Sleep Apnea Sufferers at Increased Risk of Car Accidents, Study Shows

October 22, 2015 | Category: Car Accidents

Even during the daily morning drive to work, many drivers operate their vehicles in a drowsy state. Some even fall asleep behind the wheel. These individuals can (and do) cause serious traffic accidents, and they can be held liable for the injuries and fatalities they cause.

Not all drowsy driving accidents are the result of late night recreational activities or even too many hours spent on the road. Many drivers suffer from certain sleep disorders that they may not know they have. A lack of awareness does not remove liability in the event of a crash, but even a skilled Los Angeles car accident lawyer can experience challenges in proving fault when pursuing damages for their injured clients.

All drivers should recognize the obvious signs of drowsy driving by others on the road. Maintaining a distance from drivers who swerve between lanes or do not maintain constant speeds — can help reduce the risk of drowsy-driving accidents.

Untreated Sleep Apnea More Than Doubles the Risk of Accident Involvement

In March 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reported the results of a Swedish study that showed sleep apnea sufferers to be nearly 2.5 times more likely than control group drivers to be the cause of a motor vehicle accident. Individuals with this disorder do not get restful sleep because they periodically stop breathing during the night. The most common sign of sleep apnea is snoring, but the early predictors of accidents include sleep durations of five hours or less, use of sleeping pills and excessive daytime sleepiness.

The use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device provides effective treatment by helping avoid airway blockages during sleep. According to the study, regular CPAP therapy can reduce the risk of accidents by as much as 70 percent. Unfortunately, many individuals with this sleep disorder are unaware of their condition.

A Lack of Awareness Does Not Remove Culpability

When previously-healthy drivers get into accidents because of sudden seizures or heart attacks while driving, they may have a reasonable defense. However, even though individuals with sleep apnea may not be aware of their conditions, all responsible drivers should recognize the signs of drowsiness and avoid driving during those times.

From the viewpoint of the victims of these accidents, proving drowsy driving presents challenges for many reasons, such as the following:

• No alcohol or drug tests provide evidence.
• Sleep-deprived drivers are not typically aware of their conditions and are unlikely to make statements at the scene that can be used against them in court.
• Witnesses to the accident are equally unlikely to make statements that clearly point to drowsy driving.

Accident Lawyers Have the Resources to Help

Still, experienced auto accident attorneys conduct investigations that extend beyond the most obvious points. Anything — from witnesses who attest to erratic driving prior to the accident, to the positions of the vehicles after the accident — can provide telltale signs of driving impediments. Of course, if at-fault drivers attempt to use a sleep disorder as a defense, that admission can provide much-needed evidence for the prosecution.

The best way to secure all available evidence from an accident is to get in touch with a skilled car accident attorney as quickly as possible. The Rudman Law Firm, APC is here to help. Call us toll free at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, at our Los Angeles office (213) 375-3777 or at our Studio City office (818) 769-6969. You can also use our convenient online contact form to reach us at any time.

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