What Happens When a Driver Causes an Accident After Falling Asleep?

lawyers in Mesa AZ

Falling asleep at the wheel is common throughout the U.S.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that drowsy drivers cause a large majority of fatal car accidents.

Worse, the costs of drowsy driving are estimated at $12.5 billion in losses, and there are an estimated 71,000 injuries each year because of fatigued drivers, says DrowsyDriving.org. They estimate that these numbers are much higher, because self-reporting is highly unreliable, and a driver that falls asleep at the wheel and causes an accident is unlikely to admit such to law enforcement. In these types of cases, the best thing to do is contact a personal injury lawyer, especially in Mesa, AZ.

The Danger of Drowsy Driving

No one knows when sleep will take over their body, but when the body and mind are not well rested, a person is unable to pay attention to the road, has a decreased reaction time, and is unable to make good decisions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates that drivers who do not get adequate sleep at night are more likely to drive drowsy, but also shift workers – those who work graveyard shifts or longer shifts – may experience bouts of drowsy driving. Commercial drivers and those with sleep disorders are also more likely to drive drowsy.

Even when a person gets enough sleep, some things may cause them to lose concentration or tire quickly, such as making a long drive, being overworked, dealing with personal problems and stress, or drinking alcohol.

Addressing the Issue of Liability and a Driver’s Legal Duty of Care

When a drowsy driver causes an automobile accident, the issue of liability comes up.

Personal injury lawyers in Mesa, AZ, have a difficult case ahead of them, because they must prove that the driver was asleep at the wheel or that their sleeping led to the incident.

All drivers in the state of Arizona, as well as the rest of the country, have a legal obligation to drive safely. They must follow all safety and traffic laws, and look out for the safety of others. This includes other motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and those riding motorcycles. If a driver violates the safety standard, then they are liable for the accident and responsible for any damages they may have caused as a result.

Unfortunately, when it comes to a driver falling asleep at the wheel, it is difficult to prove negligence.  First, the driver is unlikely to admit they fell asleep. Therefore, it is difficult for lawyers in Mesa, AZ, to demonstrate that the driver was asleep or driving drowsy.

For those injured in an accident that feels a drowsy or asleep driver was the cause, and the driver refuses to admit such, there are ways that attorneys can gather evidence to prove the case and support a claim against that driver.

Evidence in Drowsy Driving Cases

For lawyers in Mesa, AZ, to succeed with a claim against a drowsy driver, they must show that the responsible driver was negligent and that they were the proximate cause of the incident. This is done through the preponderance of the evidence.

The preponderance of evidence, per Law.com, is the greater weight of proof required to decide the favor of one side.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show the courts that the driver was negligent and responsible for the incident. To do this, the plaintiff must present enough evidence to swing the favor toward their side in court.

Evidence Assessed by Personal Injury Lawyers in Mesa, AZ

  • Police Reports: An attorney may examine any police reports to see if there are notations about drowsy driving or if the driver admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. The attorney may also review the officer’s notes about the incident, such as notes that the responsible driver admitted to working a long shift or was just leaving work at the time of the accident.
  • Speaking to Witnesses: Witnesses to the accident may have seen the responsible driver fall asleep at the wheel. Passengers in the vehicle may also have observed the driver of their vehicle asleep.
  • Placement of Vehicles: Typically, when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they veer out of their lane and cause an accident. They may also rear-end a vehicle or run a traffic signal. If there is evidence the driver swerved out of their lane and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle, it may be acceptable proof that the driver was asleep or falling asleep at the time.
  • Work Schedules and Habits of Defense: Lawyers in Mesa, AZ may pull work records of the defendant to establish that they were doing shift work or just left from a long shift. This may help develop the idea that the respondent was too tired to drive safely.

Injured by a Drowsy Driver? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

Those injured by a drowsy driver or one that fell asleep at the wheel have a long road ahead of them, but not an impossible one.

Victims can protect their rights to seek compensation against negligent drivers by contacting personal injury lawyers in Mesa, AZ.

For those injured in an automobile accident, contact the team at Tobler Law for a consultation by calling 480-898-9700 or contact an attorney online.