lack of proper cognitive function. Sleep-deprived drivers have delayed reaction times, impaired judgment, and reduced awareness of their surroundings.
Drowsy driving can produce effects similar to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drowsy drivers may fail to stop in time, swerve quickly, or otherwise avoid an accident. Anyone who falls asleep at the wheel can easily hit another vehicle or a stationary object, like a tree or telephone pole. Drowsy driving can substantially increase the risk of an accident.
Who Is at Risk of Drowsy Driving?
Anyone may drive while tired, but some are at greater risk than others because of their lifestyle or profession. For example, people who drive tow trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers are at high risk of driving when drowsy, as they often work long shifts or during the night shift. In addition, people with untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, may also drive drowsy.
Other people become tired because of certain medications they take. Drowsy driving also happens when drivers go without adequate sleep. Whether it is from driving too far in one day, staying up all night with a baby, or working late on homework or a project, anyone who drives without getting enough sleep puts themselves and others at risk.
Drowsy Drivers Often Behave Negligently
In legal terms, negligence refers to any careless or reckless behavior that disregards the safety of others. Drivers bear legal and financial responsibility for any accidents they cause through their negligence. To get compensation from the other party, you or your lawyer must demonstrate a drowsy driver was negligent and liable for a car accident.
The four elements of negligence include:
- Duty of care: You must show that the other driver owed you a duty of care or an obligation to avoid putting you at risk. Every driver has a duty of care to everyone else on the road, including their passengers, other drivers and their passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
- Breach of duty: You must show that the other driver breached the duty of care and put you at risk of harm. Because driving while drowsy affects reaction time, judgment, and awareness, anyone whose fatigue affects their driving violates the duty of care.
- Causation: You must show that the other driver’s drowsiness directly caused the accident, such that it would not have occurred if they had been more alert and awake.
- Damages: You must show that the accident caused compensable financial losses. Examples of damages include medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering.
Even if it seems obvious that a drowsy driver caused your accident, you must demonstrate their negligence with evidence. A personal injury lawyer with experience handling other drowsy driving cases can investigate your accident, looking for evidence that the other driver was drowsy and at fault.
How a Lawyer Can Help You After a Drowsy Driving Accident
A lawyer can help you in many ways after a drowsy driving accident, starting right at the scene. You can call a personal injury lawyer immediately after the accident or in the following days and weeks. A lawyer can assess your situation, advise you on your legal options, and walk you through the process of seeking damages from the at-fault driver. A lawyer can also:
Investigate Your Drowsy Driving Accident
The police and insurance companies will investigate the accident, but a lawyer can conduct an independent investigation focusing on your perspective.
A lawyer may gather evidence such as:
- Evidence from the scene: Drowsy driving accidents can leave some tell-tale signs. An alert driver might slam on the brakes to stop short or avoid an obstacle, leaving skid marks on the road. Drowsy drivers simply drive off the road or into another lane without attempting to stop, leaving no skid marks. A lawyer has the resources to analyze the scene and look for evidence like this.
- Camera footage: They could find dashboard camera footage or footage from nearby traffic or security cameras showing the accident.
- Eyewitness testimony: Potential witnesses include passengers in the other car, passengers in your car, and even other drivers or passers-by. Anyone who saw what happened can provide testimony explaining what they saw.
- Medical records: A lawyer can obtain medical records, which may show that the other driver had a history of a medical condition like sleep apnea or narcolepsy that would make them more likely to feel drowsy. These records may also show that the other driver takes medication that would make them sleepy.
- Cell phone or social media data: A lawyer could use a cell phone or social media records to show that the other driver was up late and did not sleep the night before the accident.
- Time of day: Many drowsy driving accidents take place late at night or early in the morning. A lawyer could use the time of the accident to support your case.
- Your observations: You may have noticed that the other driver was drifting between lanes right before the accident, or maybe you even saw their head bob up and down. After the accident, you might have noticed the other driver looked exhausted, perhaps because of excessive yawning or dark bags under their eyes. Your observations of any signs of fatigue may help build your case.
Other sources of evidence could prove useful in showing that the other driver was drowsy. Even if you cannot definitively show that they were driving while drowsy, you could hold them accountable for causing an accident.
Interact With the Insurance Companies
Talking with an insurance agent is probably the last thing you want to do after an accident caused by a drowsy driver. You may spend hours on hold or end up transferred from one agent to another. A lawyer can take on this task for you. In addition, a lawyer can handle all emails or written communication with the insurance company.
Not only can a lawyer preserve your time, but they can protect your interests. Insurance agents know how to disarm you with their friendly manner even when they are trying to get you to admit fault so they can deny your claim. If you talk to the insurance company, do not apologize or admit fault. A lawyer knows how to avoid these verbal traps.
File an Insurance Claim for You
A lot of work goes into filing an insurance claim. Not only do you have to fill out lots of paperwork, but you have to submit supporting documents such as your medical records and receipts for your vehicle repairs. If you saw more than one provider for your injuries after the drowsy driving accident, you must obtain your records from each one, which can prove exhausting.
A lawyer can help you track down all the required records, receipts, and other supporting documents. They can then file the insurance claim for you.
Negotiate an Out of Court Settlement
With an out-of-court settlement, you agree not to pursue any further legal action in return for an agreed-upon financial settlement. Many times, both parties prefer to settle out of court because this often proves a faster and easier way to resolve the case. A lawyer can negotiate a settlement on your behalf so that you can move on with your life and put the accident behind you.
File a Lawsuit on Your Behalf
While many cases end with an out-of-court settlement, some do not. If you cannot come to an agreement with the at-fault driver and their insurance company, you can sue the driver directly. A lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court.
How Much Is My Drowsy Driving Case Worth?
Every case is different, so there is no way to say how much your case is worth without considering your losses. In general, more serious accidents that result in more severe injuries and property damage are worth more money. A lawyer can evaluate your case and gather evidence to determine the full value of your losses. You may be entitled to these damages:
Economic Damages in a Drowsy Driving Accident Case
You could recover economic damages, which compensate you for tangible losses related to the drowsy driving accident.
These losses may include:
- Medical expenses such as emergency care, diagnostic imaging, surgeries, follow-up appointments, rehabilitative therapies, and long-term care
- Medical equipment such as braces, crutches, wheelchairs, and scooters
- Loss of income if you cannot work temporarily or permanently
- Property damage for your vehicle’s repair or replacement
You can seek compensation for the past, present, and future expenses related to your accident losses. So, if you require long-term medical care for months, your attorney can factor this into the overall value of your case.
Noneconomic Damages in a Drowsy Driving Accident Case
You could recover noneconomic damages, which compensate you for intangible losses like pain and suffering.
You could recover noneconomic damages if you:
- Became permanently disabled or disfigured
- Suffer from chronic pain
- Required multiple surgeries or other interventions
- Endured a long recovery
- Suffered emotional trauma
- Developed a mental health condition like depression or anxiety
- Lost the ability to participate in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
- Experience a reduced quality of life
While these damages may be more challenging to prove, that doesn’t mean they don’t have value in your case. An attorney with experience handling drowsy driving claims can work to understand exactly how the accident affected you. Then, they’ll use their prior experience with valuing noneconomic damages to seek what they deserve.
Wrongful Death Damages in a Drowsy Driving Accident Case
If you lost a family member in a drowsy driving accident, you could recover damages for wrongful death. Some states specify which family member can seek wrongful death damages, and some specify the exact damages available. Talk to a lawyer in your area about the laws in your state.
You could seek damages for:
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Medical bills for your loved one’s treatment before they passed away
- Loss of future financial support, including income and benefits
- Loss of household support, including childcare, chores, and maintenance
- Loss of companionship and care
Sue the Drowsy Driver Who Hit You Before Time Runs Out
If you were hurt or lost a family member in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you must act quickly to recover the damages you deserve. Every state has different laws, but every state imposes a statute of limitations on personal injury and wrongful death cases, meaning you only have a finite amount of time to file a lawsuit against the responsible driver.
In general, the clock for a personal injury case starts on the date of the accident, whereas the clock for a wrongful death case starts on the date your loved one passed away. A lawyer can determine the timeline of events for your drowsy driving accident and explain how your state’s laws apply to your case. If you fail to meet the legal deadlines, you forfeit your right to sue, so contact a lawyer now.