Breaking Down a Drowsy Driving Claim

Breaking Down a Drowsy Driving Claim

Most Californians would never think about driving drunk. But they have no problem driving home after a long day at the office or driving with little sleep. These people probably do not realize that fatigue and alcohol have about the same effect on the brain. Driving after eighteen straight awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s a dangerous level of impairment.

Because of the dangers of fatigued driving, and the callous attitude of many drivers, a San Jose car accident attorney can normally obtain substantial compensation in these claims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. These victims need this money to put their lives back together following a serious wreck.

Evidence of Fatigued Driving

Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the proof, or more likely than not. So, solid evidence is the foundation of all damages claims. In fatigued driving cases, this evidence could be direct or indirect.

Direct evidence of fatigued driving includes erratic operation before the wreck and the time of day or night.

Many tortfeasors also make unfavorable statements, either at the scene, to their insurance adjuster, or during a subsequent deposition. For example, they might be unable to recall the last few minutes driven before the crash. Or, they might blatantly admit that they were drowsy or even that they fell asleep at the wheel.

Indirect evidence usually includes medical records and medicine recently ingested. Many people have conditions like sleep apnea which make it impossible to get a restful night’s sleep. Other people take sleep aids, like Sominex, which often have lingering effects.

Since the burden of proof is so low in these cases, a little bit of evidence usually goes a long way in these claims.

Drowsy Driving and Negligence

For noncommercial drivers, fatigued operation is not against the law. So, these victims must use the ordinary negligence doctrine to establish liability.

Negligence is basically a lack of care. Most jurors do not consider mild fatigue to be a breach of care. Instead, the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) conduct must fall below the standard of care. In other words, the tortfeasor was so tired that the fatigue compromised his/her ability to safely operate a vehicle.

In commercial operator cases, the negligence per se doctrine sometimes comes into play. Both California and the federal government have very strict HOS (Hours of Service) rules for truck drivers. These rules include daily and weekly driving caps and mandatory rest periods. Drivers who violate these rules and cause crashes could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

Fatigue is a serious issue among truckers. Since these individuals must stay behind the wheel as long as possible to make money on each trip, they are often tempted to bend the rules.

The government relaxed some of these rules during the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen whether bureaucrats will reinstate them or give into the trucking industry which fought these rules to begin with.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Fatigued drivers often cause injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. You have a limited amount of time to act.


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