Car Driver Fatigue

October 6, 2023 | Ed Bernstein
Car Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue poses an underestimated damage on our roads and is a topic that deserves our utmost attention. While there is a significant focus on drunk and distracted driving due to the numerous resulting accidents and disastrous consequences, fatigue is a frequently overlooked problem. Fatigued driving, however, can cause equally catastrophic incidents, leaving victims with devastating injuries and losses.

This silent killer, which many misinterpret as mere tiredness, is responsible for many road accidents globally. Unlike driving under the influence or speeding, driver fatigue does not leave obvious traces, making it a hidden danger lurking in the shadows of our daily lives.

Car Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue can cause serious injuries and fatalities to innocent victims with widespread consequences.

If you are a victim of a fatigued driver, you may recover compensation.

You may not notice negligent driving behaviors such as driver fatigue. Your car accident lawyer in Las Vegas can investigate the accident, determine whether fatigue is a contributing cause, and advise you of your rights in the aftermath of a crash.

Definition of Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue, or the feeling of exhaustion or sleepiness, is a state of mental or physical impairment that reduces a driver's ability to operate the motor vehicle safely. It impairs the driver's alertness, concentration, decision making, and reaction times, leading to slower and less effective responses to unexpected or sudden changes on the road.

Causes of Driver Fatigue

Factors contributing to driver fatigue include lack of quality sleep, long hours of driving without breaks, monotonous road conditions, and driving when one would ordinarily sleep. Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or other sleep disorders, and medications or substances that induce drowsiness can also lead to fatigue while driving.

Dangers of Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is a significant contributor to road accidents. It impairs a driver's ability to control their vehicle effectively and leads to poor judgment, making it difficult to assess speed, distance, and other critical factors while driving. Fatigued drivers are also at a higher risk of falling asleep at the wheel, potentially causing severe and often fatal accidents.

The Impact of Driver Fatigue

Estimates indicate that up to percent of all road accidents occur due to driver fatigue, contributing to around 20 percent of fatal crashes. These figures only account for reported accidents with evidence of fatigue. Because fatigue is difficult to prove, it may cause many more unreported accidents.

Drivers may not admit their tiredness or a lapse in attention led to the crash. If insufficient evidence proves fatigue was a contributing factor, law enforcement or insurers may not report it as the cause of a car crash.

Accidents involving fatigued drivers tend to have severe consequences, largely because tired drivers cannot react and take evasive measures. A tired driver may not notice their fatigue until too late, resulting in high-speed crashes as they fall asleep at the wheel and lose control of their vehicle. Fatalities and serious injuries are common outcomes in fatigue-related accidents.

The Economic Cost of Driver Fatigue

In addition to the physical harm and emotional distress fatigue-related accidents cause, the victims incur considerable financial implications. The damages following a crash can include medical expenses, long-term health care and support for those developing long-term disabilities, property damage, loss of income, and other personal losses. This amounts to significant financial burdens for the victims, families, and communities.

Driver Fatigue in the Trucking Industry

Driver fatigue is particularly problematic in the trucking industry despite regulations to prevent it. The pressure to meet tight delivery schedules can lead to drivers spending long hours on the road without adequate rest. As a result, the trucking industry sees a disproportionately high number of fatigue-related accidents, often with devastating outcomes due to the size and weight of commercial trucks in comparison to passenger vehicles.

The economic burden and human suffering that befall victims and their families due to driver fatigue are substantial. As a victim of a fatigue-related crash, you may file a claim against the parties responsible to pursue compensatory damages for your losses.

The Pervasive Problem of Driver Fatigue

Everyone experiences drowsiness or tiredness after long work days, little sleep, or stressful periods. Fatigue when behind the wheel of a vehicle, however, is a perilous combination that can have disastrous consequences for other parties sharing the road with a drowsy driver. While it might seem like innocent behavior resulting from day-to-day responsibilities or long hours on the road, driver fatigue is reckless and dangerous.

Laws and Regulations Regarding Driver Fatigue

Although many jurisdictions have stringent laws and regulations to combat dangerous driver behaviors, such as drunk or distracted driving, driver fatigue often slips under the radar. Few jurisdictions spell out specific laws regarding fatigued drivers, except for drivers in the commercial vehicle industry.

Individuals operating commercial vehicles, such as truck drivers, are subject to federal regulations that dictate the maximum number of hours they can drive without taking a break. These laws aim to reduce truck driver fatigue and decrease accident frequency.

When a car accident occurs due to driver fatigue, the guilty parties can face serious consequences, including fines and jail time, depending on the severity of the accident and the jurisdiction's laws. They can also face civil actions when accident victims claim damages for injuries, property loss, and other expenses related to the accident.

This makes a legal professional invaluable.

Skilled car accident attorneys understand negligence rules and laws that apply to driver fatigue cases.

A lawyer can navigate the complex legal process of proving liability. They can investigate the circumstances of your accident, gather evidence to establish whether driver fatigue was a contributing factor, and argue your case in court if necessary. They can also determine the best strategies to seek maximum compensation, handle settlement negotiations, and fight for your rights so that you do not bear the financial burden of an accident you did not cause.

Proving Negligence in a Fatigued Driver Accident

Proving negligence is integral to claiming compensation following a car accident attributed to driver fatigue. To establish negligence, the plaintiff must prove key elements to obtain compensatory damages.

Negligence is the failure to exercise the care that a reasonable person would ordinarily have exercised in a similar situation. In the case of a road accident, if a driver fails to uphold their duty of care toward other road users, they can be legally responsible for any resulting harm.

You need three elements to establish negligence:

  • Duty of care: Every driver must maintain a safe driving environment. This means driving attentively and responsibly, obeying traffic laws, and not putting other road users at risk through reckless or careless behavior.
  • Breach of duty: This refers to the driver's actions or inactions that violate this duty of care. A driver may breach their duty if they operate a vehicle in a fatigued state, knowingly putting themselves and other road users at risk.
  • Causation and harm: The plaintiff must show that the driver's breach of duty directly caused the accident and that the accident resulted in harm or damages. It is not enough for you to encounter a fatigued driver on the road. An incident must lead to damages for you to recover compensation.

Gathering Evidence to Prove the State of the At-Fault Driver

Proving that fatigue played a critical role in an accident presents challenges, as no specific tests like Breathalyzers can confirm fatigue. In this situation, you and your lawyer can gather evidence to substantiate your claim when presenting the case to an insurer or the court.

Surveillance footage from traffic cameras or dash cams, for example, can show erratic driving patterns, such as lane drifting or sudden braking, which characterize driver fatigue. 

Bystanders might have seen the driver yawning, rubbing their eyes, or showing other signs of fatigue or heard statements by the fatigued driver after the car crash. Employment records, phone records, or credit card receipts may also reveal if a driver had worked long hours over an extended period or traveled long distances without adequate rest stops.

Proving negligence in accidents due to driver fatigue is not impossible. A car accident lawyer understands the legal principles that apply and will gather evidence to build a strong case and seek the compensation you deserve.

Damages Available to Victims of a Driver Fatigue Accident

If you are the victim of a driver fatigue accident, you can seek various compensatory damages. These usually include medical expenses, lost income, loss of future earning capacity, property damage, and pain and suffering.

After a fatality, the victim's family might file a wrongful death claim against the liable party. Wrongful death damages could entitle surviving family members to compensation for lost companionship, emotional distress, loss of future income, and funeral and burial expenses, among other losses.

Challenges of Dealing With Insurance Companies

When seeking compensation in a driver fatigue accident case, victims can face unexpected challenges from insurance companies. The insurer can argue that insufficient evidence proves fatigue caused the crash. They may offer low settlement amounts or unreasonably delay the negotiation or settlement process.

When you are in a fatigue-related accident, an experienced car accident attorney will understand insurance company tactics and have extensive experience handling these cases.

Why Accident Victims Should Hire a Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer can significantly improve your chances of a successful outcome. An experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer can collect and analyze evidence, consult with medical experts, estimate the maximum total cost of damages, and effectively negotiate with insurance companies. They can also represent you in court if necessary. An attorney will fight for your rights and pursue fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

Driver fatigue is a pervasive, often overlooked issue responsible for a significant number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on roadways across the country. The financial burden on individuals and society due to these accidents is substantial.

As the victim of an accident involving a fatigued driver, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages arising from the crash. Although insurance companies and at-fault parties may downplay the relevance of fatigue in a car accident claim, it may have caused the incident and your injuries. Contact a lawyer to discuss your rights and find out what compensation you deserve.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.