Trial Attorney at Gina Corena & Associates

Practice Areas: Personal Injury

Losing consciousness while behind the wheel of a vehicle is a very frightening prospect. If a driver passes out and causes an accident that injures someone else, the injured party will want to hold the driver responsible. However, assigning blame may not be straightforward. Under which circumstances is a driver negligent if they pass out?

What Causes a Driver to Pass Out While Driving? 

  • Common Fainting (Neurally Mediated Syncope). Fainting can be caused by a variety of reasons, including spending too much time in hot weather conditions, over-exercising, an emotional shock, severe pain, or dehydration. 
  • Sleepiness. “Passing out” while behind the wheel might just result from tiredness. If a driver is sleep-deprived from working the night shift or becomes drowsy during a cross-country trip, they may fall asleep and lose control of the vehicle. 
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Driving after drinking or using drugs affects coordination and reaction time, and is highly dangerous. Losing consciousness is a possibility if a driver drinks alcohol excessively, or uses drugs with a soporific effect such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and marijuana. Prescription drugs to treat conditions including allergies, high blood pressure, anxiety or depression may cause a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness and fainting. Over-the-counter drugs can also cause drowsiness, such as cold medicines.
  • Seizures and strokes. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They can last for 30 seconds to several minutes and can cause a loss of consciousness. A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain, and the brain tissue begins to die. It is a serious medical event and will cause the sufferer to pass out. 
  • Heart problems. Cardiac syncope is a loss of consciousness due to an abnormality in heart function. 

How Can a Driver Prevent Passing Out While Behind the Wheel? 

Driving a motor vehicle always carries an element of risk, which is why it is very important for a driver to make choices to minimize their chances of passing out while driving. 

A driver should get adequate sleep, whether they are taking a short local trip or a long-distance journey, and take regular breaks to avoid drowsiness. Drivers should not try to cover unrealistically long distances in too short a time without time to rest and refresh. When a driver gets tired, they should pull off the road in a safe location and catch a few hours of sleep before continuing with their trip. 

Moreover, while ensuring personal well-being is crucial, it’s equally important to be aware of external road conditions. For instance, unexpected potholes can lead to accidents if not navigated properly. Additionally, if one ever finds themselves in an unfortunate situation where they sustain injuries, understanding how to prove a back injury can be invaluable. Furthermore, being informed about specific maneuvers, like understanding why left turns can be perilous, can be a lifesaver.

It is always important to check medication labels for warnings about drowsiness, or instructions not to use while driving. Many common over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, can cause drowsiness. If a doctor prescribes medication, drivers should confirm any side effects with the pharmacist, and avoid driving if recommended. 

If a driver develops a serious medical condition, they should check with their doctor to make sure it is safe to continue driving. 

What Does Negligence Mean in a Car Accident? 

Las Vegas Car Accident Law

If an individual passes out while driving, there is a very high probability they will be involved in an accident. As described above, there are a variety of reasons a driver can lose consciousness, but not all of them can be defined as negligence. What does negligence mean in determining fault in a car accident and how can this be proven? 

In a personal injury claim, it must be proven  the claimant was injured because the other party behaved negligently. Under Nevada law, the party who caused the injury is responsible for compensating the injured person financially. 

The legal definition of negligence is based on the following tenets:

  • Duty. In order to ensure the safety of others around them – other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians –  drivers must behave in a certain way when they are behind the wheel. Obeying traffic laws and not engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as texting while driving, indicate a driver is within the bounds of their duty and not negligent. 
  • Breach of duty. When a driver engages in behavior that can put others in danger, such as speeding, driving under the influence, or tailgating, they have performed a breach of duty to keep others on the road safe. The breach of duty is described as negligent, and if another party is injured by the negligent behavior, the driver can be held responsible and required to pay damages.

Is a Driver Negligent if They Pass Out While Driving? 

Obviously, laws forbidding driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs exist to prevent drivers from losing control of their vehicle and causing an accident that could injure themselves or others. If police arrive at the scene of the accident and require the driver to perform a sobriety test – and they fail – it is very clear the driver was negligent and responsible for causing the accident

Other reasons for passing out while driving, and their connection to negligence, can be less clear. The driver may have had allergies and taken an antihistamine but didn’t read the label correctly or thought they had purchased the non-drowsy formula. Or, the driver may be taking prescription medication as directed, and experience a side effect for the first time which causes them to pass out while driving. 

A driver may claim to have a medical condition that caused them to pass out, such as a seizure, or fainted due to dehydration or emotional trauma. However, this explanation cannot be accepted without evidence from a medical professional. A driver who passes out behind the wheel should immediately seek medical attention to determine the underlying reasons they lost consciousness. If it can be proven the driver has a medical condition they did not previously know about that caused them to pass out, it could be ruled they were not negligent for making the decision to drive. 

If you are injured in a car accident in las vegas because a driver passed out behind the wheel, our team can help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. Contact us or call 702-680-1111 today for a free consultation.

As founder of Gina Corena & Associates, she is dedicated to fighting for the rights of the people who suffer life-changing personal injuries in car, truck and motorcycle accidents as well as other types of personal injury. Gina feels fortunate to serve the Nevada community and hold wrongdoers accountable for their harm to her clients.

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