According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Greyhound Lines will pay $6 million to settle claims by five passengers injured in a rollover collision that they claim was caused by the driver’s sleep apnea.
The rollover accident occurred on September 14, 2013 as the bus was traveling from Cincinnati to Detroit via I-70. The driver, plaintiffs allege, was speeding when he fell asleep, causing the accident. The bus flipped over several times and ended up in a corn field at least 100 feet from the road, according to the complaint. The five passengers who filed the lawsuit ranged from 17 to 64 years of age, and received injuries that included compound fractures as well as back and neck injuries.
According to the plaintiffs, a month before the crash, a US Department of Transportation medical examiner suspected the driver had sleep apnea and recommended that he undergo an overnight sleep test to get a positive diagnosis and treatment. The examiner also recommended that the driver’s certificate be limited for three months.
But Greyhound never had the driver tested. Greyhound claims the driver choked on a sip of coffee, losing consciousness before the crash.
A Precedent-Setting Sleep Study
Plaintiffs wanted to confirm that the driver had sleep apnea and should have been tested and receiving sleep apnea treatment. They got a court to order a sleep test to confirm the medical examiner’s suspicions.
Greyhound appealed the court order, hoping to make their sip of coffee story stick, but a court of appeals upheld the order, and the driver had to be tested. The test confirmed that the driver had moderate to severe sleep apnea, and once the test results were known, Greyhound decided to settle the case.
This was the first time a court-ordered sleep apnea test had been upheld by an appellate court.
Increasing Awareness and New Rules
The plaintiffs’ attorney said he hopes that this case will alert busing and shipping companies of the dangers inherent in having commercial drivers with untreated sleep apnea. With settlements of this size, it seems that the bus companies would be eager to get some rules in place that could set uniform standards of expectations that could potentially protect them from lawsuits while also protecting the public from these kinds of accidents.
They may be getting their wish. After controversy and dispute, the Department of Transportation is finally seeking public comment on its new sleep apnea rules, which will cover both commercial drivers and train operators, but not airplane pilots.
Whether you’re a commercial driver or just a commuter, sleep apnea increases your risk of serious accidents. If you are looking for help getting effective treatment for your sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.