Driving is such a part of your daily routine, it’s easy to go on autopilot. However, any time you drive while fatigued, you put yourself and others at risk. Think of drowsy driving as comparable to drunk driving both impair your ability to make good decisions and react quickly. Just like drunk driving, fatigued driving causes accidents that could leave you injured and entitled to compensation. After a drowsy accident contact a personal injury lawyer.
What Counts as Fatigued Driving?
Fatigued driving doesn’t just mean you hit the road after pulling an all-nighter. Maybe you just didn’t get a good night’s sleep or are under the weather. Maybe you feel emotionally exhausted after dealing with a stressful event.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) even mentions late afternoon as a time known for drowsy-driving crashes thanks to a natural lull in the body’s rhythm. In other words, all types of tiredness can affect your driving ability.
Risk Factors for Falling Asleep at the Wheel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights several people more at risk for drowsy driving, including:
- Commercial truck drivers
- Bus drivers
- Drivers who work the graveyard shift
- Drivers at the end of long shifts
- Drivers with sleep disorders
- Drivers on medications that cause drowsiness
In fact, commercial drivers must abide by hours-of-service regulations to prevent fatigued driving. For instance, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers carrying passengers cannot drive more than 10 hours in one period, while drivers transporting property are capped at 11 hours.
Even if someone isn’t bound by job-related regulations, they should use their best judgment when getting behind the wheel. Something as simple as taking a Benadryl to fight off allergies could put someone at risk for drowsy driving. Likewise, teen drivers are sometimes more prone to fatigued driving due to their increased need for sleep, as the NHTSA points out.
Warning Signs of Fatigued Driving
Motorists need to know their limits when they get behind the wheel. This means recognizing the tell-tale signs of fatigued driving.
The CDC and NHTSA recommend:
- Paying attention to signals. If a motorist drives over the rumble strip and it jolts them back into alertness, they should take a break.
- Watching out for microsleeps. These are episodes where drivers may drift off for seconds at a time. Even a few seconds of microsleep can cause grievous harm.
- Not drifting. If a motorist can’t stay in their lane because they’re dozing off, they should pull over.
- Noting their itinerary. Missing an exit or being unable to remember the last few minutes of their trip could point to fatigued driving.
Some of these may not seem like a big deal, like microsleeps. However, at 55 miles per hour, a car can travel 100 yards in four seconds, according to the NHTSA. A lot can happen in those 100 yards, like someone turning in front of you, a deer crossing the road, or traffic slowing down. So, it’s in one’s best interest to avoid anything that could result in a collision.
Drowsy Driving Isn’t Illegal, but It Is Negligent
Driving while fatigued is comparable to drunk driving, but it’s not enforced in the same way. In fact, insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits operate separately from criminal cases. Even if there are criminal charges involved in your accident, your civil case against the driver is distinct.
This is because civil cases are based on negligence, not a violation of the law. So, to recover damages, you would have to bring a separate case against the at-fault driver that specifically requests compensation. The outcome of the possible criminal case against the fatigued driver would not yield financial recovery for your injury-related hardships.
What Is the Cost of Driving While Fatigued?
Recent data from the NHTSA found that over 600 people lose their lives in drowsy-driving crashes annually. In terms of financial impact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports an annual societal cost of $109 billion from fatigue-related crashes.
For the individuals and families affected by drowsy driving accidents, these numbers matter less than the ones directly affecting them the cost of a hospital stay, the rise in insurance premiums, or the unquantifiable personal cost of losing a loved one.
Fatigued Driving Leads to Fatal Accidents
In addition to the personal consequences, an unexpected loss can come with unexpected costs:
- Medical bills from the accident
- Funeral services and cremation/burial
- Loss of future income from the deceased
- Loss of valuable relationships and support
For example, if the person who lost their life was the breadwinner, the sudden loss of their income could place their family in significant financial straits.
Their passing also represents a loss of their wisdom and presence. That absence can have ramifications for families. Children can lose important parental guidance and advice. Spouses can lose companionship and support in raising a family. While these hardships aren’t connected to a specific bill or cost, they are still recognizable losses.
Drowsy Driving Can Lead to Serious Injuries
Drowsy driving accidents can take a heavy toll on victims, especially at high speeds.
Resulting injuries may include:
- Sprains and strains
- Crushing injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- The loss of one or more limbs
Don’t assume minor crashes won’t add up quickly. If you were rear-ended by a fatigued driver, whiplash could lower your quality of life over the next few years. Treatment expenses can include chiropractic visits, therapeutic massages, physical therapy, and pain medication.
Other injuries carry an even higher price, with spinal cord injuries costing millions over a lifetime. Even a broken leg can cost up to $7,500, according to Healthcare.gov. Depending on your insurance policy, you could quickly burn through your coverage. If you were a pedestrian, your costs are likely even higher.
In addition to the direct injury costs, you can suffer income losses following a fatigued driving accident injury. If you can’t work while recovering, you lose crucial income. Long-term or permanent injuries can affect your ability to work and earn, reducing your overall financial stability.
Accidents Can Hurt Your Mental Health
If you suffered injuries in a collision caused by a fatigued driver, you could face more than physical ailments; you could face problems with your mental health, suffering conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions can touch each corner of your life, affecting how you work, play, and interact with others.
If a Drowsy Driving Accident Injured You
If you were injured by a fatigued driver, an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit could help mitigate your losses. A fatigued driving accident attorney can pursue a case on your behalf, especially if you are still recovering from your injuries and unsure how to proceed.
Insurance requirements and lawsuit filing deadlines vary by state. That said, all states have laws that allow for financial recovery, depending on the circumstances. A local personal injury lawyer can advise you of specific state laws.
Typically, you file an insurance claim first. This allows you to negotiate for compensation without going to court. Settling out of court is common, but disputes related to liability, disagreements over the settlement amount, and other complications can make litigation a good option.
Potential Compensation for Drowsy Driving Accident Victims
Whether through a car accident claim or lawsuit, you could recover:
- Emergency department visits
- Hospital bills
- Specialist consultations
- Diagnostic testing
- Prescriptions and medical equipment
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Psychological therapy and medication
- Lost income
- Reduced earning ability
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
An injury attorney can assess your recoverable damages based on your situation. For instance, you may not realize that you could recover lost income from your Etsy shop. Loss of the ability to enjoy a hobby also qualifies for compensation. The idea behind recovering damages is to secure the full gamut of your experience, from physical pain to career challenges.
How to Hold Someone Accountable for Fatigued Driving
In an ideal world, after getting into a collision, the at-fault driver would fairly compensate you. Unfortunately, the process isn’t that simple.
Holding someone accountable therefore requires:
- Understanding the liability insurance policy
- Proving negligence
- Having supporting evidence
- Knowing how the law applies to your case
- Filing an insurance claim or lawsuit
Entrusting your case to an attorney can make matters easier while you focus on recovering.
You Could Hold a Driver’s Employer Liable if They Were on the Clock
Commercial truck drivers are bound by hours-of-service regulations, but their employers are also required to enforce those regulations. Their failures could provide grounds for a drowsy driving case against both the driver and the trucking company.
The same is true of any accident that involves a driver operating during business hours their employer could share responsibility.
For instance, they must:
- Vet potential employees before hiring them
- Instruct drivers regarding driving time limits
- Discipline violations of hours-of-service regulations
- Make changes if they have already had issues in this area
- Avoid overworking employees, which can contribute to fatigue
- Prevent understaffing issues that can cause tiredness
- Properly managing employees and monitoring fatigue levels
- Instituting regular breaks and rest periods
After an accident, you likely aren’t thinking about the work environment of the driver who hit you. Nonetheless, if the driver caused the accident while doing their job, their work environment is relevant to your case. You can talk to your attorney about investigating the driver’s employers to determine if this is an additional avenue for seeking compensation.
How a Fatigued Driving Accident Lawyer Can Help
Insurance companies, transportation companies, and attorneys all work to protect their own, their employees, or their clients’ interests. If the parties involved in your case have representatives, why not you? Having a drowsy driving collision lawyer representing you in all interactions can alleviate your stress and recover compensation for your losses.
Attorneys can do more than just talk to insurance adjusters and other lawyers.
Your legal team could:
- File an injury or wrongful death insurance claim
- Investigate the accident
- Compile evidence of negligence and your damages
- Talk to witnesses, doctors, and experts about the accident
- Review and translate settlement terms for you to understand
- Negotiate an accurate settlement for your losses
- Keep an eye on the statute of limitations
- File a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit
- Prepare for and represent you in court
Most firms offer free consultations that allow you to ask questions about your case, receive an initial case review, and learn your next steps.
A Lawyer Can Prove Your Fatigued Driving Accident Case
Blood and breathalyzer testing can help demonstrate drugged or drunk driving. Drowsy driving is less straightforward.
Still, your lawyer can prove negligence by using:
- Footage from traffic cameras, security cameras, or bystanders
- Photos of the accident scene, roadway debris, traffic conditions, and your injuries
- Medical records, treatment plans, prescriptions, and doctors’ testimony
- Police reports from the accident and records of any tickets or citations
- Eyewitness testimony about the crash, injuries, or statements made
- Transportation logs and other records from commercial drivers
- Past complaints or issues against companies for overworking drivers
- Employment records that show late shifts or overtime
- Expert analysis of the crash and testimony about what happened
A lawyer can figure out what evidence supports your case and can work on gathering it so you do not have to handle it.
You Have Options Following a Fatigued Driving Accident
If you were in an accident caused by a fatigued driver, you have legal rights moving forward. One of those rights involves being able to partner with an attorney. A lawyer can file your claim, itemize your losses, and pursue what you need. Pursuing damages is a time-sensitive matter, so considering your legal options is crucial.