Jump to content


Photo

Narcolepsy And Accidents - The Blame?


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 drago

drago

    Member

  • Members
  • 227 posts

Posted 05 July 2009 - 02:12 PM

I have a quick question that I was hoping someone would help me out on.

In the 7 years I've been driving, I've had three accidents. In one of them I was rear-ended on a road because a person in front of me was turning left, I stopped but the person behind me did not. There was no damage to my car, her car, nor the car in front of me, which my car was pushed into by the rear-ending. The other two involved me hitting an inanimate object with the back-end of my car (while going forward) - because I misjudged the turn radius. It happened once when I was 17 and then again when I was 22, but when I was 22 the object I hit was too short to be seen from my car (it was a pole about 2 ft off the ground), so my misjudge of the position was very different than the accident I had when I was 17. Both of those accidents were minor, caused little damage and no injuries.

I've never thought that a single one of these accidents could be blamed on anything except mistakes. I know I misjudged the position of the objects in both of the cases where I caused the accident. The woman who hit me with her car seemed to have some visual problems in the dark, but she might have just been not paying attention or something.

I'm bringing up my driving history because I find myself to be a good driver... the worst problem I have is that I get too energized by a song I am singing along with and sometimes speed on the highway a bit, but I usually catch myself before it's excessive. And, I wanted to know what to do if someone tries to blame any accident on me 'because of narcolepsy,' especially in the case where narcolepsy had nothing to do with the accident, and where the accident wasn't even my fault.

When my friend got into a car accident when in high school, the other driver tried to blame the fact that there were "too many people in his car, he's too young to drive with more than one person in the car" despite the fact that CT did not have such laws limiting teen drivers yet, and also... this man hit him because he tried to pass him in a no-passing zone and ended up hitting him because my friend was turning left. Luckily, the accident caused no injuries, but it did a lot of damage to both cars. Despite the fact that it was obvious that this man hit another driver because he was trying to pass him -- the police considered blaming my friend! Because he was a teenager with two friends in the car! Clearly, he must be reckless. Luckily, after thirty minutes of questioning, they declared fault on the other driver, but that was only because a second officer arrived and examined the evidence before questioning and pointed out the obvious fault there.

However, had that other officer not arrived, or arrived later, my friend could have been blamed, or the accident could have been declared no-fault!

I bring this up because I'm worried that narcolepsy might be used in this same fashion, should I ever be in an accident. "Well, clearly she's at fault, she's narcoleptic, and she probably fell asleep and didn't know it." I haven't told the DMV about my narcolepsy - it's not a problem when I drive - but I'm sure if the accident is dire, my medical history will be dug up to be used in court. Even though it hasn't happened (and might never happen)... I'm paranoid about it, a little. A lot.

Has anyone been involved in an accident where their medical issues were blamed? Was it true? IF it wasn't, how did you deal with the situation? What are your legal rights in the USA? How are you prepared to deal with it?

Thanks for any info -
drago

#2 Mike M

Mike M

    Member

  • Members
  • 379 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Saint Paul, MN
  • Interests:Ultimate Frisbee, Literature, Film, Music, Narcolepsy, Education

Posted 05 July 2009 - 05:03 PM

Drago,

I too have had a few minor accidents (ironically also some that involve misjudging the turn radius), but I would not cite narcolepsy as their cause. In the accidents that were my fault, I admitted my fault (much to my insurance company's dismay) and those that were the fault of another driver, I simply filed the claim. No one has ever tried to argue that the narcolepsy was a cause, or tried to use it to put the blame on me. Of course, I think a huge part of that is that no other party would know of my narcolepsy unless I told them. I live in Minnesota which is automatically a "no fault" state. That prevents drivers from getting into any kind of debate over who did what. If an accident is serious, the police will file a report and assess any needed charges, but even my most serious accident (in which I admitted fault), the police felt that it was truly an "accident" and did not issue me a ticket.

What makes your question murky, though, is that driving laws for people with narcolepsy differ in every state. In Minnesota, the DMV would only know if my sleep doctor contacted them. He would only do that if I self-reported falling asleep while driving. Although I have had some dicey moments well before my diagnosis, I have not fallen asleep while driving since I started my meds. At the same time, I do not drive at night (with only a rare exception here and there and then only on city streets near my home). I also limit my time behind the wheel to an hour or two at most (with breaks). If your state allows you to drive and has no knowledge of your narcolepsy, you should have no issues - especially because you are clearly a good driver. I would offer that the best thing you can do is to know your state's laws about narcolepsy and driving. The other thing is to document everything in written form about any accident that you do have. I have to keep reminding myself that I also now always carry a decent camera (in my cell phone). If you can, you should also photograph damage, sightlines, and conditions. That way, you can easily demonstrate the factors that did lead to the accident, rather than let someone attempt to blame your medical condition (if that individual would have some way of discovering your narcolepsy).

I hope that helps. I realize that I am not necessarily answering the questions that you asked. Good luck!

#3 Sunshine

Sunshine

    Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Mile High

Posted 21 July 2009 - 01:25 PM

I have been in 4 major accidents, of which only the last one was associated with my narcolepsy. However, I was absolutely unaware at the time that I had this disorder. I knew something was wrong, and the accident occurred after I had already recognized I needed to pull over, but didn't do it immediately. That was 8 years ago. I have not even bumped a curb while parking since then.

Being a flakey driver does not require narcolepsy, nor does narcolepsy necessarily cause flakiness behind the wheel. I do just the opposite that you do. When I get into a good song, I tend to be one of those annoying drivers who is way under the speed limit. Otherwise, my driving style would work well in a place like Boston or Dallas. I wouldn't blame your narcolepsy for not being completely aware of all the little aspects of driving - especially if you are totally awake. A lot of people do this, and most don't have narcolepsy. I suppose it is why the cop that pulls you over always seems to ask the question, "do you know why I pulled you over?"

I will admit, I don't like to drive and use public transportation whenever possible and convenient. Seriously, I don't want to devote energy towards that sort of attention. However, when I do, I do pay attention to whether I am fit to be behind the wheel. If not, I pull over immediately. I plan trips methodically and avoid routes that do not afford me the ability to pull over. Living in Colorado, there a many mountain passes like this that I just refuse to drive through. There is research out there that confirms that most single-car accidents that happen, happen during the times of day that people are the most tired (first thing in the morning during sleep inertia and just after lunch). These people are probably not narcoleptic, just naturally tired. It would seem to me that if you KNOW that you are narcoleptic, you might be more keenly aware that you need to be careful and seemingly would be more likely to do so. I would hope so anyway.

Last....I would never bring up my diagnosis during an accident, much like I didn't admit to falling asleep behind the wheel in my last accident. I admitted fault, and corrected the situation so that it does not happen again so I feel like I was reasonable by getting diagnosed, treated and setting more strict rules on myself about my driving. In many "no-fault" states, it is up to your doctor as to whether to report your status and are unlikely to do so unless they feel your driving may be impaired because of your severity. So far, my doctors have been satisfisfied that my actions have been corrective enough.

Funny....I have a harder time during the day when the bright, bright sun makes me squinty, thus makes me eyes want to close. Night driving is soooo much better.

#4 maggie

maggie

    Member

  • Members
  • 13 posts

Posted 14 August 2009 - 07:03 PM

I have a quick question that I was hoping someone would help me out on.

In the 7 years I've been driving, I've had three accidents. In one of them I was rear-ended on a road because a person in front of me was turning left, I stopped but the person behind me did not. There was no damage to my car, her car, nor the car in front of me, which my car was pushed into by the rear-ending. The other two involved me hitting an inanimate object with the back-end of my car (while going forward) - because I misjudged the turn radius. It happened once when I was 17 and then again when I was 22, but when I was 22 the object I hit was too short to be seen from my car (it was a pole about 2 ft off the ground), so my misjudge of the position was very different than the accident I had when I was 17. Both of those accidents were minor, caused little damage and no injuries.

I've never thought that a single one of these accidents could be blamed on anything except mistakes. I know I misjudged the position of the objects in both of the cases where I caused the accident. The woman who hit me with her car seemed to have some visual problems in the dark, but she might have just been not paying attention or something.

I'm bringing up my driving history because I find myself to be a good driver... the worst problem I have is that I get too energized by a song I am singing along with and sometimes speed on the highway a bit, but I usually catch myself before it's excessive. And, I wanted to know what to do if someone tries to blame any accident on me 'because of narcolepsy,' especially in the case where narcolepsy had nothing to do with the accident, and where the accident wasn't even my fault.

When my friend got into a car accident when in high school, the other driver tried to blame the fact that there were "too many people in his car, he's too young to drive with more than one person in the car" despite the fact that CT did not have such laws limiting teen drivers yet, and also... this man hit him because he tried to pass him in a no-passing zone and ended up hitting him because my friend was turning left. Luckily, the accident caused no injuries, but it did a lot of damage to both cars. Despite the fact that it was obvious that this man hit another driver because he was trying to pass him -- the police considered blaming my friend! Because he was a teenager with two friends in the car! Clearly, he must be reckless. Luckily, after thirty minutes of questioning, they declared fault on the other driver, but that was only because a second officer arrived and examined the evidence before questioning and pointed out the obvious fault there.

However, had that other officer not arrived, or arrived later, my friend could have been blamed, or the accident could have been declared no-fault!

I bring this up because I'm worried that narcolepsy might be used in this same fashion, should I ever be in an accident. "Well, clearly she's at fault, she's narcoleptic, and she probably fell asleep and didn't know it." I haven't told the DMV about my narcolepsy - it's not a problem when I drive - but I'm sure if the accident is dire, my medical history will be dug up to be used in court. Even though it hasn't happened (and might never happen)... I'm paranoid about it, a little. A lot.

Has anyone been involved in an accident where their medical issues were blamed? Was it true? IF it wasn't, how did you deal with the situation? What are your legal rights in the USA? How are you prepared to deal with it?

Thanks for any info -
drago



#5 malachi777

malachi777

    Member

  • Members
  • 114 posts

Posted 24 May 2013 - 08:31 PM

I can humbly admit that I have been a professional driver since I was eighteen years old and I am soon to be 43. Knock on wood...I have never had a traffic accident although I have come close. The most important thing you can do as a narcoleptic while driving is to take the medication prescribed, and if you feel at all too tired to drive, hang up your keys until you are adequately rested. Driving while sleepy is equal to driving drunk. The most important thing you can do is keep your eyes moving and keep a safety cushion between yourself and other drivers. For example, when I come up on a red light, I stop one full car length from the car ahead of me. I also avoid traveling next to other cars. I tend to drive a little fast anyway but do so because it keeps me more alert. Another thing you can do is keep checking your mirrors and frequently change lanes to keep you from getting to relaxed. Hope this helps.



#6 engineerman9337

engineerman9337

    Member

  • Members
  • 23 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:South Carolina
  • Interests:Learning; Driving; Motorcycling; being in control; physics; helping; canines; reading; psychology; philosophy; living with Narcolepsy;

Posted 14 November 2013 - 11:54 PM

I think people should guard the things they say in this forum. Driving impaired by sleep, when you know you have N, is irresponsible and quite likely negligent if it contributes to an accident. There is nothing to keep a law enforcement officer or insurance investigator from learning the content of these posts and prosecuting an individual for admitting involvement in illegal activity. There can be no expectation of privacy in an environment such as this.
STAY SAFE...KEEP RESTED