In 2017, three thousand one hundred and sixty-six people lost their lives due to distracted driving. It is a crime for a motorist to use a cell phone without a hands-free adaptor while driving. A distracted driver could also cause a collision with another vehicle, multiple vehicles, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists while talking to a passenger, adjusting the radio or eating while driving.
If you are a victim of distracted driving, you need a skilled attorney like San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, who can help you pursue compensation for losses suffered. We understand that injuries can negatively affect your way of life, and by assisting you to seek the compensation you deserve, we hope to reduce the monetary challenges and stress that comes with the injuries.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver's mind or eyes away from the road or hands off the steering wheel.
You do have to watch the news every day to know that one of the leading causes of car accidents in California is distracted driving, but the following statistics can help you realize how severe it is:
According to a California Traffic Safety Survey, approximately 59.6 percent of the respondents claimed that they have been hit or almost hit by a motorist who was texting or talking while driving
A California observational survey of phone use and texting by motorists (2015) discovered that 5.4 percent of motorists were seen using electronics while operating their cars. In 2016, the same survey observed a rise to 7.6 percent.
Does California Have Laws that Bans Distracted Driving?
Yes. The law bans:
All drivers from using handheld devices and phones
All motorists from sending, reading, or receiving texts or communication
Transit bus drivers and school bus operators from using phones while operating their cars
Motorists below eighteen years of age from using any phone, including hands-free
However, it is worth noting that the following exemptions to the distracted driving law apply:
Using a phone while driving is allowed in an emergency like calling the police or an ambulance
Emergency service providers are exempted from this ban while driving an authorized emergency car
The law doesn't apply when the driver is operating a vehicle on a private property
Text messaging is allowed if done with hands-free voice-to-text technology
What are the Different Types of Distracted Driving?
There are three main categories that police use when describing distracted driving. The sections below will explain these categories in detail.
A manual distraction is one that involves a motorist taking their hand(s) off the steering wheel so that they can do something else. These distractions are fatal since they make the driver not to steer the car with appropriate reaction time and could make them veer off the road or into other road users.
These distractions include eating, drinking, smoking, rummaging through their luggage, adjusting a radio, or assisting a minor with a seat belt or car seat.
These are distractions that many relate distracted driving to, and makes the most sense by definition. It pertains to an activity that makes your eyes wander off the road. It could be looking at the GPS navigation system, billboard advertisement, electronic car gadgets, grooming, or texting while driving.
Visual distraction is dangerous because it impairs a driver's capability to consistently evaluate their environment for possible hazards, which is something a driver should do to ensure both their safety and that of other road users.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an average distraction takes a motorist's eyes off the road for a football field's length at 55 mph.
Unlike the previously discussed categories of distracted driving, cognitive distraction is less straightforward. It doesn't involve a motorist looking away from the road nor taking their hands off the wheel. Instead, it is a distraction that makes a motorist stop concentrating on driving like listening to the radio, talking to passengers, and using hands-free calling gadgets.
A cognitive distraction is deceiving because it permits the motorist to have a full view of the environment. However, they are usually not in a position to fully assess the hazards that might happen.
How to Prove a Distracted Driver Caused Your Accident
To be awarded compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, you should prove that:
The distracted driver owed you a duty of care
That the driver breached the duty through negligence
The driver's negligence was a significant factor in causing your injuries
Under personal injury law, all drivers in California have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care and avoid inflicting injuries on another person. That means a driver should comply with traffic laws, be aware of road conditions, and drive responsibly and safely.
Proving that the driver was negligent is more complicated than you may think. Your personal injury attorney should leverage their legal knowledge in identifying the negligent conduct of the responsible driver. Here are methods they can use to establish that a distracted driver caused your accident:
Police Officer Testimony or Report
A police report filed following the car accident can give details about the accident and could consist of a preliminary assessment of accountability. Provided the report is well completed after the accident, it can be admitted in court.
If you saw the other motorist using their phone before the accident, let the police know.
The Other Driver Admits Accountability
Although it is recommended not to admit guilt or fault after an accident, some motorists could reveal, "I'm sorry, I was sending a text message when I approached the intersection." While that might look like a slam-dunk case, it could not be admissible in court. However, you could use it to support your personal injury case, particularly if you are pursuing an out-of-court settlement.
Cell Phone Records
A text message record could be instrumental in proving the driver was talking, browsing, using an app, or texting on their phone when the accident occurred. Remember, it is illegal to use a phone while driving in California.
If you suspect that the at-fault driver was using their cell phone at the time of the car accident, their cell phone record might be used to establish this. To access the records, you need to engage an attorney who can assist you obtain the required subpoena.
Photographs and Videos
You can be on camera while operating your motor vehicle more than you think. A security camera at a nearby business, dash cams on other cars, or traffic cameras at an intersection can capture your accident's footage. Your attorney should be able to reach the cameras' owners and request if they can have a look at the video to see if it has distracted driving proof or any other valuable information.
Accident reconstruction experts use physical proof from an accident scene to determine how the collision took place. In distracted driving cases, reconstruction could reveal that there isn't a rational explanation for the car accident apart from the driver not concentrating on the road.
Any person who saw the accident taking place can be a witness. It could be other drivers or pedestrians. A witness should remain in the scene of the accident until a police officer interviews them and include their testimony in the police report. If they observed distracted driving conduct, your lawyer could interview them again to collect more evidence.
Injured by a Distracted Driver? What You Need to Do
The steps you take after a crash can determine whether you will get compensation for your injuries or not. Moreover, it can help you avoid breaking the law as well as having your driving privileges withheld for some time.
These steps include:
Remaining at the Accident Scene if Any Person is Injured
If a person is injured or dies, make sure you stay at the accident scene until law enforcement officers come. However, you can leave if you require medical attention.
Leaving the scene is an offense that carries a fine and a jail sentence.
Seek Medical Care
If you are injured and require immediate medical care, don't wait for the law enforcers.
Instead, contact or request another person to call the police on your behalf. If another person is taking you to the hospital, ensure you leave the other drivers with your contact details if you can.
Move Your Vehicle to a Safer Place
If it's safe, move your motor vehicle to a safer area. It prevents blocking traffic from causing further injuries.
However, leave your car where it is if moving it could be dangerous. Additionally, don't move the car if there is a person who is severely injured or has died.
Collect Other Vehicle's Information
After moving your car and getting medical care for those injured, take photos or write down the year, model, color, make, license number plate, and vehicle identification number of all vehicles involved in the distracted driving car accident. You will be required to present these details when reporting the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
You can find the Vehicle Identification Number at the motorist's registration and insurance card. However, it is advisable to confirm it physically, particularly if the motorist is not insured.
Don't try getting the VIN from the other motorist's car without consent.
Exchange Contact Details with the Other Motorists and Witnesses
Request to see the other driver's registration, license, and insurance card. If possible, write down the numbers or take photos of the documents.
Additionally, obtain contact info from all parties involved and witnesses.
If the police come to the accident scene, make sure you get the officer's name.
Make sure you give your contact information to the other motorist, irrespective of who is accountable.
Do not Say You Aren't Injured
Even when you think you weren't hurt, do not tell anyone.
A soft-tissue injury does not always manifest immediately. Saying you aren't injured gives the at-fault driver's insurance provider an excuse to offer you a low settlement or even deny the claim.
It is worth noting that that doesn't mean you ought to lie. Lying could undermine your case's credibility. Instead, claim you do not know and will seek medical assistance if necessary.
If possible, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved as possible. It will assist both the insurance adjuster and your attorney in determining what took place. It will also prevent anyone from arguing that you damaged your car or any property.
If you left the scene to obtain medical attention, return immediately, and take photographs.
Also, capture photos of all visible injuries you have sustained.
Common Injuries Sustained in a Distracted Driving Car Accident
If you have been injured in a car accident, you probably might be wondering whether it is worth pursuing the claim. It could be because the injury seems minor, or you might be thinking the pain will go away on its own.
Sometimes, the injury may not be apparent immediately after the accident. It could take a couple of days before your back or neck starts aching. If not treated, these injuries could get worse. You might find something that began as a twinge in the back, becoming pain that radiates to your leg or arm and interferes with numerous motions. It could also affect your ability to perform your daily tasks.
For your well-being and health, it is essential to consult a medical professional immediately after the accident.
Discussed below are some of the common injuries caused by a distracted driver:
Whiplash- The term whiplash refers to the tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries that occur in auto accidents. When you get involved in an accident, often, your body moves abruptly and faster than you could even move on your own. As a result, your muscles and other soft tissues are strained with breaking any bone. Whiplash is extremely painful and could take time before healing.
Cuts and Scrapes- You can also sustain cuts from the accident's impact or even get hit by loose objects in the motor vehicle such as your phone. These injuries are not only painful but also pose a risk for infections and other complications.
Broken Ribs- Human ribs are delicate: even moderate or light impact can result in broken ribs. You could sustain broken ribs injuries if you are pushed sideways, backward, or forward at the time of the car accident. These injuries need lengthy resting periods.
Head Injuries- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other brain injuries can lead to immediate complications and injuries. If not well treated, TBI can result in long-lasting challenges with brain functioning, sleeping difficulties, and headaches. It is hard to diagnose a head or brain injury, and you may require a comprehensive treatment plan to prevent complications.
Internal Bleeding- An internal bleeding injury can be dangerous if not treated immediately after the accident. That is why you should seek medical assistance even if you have sustained a minor injury.
Knee Trauma- The sudden accident impact can make your knees strike your vehicle's dashboard hence injuring your kneecap and ligaments. You might require crutches, braces, or even surgery to correct the damage and rebuild the knee. A knee injury can be traumatizing, especially if it causes challenges in walking.
Scars and Disfiguring Facial Injuries- Facial injuries can be due to impact with a dashboard, airbag, steering wheel, car seat, or broken glass. Disfigurement resulting from facial injuries require surgical correction. It could also leave you with a permanent scar.
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)- The collision's impact and torque on your body can lead to a long-term disability stemming from a spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury can cause total or partial paralysis below the injury level.
How Much Compensation Will You Receive?
If you have suffered an injury due to an accident caused by a distracted driver, you are entitled to receive compensation from the driver. The damages you receive will depend on the losses you incur due to the accident after and during the accident.
To understand the different possible damages in a legal recovery, here is a glossary, which includes almost all types of legal compensation available to personal injuries plaintiffs. Your attorney should explain to you all your available options and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you receive medical treatment or medical care of any form like physical therapy, hospital stays, or incurred ambulance charges, the at-fault driver should pay all these costs. It can be costly, particularly if you have become disabled or require extensive nursing care or adaptive devices.
You should ensure you factor in all the expenses you incur when receiving treatment as well as future costs in your settlement claim.
Lost wages compensation includes payment for work that you have missed as a result of the injury or the injury 's treatment. You should also receive compensation if you took sick time or vacation days.
If you are permanently not in a position to work because of the accident, then you are entitled to receive compensation for the income you would have made throughout your lifetime.
Additionally, the defendant should compensate you if the disability has reduced your future capacity to earn, even when the ability has not been taken away entirely.
A distracted driving accident could also have a psychological effect on you. Usually, psychiatric records or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis are used to establish emotional distress.
Loss of Consortium
The concept behind this damage is to compensate your loved ones for the lost relationship, companionship, or ability to have an intimate physical relationship.
Pain and Suffering
You can also be entitled to receive compensation for the discomfort and pain experienced at the time of the accident, as well as its immediate aftermath.
When settling your claim, the insurance provider will most likely use a technique like a pain multiplier to reach a reasonable and fair compensation amount. The multiplier method involves multiplying your total financial losses with a number that the insurance company deems appropriate. Usually, the number is between one and five.
A wrongful death claim arises when one person dies due to an accident caused by another person's negligence. The deceased's survivors file it. In California, only the following can file the suit:
The deceased's spouse or domestic partner
Decedent's surviving children
Any person entitled to the deceased's property under intestate succession law. It can include the decedent's parents or siblings.
Some of the damages you receive in a wrongful death claim include:
The income the decedent would have made if they lived
Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury
Burial and funeral expenses
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not meant to make you whole. They are also not awarded in all cases. It is because they are tailored to punish the defendant for acting egregiously.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens if You are Partially At-Fault?
Ideally, if the distracted driver is one hundred percent responsible for the accident, they should award you one hundred percent of your damages. So, what transpires if you are partially accountable for the car accident?
Comparative negligence law offers a method to share the fault between all parties. Your damages will be reduced by the percentage of your negligence that led to the accident. The jury determines the percentage of fault.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
Statute of limitations can be defined as the amount of time you have to file your personal injury claim. In California, the deadline is two years from the date of your accident. If the deadline passes, the judge will refuse to listen to your case on top of losing the entitlement to seek compensation.
Find a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Accidents happen. It is a saying used to describe how a car collision can happen at anytime. While it is indisputable that some accidents will occur no matter what you do, others are preventable. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we believe that you should not sustain an injury because of another person's negligence. That is why we take pride in assisting victims of distracted driving get compensation from the at-fault party. Contact us today at 619-478-4059 to learn more about your options.