The rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia has shed additional light on the problem of driving while sick.
Driving with a serious medical condition is one of the five types of driving impairment, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, even if a driver is not seriously ill, that driver could still be legally negligent.
How Illness Affects Driving
Operating a vehicle with a cold or the flu reduces driving skills by as much as 50 percent. These motorists have slower reaction times and reduced concentration abilities. This level of impairment generally means that individuals who drive while sick violate the duty of reasonable care. This duty requires drivers to be in top physical condition, so their judgement and reaction skills are at the highest possible level.
Driving with certain infections could also be a violation of the duty of reasonable care. Eye infections obviously impair vision. Kidney and other infections are so painful that many drivers concentrate on their discomfort instead of the road. It’s like driving while talking on a cellphone.
Additionally, people with stomach bugs should not drive under any circumstances. They should stay off the road until they are symptom-free for at least forty-eight hours. These symptoms include severe pain waves and uncontrollable urges to go to the bathroom. It’s obviously impossible for people to drive safely in this condition.
Some people feel fine when they get in the car, but they soon fall ill. Motion sickness is a good example. Assume Ben and Jerry plan a road trip from Atlanta to Austin. Ben gets behind the wheel and jerry sits in the passenger seat. After a few hours, Jerry becomes motion sick. He should not switch places with Jerry, even if Jerry says he is too tired to drive.
On a related note, people who have recently been in car crashes should not drive until they have seen doctors. Frequently, these individuals have head injuries. But the brain is so adept at concealing its own symptoms, they do not realize it.
The same thing applies to people who are taking certain cold or flu medicines. These drugs often cause drowsiness. My most recent NyQuil hangover lasted over twelve hours.
Evidence in Sick Driving Cases
In court, victim/plaintiffs must establish both illness and a lack of care. And, they must establish these things by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest burden of proof in Georgia law. However, the more evidence a Marietta personal injury attorney presents, the more damages Cobb County jurors usually award.
Most people do not go to the doctor or hospital over mild cold or flu symptoms. However, they often buy over-the-counter medicines at corner drugstores, and they frequently use credit cards to pay for them. So, a Marietta personal injury attorney usually broadens discovery requests to include things like recent bank statements.
Discovery requests should also include recent doctor visits. These visits could yield evidence of more serious illness, or an infection. Due to privacy laws, these records are not easy to obtain. Frequently, a Marietta personal injury attorney must go to a judge and obtain a court order.
Other evidence of illness includes recent car or work accidents, as well as statements the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made about feeling under the weather.
As for a lack of care, erratic driving in the moments before the crash is probably the best evidence on this point. A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, which tacks things like steering angle and brake application, might be useful as well.
Medical Conditions and Negligence Per Se
In some cases, carelessness, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Tortfeasors might be liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate safety laws and that violation substantially causes a crash. Examples of negligence per se in the sick driving context include:
- No Valid Drivers’ License: If people go to the hospital because of epilepsy, heart disease, diabetes, or another condition which could cause sudden unconsciousness, the DMV usually suspends the person’s drivers’ license.
- Driving in Violation of a License Restriction: Many drivers’ license restrictions are either age or disability related. Examples include no nighttime driving, having a licensed driver over 21 in the front seat, and driving with extra mirrors or other assistive devices.
The good news is that negligence per se claims are usually easier to prove in court, because there is no evidentiary requirement. The bad news is that damage wards are sometimes lower in these cases, because the jury does not see how reckless the tortfeasor was. Of course, these things are not true in all cases.
Damages in a Negligence Case
Fundamentally, a negligence claim is not about “blaming” anyone for the accident. Rather, it’s about obtaining compensation for your injuries. We all make mistakes. And, we must all pay for the mistakes we make. That includes making things right financially after a car accident.
Medical bills are usually the largest component of economic damages in a negligence case. In a serious injury crash, like a spine injury, these expenses often exceed $4 million. Health insurance companies frequently refuse to pay these expenses, citing liability concerns. Under no circumstances should this money come from a victim’s pocket.
Economic damages usually also include lost wages and property damage. Lost wages include lost productivity. Many people are not at their best for several months after a crash, even if they return to work. Lost wages also include things like missed performance bonuses. Property damage usually means vehicle loss. Frequently, the family car has an emotional value which exceeds its financial value. Accident victims deserve compensation for both kinds of loss.
Noneconomic losses usually include things like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship). To ascertain such losses, most Marietta personal injury attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the facts of the case and some other variables.
Connect with an Aggressive Lawyer
Sick drivers are often negligent drivers. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.