Most drivers who travel through Florida operate their vehicles safely and sensibly. However, even the most experienced drivers can succumb to fatigue when driving at night or without regular rest breaks. For someone involved in an accident with a drowsy driver, the consequences can be devastating.
If you’ve been in an accident caused by someone who was driving whilst fatigued or who fell asleep at the wheel in Venice, Florida, you’ll be starting the process of trying to receive compensation. However, this can be difficult to accomplish on your own, especially if your insurance company hasn’t offered you a satisfactory amount.
Here at The Law Place, we’re an experienced law firm of injury and truck accident attorneys ready to help you. We can help you to achieve any compensation you may be entitled to, including medical bills for any injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Florida Law and Driving Whilst Fatigued in Venice
Car, motorcycle, and truck accidents involving fatigued driving or drowsy driving are so prevalent in Florida that the first week of every September every year is dedicated to spreading information and awareness about the importance of driving whilst well-rested.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, drowsy driving is dangerous because it causes:
- Decreased reaction times.
- Poorer vision.
- Impairment of senses and abilities.
- Difficulty focusing.
- Impaired decision-making skills.
Florida Law and Commercial Truck Drivers
Trucking companies have a duty of care both to their drivers and the general public when it comes to preventing truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers.
According to Florida’s hours of service rules, when driving a commercial motor vehicle, truck drivers are bound by certain restrictions regarding time spent on the road without rest breaks. A trucking company must not require their driver to drive for:
- 12 hours without 10 consecutive hours of rest.
- More than 16 hours after 10 consecutive hours of rest.
- More than 70/80 hours whilst on duty for 7/8 consecutive days.
Commercial truck drivers are also required to keep an accurate logbook detailing their time spent on the road as well as their rest breaks.
Why Might a Driver Drive Whilst Fatigued in Venice?
Despite the regulations and advice surrounding rest breaks, incidents involving fatigued drivers happen every year due to factors including:
- Work schedule – Individuals who are required to drive during the evening or at night are at high risk of fatigued driving car or truck accidents. This is especially the case if their schedules are irregular and they are not used to driving in the dark.
- Medication – Many medications list drowsiness as a side-effect. A driver could risk causing an accident if they have taken medication which could cause them to feel tired.
- Sleep disorders – Sleep disorders such as insomnia affect many people in Venice, Florida. A poor night’s sleep due to something like a sleep disorder leads to an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel at any time of day.
- Poor sleeping habits – An individual does not need to have a sleep disorder in order to risk causing an accident. An incident like this can also occur due to poor sleeping habits or general lack of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drivers who sleep an average of 6-7 hours per night are twice as likely to cause a drowsy driving accident as someone who sleeps 8 hours or more. In addition, individuals who sleep fewer than 5 hours are 4-5 times more likely to cause an accident.
- Drugs or alcohol – In some cases, driver fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel can occur due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol. According to Florida Statute 316.193, it is against the law to operate a car, truck, or other motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) above 0.08 or whilst impaired by illegal drugs. If truck drivers exceed this limit, especially whilst driving late at night or during the dark, they risk falling asleep and causing an accident.
Who Could Be at Fault for a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident?
You may think that the liability for a truck accident involving a fatigued driver is fairly obvious; that the driver themselves would always be to blame. However, this may not always be the case. There are a number of people that could be liable for a fatigued truck driver accident:
- Fatigued driver – It is most common for a fatigued truck driver to have caused a truck accident. If a truck driver engages in drowsy driving or falls asleep at the wheel, they may veer into other lanes, oncoming traffic, traffic barriers, or even pedestrians.
- Employers – It is also possible for an employer to be at fault for a truck accident involving a fatigued driver. This could be the case, for example, if a trucking company required their driver to drive without legally required breaks whilst operating a commercial motor vehicle.
- Accident victims – Whilst a driver falling asleep at the wheel is the most likely cause of an accident, there are circumstances where other drivers or pedestrians may share some of the liability even if they are the victims of an accident. This could be the case, for example, if a victim was checking their phone or was not paying attention at the time of the incident. In this case, under Florida’s comparative negligence rule, the percentage of total compensation would be awarded to the plaintiff and the defendant proportionately based on their percentage share of fault for the accident as decided by a jury.
Does My Insurance Cover a Personal Injury from a Fatigued Driver Accident?
You’ll need to contact your own insurance company within 14 days of the truck accident to claim compensation under your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This type of insurance covers:
- Pain and suffering.
- Medical bills and expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Wrongful death.
- Potential loss of future income.
However, in order to receive monetary compensation from your own personal injury protection insurance, you’ll need to prove that you suffered a serious bodily injury as a result of your accident.
Florida Statute 316.192 outlines severe injuries as ones that meet any of the following criteria:
- Severe head or brain injuries.
- An injury that impairs the function of any organ.
- Serious personal disfigurement.
Claiming Negligence as a Result of a Truck Accident in Venice
Every driver has a duty of care to themselves, their passengers, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians. If they drive or act in a way that endangers any of these individuals, accidentally or purposefully, they have acted negligently.
If a truck accident has occurred because a driver fell asleep at the wheel, or if their driving was impaired due to fatigue, then they have acted negligently. If you have been injured, you’ll need to work with a professional injury and truck accident attorney in order to prove that:
- The driver at fault for the accident breached their duty to drive safely.
- The driver at fault caused the truck accident due to falling asleep at the wheel or that they were unable to safely operate their motor vehicle due to driver fatigue
- You suffered a serious bodily injury as a result of this driver’s negligence or that your property was damaged.
- That your injuries were sustained due to a truck driver’s negligence.
How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help Prove That Negligence Occurred?
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident caused by a drowsy driver, you’ll need to work with a personal injury and accident attorney in order to prove that you were not at fault. After a car or truck accident, it can sometimes be difficult to work out where the liability lies. This can even be the case with an incident that seems straightforward, such as fatigued truck accidents.
Truck accident lawyers could prove negligence by:
- Analyzing cell phone records, satellite navigation devices, or Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) in the case of a commercial truck to prove that the driver had driven for a long time before the accident.
- Checking the road at the scene of the truck accident for skid marks. A lack of skid marks or brake marks indicates that a driver did not swerve or brake to avoid an oncoming motor vehicle or pedestrian, which can suggest that they had fallen asleep.
- Taking statements from any eyewitnesses who may have seen the driver asleep at the wheel.
- Checking whether the fatigued driver had been taking any medications which may have caused drowsiness as a side-effect.
- Checking to see whether a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test had been taken at the scene of the truck accident to see whether the driver may have passed out due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol.
- Investigate what the driver was doing before the incident occurred. For example, if they were driving at night, traveling home from a night shift, or had a credit card or gas receipts that prove they had been on the road for a significant amount of time, it is more likely that they were negligent due to lack of rest.
Should I Settle My Personal Injury Claim Out of Court or File a Lawsuit?
If your truck accident and personal injury lawyer feels that you have a viable case and are entitled to compensation, you will have the choice of settling out of court or filing a personal injury lawsuit to be brought to trial. There is no definitive answer to this, but it’s something your lawyer will be able to help you decide. The circumstances of your case and the opinion of your attorney will determine which option you should choose. However, there are certain benefits that come with each.
Settling a Personal Injury Claim Out of Court
In the first instance, it’s likely that any truck accident lawyers will try to achieve an out-of-court settlement. This will involve discussions and sometimes some independent mediation between your lawyer, the at-fault driver’s lawyer, as well as any insurance companies involved.
In this case, your attorney will submit a letter to the negligent driver outlining your injuries and demanding a sum of compensation to cover any medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as any other damages. Then there will be a negotiation between the legal representation of both parties in order to achieve a mutually agreeable settlement amount.
The benefits of settling out of court include:
- Lower cost – Personal injury and accident lawyers charge an hourly fee. Taking a case to court is time-consuming and involves many hours of preparation and research. Therefore, out-of-court settlements usually cost accident victims far less money.
- Less stress – Any legal process involving an injury involves a high level of stress. Out-of-court settlements tend to be far more straightforward and less stressful.
- Quicker process – In the State of Florida, it can take up to 2-3 years for a personal injury lawsuit to be brought to trial. This could make it difficult to cover any more immediate medical bills, which could be especially difficult if your PIP pay-out did not cover all of your medical expenses.
- More anonymity – Many truck accident victims prefer to resolve their case outside of a courtroom due to the anonymity this provides them. It can be intimidating to testify before a jury, and the results of the trial could be made public.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit and Bringing It to Trial
There are many cases in which you may not be able to achieve a settlement agreement out of court. This could be the case, for example, if your truck accident and personal injury attorney feels that you could be entitled to a higher level of compensation than you are being offered. In this case, you have the option of filing a lawsuit and bringing your case to trial.
The benefits of filing a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Higher level of compensation – In most cases, you will receive a higher amount of monetary compensation for injuries and damages in a courtroom trial. The priority of insurance companies is usually to keep costs down, and as a result, you may be offered a much lower settlement agreement than you could be entitled to.
- Accountability – If you’ve been injured in a truck accident with a fatigued driver, it’s likely that you’ll want to receive justice for the trauma you experienced. In a settlement agreement, no one has to admit fault or plead guilty, whereas this does happen in a court of law. This means that the defendant who caused the incident will be held accountable on trial.
Why Should I Work With a Venice Personal Injury Attorney?
You may be wondering why you need to hire legal representation for your accident, particularly if you think your case is straightforward. However, personal injury law is complex and difficult to navigate without knowledge and expertise in this aspect of Florida law.
There are a number of vital services that professional personal injury and truck accident lawyers will be able to provide:
From the very first consultation, accident attorneys will be able to give you sound legal advice. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not they feel you have a claim, advise you what to say to your insurance company and what information to withhold, as well as helping you to work out the amount of compensation you could be entitled to.
You’ll also have the important decision of settling your personal injury claim out of court or taking it to trial by filing a lawsuit. Your accident lawyer will be best placed to help you make this decision by weighing up all of the benefits and risks.
Liaising with Insurance Companies
Insurance companies in Florida can be difficult to work with. They often make things as difficult as possible in order to avoid paying out levels of compensation you could be entitled to receive with the right legal representation by your side. Injury and accident attorneys will liaise with any insurance companies involved in the process to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible and to give your case the best possible chance of a favorable outcome.
Representing You in Court
If you do choose to file a personal injury lawsuit, accident attorneys will be able to help you navigate this complex process. They’ll collect witness statements, analyze all available evidence and prepare a strong legal defense to give your case the best chance of success. Accident attorneys trained in courtroom litigation are essential in order to achieve the amount of compensation you could be entitled to.
How Soon Should I Contact a Personal Injury and Accident Lawyer?
You should contact a truck accident attorney who specializes in personal injury claims as soon as you are able after a traffic incident.
In Venice, Florida, you are required to report a motor vehicle accident to both the police and your insurance company as soon as possible. However, you may risk jeopardizing your personal injury claim if you are not careful about the information you give to your insurance provider. Therefore, you’ll need to seek legal representation within the first 24 hours following your truck accident.
As soon as your accident occurs, the clock starts ticking. The window to make an insurance claim starts to close, any evidence starts to degrade, and your memory starts to falter. The sooner you get into contact with an injury and accident lawyer, the better the chance you have of receiving the right level of compensation.
Contact The Law Place Venice Truck Accident Lawyers Today
If you’ve been in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver, you’re likely suffering from emotional and physical injuries and might be worried about not receiving the compensation you need to recover. However, you don’t need to suffer alone. Here at The Law Place, we’re ready to help you through this difficult time by providing skilled legal representation.
Our law firm will provide you with a Venice personal injury attorney who specializes in fatigued drivers, personal injury, and trucking accidents with strong legal experience in winning cases such as these. We also have a wide variety of other practice areas and serve clients in Venice as well as the wider State of Florida.
A positive attorney-client relationship is one of our main focus areas here at The Law Place. We offer a free case evaluation to help you understand whether or not you have a claim and to get acquainted with our team. So, schedule a free consultation with a professional injury and accident attorney near you. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to take your call. So, call us today on (941) 444-4444.