Car accidents in Tampa Bay can have devastating consequences. You may have lost a loved one or suffered injuries that left you with disabilities that changed your life forever. Have end-of-life expenses and/or medical bills, lost income and other losses ruined your financial stability? It will be only natural for you to seek recovery of damages.
Many accidents follow the negligence of other drivers -- from being distracted by mobile devices, drunk driving, drowsiness and more. Some drivers think they are sober enough to drive after having a few drinks, and others who have had little sleep may believe they are alert enough to drive. Sleep can overcome a driver in seconds, and a fatal crash can claim a life in the blink of an eye.
Estimations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that the annual number of accidents resulting from drowsy driving exceeds 80,000. In 2014, 846 people lost their lives in such accidents. Authorities urge sleep-deprived drivers to pull off the road for a nap if possible.
If you want to hold accountable a driver who allegedly fell asleep while driving, proving fault may be challenging.
How do you establish fault?
It may not be as easy as it seems to prove another driver was sleeping at the time of a crash. The court may want proof that the driver had not slept for a continuous period of 24 hours before the accident. This will certainly be challenging, and you will have to find witnesses who can provide information about every hour of the driver's previous day. Even once you have that evidence, you will still have to prove that he or she was not awake when the crash occurred.
Circumstantial evidence may have to suffice, such as:
- No marks on the roadway that can indicate that the driver was awake and applied the brakes
- Geographic data on cellphone records that indicate the person had been traveling long distances during that time
- Records of prescriptions for pharmaceuticals that could have caused the driver to be drowsy and fall asleep
Once you have gathered the evidence that might prove the driver to have been asleep, you will have to establish negligence.
How do you establish negligence?
The requirements for showing the standard of sleepiness for a criminal case is different to the needs of the civil court. Even if the criminal court convicts the driver and sends him or her to jail, you will still have to face the financial consequences in the aftermath of your motor vehicle accident. For this reason, you will want to establish negligence for the civil court where you will file a personal injury claim -- or a wrongful death claim if you are suing on behalf of a deceased loved one.
This may be where you might want to utilize the support and guidance of a skilled personal injury attorney. In Tampa Bay, you may seek the services of a board-certified attorney who has successfully navigated thousands of civil claims during decades of experience. Your lawyer will work to prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower bar to meet than what is required by the criminal court as you only need to show that it is more likely than not that the driver negligently fell asleep. With a seasoned attorney on your side, you may receive a monetary judgment to cover all your documented claims.