Driver fatigue is a condition often associated with long-haul commercial truck drivers. However, this condition can affect other drivers on the roadway as well. In tourist-heavy places like Fort Lauderdale, with a vibrant nightlife featuring live music, dancing, cocktails, and more, car driver fatigue accidents are more common due to a higher number of drivers being on the roadway during the late-night hours.
If you were injured in a Fort Lauderdale car accident involving a fatigued driver, an experienced legal team can seek compensation for your injuries and discuss the services their firm can provide you.
What Is Driver Fatigue?
As explained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most drivers will get behind the wheel when overly tired due to a new baby, a late shift at work, or a night with friends. This is called fatigued driving-however, fatigue erodes drivers’ skills to operate their vehicles safely.
Driver fatigue results in around 100,000 accidents a year, and about 700 people die each year due to driver fatigue.
The most common causes of driver fatigue include:
- Being awake for many consecutive hours
- Not getting enough sleep for multiple days
- Driving during the early morning hours, when the body instinctively desires sleep
- Performing monotonous tasks or being inactive
- Use of certain medications that can make an individual tired, such as over-the-counter cold medicines, antihistamines, and prescription medications
- Health conditions such as sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder in which individuals temporarily stop breathing multiple times during sleep, leaving them feeling unrested when they wake
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
According to the National Safety Council, going without sleep for 20 hours produces similar effects on a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle as the legal impairment limit of 0.08 BAC. Some of those effects include a slowed reaction time to hazards in the roadway such as other cars or pedestrians, a decreased awareness of roadway conditions such as heavy traffic, difficulty maintaining speed or a single lane of travel, and inability to pay attention to the task of driving safely.
In addition to creating deficits in the skills needed for safely operating a motor vehicle, driver fatigue also causes some people to experience short involuntary periods of inattention known as micro-sleeps. The average length of a micro-sleep is 4-5 seconds, which is about the same time it takes a driver traveling at highway speeds to drive the length of a football field without paying attention to the roadway. Around 57 percent of accidents caused by driver fatigue involve the drowsy driver drifting across other travel lanes or even off the road.
A study conducted by the AAA Foundation revealed that drowsy driving is a factor in:
- One in six fatal crashes on U.S. roadways
- One in eight crashes hospitalized an occupant of an involved vehicle
- One in 14 crashes in which at least one vehicle involved was towed from the scene
Portrait of a Drowsy Driver
Any driver of any age can suffer from driver fatigue. However, some drivers are more likely to experience fatigue that places them at risk of being involved in a crash.
- Men are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash than women at a rate of about two to one.
- Drivers aged 16 to 24 are twice as likely to be in a fatigued driving accident than those ages 40 to 59.
- Drivers participating in the AAA study who confessed to falling asleep behind the wheel were more likely to do so when driving a short distance-less than an hour-than those driving three hours or more.
What Causes Drowsy Driving Accidents in Fort Lauderdale?
Fort Lauderdale drivers face the same risks of fatigued driving accidents as anywhere else.
However, certain features make this type of accident more likely to happen here, such as:
- The city’s party atmosphere leads to tourists and residents alike staying up until hours when the body’s circadian rhythm says it is time to sleep. The many bars, casinos, and nightclubs that keep party-goers up late also guarantee that a large number of Fort Lauderdale’s workforce is also up late, working shifts at these locations
- Other industries in which large numbers of Fort Lauderdale residents are employed and expected to work night shifts or swing shifts, such as hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and security companies
- A more significant number of male residents than females, as well as a large percentage of younger drivers, both demographics more likely to be involved in accidents caused by driver fatigue
Seeking Compensation After a Fort Lauderdale Fatigued Driver Accident
Those who have sustained severe injuries in Fort Lauderdale car driver fatigue accidents can seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. Florida is one of many states that operate on a “no-fault insurance” system for car accidents.
This does not mean that no one is at fault for causing car accidents. Instead, drivers who register their vehicles in Florida are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) policy of at least $10,000 to cover a portion of the medical expenses and wage loss they experience in motor vehicle accidents, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
To use the state’s civil court system to file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver, the claimant must be able to show that they have suffered an injury that meets the state’s serious injury threshold.
The serious injury threshold includes:
- Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
In short: any injury that significantly impacts your day-to-day activities, results in a permanent deficit, or causes you to be totally or partially disabled for at least 90 days can meet the serious injury threshold.
The outcome of your Fort Lauderdale driver fatigue lawsuit rests on your ability to prove that someone else was liable for the accident that caused your injury.
To prove their liability, you must show:
- The at-fault driver had a duty when driving on a Fort Lauderdale roadway to exercise care to avoid causing harm to others.
- There was a breach in that duty of care when the driver operated a vehicle unsafely due to fatigue.
- This breach resulted in the accident that caused your injury.
Some of the evidence that can be used to prove the liability of a fatigued driver includes:
- The police report, in which the officer investigating the accident noticed signs of fatigue such as bloodshot eyes, exhaustion, or even a statement from the driver stating that they had fallen asleep or were particularly tired when the accident occurred.
- The time of day in which the accident occurred. Fatigued driving accidents most often occur between 1-5 AM. If your accident occurred during this time, it is not proof on its own that the accident was a result of drowsy driving but can add to the preponderance of evidence-that is the burden of proof in civil trials.
- Evidence that the driver had been working many hours or working a nightshift before the accident occurred.
- Evidence that the driver has a medical condition such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy could cause them to experience fatigue even if they had a whole night’s rest.
- Accident reconstructions show that the driver did not brake or attempt evasive action before the accident occurred, indicating that they were asleep at the wheel.
The Type of Compensation You Can Receive
If you are injured in an accident caused by a Fort Lauderdale drowsy driver, you can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
Some financial and psychological costs that plaintiffs commonly claim include:
- The wages, benefits, and other income that you lost as a result of being too injured to work
- All medical expenses associated with treating the injury, including emergency treatment at the scene, ambulance transport, hospitalization, diagnostic and laboratory testing, the services of physicians, surgeons, and other medical staff, prescription medication, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and the provision of crutches, a wheelchair, or prosthetic limb if necessary
- The loss of future earning capacity created by permanent injuries that impair your ability to earn an income or to earn what you did before the accident
- The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle or other personal items the accident damaged
- Physical pain and suffering resulting from the accident, the injury, associated complications, or impacts on your quality of life
- Emotional distress resulting from the loss of income, the inability to participate in activities you enjoy due to the injury, or even trauma from the accident
How Driver Fatigue Claims Resolve
The case resolves through a dramatic courtroom battle in nearly every movie or television show featuring a personal injury claim. While it makes for entertaining viewing, the reality is that around 95 percent of all personal injury claims resolve before they ever see the inside of the courtroom, often as a result of a settlement.
A settlement occurs when the at-fault party’s insurance provider makes an offer of compensation that is less than the value of the claim in exchange for avoiding costly and time-consuming litigation, and the claimant accepts this offer.
In addition to cost and time savings, the benefits of having a car accident claim resolved through a settlement rather than litigation include:
- The ability to have some control over the claim's outcome. When a personal injury lawsuit is filed in court, it is a request for the court to determine liability and damages based on the evidence and witness testimony presented to them. At this point, neither the claimant nor the at-fault party knows how the court will decide on the matter. With a settlement, both sides have an opportunity to have a voice in creating a resolution that works for everyone.
- Avoiding the stress and public nature of having your accident and injuries discussed in open court.
- Settlements are final. If you obtain a decision in your favor in litigation, the at-fault party can appeal the decision, further delaying your access to needed compensation. With a settlement agreement in place, the defendant cannot appeal, and the claimant cannot seek additional payment.
While this is the most common way to resolve a personal injury lawsuit, the ability to take the claim to court is an important one if the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to offer fair compensation for the claim. When selecting an attorney to assist you with your claim, it is essential to find one who is as comfortable with fighting for your right to the maximum amount of compensation available through litigation as they are with the process of negotiating settlements.
Injured by a Fatigued Driver in Fort Lauderdale? A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
You need a firm that has built a reputation as trial lawyers, providing aggressive representation of their clients both in the courtroom and out. A personal injury attorney seeks to gain the trust of their clients and the judges and juries they present their cases to. Look for an attorney known for meticulous attention to detail and thoughtful and experienced preparation.
Let an attorney explore your legal options for seeking compensation after a Fort Lauderdale car driver accident and tell you about the services they can provide.