Drowsy Driving Accident Lawyers in Columbia, SC
It only takes a split second of driver inattentiveness to produce catastrophic consequences. This is why driving while drowsy or fatigued is one of the most dangerous driving practices. Most people understand that when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, there is a very good chance that this situation will not end well. But just being tired, fatigued, and sleepy is also hazardous, because it can cause drivers to miss something important (such as a motorcycle entering their blind spot), and it also causes slower reaction times when a motorist encounters adverse driving conditions.
The hazards of driving while drowsy can lead to accidents with serious injuries and fatalities, and those who are injured can have their lives turned upside down in a matter of seconds. These injuries are sure to incur high medical bills, and there is a good chance the injured party will be out of work for several weeks or months. And in some cases, they may never be able to return to work at all. When a severe injury occurs because of a drowsy driving accident, injury victims and their loved ones deserve to be compensated.
At Peake & Fowler, we have over 20 years of experience successfully representing clients who have been injured in drowsy driving accidents and those who have suffered all other types of personal injuries in South Carolina. Our attorneys focus exclusively in the areas of personal injury and workplace accidents, and we have extensive knowledge of these areas of the law. We have a proven track record handling even the most complex cases, and we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and dedication to ensure that our clients are able to secure full and fair compensation for their injuries.
How Common it is Drowsy Driving?
Driving while drowsy or fatigued is far more common than most people realize. In a AAA survey, more than 40% of respondents admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel, and more than 10% admitted to having done this during the past year. Other studies have shown similar numbers, all pointing to the fact that there are a disturbingly high number of motorists who are too tired or fatigued to be safely operating a vehicle.
Here are some additional statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding drowsy driving and car accidents:
- More than 70,000 vehicle crashes result from driving while drowsy or fatigued each year;
- Drowsy driving is responsible for at least 800 traffic-related fatalities each year, but the CDC goes on to say that it is likely that these numbers are vastly underestimated, and that the real number of fatalities related to driving while drowsy or fatigued may be as high as 6,000;
- Drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 40,000 injuries from motor vehicle accidents annually.
Who is Most Likely to Drive while Drowsy or Fatigued?
While drowsy driving is practiced by individuals in all demographic categories, the CDC mentions some groups in particular that are more likely to engage in this practice:
- Individuals who snore and/or those who get under six hours of sleep on a daily basis;
- Individuals who have untreated sleep apnea or other untreated sleep disorders;
- Individuals who get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or sleep-inducing drugs;
- Individuals who work long shifts and/or overnight (“graveyard”) shifts;
- Individuals who drive for a living, particularly those who operate commercial vehicles.
Driving while drowsy or fatigued is all too common within the commercial trucking industry. One reason is that semi-truck drivers often fall into several of the groups mentioned above. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that as many as one-third of all commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. And as most people know, truckers typically drive for several hours at a time, often during the evening and overnight hours.
Trucking companies do not help matters any when they put undue pressure on their drivers to deliver their loads on time. They often impose unrealistic deadlines on these drivers, forcing them to choose between pulling over at a truck stop to get the sleep they need, or violating Hours of Service guidelines to keep their deliveries on schedule.
Drowsy driving accidents that are caused by commercial truck drivers can result in far more serious injuries and higher rates of fatalities than standard auto accidents. A tractor-trailer often weighs over 80,000 pounds when it is fully loaded, which is several times heavier than an average passenger vehicle. It is no wonder that when the two vehicles collide, occupants of passenger vehicles are 28 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed in the crash.
Damages Available from Drowsy Driving Accidents
When someone is injured in an accident that is caused by a drowsy or fatigued driver, they are eligible for damages to compensate them for their losses. Compensatory damages may be available for the following:
- Hospitalization costs;
- Costs for surgeries and other treatments;
- Rehabilitation costs;
- Expenses for ongoing medical treatment (in the case of a permanent and debilitating injury);
- Loss of income;
- Loss of earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of enjoyment;
- Loss of consortium;
- Funeral and burial costs.
In some rare cases in which the actions of the person or party responsible for the drowsy driving accident (and subsequent injury) were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded as punishment for these actions, and to serve as a deterrent to help prevent future actions like these in the future. In South Carolina, punitive damages are capped at three times actual damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Speak with a Skilled South Carolina Drowsy Driving Accident Attorney
At Peake & Fowler, we know that being injured in an auto accident that was not your fault can take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll on you and your family, and we work hard to make the legal process smooth and seamless. We stand by your side from start to finish, providing strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. We deal with all the complex legal tasks, so you can put your focus where it belongs; on getting recovered from your injuries. Along the way, we provide frequent updates on the progress of your case, and we are always available whenever you have questions or concerns.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned South Carolina personal injury lawyers, call our office today at 803-788-4370. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Columbia office in person at your convenience.