When someone is in an accident with another driver, the one who causes the collision is liable for damages the crash causes. The insurance company that represents the distracted driver might dispute liability in some cases. The insurance company could claim the other driver caused the accident or was partially to blame.
Damages in a distracted driving accident can include medical bills and expenses, the cost of physical therapy, personal or in-home medical care, and loss of income and benefits. Damages can also include pain and suffering, decreases in earning potential, and loss of quality of life.
To recover damages, it has to be proven the distracted driver’s actions were the cause, directly, of the accident.
So how is that proven?
Below is a guide about distracted driving accidents in general and also what to know about proving another driver was distracted.
Understanding Distracted Driving
Distracted driving claimed more than 3,140 lives in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Between 2012 and 2018, distracted driving was responsible directly for 23,000 deaths.
Any time you’re doing something, even without realizing it, that’s taking your attention away from driving, it’s distracted driving. Texting is the distraction that tends to be riskiest and also the most common one affecting drivers.
Distracted driving is usually grouped into one of three categories—manual, visual, and cognitive. A manual distraction is when you take your hands away from the wheel. Visual distractions are when you’re taking your eyes off the road and focusing them elsewhere. Then cognitive distractions are when your mind isn’t fully on the task of driving. You’ll sometimes also hear about the category of auditory distractions. These are sounds that lead your attention to go elsewhere. For example, maybe you’re listening to music or a Podcast, or there are conversations going on among passengers.
If you’re texting, it involves all three types of distractions.
Tips for preventing distracted driving include:
- Put your phone away
- Have a passenger who reads and sends text messages if they can’t wait
- Limit how many passengers are in your car
- Don’t multitask when you drive
- Avoid activities like eating, smoking, or drinking while you’re driving
- Ensure kids and pets are properly secured
- Program your navigation before you leave
- Don’t take your eyes off the road
Proving Distracted Driving
There are a lot of types of evidence that can be used to prove if someone was distracted driving and that caused an accident.
Working with an accident attorney is the best way to be able to get all the evidence together so a cohesive case can be used to prove the fault of a distracted driver.
One area of evidence that’s useful is what comes from analyzing the scene of the accident.
Traffic and surveillance cameras and photographs can help an investigator put together the pieces of how an accident happened.
Damage to vehicles, guardrails, and traffic signs, as well as skid marks, are used as evidence. A personal injury attorney, if brought on, might use a car crash reconstructionist who looks at evidence from the scene of an accident to figure out if a driver’s attention was diverted at the time of the accident.
Car accident experts provide testimony that can support a claim.
Another type of evidence can come from cell phone data and records.
In distracted driving accidents, cell phone records are extremely compelling. A lawyer can subpoena the cell phone data and records of a driver to figure out if they were texting, using their GPS, checking email, or on their device for other reasons at the time of the accident.
If there were witnesses around the accident, like other drivers, pedestrians, bystanders, or passengers, they might have noticed a driver was distracted when the accident happened. Statements or testimony from witnesses can support a distracted driving case.
Police reports are also part of the puzzle that is evidence to prove distracted driving. Having this type of evidence is why you should call 911 or contact local law enforcement after an accident, even if you don’t think it’s that serious initially. The police report the first responders created at the scene of the accident can become invaluable later on as you’re dealing with insurance companies.
The police, when responding to the scene of a car accident, will look at the evidence and the situation and try to determine who’s at fault and figure out the circumstances surrounding the accident.
The police will also get statements from the other driver, witnesses, and passengers.
The testimony from law enforcement and police reports can be important sources of information that can prove a driver was distracted or was engaging in otherwise dangerous behavior when an accident happened.
Some newer vehicles have computer equipment and monitor that can record the activity of the driver. This may be used as a record of how fast the car was traveling at the time of an accident. There may also be data on whether the driver was adjusting something on the car during the accident.
Social media can be a form of evidence. If someone was sending an email or posting on social media when a crash occurred, there might be a time-stamped log of that activity online.
Along with the civil ramifications, there are situations where distracted driving can lead to criminal charges. Texting and driving is a crime in around 47 states currently. In many of these states, texting and driving are a misdemeanor that can lead to a fine.
If an accident results from distracted driving, penalties can go up. For example, a law enforcement officer can add reckless driving charges.
If someone was distracted behind the wheel and hurt or killed someone else, it could lead to jail time, in addition to civil consequences.
Overall, it’s not easy to prove distracted driving in a lot of instances, which is why hiring a personal injury attorney is a helpful path to take if you’ve been in an accident.