Distracted driving can be lethal. And yet, the trend has become increasingly common due to the frequent use of smartphones.
Sending a text message or checking your Instagram account may seem “quick” or “easy” while driving, but using technology on the road puts your and others' safety at risk—the safety of pedestrians, passengers, and other drivers.
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, approximately 660,000 people in the United States use electronic devices while driving during daylight hours. Accidents involving distracted drivers topped 391,000 in 2015 alone, resulting in 3,300 fatalities.
While safety is a critical reason to avoid activities that divert your attention from the road, consumers should keep in mind that distracted driving could also have legal consequences.
What Are Some Examples of Distracted Driving?
When people consider distracted driving, they typically think about texting. And yes, cell phone use is certainly a common example of distracted driving—but it's far from the only one. Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes the driver's attention away from operating the vehicle. It can be divided into three categories:
• Manual distractions cause the driver to remove one or both hands from the wheel. Examples may include eating, drinking, or rummaging through a purse or wallet.
• Visual distractions cause the driver to take their eyes off the road. This type of distraction may include taking in the view from the side window, or searching for a lost item on the floor of the vehicle.
• Cognitive distractions cause the driver to shift their focus from driving. Daydreaming and talking to other passengers are two examples.
Some instances of distracted driving involve a combination of two or even all three categories. Cell phone use, for example, consists of taking your eyes off the road, using your hands to operate the device, and concentrating on the conversation or content onscreen. It is therefore an especially dangerous form of distracted driving.
Where Does Distracted Driving Factor into Personal Injury Law?
In an accident potentially involving distracted driving, the injured party may sue for compensatory damages. To win the suit, however, the plaintiff's attorney must prove negligence. They will go over how the accident took place, investigate the at-fault party's driving history, access relevant medical records, procure traffic footage, and interview witnesses.
In essence, the attorney will assess whether distracted driving was a factor in the crash, and determine whether the plaintiff may be entitled to compensatory damages. If it seems like texting may have been a factor, law enforcement can pull the driver's cell phone records with the aim of proving negligence or recklessness.
There are a few technicalities to keep in mind, however. It should be noted that even if another driver caused the accident, the injured driver could be held liable for contributory negligence or comparative fault if they were using a cell phone or engaging in another form of distracted driving.
What this means is that if someone crashes into your car while you are texting, the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries may be limited. All evidence of distracted driving, no matter who is technically at fault, can help to prove—or disprove—negligence or recklessness.
Moreover, some lawsuits are filed against the driver's employer rather than the driver (or in addition to the driver). If a corporation requires that employees be accessible by phone while driving, the company may be held responsible for an accident linked to distracted driving, and sued for damages by the injured party.
How Are Distracted Driving Cases Structured?
Distracted driving cases involve the same stages as other auto injury cases. The plaintiff will begin by meeting with an attorney to discuss the incident. Then, the attorney attempt to resolve the claim or will file a lawsuit and delve into the fact-finding and discovery phase.
The following stages may vary. If there is enough evidence to prove negligence, the case could be settled out of court. That said, the case could go to trial, at which time a judge or jury will determine whether there is enough evidence to prove negligence. Then, if the plaintiff is awarded damages, they will the collect the money, and the case will subsequently be closed.
While this post presents an overview of distracted driving in a personal injury case, the topic is admittedly complex. For more information on Personal Injury Law, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 451-1260 today.