Challenges of Building a Case Against a Drowsy Driver Who Caused a Crash

tired driver at the wheelWe live in a chronically sleep-deprived society – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that more than 35 percent of Americans get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

This does not stop people from engaging in their normal routine, which includes driving. A CDC survey found that one in 20 people had fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past month.

Even if a sleep-deprived driver does not fall asleep behind the wheel, fatigue can make him or her a reckless driver. Lack of sleep affects your reaction time and judgment. Drivers may struggle to keep their eyes open, which makes it harder to be aware of approaching danger.

In fact, lack of sleep can affect drivers in much the same way as drinking alcohol. Tired drivers often have poor coordination, so even if they see danger, they cannot react quickly enough.

When a crash occurs, victims may suspect fatigued driving but be unsure about how to prove it. Short of video footage of the at-fault driver with his or her eyes closed or yawning, what evidence can you use?

It is vital to hire an experienced attorney to help you build a case against the at-fault driver. Galloway Jefcoat’s Lafayette vehicle crash attorneys have been helping crash victims for decades and have a proven record of success.

Validating a Drowsy-Driving Accident Case

In Louisiana, the driver responsible for a collision is liable for the damages caused in the crash. Drivers can be held liable if victims can prove the driver breached a duty of care that led directly to the crash and resulting injuries.

Driving while asleep or fatigued is a breach of a duty of care, as drivers need to be in a state where they can operate their vehicles safely to prevent an accident. While video footage or pictures of the driver with his or her eyes closed or yawning would certainly be helpful, this is not the only type of evidence that could be used to build a drowsy-driving case.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Sometimes drivers are tired because of an underlying medical condition like sleep apnea, which results in people waking up in the middle of the night because they stopped breathing. Sleep apnea makes it difficult to get a full night of restful sleep. People with this condition are often tired during the day.

Our attorneys may be able to obtain the at-fault driver’s medical records proving the existence of this medical condition. This combined with a description of how the accident occurred could be a strong indication of drowsy driving. For example, if the at-fault driver’s vehicle left no skid marks, it could indicate drowsy or distracted driving.

Narcolepsy is another sleep disorder that could cause a crash. People with this condition fall asleep at random times throughout the day, including when they are behind the wheel. If there is an unreasonable risk of this happening, getting behind the wheel could be considered an unreasonable risk.

Evidence of Fatigue-Inducing Medications

The at-fault driver’s medical records may also show he or she takes one or more medications that cause drowsiness. For example, maybe the driver was on heart or blood pressure medication that is known to cause drowsiness.

Employment Records Showing the Driver Worked Late

Another thing to consider is the at-fault driver may have a job that requires him or her to work at night or late at night. You may have gotten into a collision with the driver while he or she was on the way to or from work.

Evidence of a Busy Schedule

It is possible the at-fault driver was taking classes at night or even early in the morning. School attendance records could back up this claim. Many people are working and going to school, leaving little time for sleep, much less a full night of sleep. Evidence of a busy schedule helps to show the at-fault driver was tired because there was not enough time for the recommended amount of sleep.

Type of Crash

The type of crash may also indicate drowsy driving. For example, some head-on crashes where drivers cross the center line into oncoming traffic are caused by drivers who fall asleep at the wheel.

Police Report

The police report may indicate that the officer thought the at-fault driver looked tired. For example, the officer may cite frequent yawning or the driver having bags under his or her eyes. Tired people may slur their words or look uncoordinated.

Signs of Fatigue

Some of the common signs of fatigue or tiredness include:

  • Frequently blinking
  • Frequently yawning
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Moving around slowly
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Failing to remember what happened in the moments before the crash

Statements From the At-Fault Driver

Sometimes at-fault drivers admit they were asleep or are tired. They may even say they are at fault. While some at-fault drivers will deny responsibility or even say the other driver is to blame, tired drivers may not be thinking clearly. They may be more likely to admit they did something wrong.

Statements from Witnesses

Sometimes there are witnesses who saw the driver yawning, asleep at the wheel or driving erratically. They may have seen the driver’s head bob before impact, indicating the driver was trying to stay awake.

Risk Factors for Drowsy-Driving Crashes

There are multiple risk factors that may make some drivers more likely to be tired behind the wheel, including:

  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy
  • Working at night
  • Being on call at a job, making it more likely someone will work inconsistent hours
  • Working and going to school, as you will be more likely to not get enough sleep
  • Alcohol or substance abuse issues, as this can make people more tired
  • People who must be at work early in the morning, as they are often sleep-deprived

Preventing Drowsy Driving

Unfortunately, many people think they can defeat fatigue by drinking a lot of caffeine or energy drinks. However, this is flawed thinking because the effect of caffeine and energy drinks is short-lived. Even if you feel energized, you may not be as alert as you think. You could still fall asleep for a few seconds or even losing consciousness.

Closing your eyes for even a few seconds is incredibly dangerous because you can travel more than 100 yards at just 55 miles per hour.

If you want to drink coffee to help you get reenergized, drink two cups and pull over somewhere safe to take a 20-minute nap. Studies have shown this could help increase your alertness.

Some other practical steps you can take to help avoid drowsy driving include:

  • Focus on getting adequate sleep each night – the recommended amount is seven hours or more
  • Make sure to get a good night of sleep before a long car ride
  • Do not drink before driving
  • Use a ridesharing service if you are too tired to drive
  • Make sure prescription medications do not make you too drowsy to drive, and if they do, avoid driving when you are tired
  • Avoid driving during times when you are normally asleep

Need Legal Assistance? Contact Galloway Jefcoat

If you were injured in a crash caused by a negligent driver, we are prepared to help you pursue full compensation to help you move forward. There is no need to try to manage the legal process on your own, particularly when the insurance company will be working against you.

We do not charge upfront fees for our services and there are no fees while we work on your case.

Call today to learn more about our services: (337) 984-8020.