Driving is a privilege that you are able to learn by meeting certain qualifications. To begin with, the criteria necessary to start driving may seem relatively simple – in most states, staying in school if you are under 18 or have not yet graduated is a must, and you have to take and pass specific driving tests to prove your readiness.
Beyond that initial beginning phase, however, people tend to forget that driving is a privilege, not a right, and they start to take it for granted. One of the many ways that this manifests is through distracted driving.
What Exactly is Distracted Driving?
The definition of distracted driving has gone through multiple edits over the last two decades as technology has become more readily available and portable. Today, distracted driving is considered any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road.
This definition includes talking on your phone, eating or drinking, changing your music station, utilizing your navigational system, and even simply talking to your passengers. But by far the largest number of accidents that have been attributed to distracted driving are caused by texting and driving.
When you’re behind the wheel of the car, it’s crucial that you are wholly there – your mind, your body, and your attention, for the duration of the ride. A split second is all it takes to cause – or be involved in – an accident that could change your life or someone else’s forever. Reading or sending a text takes much longer than a split second and is the cause of thousands of accidents each year.
Distracted driving interferes with your ability to concentrate and slows your reaction time. Accidents that might have otherwise been avoided if the driver had been paying better attention instead cause damage, injury, and even death.
So what do you do if you were involved in an accident because the other party was driving distractedly?
Protecting Your Rights from a Distracted Driver Accident
Even if you know the other person was responsible for your accident, getting them and their insurance company to accept responsibility can be a difficult task. If they argue that they were not at fault, you could end up blamed for the whole, or even part, of the accident.
To protect your rights and ensure that the correct people are responsible for covering any damages or medical bills, you may have to hire an expert personal injury attorney and file a claim against the other party.
Even if they are not arguing fault, the insurance companies, by nature, will try to reduce your claim as much as possible to avoid having to pay out more than necessary. Damages need to be paid and medical bills need to be covered. The accident was not your fault, so you should not have to go broke and stress how your bills are going to be taken care of now.
Working with a car accident attorney can help you alleviate the stress of wondering how you are going to be able to afford medical treatment and pay for your car’s damages. A good attorney, like those at Hershey Law, can also get you other types of compensation that you are entitled to as well, but you will have to work together to prove that the other party was, indeed, guilty of distracted driving and therefore responsible for your accident.
Laws Against Texting and Driving
Texting is not the only form of distracted driving, but it has quickly become the cause of the majority of this type of accident. In fact, the statistics against texting and driving have risen so dramatically that both state and local laws have been adjusted almost everywhere to crack down on this violation.
Many states have made it illegal to operate a handheld cell phone while driving. Dozens of states have created special cell phone driving laws for new drivers making the consequences for being caught with a phone while driving more severe.
Texting has been banned across the majority of states, and even more simply call it “distracted driving” and have created laws against it. Where states fall short of being strict enough, local laws in towns and cities have stepped in to ban certain types of cell phone usage when you’re behind the wheel of your car.
While the laws are being revamped and kept updated for the ever-changing technology available, campaigns are simultaneously being run advising drivers to put down their phones. Through ads like roadside signs and television commercials, the dangers of texting and driving have been made overwhelmingly obvious – yet people still do it daily.
Proving Distracted Driving
It is not always cut and dried when it comes to proving that the other party was distracted when they were driving and caused the accident. It helps, of course, to have a police report in court that specifically states that the accident was caused by distracted driving on the part of the other driver, but that is not always how it happens.
For a police officer to immediately label distracted driving as the cause of the accident, he or she would have had to witness the other driver engaging in the behavior that they were being accused of. However, the police report could be completed within weeks after the accident occurred if there was suspicion of distracted driving and they needed time to prove it.
The most common way to provide distracted driving anymore is to check the driver’s cell phone records. Your attorney or the law enforcement department can subpoena the records and then petition to have the driver’s text messages analyzed and used in court. If there were messages sent at the time of the accident, the timing of those messages could be used to prove your case that they were on their phone and thus distracted when the accident occurred.
Another way your attorney and the police department may be able to prove that a driver was distracted while they were behind the wheel is to find video footage. While this was once a very unusual way to collect evidence, it is now much more common.
Video footage can be obtained from police dash cameras, witness cell phones, surveillance cameras placed strategically at intersections, and store or residential security cameras. The right recording at the right time can be crucial to your case. If your attorney finds that there is video footage available documenting your accident, they can subpoena the video and use it as evidence against the defendant.
A common way to attempt to prove distracted driving is by searching for witnesses who saw the accident happen. Many times, witness information is on the police report, but other times your attorney will have to investigate to see if anyone saw the crash take place but did not come forward right away.
Witnesses may be a pedestrian or a driver or passenger in another vehicle. Witness testimony can provide details in the accident that would have otherwise been missed. If they are subpoenaed to testify, their testimony could be used to help convince a judge or jury that the driver was, indeed, distracted at the time of the accident.
One more way that your attorney may choose to prove distracted driving had occurred is through something called “accident reconstruction.” This is a method that is used by experts to determine and show the events of the crash detail by detail. It is not a common method and is usually used when the other, more traditional methods do not work and there is still a question of fault.
What to Expect in Your Distracted Driving Case
Court cases and settlements for distracted driving are on the rise. Juries are tired of the damage caused by drivers who are not taking their responsibilities on the road seriously. Some states have even begun paving the way for harsher penalties and larger settlements.
Campaigns have been initiated, laws have been passed and made stricter, and police officers have cracked down on distracted driving, which is good for you if you were injured by someone who fits in this category.
Settlements for car accidents typically range in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the injury. However, distracted driving that causes the same type of injury can net the injured party hundreds of thousands any more, and, in some more severe cases, have lately even resulted in millions of dollars paid in damages.
What to do If You Are in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver
There is no such thing as a “normal” car accident, but crashes caused by distracted driving have an extra burden of proof that you must show that may not be easily proven. Because of this added layer, it is important that you contact an experienced car accident attorney to protect your rights and fight for your benefits and compensation.
You can schedule a free consultation with the attorneys at Hershey Law to see how they can help you win your case and get the compensation you are entitled to for your damages and injuries.