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Proving Driver Fatigue Caused Your Injuries

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on September 30, 2020

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We all understand the dangers of driving under the influence, but drowsy driving should also be a major concern when getting on the road. A lack of sleep can mimic the effects of alcohol or drugs, making it difficult for you to stay awake, pay attention to the road, respond to other vehicles or traffic lights, and stay in your lane. When someone drives fatigued and causes a car accident, an experienced attorney can hold them liable for any injuries they caused in a claim for damages.

However, identifying and proving driver fatigue is not as simple.

Dangers of Drowsiness

When evaluating a fatigued driving accident, it is important to understand the dangerous impact drowsiness can have on a driver’s cognitive abilities. Drowsiness, while often starting with a minor yawn or drifting mind, can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Research has shown that drivers who were awake for more than 18 hours had the same response time as a driver with a BAC of 0.05%, while drivers who surpassed 24 hours had the equivalent of a 0.10% BAC, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, unlike drunk driving, there is no test to determine if a driver was drowsy or not at the time of the accident. That being said, there are still ways to spot specific drowsy driving behavior. When reviewing an accident report, your attorney may be able to outline specific details in the other driver’s statement that supports a fatigued driving conclusion. This can include admissions of:

  • The inability to pay attention before, during, and after an accident
  • Disconnected thoughts or a wandering mind
  • Forgetfulness or the inability to recall the minutes before an accident
  • Yawning
  • Frequent blinking
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Restlessness

In addition to the other driver’s own statement, a skilled attorney can also evaluate other aspects of the accident to demonstrate a driver was fatigued or drowsy, thus constituting negligence.

Identifying Fatigued Driving

Winning a car accident claim based on fatigued driving can be difficult if you do not have a significant amount of evidence to support your claim. Drowsiness if often not identifiable unless you are in the car with the at-fault driver and there is currently no recognized test among California law enforcement to prove fatigued driving. Unless the driver slips up in their statement and admits guilt, you may find it hard to prove fatigued driving took place.

That being said, there are other signs of fatigued driving that your attorney can utilize to support your case. While reviewing the evidence, your attorney may look for:

  • Zigzagging tire marks, indicating swerving between lanes
  • The time of the accident and the at-fault driver’s activities before it (late-night shifts, long drives, etc.)
  • Signs of reckless driving, such as crossing multiple lanes of traffic, speeding, or failing to brake
  • Medical history that includes sleep apnea or other sleep disorders
  • Witness statements that confirm the driver was acting recklessly before the collision
  • Surveillance footage that shows the events of the accident

In addition, if you were involved in a truck accident, then your attorney may be able to subpoena the truck’s black box. Black boxes can include specific data leading up to an accident, including how often the driver took their federally required breaks, what their speed was leading up to the collision, and whether or not they braked beforehand. All truck drivers must abide by strict federal regulations, including the hours of service, which clearly outlines how long a driver can be on the road. A violation of these regulations is illegal and can be invaluable in proving the driver acted negligently, causing your injuries.

Driver fatigue constitutes negligence, meaning that you would be able to pursue compensation if the other driver caused your injuries. However, you will need to thoroughly review all forms of evidence in order to ensure your claim is taken seriously by an insurance adjuster or jury. Not everyone understands the dangers of drowsy driving, and you may face an uphill battle if you take on your case alone.

Instead of bearing the legal burdens on your own, reach out to the Orange County car accident attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie. We have more than 45 years of experience advocating for car accident victims and an extensive list of case results to back up our skills. When we take on a client, we review every detail to ensure not a single fact is missed in your case. You can result assured knowing you will receive the best legal advice around after a traffic collision. Call us at (949) 752-7474 to learn how we can fight for you in a car accident claim.

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Posted in: Car Accidents

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