| Read Time: 7 minutes | Personal Injury

Everyone assumes they will make it to their destination unharmed when they get behind the wheel of their vehicle. Statistically, this may be an accurate assumption, but we also know that every year, thousands of people are involved in roadway accidents across the United States.

There are several reasons why auto accidents occur. Causes range from a driver distracted by the children in the back seat arguing over a toy, drivers driving at unsafe speeds, and drivers tailgating on busy roadways. While these behaviors can create unsafe conditions for other drivers, their passengers, motorcycle operators, pedestrians, and bicyclists, another overlooked cause of accidents is drowsy driving.

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Drowsy Driving is More Common Than You Think

We all lead busy lives. Between work, school, home chores, and managing our families, most of us find at one time or another that we are not getting enough sleep. Some studies show that as many as one in three adults in the United States do not get sufficient sleep. This can be dangerous, especially when people are driving on the road to get back and forth to work.

Arizona census data shows there are more than 7.2 million residents. Best estimates show that 2,644,781 of all residents work in the state, meaning many are on our roadways. This excludes traffic such as school buses, large trucks delivering goods, delivery drivers making package deliveries, and other traffic.

The average commute time is 25 minutes. When you consider the number of residents who may be on the roadway at any given time and the number of people who are not getting sufficient hours of rest, there is a good chance that you could be the next victim of a drowsy driving accident.

Truck Drivers Often Drive Drowsy

Trucks and buses accounted for more than 11,000 accidents on Arizona roadways in one recent year. As a result, 2,264 people suffered injuries in these accidents. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations clearly state when a driver may safely operate a motor vehicle on any road.

Truckers work long hours and often travel hundreds of miles daily to meet delivery deadlines. Truckers are what keep our economy moving. After all, we depend on them to stock our store shelves, give us access to life-saving medicines, and deliver fuel for our homes and vehicles.

When a trucker or their employer fails to obey federal regulations and a driver pushes the rules to make a deadline, a drowsy driving accident can seriously injure others.

In these cases, the driver and their employer may be partially responsible for an accident victim’s injuries because of not following the rules. In these cases, an accident victim should consider contacting a truck accident attorney to find out how to hold the responsible party accountable for their injuries.

Comparison of Driving Under the Influence and Drowsy Driving

Several studies show that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. One reason for this is a driver’s ability to make good decisions.

Some of the common issues drowsy drivers deal with when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle include:

  • An inability to properly focus – It’s hard to focus on the road when you are constantly yawning, your eyes are burning, and you are generally fatigued. Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car knows they need to focus, sometimes on numerous things while driving. Traffic signals, flow of traffic, and upcoming exits are just a few things that require a driver to have total concentration on the roadway.
  • Reaction times lengthen – We sometimes must make a snap decision when operating a motor vehicle. We see a car moving into our lane, and we must safely avoid a collision. If our reaction times are slower because we are overtired, we are less likely to be able to maneuver safely.
  • A drowsy driver is more likely to have poor judgment – Sometimes, when we feel tired behind the wheel of a car, we are also impatient. We may make some risky moves that we might not otherwise make, including passing at an unsafe speed, being angry at a person driving just below the speed limit, or weaving in and out of traffic to get one car length ahead. Any of these types of actions can result in an accident.
  • Loss of ability to judge distance and speed – When we are drowsy, we do not make good decisions. Our vision is not as clear, our judgment is not as clear, and our body reacts to tiredness. Losing the ability to fully comprehend how quickly we need to apply our brakes to stop safely is a recipe for disaster when traveling on Arizona roadways.
  • Likely to fall asleep at the wheel – If a sleep-deprived driver is behind the wheel of a car and is traveling several miles, their loss of focus and other factors could result in them falling asleep behind the wheel. This puts not only that driver at risk but everyone on the roadway at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 25 drivers fell asleep at the wheel at least once in the past month.

Those who work long shifts, work at jobs requiring hard physical labor, or those working in high-stress positions often leave work feeling exhausted. When they get behind the wheel of a car, they may need to pay closer attention than someone with a full night’s sleep who can enjoy a relaxing day at home. Unfortunately, too often, the person who has not had a good night’s sleep is putting others in danger.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), more than 300,000 roadway accidents result from drowsy driving. However, according to one survey conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and reported by Pew Research, the number could exceed 900,000.

Establishing Liability in Drowsy Driving Accident Claims

The four elements to establishing liability include:

  • The victim deserved a duty of care
  • The other driver failed to provide a duty of care
  • The victim suffered harm or an injury due to the failure
  • The victim suffered a loss due to the failure

These elements are typically simple to prove after a roadway accident. Drivers who operate a vehicle must not injure another driver, a passenger in their own vehicle or other vehicles, or others with whom they share the road.

Failure of duty of care includes driving recklessly, driving with any impairment, including drowsy driving. Any action that disregards roadway safety rules can be considered a breach of duty of care.

Providing you suffered an injury, that your car was damaged, or another harm due to an accident is straightforward. This is one of the primary reasons why victims of roadway accidents are always encouraged to seek medical attention immediately following an accident, even if they do not believe they have suffered a serious injury.

Losses due to another driver’s failure include medical bills, estimates of vehicular damage, and proof that a victim can’t work because of their injury. Before an accident victim can file an insurance claim, they must be able to establish liability for the accident in which they suffered an injury.

Drowsy Driving Accident Victim’s Insurance Claims

Once all elements of liability are proven, a victim is entitled to file an accident claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. Never contact an insurer without first speaking to an accident injury attorney. Insurance adjusters do not work for victims.

Here are some general rules about contact with insurance adjusters that everyone should know:

  • Do not provide a recorded statement to an adjuster.
  • Avoid discussing specifics of the accident. Provide the accident’s date, location, time, and the name of the law enforcement agency that handled the scene.
  • Never sign any documents provided to an adjuster before having them reviewed by a lawyer.
  • Never offer an adjuster the name of any witnesses to the accident.
  • Be careful about discussing your injuries with an adjuster.
  • Never provide personal information outside of your name, address, and telephone number. Do not provide other information such as where you work, working hours, etc.
  • Do not generally offer any information the insurer doesn’t ask for. Refer the insurer to your attorney.

Having an attorney dealing with an insurance adjuster is typically best. Remember that insurance adjusters train to solicit information. They seek any information that is helpful to their employer, the insurance company. Anything you provide to them they will use to minimize the value of your claim.

When Should a Drowsy Driving Accident Victim Contact an Attorney

In nearly all cases, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Some of the signs you need to hire a personal injury lawyer after a drowsy driving accident include:

  • A fast settlement offer comes to you – This is a good sign that the insurer thinks you may be entitled to substantial compensation. The fast offer is hoping they can minimize their final liability.
  • An insurer denies liability – This may occur if there is more than one party who may bear liability for your injuries. The more complicated the accident, the more you will need legal help.
  • Lack of communication – Insurance companies should be responsive to your inquiries about the status of your claim. If they appear to be ignoring your inquiries, an attorney should step in and take over on your behalf.

The bottom line is that the sooner you have an attorney involved in your claim, the less likely you will have issues with the insurance company. Insurers know when they receive a call from an experienced lawyer with a proven track record of successful outcomes for their clients that they are dealing with someone who means business. They also know this means they cannot use scare tactics such as telling a victim the first offer made is the final and best offer made.

The High Cost of Drowsy Driving Accidents on Families

Families face many challenges after someone has suffered an injury through no fault. Roadway accident victims often face weeks of recovery which means time lost from work. Even when a person has disability coverage available to them, they often are faced with less income.

There are also other financial considerations that a victim’s family may be dealing with, such as modifying their home to accommodate an injury, needing specialized medical equipment, or high-cost medical care or drugs. No family should have to face these challenges because someone else behaved negligently.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury from an accident involving drowsy driving on Arizona roadways, you should contact an experienced accident injury lawyer. Schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal options when someone has been driving drowsy and causes an accident. Your family should not have to bear the financial burden of being out of work recovering from injuries you suffered in an Arizona drowsy driving accident.

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Jason Hutzler

Jason Hutzler is the founding partner of Phoenix personal injury law firm Hutzler Law, and represents individuals throughout Arizona. His practice is primarily dedicated to personal injury and car accident claims, leveraging his deep expertise as a former insurance adjustor to navigate the complexities of insurance negotiations.

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