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What is the liability for falling asleep while driving?

A fatigued driver takes a risk when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. This recklessness may be a mortal danger to other motorists and passengers and the driver. Connecticut holds this driver liable for car accidents through statutory negligence.

A plaintiff only has to showing that a driver fell asleep to prove that the driver was negligent. In some cases, it may even constitute reckless behavior.

Drivers have the legal duty to avoid falling asleep while driving. Ordinarily, sleep does not come without warning. The motorist has to maintain vigilance against sleeping. In other words, a fatigued driver should pull off the road.

A driver may not be negligent if sleep or the loss of consciousness while driving was caused by an unforeseen circumstance that excuses this conduct. The driver must have been unware and had no reason to suspect the presence of this condition.

The intervening condition alone does not excuse the driver from liability if there was any warning of its approach or the driver should have been aware of it. A blackout, fainting spell, sudden attack or loss of consciences that occur without premonition or forewarning may release the driver from legal liability. The driver's health has to be considered in these cases.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration blames sleepiness for auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately the driver from falling asleep. Fatigue impairs reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing. In a report to Congress in 1996, the NHTSA reported that there were 40,000 nonfatal injuries and 1,550 fatalities each year from crashes involving a drowsy or fatigued motorist.

Victims of a car accident caused by a fatigued or other reckless or negligent driver should seek legal guidance on whether they are entitled to damages for medical expenses or other losses. Prompt legal advice can assist plaintiffs with determining liability in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.

Source: State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Civil jury instruction 3.7-13 Statutory negligence-Falling asleep while driving," Retrieved Dec. 23, 2014

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