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Driving has become such an integral part of daily life that it is sometimes taken for granted. Drivers are sometimes complacent with their ability to navigate West Virginia roads, so much so that they seem to operate their vehicles as if they were on automatic pilot. That is a mistake. Indeed, falling asleep while driving is no joke, and the possibility of having a car accident increases dramatically.

According to a preliminary investigation by the West Virginia State Police, a car driver is suspected of falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a West Virginia courtesy patrol officer. The officer was helping a stranded motorist on the side of the road. He died as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, and authorities continue to investigate the tragedy.

When a driver falls asleep at the wheel and hits a pedestrian, the chances for the pedestrian’s survival are not great. Anyone who operates a vehicle in West Virginia owes a duty of reasonable care to others in or near the road. That includes pedestrians. Sadly, falling asleep at the wheel can have the same disastrous results as drinking and driving.

The official investigation of this car accident may help the family of the courtesy patrol officer with any decision to pursue a wrongful death action against the driver. Should criminal charges be filed against the driver related to falling asleep at the wheel, a conviction could provide evidence in any civil litigation based on claims of negligence. That’s because the burden of proof in a criminal action is greater than the burden required in a wrongful death lawsuit seeking monetary damages based on claims of negligence. Of course, nothing will bring back their loved one, but the ultimate conclusion of any criminal and civil actions may help bring the family some closure.

Source:, “UPDATE: Courtesy Patrol Officer Killed on I-77; Name Released,” Alex Snyder, July 23, 2012

  • Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our West Virginia auto accidents page.