The results of sleep-related car and truck crashes can be serious to say the least. As news articles and television reports often indicate, drowsy driving can be as deadly as drunken driving, with similar consequences for all parties involved. As a Maryland personal injury attorneys, as well as automobile and commercial trucking accident lawyers, my firm has seen the unfortunate outcome of sleep deprivation on the state’s roadways.
As a kind of driver negligence, drowsy driving is starting to be looked at as a chargeable offense in many states, as DWI or DUI is currently. While often found to be involved in many commercial trucking wrecks, it appears that sleep deprived individuals from all walks of life are posing risks to other motorists in the roads here in Maryland.
As mentioned in earlier entries, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) determined that almost two million motorists nationwide are involved in sleep-deprived or drowsy driving-related road accidents or near misses annually. What most people fail to realize is that the dangers of sleepiness can turn out to be fatal to both the driver who operates his or her vehicle in a less than alert state, as well as the innocent motorists and passengers in the surrounding traffic.
According to news reports, a recent Maryland lawsuit sought to place the responsibility of a deadly car crash on an employer who allegedly over worked one of its employees, thus setting the scene for a fatal automobile wreck back in 2006. One thing is certain; with downsizing a common problem at many companies, and with more and more workers being stretched to the limit, could this type of scenario become a trend?
Based on reports, a case that has been slowly making its way through the Maryland legal system raises the question of whether an employer can or should be held responsible when a sleep-deprived employee causes a severe or fatal accident.
The incident that set this particular case in motion happened on a day in late January 2006, when two men from Carroll County are involved in a fatal morning commuting crash along a stretch of Maryland’s Rte 31. According to news articles, 37-year-old Michael Barclay with the Anne Arundel County police was going to work traveling east on New Windsor Rd at about 7:30am as it approached an oncoming SUV driven by 55-year-old longshoreman, Christopher Richardson coming home from his job at the Port of Baltimore.
As the vehicle approached, the Richardson’s vehicle crossed the centerline and smashed head-on into Barclay’s pickup truck. The force of the accident killed Richardson, who had reportedly been at work for 22 hours straight before clocking out at 6am that morning. Police reports showed that Richardson was not impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Accident investigators found no skid marks left by the victim’s SUV, which led medical experts to conclude that Richardson must have fallen asleep a the wheel prior to the crash. Barclay, who was severely injured in the collision, was airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with broken ankles, legs, arms and hands, as well as severe internal abdominal injuries.
Barclay reportedly filed a negligence suit against Richardson’s employer, Ports of America, three years ago. The suit claimed that the company should not have allowed the Richardson to work 22 hours straight, which the plaintiff’s attorneys argue resulted in the sleep deprivation that caused the deadly accident.
Despite those arguments, the Carroll County Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals have both held with the Ports of America, stating that as a matter of Maryland law Richardson’s boss is not responsible for his employees’ decision to work long hours.
But with the Maryland Court of Appeals’ recent decision to hear the case, this highest of the state’s courts may be in a position to set a precedent, or side with the lower courts. Only time will tell, as the hearing is set for this coming January.
A deadly case of sleep deprivation, BaltimoreSun.com, September 12, 2011