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Wrongful Death Claims and Drowsy Driving Accidents

Casey Woodruff

drowsy drivingMost drivers in the Aurora area know about the hazards of driving under the influence of alcohol, and with Illinois’ ban on handheld smartphones for anyone behind the wheel, drivers are beginning to understand the serious risks of distracted driving. Yet drowsy driving, or driving while you are too tired to pay proper attention to the road, can also result in serious and fatal accidents. Indeed, according to a recent article in USA Today, “drowsy driving is a common but neglected problem responsible for thousands of deaths each year.” In addition to the thousands of fatalities that result from fatigued driving, these accidents also result in financial costs of more than $100 billion.

When someone you love sustains fatal injuries in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver, you can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. What else do you need to know about wrongful death claims and drowsy driving?

The Serious “Sleeper Threat” of Fatigued Driving

Given that many semi-truck drivers are on the highways for extended periods of time, numerous studies of drowsy driving have focused on trucking accidents. However, according to the USA Today article, we should all be thinking about the dangers of drowsy driving if we do not feel alert behind the wheel. To be sure, “many crashes involve a single car and driver.” At the same time, it is often difficult for investigators to determine whether drowsy driving played a role in the accident.

Ultimately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recorded “at least 72,000 crashes” involving fatigued driving from 2009 through 2013. Those numbers, however, may be too low. Safety advocates underscore that nearly all drivers have been guilty of fatigued driving at one time or another.  A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that thousands of accidents occur in which drowsy driving likely is a factor but cannot be confirmed. To be sure, the AAA Foundation estimates that drowsiness causes an average 328,000 crashes per year, with 109,000 of those crashes resulting in 6,400 fatalities.

What is the key takeaway? Fatal traffic collisions resulting from drowsy driving can be avoided. What should you do if someone you love suffers fatal injuries in a crash caused by fatigued driving?

Seeking Compensation through a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If your loved one died in a drowsy driving accident, you can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. Some Aurora residents have concerns about determining fault in an accident like this. What happens, for instance, if your loved one was partially at fault for the accident? For instance, what if your loved one was briefly distracted when a car with a driver asleep at the wheel crashed into his or her vehicle? The Illinois Wrongful Death Act governs wrongful death lawsuits in our state, and it makes clear that plaintiffs can recover damages as long as the decedent was “not more than 50 percent of the proximate cause of the wrongful death.”

In other words, even if your loved one played a role in the accident, as long as she or he was not more than 50 percent to blame for the crash—which will be determined by a jury—then recovery is still possible.

To learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you should speak with an experienced Aurora wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans today for more information.

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