Falling asleep at the wheel may be one of your worst nightmares, but if it happened to you, and you caused an accident in the process, that nightmare has become your reality. Know that you are not alone. It is estimated that 37% of people have nodded off behind the wheel, and drowsy driving causes about 100,000 reported car crashes each year. Still, it is important that you proceed carefully after this happens to you. Here's a helpful guide of what to do in the days and weeks following your accident.
Do not admit fault.
You know that you fell asleep at the wheel, but you should not admit this to the other driver, your insurance company, or even the police unless your lawyer has told you to do so. If you admit guilt, then you may automatically be at-fault for the accident, even if the other driver also did something that contributed to the crash.
Do not lie and say you were not asleep. Just do not say anything at all if the other driver asks what happened or if the police accuse you of having fallen asleep.
Contact a good auto accident attorney.
Ideally, you should do this before you even leave the scene of the crash. Contact an auto accident attorney, and tell them honestly what happened. They may arrive on scene or send a representative to speak for you so that you do not accidentally give up any information.
Often, in an auto accident case, it will be up to the other driver to prove you were asleep at the wheel. If the other driver and their attorney are not able to accumulate enough evidence that you were asleep, they cannot successfully make this claim, and you won't be held at fault for the accident.
Know the possible charges.
If the driver whose car you hit is alright or has only suffered minor injuries, then the worst thing you really need to worry about happening is that your insurance will have to pay for the damage to their vehicle and any medical costs they've incurred. Your insurance rates will probably go up, too.
However, if the other driver was badly injured, to the extent that your insurance policy does not cover the full amount of their medical bills, they may file a civil case against you. In this situation, you may end up being responsible for their medical bills and lost wages. Your lawyer will have to fight for you, in most cases arguing that there is no proof that you were asleep at the wheel.
The worst case scenario is if the other driver passes away as a result of the crash. If this happens, you could be charged with neglectful homicide, which is a very serious felony charge. Your auto accident attorney would then have to represent you in criminal court. Bear in mind that most charges of neglectful homicide where the defendant fell asleep behind the wheel are reduced to more minor, misdemeanor charges -- but it's important to have a great lawyer on your side in order to get the sentence and charges reduced in this manner.
As soon as possible after the crash, talk to your lawyer about the worst case scenario when it comes to charges. This way, you can fully prepare for what's ahead -- or know not to worry.
Whenever you fall asleep behind the wheel and cause a crash, it's normal to feel very guilty. However, you do have to protect your own interests as well, and that means only telling your lawyer -- nobody else -- that you fell asleep unless your lawyer tells you otherwise