Admit to having fallen asleep as cause of rear-end accident?

by Stephanie
(Castro Valley, CA)

What consequences are there if one admits to having fallen asleep and causing a rear-end accident? The cause of the rear-ender is squarely on the rear car anyway - so admission of "guilt" is already established.

So I guess my question is, how is the claim and liability issue complicated by having fallen asleep vs. just being distracted? Is there any difference? Is there a reason to admit it one way or the other? Thanks for any perspective.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Admit to having fallen asleep as cause of rear-end accident?":

Stephanie (Castro Valley, CA):

The driver’s first mistake was admitting he or she fell asleep while driving. The driver had no legal obligation to admit fault, whether by falling asleep or being distracted. While in most cases drivers who strike a vehicle in front are considered to have been negligent, and therefore wholly responsible for the collision, that is not always the case.

In a rear end collision, there must be proof the driver following behind was negligent, and that negligence resulted in property damage and/or personal injury. In this case, by admitting he (or she) fell asleep, the driver unequivocally established evidence of negligence.

It is fair to say that negligence created by falling asleep is not greater or worse than negligence created by being distracted.

In California, the statute (law) which applies to drivers who collide with drivers in front does not include a reference to falling asleep or being distracted. Instead, the statute reads...

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway."

To read the statute see Section 21703 of the California Motor Code

Under California's Pure Comparative Fault Rule, the percentage of a victim’s contribution (negligence) to the collision will reduce the amount of compensation he or she will recover from the at-fault driver.

In the facts you present, if the driver behind had not admitted fault, that would have opened the door for that driver to offer proof the driver in front contributed to the collision.

For example, if there were witnesses who saw the driver in front texting, and as a result the driver failed to properly accelerate; or there was proof the driver was intoxicated, and as a result of that intoxication slowed or otherwise stopped the car without reason, that driver may have contributed to the collision, lessening the amount of compensation he or she would receive in a settlement or court verdict.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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