Driving Drowsy: Liability for Falling Asleep at the Wheel
Charlotte, NC Attorney
One very common cause of serious car accidents is when a driver falls asleep while driving. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year, more than 100,000 police-reported car accidents result from drivers who fall asleep. Of those accidents, more than 1,600 cause fatalities, and more than 72,000 cause serious injuries. The actual number is probably much higher since not everyone reports all drowsy-driving accidents. Similarly, a Farmers Insurance Company survey states that almost three times as many men (15.9% as women (5.8%) said they had fallen asleep at the wheel, and those ages 55 to 64 had the highest percentage of any age group surveyed (13.7%).
If you or a loved one has been injured in car accident potentially involving a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You should seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney such as Justin Bice of the law firm of Bice Law, LLC.
Liability of Individuals Who Fall Asleep at the Wheel
All drivers have a legal duty of care to drive safely while and to help ensure the safety and well-being of others. Failing this legal duty of care results in liability for any corresponding accidents that occur. Establishing liability when a driver is speeding, driving recklessly, texting and driving, or driving while intoxicated are clear examples of failing this duty of care or negligence. However, when it comes to falling asleep while driving, proving negligence is a more complicated endeavor. Unless a driver admits to falling asleep at the wheel and causing the accident, plaintiffs will find it difficult to gather enough evidence to prove liability. This is usually a case built on circumstantial evidence.
Police reports are an important part of the potential case for liability. The police will interview all drivers and record statements, including any admissions of falling asleep at the wheel. Witnesses may also provide statements indicating whether they saw another driver nod off.
Additionally, in many cases the accident location together with the point of impact can provide proof of liability. If a driver who nodded off collided with a vehicle in another lane, that may support the conclusion that drowsiness caused him or her to drift into another lane. Additionally, the absence of skid marks may serve as evidence that the driver didn’t try to correct the trajectory of the vehicle. Without a legitimate excuse for a lane change accident, the burden passes to that driver to prove he or she did not fall asleep.
If there are any traffic videos, it may show that the driver’s turn signals were not on, which is additional circumstantial evidence he or she was asleep and did not give notice of the intent to move into another lane. If there is any proof that the driver was driving for long distances, such as an out-of-state driver’s license or luggage inside the vehicle, that may also serve as evidence of liability. Additional such evidence includes road maps, coolers, packages of no-doz or other stimulants, used coffee cups, pillows and blankets, food wrappers, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Accident Attorney
The assistance of experienced legal counsel will be crucial in proving liability for these kinds of accidents. These are fact-intensive cases that require extensive investigation, evidence-gathering, and analysis. If necessary, seasoned legal representation will be necessary in court, if a case goes to trial. If you are considering filing a suit for injuries suffered in an accident with drowsy drivers in North or South Carolina, Bice Law, LLC can provide you with the expertise and effective advocacy you need to pursue your case and obtain compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling our toll-free number at 877-BICE-877 or by submitting our online form.