This weekend's fatal accident in Coventry between Randy Moore and Stephen Volpe has brought to our attention a very scary possibility that occurs quite often in serious auto accidents. Rhode Island news outlets are reporting that Mr. Moore was not feeling well and was actually driving himself to the hospital at the time of the accident. He complained of chest pains to his sister and an eyewitness to the auto accident noticed that Mr. Moore had slumped over the steering wheel just prior to the accident. Once unconscious, his vehicle drifted over the center lane and caused a head-on collision with Mr. Volpe. Mr. Moore, unfortunately, did not survive the accident and prayers go out to his family.
It is not as uncommon as one may think that a driver passes out or falls asleep at the steering wheel while driving leading to a serious car accident. I recently settled a claim for a client under almost exactly the same circumstances. In my case, an elderly man suffered a heart attack on Phenix Avenue in Cranston, drifted over the center lane and struck my client, an elderly woman, head-on. She suffered very serious injuries as a result of the accident.
In these situations, the driver who blacks out or passes out at the wheel, is civilly responsible for the damages sustained in a car accident. Even though they were not actively negligent in causing the accident, and even though it occurred through no "fault" of their own, they will be responsible to the injured party. Every time that we get behind the wheel of a car we are responsible to everyone else on the road and we must ensure that we are physically healthy and alert enough to operate a vehicle. Even if the illness is unforeseeable, the burden remains on each driver to operate their vehicle in a safe and courteous manner at all times. It is not unlike the driver who, despite his or her best efforts, loses control of their car in the snow, or the driver whose brakes fail leading to an accident. In these circumstances, the at-fault driver was not "actively" negligent. Nevertheless, they have breached their duty to operate the vehicle safely and are, therefore, liable for any and all damages. Insurance companies will accept liability under these circumstances and pay the claims.
If you have been injured in an auto accident in which the at-fault driver fell asleep or passed out at the wheel, contact our office right away for a free consultation. I have a great deal of experience in handling these potentially tricky cases. There is never any fee until we obtain money for you.