No, they are not Do not Disturb a Dutchman, Daffy Duck is a Ding-a-Ling, or Dare to Drink Drano. But those are admirable guesses.
Drowsiness, dugs, and distraction exemplify the different types of negligence in a vehicle collision case. Some drivers know they are too impaired to drive safely, yet they get behind the wheel anyway. That action recklessly and selfishly puts other people at risk. Other drivers fail to account for adverse conditions, like a wet road or a dark sky. They drive as if conditions were ideal, and that’s a dangerous thing to do. Finally, some drivers are sober and well-rested when they start their cars. But perhaps because driving is routine, they do not concentrate on operating their motor vehicles.
Marietta personal injury attorneys have basically two options in these cases. Legally, negligence is either a lack of ordinary care of a violation of a statute. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) failed to use reasonable care, and that laps of care caused a car crash, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages. “Reasonable care” basically means driving defensively, alertly, and as my grandfather liked to say, watching out for the other fella.
If the tortfeasor violated a safety law, like the DUI law, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
In 2015, for the first time, there were more “drugged drivers” than drunk drivers. Alcohol was a factor in about a third of the nation’s fatal crashes, and drugs were a factor in almost half of these incidents. Most of these drugs are legal. Many operators are under the influence of things like:
- Benadryl, and
It is typically legal to take these drugs. Many of them do not even require a prescription. However, it is always illegal to driver under the influence of these substances. Section 40-6-391 of the Georgia Code make it illegal to drive “[u]nder the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.” That broad definition could include any of the drugs mentioned above, as well as caffeine and some other common substances.
So, the aforementioned negligence per se shortcut often applies in drugged driving cases. If the tortfeasor was even slightly under the influence of a drug, as evidenced by things like bloodshot eyes or erratic driving, the tortfeasor may be responsible for damages. The victim/plaintiff need only establish cause.
Georgia’s laws in this area are very broad as well. In 2018, the Hands-Free Law made lots of headlines statewide. But there is an even more expansive law. Section 40-6-241 applies to any activity “which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.” This broad law lead to the famous (or infamous) cheeseburger distracted driving case in 2015. Prosecutors eventually dropped that case due to lack of evidence, but the principle remains in place, and more importantly, so does the law.
Distracted driving is not limited to cheeseburgers or hand-held cell phones. This term applies to any of the following:
- Cognitive distraction (taking one’s mind off driving),
- Visual distraction (taking one’s eyes off the road), and/or
- Manual distraction (taking one’s hand off the wheel).
Hands-free cell phones are a good example. These devices are not safe. They are almost as distracting as hand-held cell phones. Hands-free gadgets are cognitively and visually distracting. Furthermore, researchers have found that these devices have a latency effect. After they disengage from a hands-free device, most operators need at least ten or fifteen seconds to reengage with driving. Finally, hands-free devices give drivers a false sense of security. So, they are more likely to take chances when they use them.
Based solely on the Hands-Free Law, it would be difficult to prove driver negligence in these claims. But the general distracted driving law may apply here as well. A Cobb County jury simply needs to understand that hands-free devices are distracting. Once they understand that, they nearly always apply 40-6-241.
Fatigue and alcohol have a lot in common. Operating a vehicle after one mostly-sleepless night is like driving with a .10 BAC level. That’s substantially above the legal alcohol limit. Both drowsiness and alcohol inhibit motor skills and impair judgment ability.
Furthermore, there is no quick fix for either condition. Drinking black coffee may make people feel more alert, but time is the only cure for intoxication. Similarly, turning up the radio may ease drowsiness for a few moments, but sleep is the only cure for fatigue. It’s amazing what a brief, five- or ten-minute roadside nap can do.
But most people do not pull over when they feel tired. They just keep driving. In fact, a majority of people admit that they have been so sleepy while driving that they actually fell asleep at the wheel.
There’s no law against drowsy driving, and there is no Breathalyzer test for fatigue. So, victim/plaintiffs must always use circumstantial evidence to establish fatigued driving. This circumstantial evidence could include:
- Time of Day or Night: Lack of sleep is not the only cause of drowsy driving. Many people are naturally sleepy early in the morning or late at night, even if they are well-rested. Circadian rhythm fatigue is even worse if the tortfeasor has recently changed his or her daily schedule.
- Obesity or Other Medical Condition: Overweight people are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. People with this condition wake up constantly during the night, so they do not get deep, restorative sleep.
- Physical Symptoms: Sleepy people often have bloodshot eyes, or they were up very late the previous night. Maybe they were on the phone, watching Netflix, at a party, or engaged in another verifiable non-sleep activity. They also drive erratically. One telltale sign of drowsy driving is an inability to recall the last few miles.
Damages in 3-D negligence claims usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, especially in drugged and drowsy driving cases. These situations often involve reckless behavior.
Contact a Diligent Lawyer
Negligent drivers often cause serious injuries. 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 these cases.