The Five Kinds of Driving Impairment

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2021 | Car Accidents, Injuries

Defective products, lightning strikes, and a few other such incidents only cause a few car wrecks in Fayette County. So, driver error causes about 95 percent of these incidents. Frequently, this error involves one of the five types of driving impairment, which are examined below.

Arguably, impaired tortfeasors (negligent drivers) know they should not get behind the wheel, but they do so anyway. Because of this intentional disregard for the safety of other people, a Lexington personal injury attorney is often able to obtain substantial compensation for these crash victims. This compensation normally includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Alcohol

This substance clouds judgement ability and slows motor skills. These effects might be great at some parties, but they are extremely dangerous for drivers. Furthermore, many people think they can have a beer or two and drive home. But the impairing effects of alcohol begin with the first drink.

Legally, alcohol-related crashes could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule. The same thing is true in most driving impairment claims.

Ordinary negligence is essentially a lack of care. Victim/plaintiffs normally use circumstantial evidence to build their claims in these cases. Such evidence includes:

  • Erratic driving prior to the crash,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Tortfeasor’s previous schedule.

The burden of proof in ordinary negligence claims is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s why something like the tortfeasor’s previous schedule is relevant. If the tortfeasor was at a place that serves alcohol, it’s more likely than not that the tortfeasor had at least one drink there.

Negligence per se is the violation of a safety statute. If tortfeasors violate the DUI law or another safety law, they could be liable for damages as a matter of law. In other situations, a safety law violation is a presumption of negligence. These victims must introduce additional evidence to obtain maximum compensation.

Fatigue

Drowsiness and alcohol have roughly the same effect on the brain and body. In fact, driving after eighteen consecutive hours without sleep, which is the rough equivalent of a long day at the office, is like driving with a .05 BAC level.

Since fatigued driving is not against the law, these claims always involve circumstantial evidence. The time of day or night is often very important. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night. Other circumstantial evidence includes the tortfeasor’s schedule over the last twenty-four hours, erratic driving prior to the crash, and any statements the tortfeasor made about fatigue.

Alcohol and drowsiness have something else in common. There is no quick fix for either condition. Only time cures alcohol intoxication, and only sleep cures fatigue. Quick fixes, like drinking coffee or blasting the radio, have only a limited effect, at best.

Distraction

Hand-held cell phones get much of the attention in this area. These gadgets combine all three forms of distracted driving, such as:

  • Manual (hand off the wheel),
  • Visual (eyes off the road), and
  • Cognitive (mind off driving).

Hands-free devices are not much safer. These devices are cognitively and visually distracting. Additionally, they give some drivers a false sense of security. As a result, these motorists take unnecessary chances behind the wheel.

Non-device distraction is even more common than device distraction. Some examples include eating while driving and drinking while driving.

Kentucky has a very limited cell phone ban. It only prohibits sending or reviewing text messages while driving. So, the negligence per se rule does not apply very often in these situations.

To establish ordinary negligence in other distracted driving claims, victim/plaintiffs may use evidence like erratic driving prior to the crash, physical evidence in the car, like a half-eaten candy bar, and device use logs.

Evidence is critical in distracted driving claims. This behavior is so common that many Fayette County jurors do not think it is a big deal. So, they require substantial evidence of negligence. If a tortfeasor simply looked away at precisely the wrong time, it’s difficult to establish negligence.

Medical Condition

Many Kentuckians struggle with chronic illnesses like diabetes, epilepsy, and heart disease which could cause a sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. These effects could surface even if the person is taking medication regularly and otherwise in remission.

The DMV suspends drivers’ licenses in these situations. So, these claims occasionally involve the negligence per se rule. It’s illegal to drive on a suspended license. But these suspensions are only temporary, at least in most cases. Additionally, the state only takes action if someone, like a doctor or the tortfeasors themselves, report the condition.

Therefore, most medical condition impairment claims rest on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Circumstantial evidence in these cases usually includes medical records and the nature of the crash (i.e. did the driver pass out behind the wheel).

Drugs

In many jurisdictions, there are more “stoned” drivers than “drunk” drivers. Marijuana and prescription pain pills, like Oxycontin, cause most of these crashes. Over the counter sleep aids, like NyQuill, also cause a number of drugged driving incidents. It might or might not be legal to take these drugs. However, it is always unsafe, and possibly illegal, to drive under their influence.

Alcohol’s impairing effects begin at the first sip. Similarly, the impairing effects of most drugs begin with the first pill or puff. The aforementioned physical symptoms of alcohol abuse also indicate drug abuse. Other evidence includes current prescriptions and open pill bottles.

If emergency responders charge the tortfeasor with DUI-drugs, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law. The negligence per se rule applies even if the tortfeasor “beats” the case in criminal or traffic court.

Impaired motorists often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.