Victim Compensation for Accidents Caused by Falling Asleep While Driving

Learn how to maximize your injury compensation by building a strong insurance claim against the driver who fell asleep at the wheel.

Drowsy driving and drivers who fall asleep at the wheel cause a significant number of accidents on American roadways.

Falling asleep while driving is an all too common occurrence. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies estimated more than 72,000 accident were caused by drowsy drivers in one year, causing 41,000 injuries and 800 fatalities.

Experts agree that the frequency of drowsy drivers is severely under-reported. Some say that upwards of 6,000 deaths occur each year due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel.¹

Fatigued drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers. Hitting the road after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% – the legal limit for intoxication.²

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concludes that drowsy driving causes an average of 328,000 crashes each year. A third of those crashes result in severe injuries or death.³

Thousands of accidents happen every day because someone fell asleep while driving. If you’re one of the many injured accident victims, you deserve the maximum compensation for your losses.

Risks for Falling Asleep While Driving

Safety surveys reveal an alarming number of drivers who admit to dozing off behind the wheel. Even when a driver hasn’t fallen completely asleep, drowsiness affects the driver’s ability to:

  • Pay attention to the road
  • React in time to avoid an accident
  • Make good decisions

Anyone can drive while tired, but the motorists at highest risk of falling asleep while driving are:

  • Drivers who don’t get enough regular sleep
  • Commercial vehicle operators of buses, semi-trucks, delivery vans, etc.
  • Shift workers, especially night shifts
  • Drivers with sleep disorders
  • Drivers under the influence of alcohol or medications

Accidents caused by someone who fell asleep at the wheel can have devastating consequences for accident victims and their families.

Drowsy drivers often drift out of their travel lane into oncoming traffic. The resulting head-on collisions are the deadliest kind of car accidents, resulting in catastrophic injuries.

Sleeping drivers may blow right on through stops signs or red-lights into the side of your car. T-bone accidents are another crash scenario that leads to severely injured accident victims.

Filing Your Claim for Compensation

No matter what type of accident caused your injuries, you have a right to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver for your medical costs, lost wages, and other losses.

In most cases, you’ll begin by filing an insurance claim. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you’ll start be filing a claim with your own insurance company. No-fault policies have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage to pay medical expenses regardless of who caused the crash. PIP will not compensate you for pain and suffering.

When no-fault laws don’t limit you, or when your injury expenses are more than your PIP coverage, you’ll file an injury claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

When you’re injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, contact a personal injury attorney right away. Millions of dollars may be available from company insurance policies.

When dealing with any insurance company, it helps to know the lingo. Here are some legal terms often used by insurance companies:

Liability means fault or responsibility. The at-fault driver is usually liable for the damages you suffered in the collision.

Negligence happens when a driver fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable driver would do, like running a red light.

Damages can include property damages to your car, and personal injury damages like medical and therapy costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Direct and Proximate Cause is an action that leads to damages which wouldn’t have otherwise happened. You wouldn’t have severe injuries if you weren’t hit by someone who fell asleep while driving.

Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.

It may seem perfectly clear to you that the other driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into your car, but the insurance company won’t just write you a fat check.

Before the insurance company pays, you’ll have to prove several factors, including:

  1. The other driver had a duty of care to drive safely.
  2. The driver violated that duty by continuing to drive while drowsy.
  3. The drowsy driver collided with your vehicle due to their negligence.
  4. The collision was the exclusive cause of your injuries.

Good Evidence Builds Strong Claims

To succeed in a personal injury claim, you have to convince the insurance company’s claims adjuster that the driver’s negligence was the direct cause of the accident and your injuries. You do this by accumulating evidence.

Gathering Evidence at the Scene

Accidents caused by drowsy drivers can be horrific. You may not be in any condition to think about evidence after the collision. If you or a friend are able, call for help and start collecting evidence that can support your claim.

Unless it’s necessary for safety reasons, don’t allow anyone to move the cars. In many cases, the accident’s location together with the point of impact can tell a story.

If the sleeping driver’s car collided with your car in your lane, there’s a reason the driver crossed over and collided with you. Unless there were gale force winds or an icy or rainy road, the sleeping driver would have a difficult time explaining how the crash occurred in your lane.

Call 911 immediately after the crash to notify police and ask for help. Tell the dispatcher you are hurt, and if you know of anyone else with injuries. Give your location, including nearby intersections or landmarks. The dispatcher needs to know if there are dangers at the scene like leaking fuel or overturned cars.

Take photographs: Photographs and videos are solid evidence. Take as many as you can, as quickly as you can. Accident scenes clear quickly and important evidence may be lost. Take pictures of the vehicles, the point of impact, and traffic signals.

A video showing the other car’s turn signals weren’t on can show the driver didn’t give notice of intent to move into your lane, further supporting your contention he was sleeping. If the vehicle is from another state, photograph the license plate. A long drive from one state to another can make any driver sleepy.

If you can photograph the inside of the other driver’s car, look for signs the driver may have fallen asleep. Photograph beer cans and open containers of alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and certainly can cause a driver to fall asleep.

Other evidence in the car that may help prove the driver was on the road for a long time includes:

  • Roadmaps
  • Coolers
  • Packages of No-Doz
  • Energy drinks, like Red Bull
  • Used coffee cups
  • Food wrappers
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Prescription bottles

Look for skid marks. Take pictures of the road on both sides of the crash. An absence of skid marks is evidence that the driver didn’t try to correct the trajectory of a drifting car.

Take pictures of broken side mirrors and lights on the cars. Look for anything else that tends to show the driver’s car had no logical reason for drifting into your lane.

Witnesses statements: Witnesses, especially independent ones, can help your claim. Another driver who stopped may have seen the at-fault driver falling asleep while driving. Speak with as many witnesses as you can, and get their contact information.

If any witnesses saw the driver sleeping, ask them to write down what they saw. Ask them to sign and date the written statement. A statement from an independent witness saying they saw the driver nodding off is powerful evidence and very difficult for the driver to deny.

The police report: If you’re unable to gather evidence at the scene, you’ll still have the police report. A police report is often the foundation of a personal injury claim. Most police officers receive extensive training in car accident investigation. They can usually take a quick look at a car accident scene and within minutes determine who was at fault.

Once they secure the scene, the police speak with both drivers. They look for signs of intoxication or impairment. They check to make sure the drivers have licenses and insurance. Then, they separate the people involved and begin speaking with the drivers.

If the driver admits to falling asleep, the officer will note that in the police report. The officer’s report will include diagrams of the scene, driver and witness statements, citations issued, and the officer’s opinion of fault. The report should be available within a week or two after the accident.

Evidence After the Crash

Continue to collect evidence to support your claim until it is settled and paid.

Medical records: Collect copies of all your medical bills and records. Your medical records will help link your injuries to the accident, and medical costs are part of calculating compensation. Save receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses and replacement services (like child care or lawn services).

Include mental health records and bills if they relate to anxiety or trauma from the crash.

Lost wages: Ask your employer for a statement detailing lost wages since the accident, lost opportunities for overtime, and any sick or vacation leave you used.

Keep a diary: After the crash, make detailed notes of everything you remember before, during, and after the accident. Describe your fear and pain when the accident happened.

Keep notes during your recovery with details of your pain, mobility issues, frustrations, sleep problems, and when you needed help with daily activities. Your diary can support your demand for pain and suffering. Your diary may be used as evidence if your claim goes to court, so don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want a judge to read.

Commercial driving records:  Truckers, like tractor-trailer drivers, must have a commercial drivers’ license (CDL)  and maintain careful records of their working and sleeping hours. Your attorney can use discovery tactics and subpoenas to obtain the driver’s sleep logs, driving history, and other important evidence.

An Attorney Can Increase Your Compensation

You can probably negotiate a fair settlement directly with the insurance company if you’ve fully recovered from soft-tissue injuries like bruises, muscle sprains, and small cuts or scrapes.

You won’t need an attorney to help add up your medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. If you aren’t settling a no-fault claim, you can add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Begin negotiations like a pro with this Sample Demand Letter to an Insurance Company.

Severe, hard-injury claims are expensive and complex. If you or a loved one suffered multiple fractures, permanent scarring, brain injuries, spinal cord damage, or any other serious injury, you’ll need a good attorney to make the insurance company pay a fair amount of compensation.

Your attorney will protect you and your family’s best interest in complicated cases such as:

  • Hard-injury claims
  • Wrongful death claims
  • Commercial insurance claims
  • Interpleaders (when insurance funds must be divided among multiple claimants)

Severe or fatal injuries are high-dollar claims. The insurance adjuster will act like your friend, then offer less money than you would get with an attorney. They know that self-represented claimants probably don’t have the energy or legal savvy to fight for more money.

Don’t settle for less. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Falling Asleep While Driving Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>