A study released in 2018 about drowsy driving in the US revealed that Texas drivers were responsible for approximately 22% of the nation’s fatal sleep-related accidents, leading the nation; Alabama, coming in at number two, shared only 6% of the nation’s sleep-related accident fatalities. With driving comes a certain bit of danger that requires drivers to make safe choices while operating their vehicles. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen; and, in the case of fatigued driving, a driver may not even realize he is putting others in danger.
If you have sustained an injury because someone else decided to get behind the wheel while they were fatigued, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact The Law Offices of George Salinas in San Antonio at (210) 225-0909 to discuss your case.
What Is Fatigued Driving?
Fatigued driving, sometimes referred to as drowsy driving, is the dangerous mixture of driving and being sleepy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued driving most often occurs between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. or in the late afternoon. Although feeling drowsy occurs because a driver hasn’t gotten enough sleep, other factors contribute to an increased risk of fatigued driving:
- Untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy
- Medications that cause drowsiness
- Shift work, especially night shifts, long shifts, and rotating shifts
- Large amounts of air travel that cause jet lag
What Kind of Injuries May Occur in a Fatigued Driving Accident?
When a driver is fatigued, everyone on the road is potentially in danger, including other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Fatigued drivers who fall asleep don’t see what is in front of them, so they often wake up on impact without ever braking. This makes crash speeds higher and crashes deadlier. Some common injuries that may occur when involved in a fatigued driving accident include:
- Broken bones
- Lacerations, scrapes, and bruises
- Road rash, especially for bicyclists
- Head traumas including concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
Who Can Be at Fault in a Fatigued Driving Accident?
When a driver gets behind the wheel when she is sleepy, she is acting negligently; however, drivers don’t often admit to being fatigued, so it takes a skilled legal team to gather the appropriate evidence to prove fatigue. In the case that a fatigued driver is operating a commercial motor vehicle such as a semi-truck, the employer may be liable. This happens in cases where the employer has ordered or encouraged a driver to ignore regulations about the number of hours a driver can work in a day. In cases where a misdiagnosis about sleep issues or medication has caused fatigue, the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist may be at fault.
What Kind of Damages Might Be Recovered When an Injury from a Fatigued Driving Accident Happens?
Under Texas law, those who are injured in an accident are entitled to recover damages for multiple costs related to their injury, including:
- Ambulance services, hospitalization, and other medical costs such as medication, radiology services, x-rays
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Long-term care expenses
- Lost wages for time missed from work
- Lost future wages and profits if the injured party cannot return to work
- Home modifications such as ramps and handrails in the case of long-term disability
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life in the case of severe injuries
If the injured person dies, families may file a wrongful death claim and may receive compensation for medical costs, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and more.
How Do Those Liable for Fatigued Driving Accidents Try to Avoid Responsibility?
When people, businesses, or insurance companies are parties to personal injury suits, they will naturally try to avoid financial responsibility. Texas applies a modified pure comparative negligence standard to its personal injury cases. Comparative negligence is the idea that there is often shared liability in an accident. In pure comparative negligence states, if the court assigns fault to the claimant, it will also determine a percentage of the fault and reduce any awards accordingly.
For example, a truck driver for ABC Trucking company falls asleep, veers off into oncoming traffic, and crashes into you. The defense argues that you were speeding excessively, and if you weren’t speeding, the truck driver wouldn’t have hit your car. The court finds the truck driver liable and awards you $1,000,000 but adds that you are 25% at fault for the accident. In a pure comparative negligence state, you would only collect $750,000. The modification refers to the threshold of fault. In Texas, an injured party may not recover damages if the negligent party is not at least 51% at fault.
The defense will do everything possible to shift fault to you. Additionally, insurance companies will deny claims and downplay your injuries. An experienced personal injury lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle accidents knows these tricks and will fight to make sure you have the best possible outcome for your case.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost Me?
When you consult with a lawyer because you were injured in a fatigued driving accident, you will typically not have to pay anything up front. Most firms offer a free consultation for you to share the details of your case with an attorney. If the lawyer agrees to representation, your case will most likely be handled on a contingent fee basis. This means that your lawyer will recover attorney’s fees out of any settlement or judgment.
If you have been injured by the negligence of another driver who was operating a motor vehicle while fatigued, you are likely going through a difficult time and have medical expenses piling up. You need an experienced attorney to guide you through the legal process and take care of the details of your case, while you focus on recovering from your injury. Call the knowledgeable lawyers at The Law Offices of George Salinas in San Antonio at (210) 225-0909 or contact us online for a free consultation.