Fatigued Driving in Georgia: A Closer Look

People who would never drive while under the influence of alcohol routinely drive while they are seriously fatigued. Scientifically, intoxication and fatigue are closely related. Driving after 20 hours without sleep, which is like driving home after not sleeping well at night and working a full day at the office, is like driving with a .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) BAC level. That is above the legal limit in Georgia. Shortcuts, like blasting the air conditioner or radio, only help people feel more alert. They do nothing to address clouded judgment, delayed reactions, and other effects of fatigue. 

Other than distraction, fatigue is one of the most common and dangerous kinds of driver impairment. Arguably, fatigue-impaired people know they should not drive. But they get behind the wheel anyway and intentionally put other people at risk. As a result, a Marietta personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation in fatigue-related crashes. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Evidence of Fatigue

Erratic driving before the wreck, the time of day or night, medical evidence, and the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) statements about fatigue are all admissible evidence in civil court.

Failure to maintain a single lane is the most obvious kind of erratic driving. Operating a motor vehicle on the wrong side of the road is a close second. Driving without headlights on could also indicate fatigue.

The time of day or night is powerful circumstantial evidence in fatigued driving wreck claims. Circadian rhythm fatigue is common and dangerous. Most people are naturally drowsy during certain hours, like early in the morning or late at night. That is especially true if the tortfeasor’s daily schedule recently changed.

A sleep apnea diagnosis also helps prove fatigued driving. Mild sleep apnea is basically snoring. People with more extreme sleep apnea basically nap all night. When their primary airwaves close, they wake up. As a result, they’re fatigued the next day, even if they were in bed for a full eight hours.

The tortfeasor’s statements are usually admissible, as well, especially if an emergency responder records those statements in the official accident report or the tortfeasor says something during a recorded conversation with an insurance adjuster. Some people blame fatigue for wrecks, as if that admission helps them avoid responsibility. But such an admission has the opposite effect. These admissions make it easier for a Marietta personal injury attorney to prove negligence, or a lack of care.

Liability Issues

The victim/plaintiff must have enough evidence to prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

Fatigued driving is not against the law in Georgia. However, fatigue drivers clearly breach their duty of care. This duty requires them to be at their best, mentally, emotionally, physically, and otherwise, before they get behind the wheel.

Several negligence defenses, such as comparative fault, are available in negligence cases. Basically, an insurance company lawyer shifts blame for the collision from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, a lawyer might admit that the insured driver was fatigued and blame the wreck on the victim’s excessive speed.

Jurors very rarely divide fault in these situations, at least not significantly. As far as most jurors are concerned, fatigued driving wrecks happened the moment the tortfeasor started the car.

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