Is falling asleep at the wheel covered by car insurance?

Understanding which policies cover falling asleep at the wheel and how to prevent drowsy driving.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Jun 26, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Depending on the situation, your collision or liability insurance can cover costs caused by drowsy driving
  • Falling asleep at the wheel often has catastrophic consequences, even if you are fully insured
  • Insurance companies could deny your claims if you didn’t disclose medical conditions that can affect your ability to drive safely

Like most people, you have probably experienced drowsiness while driving at least once. You may be wondering whether your insurance protects you if you fall asleep at the wheel.

Most liability and collision policies can cover the cost of damages, but you could still face significant financial, legal, and potentially criminal repercussions based on the extent of any injuries.

This article discusses the types of insurance that can help if you experience drowsiness while driving, the impact falling asleep at the wheel can have, and ways to help yourself stay alert during your commute.

Which insurance covers falling asleep at the wheel? 

Many things can happen if you fall asleep at the wheel, and knowing what type of insurance you need for an unexpected accident can be challenging. If you doze off while driving, it’s important to know whether your insurance can cover the cost of any resulting damages.

Each situation is unique, and your insurance company investigates each claim individually to determine a payout. In most cases, your insurer can protect you as long as you have the appropriate car insurance policy for the nature of the damage. 

Carrying the right type of car insurance will cover the costs you might incur by falling asleep behind the wheel.

Liability Insurance

Almost every state requires liability insurance to cover another person’s injuries in an accident where you are at fault. If you fall asleep at the wheel, these policies can help pay for repairs or medical bills for which you are liable.

Liability insurance does not cover a policyholder’s damages. So, if your car needs repairs after a drowsy driving incident, you will need additional coverage to help pay the costs.

Collision Insurance

Unlike liability insurance, the law does not require you to carry collision insurance. The only exception is if you lease or finance your car since lenders prefer you to have the additional coverage. While not a legal requirement, a collision policy can offer you protection for damaging your vehicle.

Even a minor single-car accident caused by drowsy driving can cost you a fortune in repairs. Your collision policy may help pay to get your vehicle fixed, even if you are at fault.

Umbrella Policies

Regardless of the type of coverage you have, there is often a limit to how much your insurer will pay out on a claim. You are responsible for the difference if the damages exceed your policy limit.

Some companies offer umbrella insurance, which covers these additional costs. Having this supplementary coverage can save you from a substantial financial burden.

What can happen if you fall asleep while driving?

Only a few states have laws regarding drowsy driving, but falling asleep at the wheel still carries substantial risks. For example, if you are speeding or distracted while driving, you still have control over the vehicle. However, when you are asleep or unconscious, you can’t brake or swerve to avoid a collision.

If falling asleep at the wheel results in an accident, especially if you collide with another vehicle or a pedestrian, the damages could be devastating.

In addition to the cost of repairs and medical expenses, you could face serious consequences, including:

  • Hefty fines
  • Increased insurance rates
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Criminal charges and jail time
  • Loss of life

If you fall asleep at the wheel, even minor accidents can cause irreparable damage to yourself, your passengers, and other people sharing the road. No amount of insurance coverage can replace a life lost in a collision, so it’s a good idea to avoid drowsy driving whenever possible.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving can have steep consequences. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to decrease the likelihood of falling asleep at the wheel:

  • Get enough sleep. Exercise good sleep habits and ensure you are getting enough sleep each night.
  • Mind your medicine. Avoid driving when taking medication that makes you feel drowsy.
  • Take breaks. Stop frequently during long drives to stretch your legs.
  • Pull over. If you feel yourself dozing off, pull the car over to a rest stop or hotel until you feel more awake.
  • Let someone else drive. Consider driving in shifts or hiring a rideshare service. 

Feeling fatigued is common, even if you don’t suffer from a sleep disorder. However, most drowsy driving incidents are preventable if you use good judgment and safe driving strategies. You can reduce your chances of dozing off behind the wheel by ensuring that you are alert and focused.

What if you have a medical condition?

In some cases, your drowsiness might be due to an underlying condition. If you have a sleep disorder that increases your risk of falling asleep at the wheel, you must notify your insurance company. Common medical conditions that might impact your ability to drive include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Medications that cause drowsiness

When submitting a car insurance claim, it is vital that you are honest with your insurer. You must disclose any medical conditions that might affect your ability to drive to your insurance company.

Your insurer will investigate after you submit a claim. If it discovers you were dishonest, they could deny your claim due to bad faith or even void your policy.

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What You Need to Know About Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Many things contribute to your likelihood of being in a collision. Falling asleep at the wheel is one case that can lead to severe consequences. Understand your insurance policy’s limitations for drowsy driving, and protect yourself by doing what you can to stay alert behind the wheel.

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