Anyone who has ever passed through rural Texas is well aware of the phenomenon colloquially called highway hypnosis. It occurs most often on two-lane highways with very little present to distract the eye, allowing a driver to sink into a mild trance or stupor. This can, as one might imagine, cause severe accidents, and in some cases, the driver of a truck or car who succumbs to highway hypnosis can be held liable for negligence.
Often Discounted as a Cause
With the common occurrence of DUIs and distracted driving, it can seem strange or premature to ascribe an accident to highway hypnosis. Too often it gets folded into drowsy driving, which is not quite accurate; a driver is not often drowsy when this phenomenon occurs. They are in essence lulled into a trance by the relatively unchanging landscape through which they may be driving. Despite this, it is worth considering, especially if you or the other driver or drivers cannot remember the events of your accident very well, that highway hypnosis might have played a role. This is especially true if no substance abuse is indicated, no foul weather was present and investigators are otherwise at a loss.
Studies have been done on the effects of highway hypnosis, and have determined that roughly one hour after beginning a long drive, a person’s brain goes on autopilot, so to speak, if the landscape is sufficiently unchanging. The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that drivers are very seldom aware of this phenomenon – it may happen to you, and the first indication of its taking hold might be right before you collide with another vehicle.
Highway Hypnosis Is Not a Defense
Despite its prevalence and its very real effect on drivers, especially those who are on the road for long stretches at a time, highway hypnosis is not considered a valid legal defense under Texas law. If you cause an accident, you may cite highway hypnosis as one potential mitigating factor, but it is not an excuse for your part in causing an accident. Generally, such cases are prosecuted as ordinary negligence actions – if you cause an auto accident, the plaintiff must prove the standard four criteria, and if they can do so, you will be held liable.
It is important to keep in mind that even if you are not able to prove that highway hypnosis played a role in your accident, you do not necessarily have to prove it. You must prove that the defendant’s conduct (their automobile striking yours) was the cause in fact of your injuries and that there was no superseding cause. You must also show tangible harm suffered due to the defendant’s negligence. In theory, a negligence plaintiff must also prove that a duty of care existed between plaintiff and defendant, but in Texas, that duty is codified in statutory law, so in theory, it need not be proven – it is already known to exist.
Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today
It is possible to recover from a highway hypnosis accident as long as you are not held to be more than 50 percent at fault. If you believe that you are not, it may be worth speaking to an attorney about your case. The skilled New Braunfels car accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are happy to help clarify your position after an accident and suggest the best path forward for you and your loved ones. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.