According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers falling asleep while driving is a significant problem in the U.S. No driver knows the exact moment they’ll fall asleep behind the wheel, putting everyone on the road at risk of harm.
There are various laws that apply to fatigued driving, with many applying to commercial truck drivers. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a fatigued driver, you have legal options when pursuing compensation.
Falling Asleep While Driving Can Cause Serious Accidents
All drivers have a legal duty to stay alert on the road and drive with reasonable care. This means remaining vigilant at all times. Since fatigue has warning signs, a tired driver should pull off the road and rest.
Fatigue can cause collisions because:
- It affects a motorist’s cognitive reasoning.
- It encourages other unsafe driving practices. For instance, a driver may speed to get home sooner.
- It slows one’s reflexes.
Falling asleep at the wheel usually constitutes negligence. However, not all situations are the same. For instance, suppose a motorist with undiagnosed narcolepsy falls asleep while driving. While this would not totally free them from liability, it could serve as a valid defense.
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What Could Cause Someone to Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel?
More likely than not, when someone falls asleep behind the wheel, it’s because they’ve been awake for too long. A good example is commercial truck drivers. A trucker may stay awake for days at a time to meet unreasonable delivery schedules.
Other reasons why someone may fall asleep at the wheel include:
- Medications’ side effects. Some medications, especially antihistamines, can bring on sudden and intense fatigue. These medications usually recommend that users don’t drive after taking them.
- Medical conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, and anemia can cause tiredness.
- Mental health complications. Depression can cause fatigue even if someone gets a full night’s sleep. That’s because the illness affects the brain’s usual function.
Again, these factors do not free an at-fault party from negligence.
The Penalties of Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel
It’s important to note that, when pursuing compensation, your civil case has nothing to do with the criminal case against the other driver.
Even if the other driver is convicted of a crime (such as vehicular assault), this does not automatically yield compensation for your losses. You still need to prove the cause of your accident, the cost of your damages, and other various factors to secure damages.
If the other driver faces criminal charges, they could face:
- The loss of their license
- The loss of their job (if they were operating a commercial vehicle)
- Time in jail or prison
- Points on their driver’s license
- Community service
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There Are Some Laws That Apply to Fatigued Driving
Consider how these laws could relate to your collision:
Hours of Service Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outlines how long commercial truck drivers can operate vehicles. Some of these mandates include:
- A trucker can drive for up to 11 hours at a time as long as they have a 10-hour break between shifts.
- A trucker cannot drive for 14 consecutive hours, even if they’ve previously had a 10-hour break.
- Every eight hours, a trucker must take a 30-minute break.
- A trucker cannot drive for more than 60 hours in a seven-day period, and they cannot drive for more than 70 hours in an eight-day period.
If a trucker violates any of these mandates, they could face liability for any collisions they cause.
Florida’s Reckless Driving Laws
As mentioned, fatigue driving is often accompanied by reckless driving. Florida Statutes § 316.192 prohibits any driving behavior that puts others at risk of harm. In addition to driving while fatigued, such actions include speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, and tailgating.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
Per Florida Statutes § 627.7407, Florida operates on a no-fault insurance system. This means, following a collision, you usually file a claim with your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy. This would pay for your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages.
In many instances, if you’re involved in a collision with a fatigued driver, you can resolve your case by negotiating with your own insurer. However, if you suffered serious harm, then you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurer. You can even file a lawsuit.
Contact the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine to Learn More
If you or a loved one was hurt in a collision with a fatigued driver, you have the right to pursue compensation for your losses. The Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine advocates for victims of negligence throughout Florida.
With us on your side, we will answer your questions, gather evidence to support your claim, and negotiate for the compensation you deserve. We offer free case reviews where you can explore partnering with our firm. To get started, dial 1-800-747-3733.
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