People see messages and ads telling them that drunk driving increases the chances of a car accident. Drivers see police checkpoints on major holidays and random weekends to catch drunk drivers.
Fatigue and sleepiness, however, do not get as much attention. Maybe they should.
Drowsy Driving Doubles Accident Risk
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, getting less than six hours of sleep doubles someone’s risk of getting into a car accident. Caused by many different factors, drowsy drivers can nod off behind the wheel or have their reaction time impaired, just like a drunk driver, and sometimes even worse. In fact, not sleeping for a full 24 hours is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.1, 20 percent higher than the legal limit.
Some Reasons for Drowsy Driving
Shift work. Working odd hours, working night shifts, and working double shifts can make people exceptionally tired. This upsets their body’s natural rhythms and makes it more likely that drowsiness will impair them when driving.
Young male drivers. Teens have a stereotype of being poor drivers. Some of that comes from their lack of sleep. They stay up late and have to get up early for school. The lack of sleep, plus their inexperience, causes many young male drivers to drive with inadequate sleep.
Alcohol. Everyone knows driving drunk is illegal. But having even one drink causes the driver’s body to slow down and become drowsy. Alcohol is a depressant and can reduce the driver’s ability to react in treacherous situations.
Sleep disorders. Between 50 and 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. Almost 40 percent of those people have unintentionally fallen asleep during the day at least once in the past month. Some of that unexpected sleep could come behind the wheel. Sleep disorders range in severity, but all cause some level of sleep deprivation, which can have tragic consequences when the driver causes an accident.
Medication. Some prescription medication can cause severe drowsiness. A doctor may even tell a patient they should not drive when taking the medication, but some still do. Even some over-the-counter drugs can increase drowsiness in the patient. Combine these drugs with alcohol, and the drowsiness gets even worse.
Evidence for Drowsy Driving
Proving another driver was drowsy when they caused a car accident presents unique challenges. Many people do not even realize when they have reached a point of drowsiness and are unlikely to admit they have not gotten adequate sleep.
Unlike with drunk drivers, there is no test a police officer can give to a driver to see if they are overly sleepy. However, there are some factors of an accident that can lead to a determination that a lack of sleep caused the crash. These factors include the following:
- The time of day of the accident
- If the accident happened on a high-speed road
- Lack of skid marks
- Driver’s work records show long or overnight shifts
- Prescription medication
Most drowsy driving car accidents happen between sunset and sunrise, though an increasing number also occur in the late afternoon and evening hours. They can also happen in more rural areas where the roads stretch for miles without a curve, acting to almost hypnotize the driver and make them drowsy.
How to Prove a Driver was Drowsy
When the police investigate a car accident, they may not suspect a driver was drowsy, so they may not look for evidence that leads them to that conclusion. A skilled and knowledgeable car accident lawyer may understand that a lack of sleep can cause a crash. The right legal team may have accident reconstruction experts at the ready to investigate an accident and determine whether drowsiness played a role.
The crash experts may do the following:
- Take photos and video of the accident scene.
- Review the police report.
- Collect and review surveillance footage of any nearby cameras.
- Discuss with witnesses what they saw.
- Collect and review the negligent driver’s medical records.
- Review the at-fault driver’s work records.
The lawyer’s resources conduct a thorough investigation like this to make sure that every aspect is examined and the victim can prove that someone else caused their accident. Once the evidence is collected, the lawyer will work to prove the driver was negligent by showing the following:
- The at-fault driver owed a duty of care to the victim to drive safely and not drive when drowsy.
- The at-fault driver breached that duty of care by driving drowsy.
- Because of the breach, an accident occurred.
- A victim suffered injuries in the accident.
Proving these elements may not be as simple as they initially appear, especially if a lawyer is not retained soon after an accident happens. The more time that passes, the more likely it is that evidence gets lost and witnesses forget what they saw. The best way for a car accident injury victim to get better is to speak with a lawyer right away.
The whole point of doing a thorough investigation into a car accident is to determine the reason for the crash and who caused the crash. This information is vital to preparing a lawsuit to collect compensation for the victim’s injuries. Even minor injuries may result in costly medical expenses. Victims often underestimate the amount of time and money it will take for them to make a full and complete recovery from their car accident injuries.
A lawyer may try to get the injured person compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost income
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Present and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
Because drowsy drivers often fail to react at all to an oncoming accident, they do not hit the brakes and cause serious and tragic injuries. Many victims are left with a lifetime of medical needs. The costs to cover these needs rise quickly and can put injured people in financial hardship.
The more severe an injury, the more likely it is that a victim will need to miss work, even for a short time. In some cases, a victim may never be able to return to work, placing undue stress and anxiety on them. In these instances, it is vital that the victim partner with a trusted lawyer who can work to collect maximum compensation for them. They will need every dollar they can get to help cover their medical expenses and other financial losses.
For most Americans, missing just one paycheck can put them into financial trouble. For a car accident injury victim, they may face a lifetime of missed paychecks. It is important for them to remember that the accident was not their fault and that they should not be responsible for the medical bills and financial losses they face.
Victims Must Act Fast
Although the priority for every car accident injury victim should be their health and recovery, they cannot put off a lawsuit for very long. Every state has a time limit restricting how long after an accident a victim can file a claim against the at-fault driver.
Car accident injury victims should not wait until the last minute to speak with a lawyer. Their lawyer needs time to review all of the information provided by the injured person. The lawyer may also want to conduct their own investigation of the accident. It is much better to do that soon after the accident, not a long time later.
Most importantly, missing this important filing deadline could mean the victim misses out on their chance to recover compensation for their injuries. That may mean they are responsible for all of their medical bills and their lost income.
Monmouth County Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Get Results for Accident Victims
Drowsy driving can have catastrophic consequences. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver, you could be entitled to compensation. To find out your legal options, contact the experienced Monmouth County car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Marlboro Township, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.