Fatigued Driver Car Accident Lawyer in Austin
A 2018 study about drowsy driving in the United States revealed that Texas drivers are responsible for more than one out of five fatigued-driving related accidents across the nation. Operating a motor vehicle carries a certain amount of risk that requires drivers to make safe choices before getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, many drivers do not appreciate the danger fatigue can pose to themselves and others on the road.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that drivers who have been awake for 18 hours have the same degree of impairment as someone who has been consuming alcohol and has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for drunk driving. Yet most workers coming off of a double shift won’t think twice about driving themselves home.
If you have been injured in a car accident involving a fatigued driver, Texas law entitles you to seek compensation for damages in civil court. Contact The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 to discuss the details of your accident and learn about how we might be able to help you.
Factors That Lead to Fatigued Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drivers struggle with fatigue in the late afternoon and between midnight and 6 a.m. Broadly, fatigue is a result of not getting quality sleep on a regular basis. Some specific factors leading to a higher likelihood of fatigue include:
- Sleep disorders including insomnia and sleep apnea, especially if they are untreated
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness
- Shift work, especially those who work long shifts, night shifts, rotating shifts, and double shifts
- Medical conditions, such as diabetes that cause drowsiness
- Air travel, especially frequent and/or long trips that cause jets lag
- Alcohol consumption
Recognizing Driver Fatigue
Knowing the signs of driver fatigue can help prevent fatigued driving accidents. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine warns of the following signs of driver fatigue:
- Frequent yawning
- Difficulty keeping eyes open
- Dozing off for a few seconds
- Difficulty remembering the last few miles of driving
- Missing exits, turns, and signs
- Swerving into other lanes
- Swerving onto the shoulder of the road
If you or someone you are riding with demonstrate any of these warning signs, you must immediately pull over and switch drivers or get some sleep. Many drivers try short term solutions such as rolling down the window, turning up the radio, and drinking caffeine or energy drinks. These tricks generally don’t help keep drivers alert for very long, and may not help at all. Drivers tend to place far too much faith in the powers of caffeine, for example. The NHTSA reports that even when fatigued drivers drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, they can still lose consciousness behind the wheel for four or five seconds at a time.
Seeking Compensation After an Accident With a Fatigued Driver
As with any type of car accident, getting into an accident with a fatigued driver can leave you seriously injured or mourning the loss of a loved one. When this occurs, Texas law entitles you to seek compensation for your losses. Ideally, the fatigued driver will carry adequate insurance to compensate you, and the insurance company will offer you a settlement that is fair and sufficient.
Unfortunately, that is not always the outcome. When your losses exceed the fatigued driver’s insurance, or when an insurer resists making a fair settlement, an experienced Austin car accident attorney can help you recover the funds due to you through various channels, including, potentially, by filing suit in Texas court against the fatigued driver and any other party who may have responsibility for causing your injuries and losses. The damages you may recover can include:
- Medical costs including ambulance service, emergency department visit, surgery, X-rays, hospitalization, medication, and more
- Future medical costs when injuries require multiple surgeries, extensive recovery time, or permanent disability that requires lifelong medical treatment
- Rehabilitation costs such as physical therapy and assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, canes, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages for time away from work due to injuries and hospitalization
- Lost earning capacity when a severe or catastrophic injury prevents a victim from returning to work or requires him or her to change professions
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Other non-economic costs that might apply to a specific case
This is not an exclusive list of damages potentially available, nor is there ever any guarantee you will recover damages at all. Every case is different. The best way to increase your odds of recovering the maximum amount due to you is by working with an experienced, respected Austin car accident lawyer.
Comparative Negligence in Texas Car Accidents
Texas courts apply what is known as a modified comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases, including those that involve car accidents and fatigued drivers. In essence, this means that a court takes the fault of all parties to a matter into account, and will reduce the damages available to the plaintiff by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault.
For example, if a court awards a plaintiff $500,000 in damages, but determines the plaintiff was 10 percent at fault for the accident, the defendant may only recover $450,000 in damages. Texas law also prohibits claimants from recovering damages if the court finds them 51 percent or more at fault. This gives the defense a motive to shift as much fault as possible to the plaintiff to avoid some or all liability for damages, for instance by arguing the plaintiff violated a traffic law.
A skilled Austin car accident attorney, however, knows how to fight those tactics.
Contact an Austin Fatigued Driver Car Accident Attorney Today
Drivers who get behind the wheel when they are fatigued put others on the road at risk. If you have been injured in an accident with a fatigued driver, or have lost a loved one to a fatigued driving accident, the law may entitle you to significant compensation. Contact The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation to discuss the ways that we might help you after a car accident with a fatigued driver.